The Director of Chieftainship in the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftainship Affairs, Mikia Molapo says his ministry is willing to listen to the concerns of the Baphuthi people.
This week, the Lebandla Le Baphuthi Association — which represents the Baphuthi, who are descendants of King Moorosi — raised concerns that they are a marginalised society despite their ancestor’s role in the creation of present-day Lesotho.
King Moorosi died in 1879 and was a close ally of King Moshoeshoe I, who founded the Basotho nation in the 19th century.
The Lebandla Le Baphuthi Association wants the Baphuthi traditional leadership restored and members of the Baphuthi royal family appointed Paramount Chiefs in the districts once controlled by King Moorosi.
During a recent meeting held in Masitise in Quthing, the association resolved to take the matter to court in an effort to have the traditional leadership of districts once controlled by King Moorosi returned to Baphuthi people.
The districts in question are Quthing, Qacha’s Nek, a larger part of Mohale’s Hoek and parts of Thaba-Tseka.
However, in an interview yesterday, Mr Molapo said representatives of the Baphuthi people should visit his ministry and formally present their claims.
“They have come and laid their claims before, which I forwarded to the former Minister of Local Government, for presentation before the cabinet. Unfortunately, a new government came in just when we had started the process. However, that does not mean nothing can be done now. I am inviting them to again come and present their concerns to the minister and the matter would be taken up from there,” Mr Molapo said.
He further said there was need to tread carefully in the handling of the matter, particularly with regards to some of the claims being made by the Lebandla Le Baphuthi Association.
“There are some distortions in how some sections of the history are being narrated. For example, the Baphuthi leader was a king before he became part of the amalgamation of all territories, an alliance that created Lesotho under King Moshoeshoe I.
“This coalition brought together Chief Lethole of Makoakoa, Chief Moorosi and Chief Moletsane of Bataung under Moshoeshoe I as their King. Chief Lethole controlled the North Eastern region, Chief Moletsane in the
Taung territory in Mohale’s Hoek on the northern part of Makhaleng River and across the river was chief Moorosi’s area covering Quthing and parts of Qacha’s Nek.”
According to Mr Molapo, all was well with the coalition until Chief Moorosi’s son, Tota, was arrested and convicted of stealing horses in the Eastern Cape at a time Lesotho had become a British protectorate under the Cape Government.
“Moorosi, who was opposed to his son’s arrest, sent his men to help his son escape from prison, marking the beginning of events that led to the end of Moorosi’s chieftaincy.
“After the escape, the Cape Government ordered King Letsie I to have Tota and other convicts who had escaped from prison, returned.
“King Letsie’s efforts to avoid the calamity that followed, failed when Chief Moorosi refused to surrender his son. There was a lot of pressure on King Letsie who, because he had an obligation to work with the Cape
Government, had to do something to call Chief Moorosi to order or risk the protection of his people. Reluctantly, he allowed some of his soldiers to join forces with the Cape soldiers and fight Chief Moorosi.”
He said because King Letsie was not happy with the manner the Cape governed in 1884, the British had to take over.
Mr Molapo said it was during that time when King Letsie was urged by the British government to place his sons in districts that were once under Moorosi to ensure stability.
“I agree that after we became independent in 1966, something should have been done about the Baphuthi issue. The crux of the matter might have been how this could have been done without causing instability, which remains a concern.”