Pastor Mochochoko: a champion of the poor

Pastor Mochochoko: a champion of the poor

MASERU – “THERE is no way of hiding. There is no way to avoid the poor. We need more people who can help. We need more people who have the heart to help because poverty will always be there.” Those were the words of Pastor Mavis Mochochoko in an interview with Faith Magazine, an ecumenical publication, late last year.

Mochochoko – who was found dead in her home on Monday morning – lived by those words for more than three decades.
At one time the orphanage she started in 1984 had more than 300 children.
She told the magazine that Mavis’s Home, as the orphanage in Mohalalitoe was known, was started by sheer chance.
One rainy day she opened her door to find a new-born, wrapped in a rag, on her doorstep. She said she was touched and shocked at the same time.
“I cried. I could not believe my eyes,” she said.

She boiled water and tried to warm the baby. That baby, she said, was the beginning of an orphanage that would help thousands of children over the years. Hers was an orphanage that never turned away a child in need. Mochochoko would take every child who walked in or was dumped in her yard.
The most difficult time was for the orphanage was in the 1990s when HIV and Aids were ravaging the country. A large number of children at her home were HIV positive.

She was burying at least two children every day. “We were praying for them to see another day. We did not know what was killing the children. A lot were dying in my arms and there was nothing I could do,” she said.

When the going got tough in the late 2000s Mochochoko would take some of the children to sing for donations at Sefika complex.
Even when her orphanage was closed by the government she kept the doors to her house open for more children.
Mention her name to most people and they would immediately recall her philanthropic work. That is why her death is likely to shock a lot of people.
Her body was discovered by her grandchildren on Monday morning.

Police spokesperson Inspector Mpiti Mopeli said the she was found in her bedroom with marks on her neck that suggest she had been strangled.
Her silver Toyota Camry, registration number F5828, is missing. Tenants in Mochochoko’s premises said they did not hear anything during the night.
But a neighbour said he heard “a car revving”.  Her relatives are distraught.
“I was the last person to live with her; she was still strong and could do things on her own. So she never really needed a helper in the house,” Bonang Mochochoko–Busa, one of her grandchildren, said.

Mochochoko was born on 23 June 1944 in Thoteng in Mohales’ Hoek. She had nine siblings. He father was a postmaster and her mother was a teacher.
After high school at St. Stephens, Mochochoko enrolled at St Cathrine’s Teacher Training College which has since become a high school and school for the blind. She worked as a teacher at St Patricks and later moved to Flying Doctors.
She married a fellow teacher with whom she had three children before she filed for divorce.

In 1984 Mochochoko started the “Insured Salvation Orphanage”. The orphanage was shut down by the Ministry of Social Development in 2013. In the interview with Faith Magazine Mochochoko said it was out of jealousy that the government closed her orphanage.

“They thought I was benefiting from the orphanage. They were wrong,” Mochochoko said. “Officials in that ministry were bitter and jealous so they decided to take the children away from me. My heart now bleeds when I think of how many children are scattered across the country simply because someone was jealous,” she said.

But ‘Matebatso Doti, who was the minister at that time, said the government closed the orphanage because the children were neglected.
Doti, who returned to the ministry this year, said at one time she had arrived at the orphanage to find children of five to six years cooking on a gas stove. Her decision to close the orphanage was based on the Child Welfare and Protection Act 2011.
Raising thousands of men and women was not Mochochoko’s only claim to fame.

Back in the days she was crowned Miss Lesotho and Miss Sparletta Lesotho. “I wonder what life is going to be like now that she has gone. I can’t help but imagine. She was a straight talker,” Mochochoko-Busa said. Mochochoko also loved dancing and was once a part of the ballroom dancing squad in Maseru. “Even in her old age, she would dance like she was young,” Mochochoko-Busa added.
The date of burial for Mochochoko is not yet known.

Rose Moremoholo

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