For the rest of the world Saturday the 11th of July was an ordinary day. However in the tiny kingdom of Lesotho, a country that that has a population of just over two million citizens the grounds were shaking with tension, fear, anger and a sense of loss.
This past weekend the Basotho nation buried the late army commander Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao. Mahao was shot and killed on the 25th of June 2015 by his own colleagues from the LDF (Lesotho Defence force). His death sent shock waves across the world with international leaders pleading with the Lesotho government to bring the perpetrators to book.
His funeral was attended by over three thousand citizens who came to pay their last respects for the slain commander. As the guests started arriving the air was filled with tension so thick one could taste it on the dusty field of Mokema (Mahao’s homestead where he was shot) where the funeral service was held.
The speakers who spoke in their capacity did not mince their words, one message that was consistent throughout the service was clear and concise – Enough is enough, the current security situation should be addressed, the government should show leadership, provide direction and condemn the killings that Lesotho has seen in the past months.
Amidst the emotions that were felt by the different individuals I realized that maybe Mahao’s death was a good thing, with the LDF trying to eliminate its enemies and anyone they perceive as a threat this time they also realize that they had gone too far. A lack of foresight on their part has left them flat footed, scrambling for an explanation.
After the funeral service had taking place as the deceased was being taken to his final resting place, I saw something that gave me hope and to a certain extent admiration for the Basotho nation. As his casket was being prepared to get into the hearse, the nation pleaded with the family to carry their fallen soldier. Their request was granted and almost without hesitation a song broke out as the men and women hurriedly put the casket on their shoulders.
One could hear the pain and sincerity in the songs as the crowed started marching with the casket. For me, that was the interesting part. The songs that were sung were had a very significant message in them the kind of message that the ANC comrades used to sing and still do today (without as much gusto, to be honest) to their fallen comrades when they sang Hamba kahle mkonto. I clearly remember three songs that were sung and being the inquisitive person that I am I started thinking about their message.
The first song that was sung had the following message, Ka tsoalla ngoana, ka Tsoalla Mahao, Kamoli a mobolaya, mosisili a mobolaya, metsing a mobolaya – Loosely translated, I bore a child, I bore Mahao, Kamoli killed him, Mosisili Killed him, Metsing killed him. This song had me thinking if this is a fact, and the Lesotho government ordered a hit on the ex-commander, the people have had enough and are ready to stand up for their beloved country.
As I was still thinking about that song and navigating my way around the mounting dust another song was started, it went – Ngoana Mahao, pholosa Lesotho o nne o ntse o tseba hore o tla shoa, this translated means – Child born from the Mahao family, save Lesotho, you always knew you were going to die. I found this message very profound and almost to my own amusement it came to me. Mahao made the biggest noise when he was dead than when he was alive, putting a spanner in the work for the LDF and Lesotho government who until now have had a disaster in terms of the PR and positioning of the whole incident and security crisis.
As my body was starting to give in to the treacherous steep hill that the crowed was moving upon I heard what to me sounded like closure not only for the Basotho nation but to the family and the fallen soldier himself – Mahao. The song is an old song that is sung at night vigils and it says Mahao ke lesole, lesole la masole, o shoeletse likanno, likanno tsa likanno. – Mahao is a soldier a soldier amongst soldiers, he died for his oath the oath that he took.
While this song was sung I felt the Basotho were on to something. The world needs more people like Mahao, people who uphold and believe in an oath, people who believe in the rule of law and people who are aware and willing to be the sacrificial lamb to save a country that they call home.
Death never easy
Though death is never an easy, exciting and hopeful event, Mahao changed all of that for his country men – hence I say his death was a good thing.
Mahao has taken the fear out of death much like the youth of 1976 in South Africa. He has brought a new twist to this whole situation, he has the youth, their parents and their grandparents talking, formulating, asking and debating politics like never before. Mahao has achieved what no other politician with a longer career span has managed to do, give power to the ordinary citizen to voice out their concern.
If I was in government I would start getting concerned, the people are out for change: how do you fix the wrongs and start taking accountability, how will you balance power and responsibility?
Lastly how can we learn from this weirdly wonderful string of events and pave a new, hopeful, prosperous Lesotho that our forefathers fought so hard for, so that we would not have to?