Remembering Motuba

Remembering Motuba

One Facebook comedian recently wrote, “They should remove Khotso Pula Nala below our Coat of Arms and replace it with Ho tla Loka.”
I nearly laughed when I read that post but quickly stopped as I came to my senses. This is because Khotso Pula Nala is one of the most important phrases in Lesotho despite the fact that for a long time the country has not had peace and prosperity.

Many of the stories we read or listen to have demonstrated beyond any shadow of doubt that Lesotho’s peace has been greatly disturbed. Maybe we indeed need to think about our slogan as a country. We should either change it or change the ways we currently do things.
Lately we have been complaining about police brutality. Many suspects have died in police custody. We may not know exactly what happened in those police cells but we know for a fact that people have died.

The police have given their versions on how the suspects died, ranging from suffering from extreme heat in the cells to those that were already ill before they got into their custody. These stories and many others are a reminder to some people of what they have lost and of the justice they never got.
Among the people that will always wonder what happened to their loved ones at the hands of the police is the Motuba family. This is the family of Edgar Mahlomola Motuba, an editor of Leselinyane la Lesotho newspaper who was murdered on September 7, 1981. His body and the bodies of the friends he was with were found at a village called Siloe in Mohale’s Hoek, a village that is more than 100 kilometres from Morija where he worked and more than 300 kilometres from his home town of Butha Buthe.

I was reminded of Motuba’s cruel death by a social media post by his son Tabai. On Saturday 7 September, (the anniversary of Motuba’s killing) his son wrote about the events that culminated in the death of his father.
He also mentioned how he was, as young as he was, told about the death of his father. His story is one of a child who grew up broken-hearted. Crying for the love of the father that left him too soon in his life. Crying for not actually knowing what really transpired that fateful day in September.

What is even more tear-jerking is that at the time of Motuba’s murder his wife was pregnant with their last daughter who was born three months after her father was killed. I wanted to comment with the “Ho tla loka Mosia phrase” (meaning all will be well) on that post.
But before I could write it, I wanted to put myself in the shoes of the young girl who was born after her father had already died. I could fathom what went on in her mind as she grew older.

I do not know the questions she asked her mother after school when they had been asked to mention their parents in an essay about herself. It is also difficult to understand how she responded to those elderly men riding on horseback through the village who always asked for the whereabouts of one’s father because they wanted to one day come and pay bohali for their sons.
Moreover, I vividly remembered that I have never heard of the conviction of people who were responsible for their father’s death. As such I felt that the “Ho tla loka” would have been misdirected and of no value to the situation.
How could I say all will be well when Motuba’s family has not been accorded justice 38 years after the death of their father?

For those who may not know, Motuba was a newspaper journalist and editor. He wrote hard-hitting stories during the trying political times of the State of Emergency (Qomatsi). That was a time when freedom of speech and expression was not a right in Lesotho.
As such, his stories often led him to be at loggerheads with law enforcement agencies, a situation that allegedly headed to his demise at a very tender age of just 38 years.

Today, unlike during the time of Motuba and his colleagues, we are living under a democratic government. However, some things have remained exactly as they were 40 years ago. We still see the media being persecuted when they write what the government does not like.
So many years after Motuba’s death, we are living in a country where the government still shuts down radio stations because they do not broadcast what they want. Newspapers are punished by not being given government advertisements because they do not dance to the tune of the government of the day.
When will this ever stop?

I believe it is time that our government starts treating the media with the respect it deserves. The media should be allowed to be the government watchdog. They should not be persecuted directly or indirectly for playing their role.
I am still hopeful that one day, there will be a government that will find out what really happened to Motuba and his friends. We need a government that will understand the importance of the media as a stakeholder in governance matters instead of treating it as an enemy.

Kelello Rakolobe

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