Dr Mokete:  the ‘village library’ has been burnt

Dr Mokete: the ‘village library’ has been burnt

Maseru – The words, “The death of an old man is similar to the burning down of a library,” rings very true when it comes to the tale of one of the best pioneering opticians in the country.

Our sight is perhaps the most important sense out of the five, and to have been a doctor that served people unconditionally for a whole lifetime deserves the highest accolade to whatever figure ensured that we could see.

We look before we touch, we ogle a meal before we taste it, we perceive the smell of a rose before we sniff it, and actually see danger even before we hear the roar or the shot; sight is the first sense that makes us aware that there is a world of the living around us just after we are born: it is a sense above the others, a pioneer of sensory perception.

Dr ‘Musi Mokete ensured that we could see first before we could believe that there is indeed healing in the living world around. The comprehensive eye examinations he performed in his lifetime ensured that all our visual systems were in peak condition. And well, eye diseases became a forgotten past for the patients he treated in his lifetime.

I guess in a sense, the caduceus with the eye on top became not only a symbol for optometry but was to a large extent his guiding staff, his symbol that guided his healing hand: all that came to him came to see clearly again, and they did see.

Our first meeting was at a launch of a documentary at Victoria Hotel in Maseru, and there were books on sale. I was amazed at the sight of this old man who was buying almost every book on display, and being a reading writer, I approached him and we started our discussion on Morena Moshoeshoe I and Morena Mohlomi and the impact their united philosophies of peace and tolerance have had on the ethos of Basotho as a nation. This initial discussion would later fan out to various other topics, and he revealed a depth of knowledge unsurpassed.

Guiding me into various little explored topics in medicine, education, theology, the sciences, the arts and other academic disciplines, all I could do was let my mind drink deep of his words for the reality of the matter revealed to me that Dr Mokete was a man committed to using his sight not only for promoting his profession but also the advancement of the other disciplines hinged on the culture of reading.

He made me aware that the quest for knowledge is not a myopic pursuit; it is one pursuit that broadens one’s scope of understanding instead of limiting it to the pigeonhole of one’s field of study. Knowledge is a vast field, and this venerable eye doctor made me aware that I should gather as much as I can on any given topic if I wanted to improve my understanding of the world and to get rid of my ignorance through the cultivation of a culture of reading books on any topic.

It could be that books seem an old-fashioned tool in the pursuit for knowledge, but this suave eye doctor was up to date when it came to the sharing of knowledge the modern way. On several occasions, I would get a video or quotable quote on my Whatsapp on any given topic or subject of study: this is the Dr Mokete I came to know in the brief four or so years from the day that we met at a conference.

I think this sharing of knowledge was not limited only to me, there should be more than a million other lives that he touched and shared bits of not only himself but also his vast well of knowledge gathered over the many years he lived in the call of duty to treat people’s eye diseases and conditions. I have to repeat that he made me see the world in a different light after a long spell spent as a young ignorant and blind man.

Admission of ignorance or accepting as fact that one has insufficient knowledge with regard to a specific or given issue or entity is a sure sign of wisdom and a gateway to the basis of harmonious human interaction: understanding how things work.

In the days after our first meeting, I came across a document chronicling the history of the medical profession in Lesotho after the brief talk I had had with Dr ‘Musi Mokete. We had been discussing some of the reasons why the great figures in Lesotho and their lives always seem to disappear into obscurity. He spoke of the need to recapture their lives, a necessity to know who they really and what their achievements have done to improve the lives of ordinary Basotho.

In one of the talks we have had on the history and heritage of this country the name of Dr Wilson T. M. Sebeta came up and I took the effort to find out (at his behest) who this figure is. He is the first Mosotho to receive a degree in medicine from the University of Edinburgh in 1915 and for all of his life served “his people faithfully at Mokhotlong,” until his death in the early 1930’s.

This brought up the question in my mind: why is it that Lesotho’s greats are often looked down upon by other African states when Lesotho is in fact home to the pioneers of knowledge and understanding?
It is a question that clearly egged Dr Mokete for he would always mention names of figures whose contribution to the advancement of Lesotho had somehow been intentionally ignored.

The reasons for this he would not mention, but I guess the usual problem of political ineptitude was a concern to a man who remained committed to deepening the appreciation for Lesotho’s works of literature, the arts, history, politics and other fields of study.

There is not much one can say except to raise one’s hat to an eye doctor who left many of us with not only better physical sight but a figure who contributed to a large extent in making the eyes of our mind see the world with the clarity of the raptor and the owl.
Dr ‘Musi Mokete was born on May 20, 1935 in Ha-Mohlaetoa, Teya-Teyaneng. Dr Mokete died on October 14, 2019.
Rea leboha Ntate Mokete. You shall never be forgotten.

Tšepiso Mothibi

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