Taking my head off to Moshoeshoe I

It is that time of the year when we take our heads off to the founder of the Basotho nation, Moshoeshoe I. He was a man with multiple lifetimes of wisdom! As I have suggested in previous blogs, despite believing in the principle of love, Moshoeshoe knew and understood that there were times when it was absolutely imperative to crush thy enemy totally and times when total surrender was the best course of action. The key lied simply in timing.

Today, I shall share with you a short story that involves his senior wife, ‘Mamohato. ‘Mamohato after being converted to Christianity decided to divorce Moshoeshoe I. He, of course, didn’t refuse. He called his people and told them that ‘Mamohato was no longer his wife but remained the mother of the heir apparent. Came the planting season and the people ploughed the fields of all the king’s wives except that of ‘Mamohato. ‘Mamohato was, as the story goes, extremely upset by this. She went to the king to lay her complaint. The king called his people to ask why they skipped her field. The people answered by asking whether or not she was still married to the king.

Allow me to digress a bit before giving the king’s response so that you may perhaps appreciate how pregnant this question was. Lesotho, as is still the case, is a hierarchical society. Around Moshoeshoe’s time it had two main tiers: “bafo”, commoners in the majority and “marena”, the kings or the general blue blooded individuals in the minority. In many ways this hierarchy was very comparable to some European class structures of that time. Below is an image for the comparison. What I haven’t captured is that the clergy, though highly debated, were at the apex in both structures, influencing (mis)appropriately the ruling class (i.e. the aristocracy).


European vs. Basotho Class Structures in the Past


Based on these structures, the primary duty of all people in the lower class(es) was to serve the aristocracy. A person through marriage could be pulled to a higher class. It really was that simple. Now here was a dilemma. ‘Mamohato who had sought for a divorce wanted the privileges that came with being a king’s wife. Moshoeshoe as the ultimate king of the land had the powers to order his people to plough her field. Taking into account the response of his people, Moshoeshoe recognised that to give such an order would be foolish. So he didn’t! Instead he went to help ‘Mamohato to plough her field and some of his loyal followers joined in.

To me, this act, however small it may be, says so much about how wise Moshoeshoe was. He understood that lest he wanted a coup, deciding otherwise would be a mistake. It may sound like I am being dramatic by talking about a coup but we are talking about a man who understood that taking anything for granted can be costly. He understood that opportunities of any kind may present themselves in the mundane. This is how he destroyed some of his enemies and this is how he built a formidable nation.

As we celebrate and honour this great leader of the soil, may we remember that the mundane is important. May we also keep our focus in the future but without forgetting to be in the present – for, who knows, we might just be presented with unbelievable opportunities. In this particular story of ‘Mamohato, Moshoeshoe was presented with the opportunity to cement his greatness by demonstrating humility (a king working the fields … imagine that!) Many might have not have seen this opportunity and might have easily fell into the trap set for them, but Moshoeshoe didn’t! He managed to take the long view on things and in the process, to re-create himself into a true king out to serve his people without regard of societal norms on what jobs may or may not be suitable for the king.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is why I am taking my head off to Moshoeshoe I. He was one of a kind! May we all aspire to learn a thing or two from him. Happy Moshoeshoe’s day to all!


Another passionate write from the past

Another skeleton from the past! I have no idea why I wrote this but I suspect it was shortly after I had read our ICT policy. I don’t recall liking it that much. ICT wasn’t well defined within the document itself and I remember taking issue with the fact that the version I had read was written by an outsider…. I mean where are Basotho consultants?

A thought towards an innovative ICT Vision for Lesotho

Basotho during the reign of Moshoeshoe I and a few years that followed were a self-sufficient nation. Today, many Basotho live in severe poverty and under the threat of a new deadly disease, HIV/AIDS.

There is no doubt a need to restore Lesotho to its original state of self-sufficiency and wealth. The question however is: “can this be realistically achieved?” The answer itself is not that simple. However, if we were to look back into our history with the sole purpose of seeking valuable examples from our forefathers, then we could find an answer that would guide us back to prosperity.

For example, history informs us that this nation was not strong only militarily, but that it was such an industrious nation that though horses were a relatively a novel bred to them, in no time they had bred the type of horse that was suited for their territories. Their breed was so tough and sure-footed that the British when shopping for horses preferred the Basotho ponies to the Boer horses. (An excerpt from the inpiration page)

From the above example, it could be argued that just as Basotho did adapt the horse technology to their needs, they can embrace ICTs and adapt them to their specific needs and thereby create a niche market for ICTs. In so doing, Basotho would be able to address some of their needs and challenges that include the eradication of poverty and HIV/AIDS.

Moreover, through innovative use of ICTs and the political will of its leaders, Basotho can be helped to actually participate in “doing development for themselves”. This means using ICTs for the general empowerment of Basotho either as tool or an enabling environment for development.

Happy Moshoeshoe’s Day!

