You strike a woman, you strike a rock!

You strike a woman, you strike a rock!

MASERU – As men quaked in their boots, it took the courage of a woman to shout in disapproval when the King was sent into exile in 1990.
The military junta led by then strongman, Major General Metsing Lekhanya, sent the King into exile and no man dared to challenge the move except King Moshoeshoe II’s own family.

Now 69, Mamello Morrison was only 31 at the time. She found herself in the forefront of a fight to reinstate the King.
Morrison was working as a journalist, a profession that required her to maintain political neutrality. But she waded into politics to fight for the return of her King.

“This is when I tumbled into politics as this was a social issue that was such a sacrilege,” Morrison says.
“I was so appalled because my mother who was a BCP member was equally appalled,” she says.

At the time, many viewed the BCP (Basutoland Congress Party) as anti-monarchy.
Morrison says at first she was silent and afraid to raise her voice just like most people in the country at a time the military regime was known for collaborating with apartheid South Africa.

It was not until she went to Johannesburg to bury a relative when the Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, her mother-in-law’s younger brother, conjured up her political consciousness.

She says Tutu asked her: “Mamello, how do soldiers abuse the King like this outside the country and the men are quiet? Where are the women?”

“I had no answer to give,” Morrison recalls.
Tutu’s challenge touched her and on her return home, Morrison was more than determined to fight against the sacrilege of sending the king into exile.

Morrison then met with the Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) leader Moeketse Malebo, the Principal Chief of Thaba-Bosiu Khoabane Theko and other people who had formed a committee for the return of the King.
“I was a journalist freelancing for the SABC and BBC. We had a struggle and in the course of our struggles when we had articles local

newspapers would not publish,” she says.
Morrison says they were afraid that “soldiers would beat us. One of us actually experienced a beating from the current prime minister,” who was then the government secretary.

“There was need to publish these articles but it was clear that it would be locally,” she says.
She recalls that SABC journalists Khothule Mphatšoe and Sophie Mokwena were key people who had interests in Lesotho.

“I started a newspaper called Mphatlalatsane, which distributed the news until 1992 when the king returned,” she says.
“People used to think this was a newspaper owned by Marematlou but it was not.”

The king came back but the military junta was reluctant to reinstate him.
Even after Lesotho gained independence in 1994 after the BCP won elections the government still did not want to reinstate King Moshoeshoe II.

“I was still not a member of any political party,” she says.
“Politicians however know how to take advantage of situations and in the course of the struggle Morena Retšelisitsoe Sekhonyana, the then leader of the BNP, saw an opportunity to be part of the return and reinstatement of the King,” she says.

“We went to BCP and advised that they should put back the king on the throne. That’s when we had a palace coup.”
It was in 1994 when King Letsie III, who was holding forte at the palace toppled the BCP government, and Morrison was appointed a minister.

This government, led by the current Attorney General Advocate Haae Phoofolo, was put under immense pressure from the international community and the government was reinstated after 21 days.
Soon King Moshoeshoe II was reinstated.

Morrison says after this, she found herself entangled in politics again when in 1998 opposition parties challenged the election results alleging rigging by the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD).

She maintains that she was still not a member of any political party at the time.
She joined the recount of elections of 1998 under the mediation of SADC and she and others realised that there were anomalies in the results

and the report given by a South African judge Justice Puis Langa.
“I personally viewed it unfair that so many people were not represented in parliament only because their parties lost elections,” she says.

The First Past the Post (FPTP) election model was the problem because it excluded a lot of people who had voted.
“There was a body chosen to prepare for the next elections, (Interim Political Authority) looking at the electoral model, the structure of the

IEC, look at leveling the playing field,” she says.
“That is how we came up with the Mixed Member Proportional model.”
Morrison says she is more concerned about the country’s socio-economic issues than party politics.
“If there are no issues to address I sit and watch.”

“My journey into politics was not a deliberate, calculated journey. But I ran the course of fighting for national, social issues.”
Morrison says she never dreamt being fully engaged in party politics.

She was appointed to the Interim Political Authority under the banner of the now defunct Lesotho Education Party, despite not being a member of the party.

Later, she joined the BNP and stood for elections under its flag in the then Pulane constituency.
Now Morrison is a member of the LCD.

Morrison says she is not a politician, she is “a person more interested in social justice and this is why I tumbled into politics”.
“Even today I am concerned more about the issues of social justice than party politics,” she says, adding: “Even now I tell LCD members that once they want to insult or dethrone the king, they will know my true colours.”
Morrison urges women in parliament to make their presence felt.

“There are many women in parliament, but they are dwarfed into silence. I don’t know why they don’t speak out,” she says.
“Issues of women in politics start right at the constituency level.”

“When there is an election, women would nominate a man they know over a woman they know. Their knowledge on national issues is not even considered,” she says.

Morisson says male leaders ought to be questioned on why they leave women in the periphery.
She argues that even party clothes, winter capes, smart dresses are bought mainly by women but they are shunned when it comes to executive positions.

“They make tea for men,” she says.
Democratic Congress (DC)’s ’Mamphono Khaketla was a treasurer “for a long time and it was a rarity”.

“So women have become too good as voters and not to lead in higher positions.”
Women are good in burial and other similar village-based societies and “they run very smoothly”.
“Why then would men ever doubt the power of women to lead? Why are we good in all these things when we are bad in political executive positions?”

She says some people say women who are appointed in higher positions look down on people but “just because people have seen one or two women doing this does not mean this is the general DNA of women”.

“They are an exception and not the rule. When you appoint a woman in leadership, you humble them”
“We have seen men in the last 50 years, and I don’t know if we can say they did well,” she says.

She says men deliberately push women away from top positions.
She recalls a Motswana lady who once said when men want to keep you away from politics, they call you moloi (witch).

“In Lesotho, they call you letekatse (prostitute). I have been associated with all manner of men I have worked with. I have been called whose and whose concubine,” she says.

“Because we don’t want to be labelled a prostitute we shy away from politics”.
Morisson looks up to Khauhelo Debra Ralitapole, the retired leader of the Basutoland African Congress, “a very principled politician whose mind is clear”.

“She deserved to be in politics”.
She also mentions ’Makali Masiloane of the BCP who has since passed on.

She also says ’Masechele Khaketla, the late mother of ’Mamphono Khaketla, was her role model although she was not active in party politics.
In South Africa her models are Helen Suzman and Patricia De Lille. About De Lille, she says: “When she fights she fights, she fights to the bitter end.”

Currently she believes ’Machere Seutloali, a BNP youth league executive member, is one particular woman with great potential.
“But you can see that men claws are out for her. I don’t know her too much but I wish they allow her to blossom in the BNP,” she says.

All Basotho Convention’s ’Mamandla ’Musa is again one person admired by Morrison.
“I don’t follow people because I sympathise with them, but because they have something in them”.

Rose Moremoholo

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