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A reversal of our traditions and culture

This is an open letter to the following: The Clerk, Speaker and MPs Parliament of the Kingdom of Lesotho And The Clerk, President of Senate and Senators And Basotho. I am a 51-year-old bona-fide male Mosotho. I was educated in this country and I have no intention of taking up any other country’s citizenship. It is for this reason that I will fight for the traditions and cultures of my forefathers.

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There is a Sesotho adage that goes ‘leloko ha lea baneng lea timela.’ Sesotho ha se tolokoe, therefore I will not interpret the adage into any foreign language.

I pen this letter under immense confusion and concern that Basotho of the highest social order are prepared to trade the traditions of their forefathers for a loan that will take generations to settle, and that is if the loan will benefit Lesotho and Basotho.

Your Excellencies, you will correct me if I am wrong, MPs and Senators’ primary role is to protect and preserve the traditions and cultures of the Basotho people. It is expected that they will do everything in their power to ensure that our traditions and culture do not go extinct. They are also expected and I say this on correction that without our traditions and cultures we are a lost nation.

Before I dwell deep into the subject of concern, I ask you to go to YouTube and download a song by the late Peter Nthwane where he sings ‘tlohelang lintho Sekhooa, ha re tlohelleng Senyesemane re lateleng meetlo ea rona…’ Another artiste, Sechaba ‘Fatere’ Litaba from Teyateyaneng, sings ‘He bonang manyesemane, ke balotsana ba kene joang nokeng ea Mohokare, hee ba loea ka pampiring, enke le pene, folae machini, sethunya le kanono…’

You may ask why I make reference to the lyrics of these songs. As if the two artistes knew that one day the highest offices of the Kingdom of Lesotho, the representatives of the people of Lesotho, would one day, like Judas sold Jesus, sell Lesotho and her forefathers’ traditions and cultures. Isn’t it ironic that this happens during the Holy Week, as we celebrate and commemorate the fulfilment of the Scriptures relating to the death of Jesus Christ?

Your Excellencies, brothers and sisters, fellow Basotho, this week the two houses of Parliament have invited Basotho to take part in a national dialogue related to the proposed Inheritance Bill. What this dialogue serves to do is to legitimise the selling out of our identity, traditions and cultures as a nation, at this time when we commemorate 200 years of our existence as the Basotho nation.

The proposed Bill sets to sow confusion among the Basotho nation all in the name of appeasing people who do not have traditions and cultures to be proud of, for what, shillings. Are we really prepared to do so?

We have been taught that in Lesotho our legal system is premised on two doctrines; The Laws of Lerotholi and the Roman-Dutch Law. Of the two, I remain unchallenged that our principal law should be the Laws of Lerotholi and where silent we could refer to the Roman-Dutch law. Over the years the Laws of Lerotholi have been silenced in favour of the foreign Roman-Dutch Law.

The Laws of Lerotholi were set to protect social order, traditions and culture of Basotho and it is very concerning that Basotho judges are the very same Basotho of high standing who continuously endeavour to favour the Roman-Dutch Law over our own Lerotholi Laws.

What has the two Houses of Parliament done? Nothing that the MPs past, current and probably those in the future can and will show. There is no Hansard that contains deliberations aimed at preserving our traditions and cultures.

Coming back to the call for national dialogue on the Bill, I wish to present the following concerns:

1. CURRICULUM vs. LAW
Your Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters, fellow Basotho, we all went to school at one stage or another, at primary level we did Sesotho and we were forced to buy a book titled ‘Mekhoa le Meetlo ea Basotho.’ In that book there is a section that explains Sesotho marriages and Sethepu is contained in that book. Even our initiation schools curriculum has issues of marriage in them. Remember education is the foundation of mankind, when we grow into adults of marriage level, when we have to practice the same teaching we received at school, Sethepu, then the churches and the Courts of Lesotho that advocate against it. Their arguments are an antithesis of their Bible teachings. The Bible and the Koran are moral guides and as far as I know in the Bible, the wisest man, Solomon, had wives and concubines, the Koran teaches about polygamy, and so do the Laws of Lerotholi. What about the Roman Dutch Law?