Given that Moshoeshoe’s day commemorates death, it may sound a little strange when I say: happy Moshoeshoes’ day! The truth however is that for Moshoeshoe I, death was like a gift. As I have suggested before (in this post), Moshoeshoe I understood that it is in death that he will be able to finally meet and thank his Creator and his ancestors (Molimo le balimo ba hae, as Basotho would put it ;-)) for guiding him in his journey. A journey in which he became the great leader that he yearned to be as a young man! For this reason, death was truly a gift to him, for his dreams did come true and all he needed was to express his gratitude.

I suppose when one fails to view life as a gift, it may be a bit difficult to see why death itself is a gift. Today as we celebrate Moshoeshoe’s day, it is therefore my wish that all will be inspired to live a life in which in death one will find joy and celebrate the transition to the next life. So, happy Moshoeshoe’s day! And lets remember that one day we too shall die — memento mori, memento mori!

Tsedu on how current leadership can benefit from Moshoeshoe I leadership

Today Google is providing me with answers relating to what Mathatha Tsedu said. I am not sure if I should just compile quotable quotes of what he said – even though I am yet to read the full speech.

Anyway from the news articles, Tsedu says the attributes that have been left by King Moshoeshoe as legacy of leadership include understanding that leadership:

is about concern for others and for self. It is about compassion in leadership and in society, it is about caring beyond [our] own concerns. It is about being involved and engaged.

By involved and engaged, he meant beyond mouthing socialist slogans. As he put it:

The poorest of the poor and our affection for them extends only to public meetings where we mouth socialist slogans. But in reality we want nothing to do with them and they have to fend for themselves.

In order to heed Tsedu’s advice, leadership and the general public as a whole needs to show true involvement and engagement in order to move away from poverty and live prosperous lives. As he says:

we as citizens have to say this is not the country we want to live in. For as long as we don’t say that, corruption will continue.

I certainly agree with him! We as citizens need to flex our democratic muscles. We also need to show compassion for each other and engage with some of the problems facing our own brothers and sisters. I therefore pledge to do my best to help make this world a better place. (At the moment, however, all I can do is help one person at a time…but I guess that is a good start 😉 .)

Second King Moshoeshoe I Memorial Lecture

Yesterday was the second King Moshoeshoe I memorial lecture. It was hosted by the University of the Free State. The topic of the lecture was:

When globalisation ties the fate of the Maluti to that of the ice caps on the Alps, what does Morena Moshoeshoe teach us about leadership today

The lecture was delivered by Mathatha Tsedu. I have tried to Google the contents of the lecture but it is not yet available:/ However, I bet a lot was said on what the world could learn from Moshoeshoe I. He was afterall one of the greatest diplomats to walk on planet Earth. This is no exageration on my part 😉 .

Not only was he a diplomat, he strongly believed that true leadership came from the heart and was rooted in love. I have no doubt therefore that Morena Moshoeshoe will tell us that today’s leadership needs to use the heart more. Because it is the heart that can ultimately lead us to a path of social capitalism – a path that has been well articulated by Nobel Peace laureate Muhammad Yunus when he was delivering the seventh Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture some few week ago.

There are other paths to follow, but in my mind, capitalism is here to stay. I have made peace with this fact and now I simply advocate for social capitalism. Capitalism that is not centred on just profit-making but on the welfare of others… May be I am too much of a romantic to think love can solve the problems of the world but I am unabashed in this believe!

Encore: 3 additional facts about Moshoeshoe I

When I started the series I wasn’t aware that there were five Fridays in August! But because I believe a promise made is a promise to be kept, I decided there should be a part 5. Problem is, I don’t know how to make it fit with my initial structure. (Yes, there was structure: from sunrise to sunset!)

After much thought, I decided my encore should entail me furnishing you with 3 interesting facts about Moshoeshoe.

  1. He protested to his father’s estrangement by living his father’s land and building his own kraal which he named Qhobosheane (translated: Fortress). His father due to Moshoeshoe’s (then called Lepoqo) growing popularity felt threatned by him (and perhaps with good reason for the young Moshoeshoe as previously stated was something else! But at that point of his life, he was a changed man and unfortunately his father couldn’t recognise that change in him. ) I shan’t really delibarate on the irony in the naming of his kraal, that in itself is an exercise that perhaps deserves a proper psychological analysis (centred on ‘father issues’).
  2. Much as he downplayed his victory in a battle with Cathcart, he gave Sir George Cathcart a beating he could never forget. It is after the beating that he decided to send him a letter in which he declared himself a British subject. A letter that perhaps helped Cathcart to save face and withdraw with his integrity intact; for he had claimed that he was going to teach the insolent Moshoeshoe a lesson he could never forget but instead fate decided he was the one in need of the lesson 😈 !
  3. Closer to his sunset, Moshoeshoe was both a divorcee and a married man. He was divorced by his senior wife, ‘Mamohato on religious grounds. She said polygamy was against God. This is interesting to me because divorce in those days was unheard of.

