MY long period of silence has been brutally broken. And once again it is as a result of a horrible smell currently engulfing this politically cursed country.
So the “blood-bath” that some members of this seven-headed government promised the nation prior to the elections is beginning to show signs of fruition. Not bread and beans were promised to the largely hungry electorate but a sickening blood-bath. The killing, in cold blood, of former army commander Lieutenant General (the family recognizes this title and not Brigadier) Maaparankoe Mahao follows shortly that of businessman Thabiso Tšosane. And the hit-list that has been drawn is still a long way from reaching the end. Whoever drew it has now added a few ticks of success against some of the names on it; two down and still more to come. Those responsible for the planning, financing and execution of this murderous streak are already sniffing for the blood of their next victim. Lesotho might as well be christened with a brand new name: Bloodbathland.
Maaparankoe’s death has not been surprising. Even he knew it was only a matter of time before he faced heavy weapons paid for by the taxpayer. Yes, this is a country where we, through our taxes, finance the weapons that end our lives. Advice from family and friends to leave Lesotho for his safety was one he was never prepared to take. In his words, he would not flee and seek asylum elsewhere but would die in this country. Firstly he maintained, rightly so, that he had not done anything wrong and would therefore not be forced to flee his homeland. Escaping, in his words, would lend credibility to those tormenting him and his family that he had something to hide.
Secondly, he said he would not seek comfort and protection elsewhere while some of his comrades were being picked up and tortured. And eventually he has paid the ultimate price; the kind he had waited – almost impatiently – to pay.
Sad still, this government had the audacity to hurt Maaparankoe’s family further by hastily packaging some heavily doctored story on the circumstances surrounding his death. They want the nation to believe the unbelievable that there was an altercation with his killers and that he resisted arrest.
Just how do you package such baseless propaganda when he was travelling with two other family members who witnessed the whole incident? Even a fool cannot believe this. No words were exchanged, he was simply shot. It’s impossible to lie about this. His killers then dragged him for some distance on the tarmac with his face down, and the once smooth face now bears bruises it never had while he lived. His gruesome death will forever remain in the conscience of some of the people in this government.
Today General Maaparankoe Mahao is history. All in the name of some horribly smelly politics this country has chosen as its preferred trademark. This is a man whose peers from the Southern African Development Community region and further afield were convinced was a great asset for the Lesotho army but Basotho usually do not value, protect and use their own assets. They either kill or sideline them and instead embrace mediocrity which leaves Lesotho stagnating into a smelly dam from which even birds and animals cannot drink.
Comments from those in government since Maaparankoe was killed have been nothing short of unashamed arrogance and recklessness in handling the situation. Whatever statement they have made, his entire family has not detected any remorse at what has happened to their beloved son, husband and father, and the pain we are feeling has been fuelled further.
This is a man this government clearly hated despite his exceptional talents, dedication, humility and professionalism. In our opinion, they have no right to even talk about him as he meant nothing to them. Family and friends concur he was not the type to be used (read misused) in political battles or to be corrupted into destabilising the country. But as I said earlier, Lesotho does not value its gems and is capable of feeding hundred nine-carat diamonds to the pigs instead of using them to develop the country.
Behind, Maaparankoe leaves a close-knit but devastated family inclusive of an 83-year old ailing mother, a wife and three young sons; the eldest still only in high school while the youngest is just starting school. It’s a family that will forever feel a tinge of bitterness at how inhumanely this country has treated their beloved father.
His sons adored him and he reciprocated with even more love, obviously making up for the long periods (planned or imposed) when he was absent in their lives. In their short lives they have already put up with a spray of bullets into their home in the still of the night; then shortly followed by an unwarranted separation from their father during months of exile to South Sudan. This he did like a true patriot who put the interests of his nation before his.
As family members gathered at Maaparankoe brother’s house on the day of his cowardly killing, a sense of loss, anger and disbelief reigned through the moonless night. His wife was seated and appeared unbelievably calm amidst the intoxicating smell of Lesotho politics that Basotho of goodwill have come to resent, constantly wondering when the rays of sunshine will appear.
The wife acted almost on impulse and knelt down to pray. Then she uttered a statement that had probably been rehearsed over and over again throughout the months in preparation for this shatteringly inevitable news: “Ho phethahetse” (It is done).
Everyone kept cursing at how tiny Lesotho had turned into hell on earth. Here we do not walk on soil but simmering hot coal created by those plagued by Severe Skills Deficiency (SSD); they simply cannot get this country anywhere else except to the grave. Our politics is currently in Intensive Care Unit being looked after by a very incompetent team of doctors. The outcome is obvious unless skilled specialists come to the rescue.
Yes, this is a very small country, but very nauseatingly disgusting to live in. It definitely smells worse than the world’s biggest septic tank. How many are honestly proud to live in this hell-hole? While those who love Lesotho were mourning this huge loss, some members of the two leading parties in government were ululating and tooting car horns in parts of Lithoteng celebrating the killing of Maaparankoe when the news broke out. This is one very sick country in need of a complete overhaul; inclusive of the souls, hearts and mindset of some of its people.
This is a country where some of the politicians in government openly vow they will have crushed the opposition by 2020. The irony of it all is they make these statements while addressing crowds that cannot even fill one small bus. I have always thought politicians draw strength from huge crowds, but in Lesotho, they apparently draw it from empty chairs. The poor supporters usually ululate upon hearing these statements instead of asking when unemployment and poverty will be addressed. After listening to their healthy-looking leader they trudge back to their homes to find empty pots and hungry-looking children staring them in the face.
Lesotho is currently in the throes of some evil forces sweeping from all the four cardinal points and converging in the middle to cause a horrible stench. While this murder has been most painful but expected, family, friends and good-willed citizens alike quietly hope Maaparankoe’s spilled blood marks a turning point in the direction of this long-directionless country.
It could well be a marker that if the correct route is taken as we approach the intersection, Lesotho could be saved from those determined to drag it into the pit of hell. This could well be the breakthrough the country needed even though it is achieved at such a heavy cost.
*Mahao is a lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the National University of Lesotho.