2. Polygamy as a mechanism of prolonged social orderThe Bible teaches us that Solomon married many wives, his wisdom led him to taking wives from the tribes that he defeated in the battles. Similarly, King Moshoeshoe I married wives from the clans and tribes he defeated in wars. By doing so, he strengthened relationships (boamani) with them and as in-laws the probabilities of engaging in warfare against the in-laws would be alleviated.
Sethepu was a solution in the past and continues to stabilise marriages to this day in the same manner it did during the days of our forefathers. The Roman-Dutch Law in as much as it sets to outlaw Sethepu, like the corona virus which mutated, Sethepu has mutated. If it were to be legalised as an institution and not ostracised, it would drastically reduce GBV incidents and other vices.

3. Sexist approach to the Bill
The Bill in its current proposal is not gender sensitive. Sesotho has another adage that ‘Ngoana ke oa khomo.’ This applies to a married woman who sires a child out of wedlock. When a man sires a child out of wedlock, they then say ‘ke ngoana oa nyatsi.’
The Bill based on the above puts the onus of DNA testing on the man, this is how it is being drafted, therefore ‘Ngoana oa Khomo’ can benefit on the premise of double jeopardy, they will access inheritance from the mother and the sperm donor and we as Basotho will be forced to consider this as being in line with our traditions. Women and gender activists will not want to engage on this one but will be up in arms when ‘Ngoana’ nyatsi’ has to be part of the inheritance.
With all due respect to people’s sexual orientations and how they choose to live their sexual lives, now when a woman marries a woman, they are referred to as ‘wives’ similarly when a man marries a man, they are referred to as ‘husbands.’ Won’t this cause confusion regarding inheritance pertaining to this proposed Bill? Imagine another man claiming rights to my parents’ estate if I had a queer male sibling. Fortunately I don’t have this situation prevail in my case but I fear for those who are in this situation.
Re phela mehleng ea bofelo ele nnete.

4. Religion-Cultural existence confusion
I am Catholic. I am proud of this. However, there are truths that we tend to sweep under the carpet for purposes of peace and calm. Our priest and nuns take vows of celibacy and chastity. In spite of the vows, how many children have been sired by the men of the cloth out there? How does this proposed Bill speak to the offspring of the church (pardon me for the language if it is overboard)? Should their priest parent die, will the child claim part of the estate? Which one?
Your Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters, fellow Basotho, does our poverty dictate that we as a nation should discard our traditions and cultures all in the name of appeasing the donor community? Should it be so?

Let me share with you some of my international travel experience. In 2022, in Qatar during the FIFA Congress ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, a president of a European Member Association addressed the Congress. The said president called upon the Congress to boycott the Qatar World Cup because in her opinion Qatar was contravening two critical issues: Labour laws and LGBTIQ+ rights.

A right to respond was accorded to the Qatari FA and Organising Committee of the Qatar World Cup.

In his answer, The CEO of Qatar 2022 said:Qatar had no objection to people’s life choices. Qatar has opened its borders to welcome everyone to visit Qatar, however, those who voluntarily visit Qatar should do so cognizant of the laws that govern Qatar. If people have a problem with the Laws of Qatar they have a choice not to travel to Qatar.
Coming to the issue of the Bill, donors should provide donations on the basis of goodwill and solidarity and humanitarian understanding not because the price of donations should be the eradication of our traditions and cultures as a nation.

It is really unpalatable that a sovereign nation’s Deputy Speaker and MPs can openly say that they are hastily drafting the Bill on account of donor pressure. It is a straight no, no!
I hope you will pardon me if I seem harsh. However, the subject remains relevant.

Yours Truly

Mokhosi Mohapi

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