Friday, September 29, 2006

History of the Basotho People in my words!!

They ask me: Who are u? Who am I?

I wonder, don’t they know me? Can’t they see? A South African child of the late 70’s, born at the height of the great South African revolution. A child born into political struggles, raised through it, learnt about it, took part in it, I saw it come to a spectacular demise, saw the birth of a rainbow nation, and now part of the first rainbow generation. All this heroics, I owe my political freedom to heroes such as Albert Luthuli, Robert Sobukwe, Stephen Biko, Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, and Desmond Tutu. They gave me a Christian because those who knew better then called me so because they thought it was good to be called so to, to belong to this country, their country; they gave me an Christian because Pitso was seemingly too difficult to pronounce for those with power. My father tells me, they called me so, because all of us needed to be Christian, so my English name is my Christian identity you see. I shrug my shoulders, I wonder, didn’t they understand that the bible they carried said I needed to be born again to be Christian!

But this is just a part of who I am, you see politics only cannot completely define a man. Let me tell you about a place where I was born, because you see, where I come describes where I was brought up, and that could explain a part of who I am. My place of birth lies in the heart of South Africa, sandwiched between two awesome rivers of Senqu and Lekwa….if you wonder, Senqu is the indigenous name of the Orange River which lies in the South, Lekwa , they refer to it as the Vaal River, lies in the North of the Free State. Being a landlocked part of the country it is surrounded by 5 other provinces and an independent landlocked independent state of Lesotho. (Nothern and Eastern Cape, KZN, North West and Gauteng)

It’s a province filled with beauty, a large plain punctuated by flat topped hills and mountains that form the artificial border with Lesotho, the vast and magnificent Maluti mountains of Qwa-Qwa and the sheer beauty of the maize fields, vast supply of sheep and cattle, and oh how dare I forget that immaculate statue of that white horse in Mangaung-Bloemfontein. This is a horse of that victorious and largely eccentric Basotho general, the grandson of that Great founder of Basotho nation, Morena Moshoeshoe, army general and chief, Morena Lerotholi who fought and won battles for that proud nation.

You see now why I wanted to tell you a bit about where I come from? Places of origin have a funny way of taking one down the memory lane, down the memory of our rich ancestral history, for therein lies the answer to the question, Who AM I? Forget about those who in their quest for what they regard as Christian purity, carelessly look down upon their rich ancestral heritage, preferring to rather focus on other nations histories for hope. The Mosotho in me tells me that God created our nations; their history still has relevance and can still teach us a whole lot more about how God, Tlatlamatjholo, brought rain when they prayed and helped them defeat foes with small armies!

If we had more time I would tell you about the history of my ancestry, of my people, the Basotho. I would tell you also how some of the Basotho ended up in the Orange Free State, in South Africa.

I could take you back to the 16th Century, when the Great Southern Bantu migration occured, I could tell you about the Bechuana tribes who established themselves in the Vaal areas South Africa in search for peace and a better land.

How those great Bechuana people, consisting of Ba-Vhenda, Bapeli, Barolong, Bakgatla and Bakwena people, regrouped, re-invented, relocated and dispersed into the four directions, to the west, where the Batswana people ulitmately formed, how those who went to the east and north ultimately united and formed the Bapedi, to the South where the Basotho people formed.
If days were timeless we could talk about the turbulent era of the 1700’s and the 1800’s. When a mighty Zulu warrior was born, that great king Shaka, who sought to re-unite all the Bantu’s in the south. That significant time of our history is known as the Difaqane in Sesotho.It is in these turbulent times that one of the greatest warriors of the south is borne. Not necessarily known for his great conquests but for his great wisdom, for his love for peace, his great vision, peace driven agenda, and for his ability to adapt and outwit his contemporaries. I am talking about king Moshoeshe. The child of royalty, son of king Mokhatjhane of the small Bakwena tribe, himself a sub-ordinate of King Mpiti, chief of Sekake.

How I wish we could have time to interrogate our history and talk of the earliest inhabitants on Southern Africa, the San and the Hottentots, who were referred to by the Bantu and Basotho as Baroa. How they were made to flee by the Basotho and relocate to their last stronghold of the Kalahari Sands. Oh I look forward to the day when we could sit and reflect about our own history, and maybe talk of how the expanding Zulu kingdom, how that mighty warrior Shaka and his rather foolish brothers, created a need for enterprising men like King Moshoeshoe, in search for self-determination, formed and impenetrable fortress at Botha-bothe where he was in fact born. Some believe the word Sotho was derived from the river Caledon, Mohokare in Sesotho. You see it is said that the brown looking waters of Mohokare made the Bantu to identify with them, and derived the word Sotho, after the brown colour, sootho in Sesotho. The oral history of our ancestors is not concerned with specific and scientific approach, it rather focuses survival and the stories about warriors, we may never know but we need to know that a great warrior, Moshoeshoe, undefeated until death, left a legacy, one of the only three sovereign monarchs that still remain in Africa. Swaziland in one other and Morocco up in North Africa still remain as sovereignties if you like.

