‘He fought  the good fight’

‘He fought the good fight’

MASERU – Before and after independence, politics in Lesotho has always been a treacherous, and often lethal, terrain. But Moeletsi Api is one man who weathered it all.
Api died on July 5. He was 88. A veteran of a political landscape that is invariably characterised by conflict, political party fragmentation, autocracy, military rule and a tinge of democracy, Api was buried in Maseru last Friday.

That he received a state funeral speaks to his rich history and connection to Lesotho’s rough and tumble world of politics.
Controversial and ready to call a spade a spade, the former deputy finance minister endured poor health in old age.
“He was old and so sick that each month a certain amount of money was set aside for his medical check-ups,” said his son, Likhomo.
After he retired from politics, Api worked at the Lesotho Catholic Bishops Conference (LCBC) in the Caritas Department.
But for some, the job at the LCBC meant he remained “within the family”.

Api was a founding member of the Basotho National Party (BNP) in the 1950s. The BNP was closely linked to the Roman Catholic Church and junior chiefs at its formation between 1957 and 1958.
The BNP was a breakaway of the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP), one of the pioneer parties of modern politics in pre-independence Lesotho.
Leabua Jonathan and Patrick ‘Mota, who were chiefs and Gabriel Manyeli, a Catholic Church teacher, engineered the breakaway.
When the BNP surprisingly broke the BCP’s hegemony and won the 1965 elections, Api was appointed Deputy Minister of Finance.
“Those who lived in those years will recall Lesotho with clean governance,” said family member, Mathibeli Marabe.

He had started off as a member of constituency for Thabana-Morena, which was then known as Mount Olivert. The constituency’s name was changed to Thabana-Morena in 1993 when Lesotho regained democracy after 23 years of dictatorship.
“When parliament was dissolved he was mandated to work in the constituency,” said Marabe.
This was after the 1970 State of Emergency when then prime minister, the late Chief Leabua Jonathan, refused to hand over power to the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) leader Ntsu Mokhehle after losing elections.

Api went on to work as a district administrator in Mohale’s Hoek before being transferred to Butha-Buthe.
Desperate to improve his education, Api moved to Cameroon to further his studies. He returned to become part of the rural development initiatives in Qacha’s Nek district.
Born in Ntširele, Ha Letapata in 1930, Api had been a keen student in his youth such that the move to Cameroon was not a surprise to those who knew him.
He started school at Nko-ea Khomo before going to Lobiane where he completed Standard Six with a first class.
“He was an excellent student and enrolled in philosophy studies and became a teacher for a short while,” Marabe said.
Farming was his other passion.

A commercial farmer, Api was reputed for supplying potatoes and cereal crops.
During his time as a district administrator, Api maintained an excellent network of farmers in the districts.
Due to the attributes that he portrayed in the Food and Agricultural Development, his family was approached and a project was started called Thabana-Morena Rural Development.
A friend from the youthful days, ’Malineo Motšepe attributed some of the developments such as health centres in Lithabaneng in Maseru City to the fact that Api lived in the constituency.
However, as age took its toll, his health deteriorated. Friends and former colleagues spoke highly of Api.
Paul ’Mabathoana, a former colleague in the BNP who has since crossed to the Basotho Democratic National Party (BDNP), said Api died at a very critical time when conflicts and political murders are ravaging Lesotho.

“Nowadays there is no peace in the country, despite the fact that there is a big billboard at the main border gate saying ‘enter in peace’,” said ’Mabathoana.
Motšepe, said she became close to Api in 1965 when they were BNP youths campaigning in Ha-Masupha, Berea, against their main rival then, the BCP.
One time they gathered at the Social Development Centre at St Michael’s (Roma) where they were groomed to be responsible youths.
“Since he studied philosophy, Api should have been a priest but he did not,” Motšepe said.

“However, he would not forget to take us to church before we left as a delegation in different countries including Nairobi,” she said.
She said Api was controversial, yet steadfast in his convictions.
“When he prayed no one would listen and not agree with his prayer.”

The leader of BNP, Thesele ’Maseribane, said people ought to walk in Api’s footsteps “because he is one of the people who ensured that Lesotho became independent”.
“His life is worthy of a celebration,” ’Maseribane said. “They ensured good governance but with a little budget. That is why it is our duty to ensure that the reform process commences,” Maseribane said.

The Principal Chief of Thaba-Bosiu, Chief Khoabane Theko noted that Api had a “deep understanding of politics”.
“In short he was a visionary,” Chief Khoabane said.

Tokase Mphutlane

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