Part 4: Reasons to be in awe of Moshoeshoe I

I have read very little literature about Moshoeshoe (a fact I regret and intend to remedy soon 😉 ). However, from the oral stories I have heard, these are some of the reasons I am in absolute awe of the founder of the Basotho nation:

  • He recognised that it takes just one person to have faith in an individual for that individual to transform into a respectable being. For him, that one person was his grandfather Peete, who seemed to have kept faith in Moshoeshoe despite his ‘delinquency’ that amounted at best of time to ‘terrorism’. When Peete was eaten by the cannibals, to everyone’s surprise, he refused a proposal to have them killed. He said by killing them, they also become killers. So instead he requested that the cannibals be brought to him to perform a cleansing ceremony on them so that his beloved grandfather could rest in perfect peace. In addition to the ceremony, he gave them land to farm for they said they ate men out of poverty.
  • He understood that his role was to serve his people. In negotiating the British protection, he is quoted as saying: “nkukeng le nta tsa kobo ea ka empa le ntlohelle sechaba sa ka hore ke se buse”. (Translation: ‘take me for all that I am together with lice of my blanket but interfere not with my people for I shall remain their leader’). To me this total submission, is indeed what allowed us (the commoners) to continue with raids or whatever unneighbourly shenanigans we got ourselves into without being aware of the repercussions. Moshoeshoe took all the venom for us and as it stands, we still have a land of our own even though we lost much of it 🙁 .
  • He took to heart what it means to rule with the heart and made sure that any foreigner in his land will be treated with dignity.
  • He believed that the only noble cause to fight for is peace. Indeed this is what earned him the diplomat title! He used to say: “o tla nketsang ha e hahe motse. Motse ho hauoa oa morapeli.” (What-will-you-do-to-me is not an attitude for building a home or a nation. The building is based on principles of prayer and/or negotiation).
  • When he died, he died a contented man for he lived to be the great leader that he thought he was destined to be. But most importantly because he believed that in aswering the call of destiny, he put love first! (This is a very neutral interpretation on my part. There are some who believe that this was Moshoeshoe’s pronouncement of Christianity. But there are others who disagree with this. To me this is neither here or there, for me what is important is the significance in celebrating Moshoeshoe’s day on the day he died, 11th March )

I could go on and on; however, the important thing is that Moshoeshoe was not perfect, but he made an effort to leave by principles that were anchored in love. And to me, that is sufficient! It doesn’t really matter to me that he refused to be converted into Christianity, for religion alone is not what defines a person. A person is defined by his/her values and principles. To me, religion is what helps the person to hold on to those values and principles especially in those difficult times when hating seems more like an option!

Part 3: Moshoeshoe I, one of the untold stories

This is one of the an untold story of how I believe Moshoeshoe cemented his power. It is a story about Moshoeshoe and his brother Makhabane. Although I am not sure who between the brothers was older, I think Makhabane was senior to Moshoeshoe by virtue of his mother being senior to Moshoeshoe’s mother. (In Sesotho: ‘Makhabane ke mora oa ntlo e kholo’). That said, the story goes as follows:

Moshoeshoe got a report that his brother will be attacked. Trusting the sources of his information, he immediately went to his brother’s ‘land’ to warn him and also offer him reinforcement. In response to Moshoeshoe, Makhabane sat on a rock and said: “Ka ‘Mamamile, Maanya ha a tlatsoe e se noka!”. (Translated: ‘I swear by my mother, ‘Mamamile, that my army, Maanya, is not a river that depends on streams for supply!’)

After such a response, Moshoeshoe left to go to his own land. And not long after this, Makhabane sent a messenger to Moshoeshoe seeking reinforcement. When Moshoeshoe heard this, he found a rock to sit on and said: “Ka ‘Mamamile, Maanya ha a tlatsoe e se noka!” The rest as they say, its history, Makhabane died in that battle!

Question of interest: why did Moshoeshoe let his brother die? There is the obvious response, Moshoeshoe was a man of principle, he did offer to help but was snubbed blah blah! Indeed he was a man of principle but my thesis is he was aware that with Makhabane alive his rise to power and greatness might not be possible. Makhabane being senior, protocol allowed that at anytime he could go into Moshoeshoe’s land and take over. With that in mind and being the Mokoena 1 he is, he merely seized the opportunity!

Whatever my thesis is, make no doubt, I am in awe of Moshoeshoe and I shall in the next posting give my reasons. And yes, I have no problems with the fact that Moshoeshoe thought ‘Maanya anya koana’ 😳 (to hell with Maanya)! For I think one should always accept help when it is offered or at the very least be polite in refusing the help.

  1. Remember that Bakuena by nature make excellent businessmen and/or politicians, so it was easy to rationalise the death of his brother to be but a means to an end. In any case, lets not forget the ‘ever- talked- about’ rivalry that exists between siblings of different households (‘bana ba sethepung’)!