A tribute to Tšepo Tshola

A tribute to Tšepo Tshola

Even though I had made an undertaking to take a short break from writing, I felt the need to put words onto paper after hearing the sad news of the passing on of Ntate Tšepo Tshola, on Friday, July 16, 2021.
I received the sad news just as I was about to travel to Johannesburg for a funeral of the last remaining elders on my maternal side. This was a Covid-related death of one of my grandmothers (bo-nkhono) and the funeral had to be done promptly.

The news of Ntate Tšepo as I would call him just broke my heart because I was so much looking forward to be part of a project to document his life in the form of a book.
I had been making an undertaking to help my good friend Bokang Kheekhe to start documenting the life of Ntate Tšepo. This was a project that was initiated exactly seven years ago and Ntate Tšepo was very eager for the project to take-off. He’d tell Bokang and say, “hee banna, nts’ebeliseng ke sa phela,” and I thought wow! I want to be part of this project.

I actually wanted to take a break from writing because July is just a horrible month for me. It’s not only the coldest month of the year but it carries a lot of horrible memories. This was the same month when I lost my younger sister, Katleho Bohloa, seven years ago. By far, the darkest moment in my life.
Every time the month of July comes, I replay all the events that took place when my sister was very ill and the cancer had spread all over her body. So I told my editors that I needed to take a break and focus on my construction-related work but I actually wanted to go far away to rest but work got a hold of me.

In the month of July 2014, at a time when my sister was very sick and at the time of her passing on the 14th of July, there is something strange that happened then.
Maybe God had brought an angel to give me comfort in time of trouble but I really don’t know. We would gather around as friends and have lunch at a certain car wash located near Hillsview (Pioneer Mall traffic-circle). Ha Douglas if you know a gentleman named Daggies.

It was usually just a handful of us. Possibly five people and guess who’d join us for lunch? The one and only, Ntate Tšepo Tshola. Every day, consistently, promptly at 12:50, Ntate Tšepo would show up beaming with a smile to join us for lunch. That’s why I think he was God-sent because I don’t even know how I survived the events surrounding the passing on of my sister.
Look, this was not a person I knew on a personal basis. In fact, I was first introduced to him in 2003 by a very good friend of mine named Motlatsi Majara. Yes, Ntate Motlatsi is one of my best friends.

So, when Ntate Majara introduced me to Ntate Tšepo, he said, “hee monna, motho enoa ke Mobu enoa,” and Ntate Tšepo burst out in laughter. My youngest sister, Reeme Bohloa, still doesn’t know how we became friends with Ntate Motlatsi.
Anyway, Ntate Tšepo would join us for a meal in 2014 and tell us numerous stories about his life. We would laugh our lungs out but there was something strange about our interaction.
It was as if I had known him on a personal level for years. He’d be so relaxed and we’d never feel like we were sitting with a mega-star. But there would be this eagerness to document his life.
You know, the thing that makes me sad the most is that it just never happened. We never found time to actually sit down and take notes.

Secondly, the saddest thing is that his country never gave him the recognition that he deserved whilst still alive.
Why do I say so? I remember a time when Ntate Tšepo won a life-time achievement award at the Ultimate FM music awards. He was over the moon. It was like he had won a Grammy award. When I asked him why he was so happy, he said that’s because he rarely got any recognition in his home country.

Yes, I am aware that he eventually received an honour or recognition from his Majesty King Letsie III. And yes, I am aware that there is a state funeral planned and his remains will be laid to rest at Thaba Bosiu. But sometimes, it’s just too little, too late. Emphasis being on sometimes.
The question is, why can’t we show the same honour, whilst a person is still alive? I refer to artists like the late great Frank Leepa. Man! I remember the first time I saw him and I was at the traffic department to fetch my driver’s licence. This was sometime in the late 90’s and I was delighted to see a star right in front of my eyes.

Unfortunately, Ntate Frank didn’t look good at all. Ekare o na sohlokehile. It just broke my heart when I thought of the amount of contribution that the man had done for his country. This was a man that placed Lesotho on the world map. A true ambassador but his country didn’t give a damn about him.
Do we have a Frank Leepa Street or Road somewhere in Lesotho? Or a Tšepo Tshola Street somewhere? Or maybe a statue of Ntate Frank Leepa somewhere? Where is it? Maybe I haven’t seen it.
Those were ambassadors in the true sense of the word. Eseng bana ba ntseng ba tlontlolla naha, ka ho rekisa majoala a turu. Che, with as exception of Ntate Sekhonyana Bereng.

I once paid him a visit at his Waterkloof residence and found him busy polishing his shoes. Well, it was after hours. Haai! That man can polish his shoes. With so much passion and skill. When I talk of an ambassador I am referring to such people as Ntate Bereng. True ambassadors. People that represent their countries well.
You know to digress a bit, I always take note of the demeanour of diplomats in a place named Waterkloof, Pretoria. There’s a shopping centre named The Club where diplomats/ambassadors do their shopping. Wow! You have to see an ambassador walking out of the car and into the shopping centre.
The walk is usually so graceful. So dignified. Like a peacock. Ekare li-pikoko. So proud. Chest out, chin up! Ee! Eseng li-hata-marikhoana tsena tsa rona tsa boralipolotiki. Ba re bakela stress. That’s why I hate watching Lesotho TV.

Anyway, Bo-ntate Frank and Ntate Tšepo were people that represented their country well even when they had nothing or given no recognition by their countries. But their music is known all over the continent. I don’t think Lesotho would be given the respect it has, had it not been of those two legends.
I can name a number of people that were neglected by their country. Names such as Ntate Moorosi “Pro” Motsapi but I won’t go into that story because it just breaks my heart.

In closing, I wish to state that an ambassador has been recalled. I thought of this statement because it got stuck in my head ever since Ntate Mosisili made a speech at the funeral of Ntate Moeketsi Senaoana in 2011. Without offending my good friend, Ramahooana Matlosa, I don’t usually pay attention to the things Ntate Mosisili says. Maybe haa mphihlele and it happens. But on that day, he made a very powerful and moving speech. Khele!
Ntate Mosisili made a speech about how ambassadors are usually appointed on foreign missions to represent their countries. However, the day, when the ambassador is recalled back home is not known. Not to the ambassador, nor the minister. And this usually keeps ambassadors on their toes because that day is never known.

But there will come a day, and that day is usually unexpected, when an ambassador receives a letter recalling him or her back home and sometimes, the ambassador is not given enough time to say his or final goodbyes. The letter would instruct the ambassador to catch the first plane the following day. Yes, indeed, this is the story of life and death.
We all know that the day will come when God calls us back home but none of us knows the day, date or time. But when that day comes, one is left with no option but to pack their bags and go. That’s the story of death.

Like the hymn that says, roma nna lichabeng, ha ke fihla ke rapele (send me to the world and when I get there, I will pray), this is exactly what Ntate Tšepo did. He was sent to the world to represent his country to the world and did the job with flying colours! He lived a very impactful life. Rest in eternal peace Ntate Tšepo!

‘Mako Bohloa

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