Maliehe: The struggle continue!

Maliehe: The struggle continue!

Staff Reporter

MASERU – AS a bright 15-year-old in 1973, Motlohi Maliehe had won a primary school scholarship to further his education for excelling in Mathematics.

But his name was quickly dropped because his family were not supporters of the then ruling Basotho National Party (BNP).

The decision to deny him a scholarship for his secondary school education infuriated the young Motlohi setting him on a long career in politics first as a member of the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP).

It was that event that awakened his political consciousness.

While he was grappling with his personal issues, the government led by Chief Leabua Jonathan was cracking down on opposition leaders after it declared a state of emergency.

Jonathan had rejected the 1970 general election results when it became clear that he was losing power to the BCP’s Ntsu Mokhehle.

That decision to deny him a scholarship formed his basis for affiliating with the BCP.

Maliehe recalls that one day in 1976 after he passed his Junior Certificate at St James Secondary School, he found the government’s village self-help project implements that included picks and shovels in his father’s kraal and he angrily threw them out onto the street.

The following day the villagers were gathering at his home preparing to undertake some development project and when he saw them he decided to insult one of the cows saying it was big-headed and stubborn like a BNP member.

During those days the government had trained some villagers as anti-crime agents but many had become notorious political extremists who terrorised BCP members in villages across the country.

So, when Maliehe insulted the BNP members as big-headed and stubborn he had directly declared both him and his family as BCP members worthy of being persecuted.

He says a day after the event he was advised by family friends to flee because the village anti-crime agents, who were called Lebotho la Khotso (Army of Peace), were looking for him.

“It was said I was going to be taken during that night and I had to run away to Butha-Buthe,” Maliehe says.

Maliehe says in 1978 after he passed his Cambridge Overseas School Certificate at Butha-Buthe High School, his hideout was discovered.

But a friend helped him to register at the mineworkers’ recruitment agency, the Employment Bureau of Africa Limited, and he went to the mines in South Africa.

He says at that time he was a regular reader of the Rand Daily Mail and he was very conscious of his political needs and he was impressed by the history of the State of Israel during its formation in the 1940s.

Maliehe says he wanted to study politics at university but when he had fled to work in the mines his dream of going to university also got lost.

“I dedicated my entire self to the cause of the BCP,” he says.

“I wanted to join the party’s military wing, the LLA (Lesotho Liberation Army) but unfortunately I did not have a connection and so I did not make it,” he says.

“I remember vividly that on that day, in 1978, I had R5.50 and I wondered if it would take me to Botswana where the BCP members had fled,” he says.

Maliehe says when he arrived at the mine in South Africa where he was going to work, he started searching for the BCP office.

He however soon learnt that at least 12 BCP members at Secunda had been fired by the manager who was sympathetic to the BNP. That saw the BCP’s office being shut down as well.

“I started organising for the party from that day and later reopened the BCP office,” he says.

Maliehe says he raised funds for exiled members in Botswana.

He says he was later appointed a BCP branch secretary and later the provincial secretary of the BCP in exile.

“I spent the next 16 years without coming home because I was wanted, this time not by the village Lebotho la Khotso, but by the state security agents,” he says.

He says he went on many secret trips to Botswana where he met the party’s leadership, especially the late Shakhane Mokhehle, who was the secretary general.

Maliehe says crossing into Botswana during that period was a dangerous undertaking because both the Lesotho and South African border authorities monitored his movements.

He says he would cut leaves from his passport that showed that he had crossed into Botswana but the problem was getting another passport from Lesotho.

He says he could not contain his happiness when in 1993 the BCP won all constituencies and became government.

In 1996 the party held an elective conference where he was elected the party’s spokesman “and I could see a bright future in my political career”.

A year later he broke away from the BCP with Mokhehle to form the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) which was later led by Pakalitha Mosisili, the current Prime Minister.

Maliehe says his happiness in the party soon dwindled when during the 1998 election campaign he experienced yet another political persecution, this time from his comrades in the LCD.

“I was nearly murdered in 1998 when the people in my constituency wanted me to represent them in parliament but the party’s national executive committee wanted another person,” he says.

“I was attacked and nearly killed. I gave in and let the committee do things according to its liking because I did not want to cause confusion in the party.”

When the party split in 2002 and the Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) was established, “that man who was favoured by the national executive committee crossed the floor”.

“It was in 2002 when I stood for the party in Butha-Buthe constituency and since then the people have always put their trust in me to represent them in parliament,” he says.

He says following yet another misunderstanding within the party, he and another LCD stalwart, “Lehlohonolo Tšehlana of Mokhotlong questioned this bad behaviour by the committee”.

Tšehlana was fired from the party and Maliehe was suspended and they began plotting with other LCD MPs to form the All Basotho Convention (ABC), a mission they completed in 2006 when Thomas Thabane resigned from his ministerial position to lead the ABC.

Today, Maliehe is the ABC chairman and still is the Butha-Buthe MP for the fourth time since 2002.

Maliehe says in his political history he has learnt that political party leaders cause poverty with the sole purpose to go to the public during election campaigns to convince them that they can eradicate it.

“Politicians are cruel and they have realised that they cannot control the minds of a self-sufficient society and so they purposely starve the people so that they can control them,” he says.

He says the people should be given political education so that they can differentiate between their own political needs and what their minds are continually fed by their leaders.

Maliehe says it is sad that people are made to think that their political parties or their leaders are more valuable than them as individuals.

He says a political party is made up of people who have a common goal to achieve a kind of governance that will better their lives both as individuals and collectively not what the leaders want them to be.

“Proper political education can put a permanent stop to this tendency of leaders to create problems so that they can promise the people to solve them,” he says.

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