In defence of Basotho culture

In defence of Basotho culture

MASERU – IN the name of Basotho ancestors and Catholic saints, Lesotho shall rise – that is according to the doctrine of one man fighting to rule the country someday.

A devout Catholic when growing up and now a traditional healer, politician Malefetsane Liau’s life has always been shaped by religion and traditional customs.

And for the leader of Lekhotla la Mekhoa le Meetlo (LMM) party, therein lie the answer to the political and economic problems that have beset Lesotho for years.

His struggle is not just to take over power, but also to ensure that Basotho culture and traditions are elevated to become the centerpiece of policy making.

Liau’s party advocates for the adoption of cultural approaches to resolve the nagging questions of the day.
The current leadership, he says, is selfish because it has relegated cultural practices and traditional values to the periphery while focusing on luxurious lifestyles. The welfare of future generations is sacrificed as a result, says Liau
“According to our culture once a man becomes a father all his actions are meant to benefit his children, from generation to the next,” Liau says.

“In our culture, a leader is first a parent and therefore has a responsibility to ensure that the nation’s children will reap benefits of his leadership,” he says.

He says a prime minister whose conduct is rooted in traditional customs would not hesitate to make decisions that will benefit young people even if it means losing his position and the attendant benefits.

He says a nation’s culture is based on principles that create a favourable environment for young people to love their identity and work hard to keep it.

Once the young ones appreciate and work to maintain their cultural heritage, they shield it from destructive foreign philosophies.

“The politicians of today do not care about the youth of this country, which is why they are more concerned about their glamorous lifestyles,” Liau says.

“Culture would help them know that they should put youth first by investing the higher percentage of the budget in young people. A Mosotho man wants what is best for his children and he lives only for them. The politicians do not care about the youth of the nation,” he says.

Since birth in March 1953, Liau has been guided by the Roman Catholic Church as well as Basotho culture and traditions.
Born and raised in Limapong, Tebe-Tebeng in the Malimong area of the Berea district, he was exposed to the two different worldviews that moulded him.

As a young boy herding cattle, he was fascinated by the deep traditions representing pre-colonial and pre-Christian missionary arrival in Lesotho, including going to initiation school as a passage from boyhood to manhood.
Malimong is well known for its traditional initiation schools for young men and women, where the custom is regarded as special and sacred.

This is apart from its fame as a tourist attraction because of a cave in which cannibals lived in the 19th century during the infamous Lifaqane War that engulfed southern Africa.

Secondly, Liau was exposed to strong Catholicism, the entire Malimong area being well known for its big Gethsemane Roman Catholic Mission.

The two cultures have, instead of clashing inside him, made him a believer of both Basotho ancestors and Catholic saints.

What he recalls about his upbringing is a family of 12 siblings, a devout Catholic mother who was also a traditional diviner and a father who was entrenched in cultural practices.

When thepost visited him at his home in Khubetsoana last Friday, Liau was expecting patients who needed his services for he too is a diviner like his mother.

There were small bundles of dried stalks of different shrubs on the table, while others hung on the walls.
Liau, unlike many traditionally initiated men who do not give women credit for shaping their upbringing, says he

learnt most of the things he believes in and practices from his mother.
“Most of the time we would go to our mother and ask all sorts of questions”, Liau says.

Like most Basotho boys he engaged in activities such as herding livestock. He played soccer for the village team called ‘Phambili’ besides also being an altar boy and a member of the Union of Brothers of St Stephen at his Gethsemane Mission.

He was also a boy scout, which was sponsored and spearheaded by the Roman Catholic Church.
Liau is now a traditional healer and founder and leader of Lekhotla la Mekhoa le Meetlo (LMM), a political party formed in 2001.

He says he looked up to his mother when growing up and it was because of her love, support and guidance he is the kind of man he is today.

“That’s why I say if the mothers can value their families, the world would be a better place”, Liau says.
“My mother was a prayer warrior. We saw it because we spent our whole childhood with her. My father was also a Christian even though he wasn’t a church goer”, he says.

He says his father founded a local mohobelo traditional dance club.
“My father never played soccer but all his sons played soccer,” he says.
The church also played a big role because that’s where he used to nurture his spiritual being.

He passed standard 6 with second class and proceeded to Sacred Heart High school where he passed Junior Certificate with a merit, which he says he spiritually predicted while still in Form B.
He claims he already had a spiritual gift at that time.

He says when he was in Form E, at the time when he was to write exams that would pave way for him to enter tertiary education, ancestral spirits drove him out of school.

He says his parents took him to the priests to pray for him but the spirit “was defiant”.
“I moved from one doctor to another, from a priest to another but nothing seemed to work,” he says, adding that he subsequently dropped out of school and was initiated as a sangoma like his mother.

“It was a very tough journey when I was initiated. It touched everyone who knew me at the time, from the villagers to friends and family.”

He also had to marry because it is believed that one needs to have a spouse in order to fulfill the spiritual journey.
He had to quit other activities that had become part of his life and it was not easy since he was still a young man who also wanted to explore life.

“I also had to undergo the boys’ traditional initiation (lebollo). To me the issue of the initiation is an assignment. It’s not something that you do just because somebody else is doing it. It’s deeper than that.”
Asked why he joined politics, he says his interest in politics was ignited in 1961 when the country was fighting for independence from British rule.

When the nation finally got independence, he says he started advising the government on the value of culture and tradition but no one seemed to listen.

Many decades later, convinced that politicians were not prepared to listen to him, Liau decided to form Lekhotla la Mekhoa le Meetlo with the aim of protecting the cultural and traditional values of Basotho.

“Culture is power to Basotho, it’s their life, it’s their dignity, it’s their economy and it’s also their future,” he says.
“It’s the gold and diamond of the nation. I haven’t seen anything with more value that culture,” says Liau, who two weeks ago won the Lesotho Men of Honour Award for the best cultural leader in an event organised by Mind Liberation Psychology Consultancy (MLPC) and MJM Consultancy.

Mamakhooa Rapolaki

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