Time to remain true to our ideals

1

IT HAS been 26 years since December 9, 1985 the last occasion of a formal commemoration of the Maseru Massacre. The date also marks the last occasion when the African National Congress (ANC) marched in Lesotho. On that day below the steps of the Statue of King Moshoeshoe I, Dr Leabua Jonathan jokingly extolled the toyi-toying marchers to “do what they do well, for their actions displease some and have serious repercussions for him and for Lesotho.” He further urged them to be steadfast for their hour would come. We gather here today to remember and to pray for our brethren and fallen comrades; 30 from South Africa and 12 from Lesotho who without mercy or compassion were extinguished by the soldiers of the apartheid regime. All of us are called to reflect on the endeavours and efforts of our fallen and late leaders Dr Jonathan and Comrade Oliver Tambo during the years of the liberation struggle, their relentless pursuit of the betterment and fostering of good relations between our two nations. This must serve as a guide and inspiration to us today. Ladies and gentlemen, the site where we are gathered today resonates in the political history of the ANC and BNP, in the history of Lesotho and the Basotho and in the wider history of the African people. It is the site where the widow of the former leader of the ANC, and the immediate predecessor to Comrade Oliver Tambo, received in the name of Chief Albert Luthuli the decoration by the Organisation of African Unity in 1974. It is the site where many sons and daughters of Africa received their final prayers before being laid to rest. It is the site from which Comrade Oliver Tambo broadcast to the masses of South Africa and then as the apartheid forces and their agents hunted him down he miraculously appeared in Mozambique leaving them dumbfounded as he once again eluded their clutches. The BNP led government gladly and willingly made huge sacrifices to assist the people of South Africa in their struggle against apartheid. The government of Dr Jonathan accepted political refugees from South Africa in the best traditions of the Basotho people. They studied and worked amongst us, they lived with us in our towns and villages. With us it was never about placing them in camps. Comrade Ngoako Ramotlholi is but one example of those who lived and studied here. Comrade Phyllis Naidoo is another who lived and worked here making a huge contribution through her work at the Legal Aid Board. Morena Leabua Jonathan steadfastly refused to hand over South Africans who had taken haven in Lesotho. He refused the offer of the apartheid regime made by P W Botha at Peka Bridge, to exchange Comrade Chris Thembisile Hani for Dr Ntsu Mokhehle rebuffing them with the reminder that ‘it is not our custom to barter with people as if they were cattle at an auction’. He fought for the return of South Africans kidnapped by apartheid agents such as Fanele Mbali who was kidnapped in Seapoint, Maseru, and Victor Matlou (aka Zinjiva Kondo) who was abducted at Bloemfontein Airport where his plane was forced to land due to inclement weather in Maseru.
Due to his persistence both men were eventually returned. He refused to give in to overtures and pressure to sign an Nkomati-style agreement.
Packaged as a treaty of mutual security it was nothing more than a ploy to gain access to South Africans in Lesotho. The development of these policies was done in conjunction and consultation with the ANC. After the 1982 attacks the impetus for our gathering here today Dr Leabua Jonathan asked the Head of State His Majesty King Moshoeshoe II to plead Lesotho’s case before the United Nations Security Council. The Council rightfully and in unambiguous terms outlined in UN Resolution 527 condemned the attacks and ordered South Africa to pay reparations and restitution.
Similarly the attack of 1985 was condemned in UN Resolution 580. To date and 29 years later no reparations or compensation has been made by the government of South Africa. Under the BNP government and Dr Jonathan the date of December 9 had been declared a day of remembrance and a national holiday before eventually being removed from the national calendar by the South African sponsored-military regime. Subsequent governments have not seen fit to return it. We cannot forget that in 1976 Morena Leabua refused to support that policy of partitioning South Africa into Bantustans.
He refused to recognise the so-called independence of Transkei and for this insubordination the South African authorities closed the border posts in the south and east of the country thereby denying Basotho access to many essential services. This compelled Lesotho to return to the UN Security Council and led to the passing of UN Resolution 402 which established a programme of assistance to Lesotho of which the building of the Machabeng Hospital in Qacha’s Nek is a tangible benefit. These and many other events aimed at building pressure eventually led to the fall of the BNP government led by Leabua Jonathan and the subsequent expulsion of South African political refugees from Lesotho. There was joy in some quarters upon seeing the borders reopening and the troublesome BNP gone. It was at this time that cracks began to appear in the relationship between the BNP and ANC, but as in the words of Dr Jonathan we have remained steadfast and our hour has once again come as we gather together with our ANC comrades.
So as we gather to remember these painful events we must remember that we continue to be confronted by many challenges and obstacles.
It is our responsibility to raise our efforts and remain true to our ideals. Our departed leaders Comrade Tambo and Dr Jonathan have left us a legacy of cooperation and mutual assistance. Today the ANC is the government of South Africa and we continue to see the fruits of their friendship.
We thank the ANC-led government for bestowing upon Dr Jonathan its highest civilian honour the award of Companions of Oliver Tambo.
The conferment of this honour upon Dr Jonathan tells us that the ANC has not forgotten this descendent of Moshoeshoe and of those who fought closely with him such as his widow ’M’e Mantahli Jonathan. It honours the efforts of Lesotho diplomats around the world who worked closely with the ANC and the greater South African diaspora. Honoured guests we count ourselves and the ANC fortunate amongst political organisations to have been led by men and women who fought for the emancipation of the African people. It is our responsibility to build on this proud history and legacy that joins our two nations so that together and in cooperation we can continue to confront the challenges facing our people. I wish to thank his Majesty King Letsie III for the efforts of his father in building relationships with the free nation of South Africa. We also fondly remember that at the formation of the ANC in 1912 in Bloemfontein Basotho and Basotho chiefs were represented. To the leadership of the ANC I say, we welcome the clear and unambiguous proclamation by the African National Congress that its friendship and relationship with the BNP is not a matter of political expedience but is based on an enduring bond between the two parties. Therefore in the name of Dr Jonathan I want to thank and hail all those of my countrymen and women who lived side by side with South Africans when they took refuge in Lesotho. We thank Almighty God for delivering this day upon us and for all those whose efforts made today’s commemoration a reality and hopefully from now on an annual event.
Khotso, Pula, Nala

This is a speech delivered by BNP leader, Thesele ‘Maseribane, during an occasion to mark the December 9, 1982 attack on Lesotho by the apartheid forces.

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