Let me steal the few last seconds and tell you in few sentences how Moshoeshoe used sagacity, vision and innovation to defend the kingdom. Amongst many other unconventional things that shows that he was ahead of his peers, Moshoeshoe sent his sons to study in the Cape to understand the white man better (look at all of us, studying at UCT, one of the best universities on the continent and the world, Moshoeshoe did it back then.) He agreed to be a protectorate of the Eglish Queen to avoid being annexed by the Boers. He also opened doors for the first Christian missionaries thus allowing his nation to interact with the western world. His most incredible feat though remains his military whiz. Upon realizing that the Botha-bothe was becoming difficult to defend he sought a new fort. He sent his brother Mohale to locate such a place. They decided that Thaba-Bosiu (Mountain Of The Night), which was on the on the left bank of the Caledon was a better fortress. It was higher, further away and less open to the ferocious big armies of the Zulu king Shaka. Moshoeshoe then set up a strong propaganda machine that spread the fact that at night, Thaba-Bosiu, expanded itself to protect the Basotho people. Even today this myth is still believed by some. Tactics used during the cold war between the Soviets and Americans, who has the biggest bomb, certainly Moshoeshoe had the biggest fort which had the ability to grow at night! But one historical fact is that besides the clever war propaganda, Thaba Bosiu was never successfully invaded. One stubborn Mzilikazi, the Ndebele king, cousins of the Zulus, who had built their armies in the mold of Zulus, decided to attack Thaba-Bosiu.

He did not know that when attacked, the Basothos will all ascend Thaba-Bosiu, set up troops at different passes, who will hurl stones down and javelins and roll big boulders on the ascending enemy while behind their walled fortifications until the enemy just gave up. Mzilikazi left defeated, tail between his legs….and this is the heart of the story….Moshoeshoe then sent fattened cattle and a message that because he thought hunger caused the Ndebeles to attack him, they could do with some food. He gained the respect of Mzilikazi and no recorded subsequent attack from the Ndebeles is recorded.

The boers once accused Moshoeshoe of stealing their cattle! One wonders how they transported the cattles in their ships from Europe! Nevertheless, war begun and the Basotho defeated the whites on the Berea plateau and further away from Thaba Bosiu, the British withdrew and later the two warring parties split the land, the Boers drew the infamous Warden line, along the Caledon River, painfully dividing Moshoeshoe’s territory into the Orange Free State and Basutoland, later to be known as Lesotho.This after many other wars and diplomatic negotiations! By the way, this is the river (the Caledon River – Mohokare) that separates the Free State and Lesotho, bringing about the commonly used phrase on both sides of the Basotho worlds i.e. The Free state Basotho and the Lesotho Basotho, “ka nqane ho Mohokare”, meaning on the other side of Mohokare, when they are about to visit each other. The only difference between the two Basotho’s is that the others were ruled by the Boers and subsequently colonized as part of South Africa, while the others remained in the kingdom. The commonality is that they all pledge allegiance to the King in Lesotho, for their roots and their great fore-fathers are buried in that mountain kingdom.

But what is a people if you don’t study their food, dress, traditions, music and dance. Oh unfortunately time won’t allow us but nevertheless, let me conclude by enlightening you my fellow brothers and sister: Because of the harsh cold weather and snow due to the mountaneos terrain Basotho borrowed and adapted the European blanket. They imposed their own design and the blanket still remains the national identity of the Basotho. Its called Seana-marena and different types exists for males, females and even by class. Basotho wear their trademark reed woven hat, called Mokorotlo. The men hold sticks of different kinds for different purposes. Basotho dance when they feast, the dance is called Mohobelo. The women also have their traditional dance, called mokgibo for certain occasions. A dance also practiced traditionally to honour the king is called mokorotlo. Circumcision is still practiced by the more traditional sectors even today.

Finally, to distinguish the clans from one another the Basotho have totems like many other Africans in the continent. Animals are carefully chosen, Lions, Crocodiles are revered animals. I am of the clan of the baboon.

Ke Motshweneng wa Kgiba
Leleme le letsho ke ho koma ditlhare
Tholoha ka botle, bobe bo le teng
Ke konyana ya ma-Modibedi
Nkadimeng marao ke ritse
Hobane a ka a fedile ke ho ritsa majweng
Nkokolope towe o mahlo a mafubedu
Ntja ya motho e mong ha e feptjwe
Ha o ka e fepa, e tla loma ya haoKgiba

But then I think again, I ask myself…Who Am I..I am a mosotho man,I am a South AfricanMy roots lie in the Kingdom Of LesothoI am an AfricanI am a human beingI believe in the Adventist Message of a soon coming saviourI am beautifully, fearfully and wonderfully created I am a child of Lord God Jehovah

Presented at Mowbray Church 23 Sept 2005

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is excellent. As I am reading this extract, I understand your message of who am I. But then again would be a different message altogether as I am from a mixed background. And hence I call myself the child of the World, but my first home is Africa. - C

Punkstar said...

Much respekt for you my broer.

Anonymous said...

you are one of a kind ... wish many could read and understand what it means to be WHO I AM