From the time when I first started to write for Lesotho Times, I have never wished to make any article focus on my personal issues.
After all I am not really sure how many people would genuinely be interested in my life and what goes on around it. But this time I hope readers will forgive me for linking a national tragedy to my personal life journey.
The passing of the Berea District Administrator (DA) Tsielo Mpeqa last Friday in a horrific road accident near Kolonyama has compelled me to pen a tribute which, hopefully, will — as I always aspire — manage to make us reflect on issues of national significance and appeal to our conscience where any still remains.
Apparently he had refused to travel to a government function in Hlotse using his official vehicle and chose instead to go in a friend’s car.
Those who doubt the power of destiny will insist he should have used his official car, but destiny has no hindsight and the word “if” does not exist in its vocabulary.
If the official vehicle had been involved in the accident we would again wish he had travelled in the friend’s car.
Some things are simply beyond anyone’s control.
Most readers will obviously not be aware that when I first joined the Faculty of Education in 1999, Mpeqa was a member of the very first group I taught at NUL.
Due to his extroverted nature and talkativeness, he was the very first student I got to know by name in that group.
He was certainly not a man of few words.
I never knew that our first meeting in a teacher/student relationship would eventually blossom into a full-blown friendship and that our paths would always find a way to criss-cross.
Our family lives became almost intertwined and when news of his passing came, my family reminisced of the day he was in our house eleven years ago for a friends’ get-together and it started to rain.
This prompted us to remember that our second born child, as tradition dictates, had not yet been placed under a rain shower.
Mpeqa was the only bachelor with us and we promptly made him strip all clothes above his waist and take the infant outside for this customary rain shower.
As with everything he did, he applied lots of passion and humour into it.
He would eventually go on to become the godfather to one of my kids.
When he lost his mother a few years ago I teased him about it and we turned it into a light joke since he had lost his father some years earlier.
I told him that being a double orphan meant I had to officially present him to the offices of then Ministry of Social Welfare so he could get his due social grant as one of the newly disadvantaged members of our population.
We laughed it off and my wife even quipped that he would make a very well-nourished and seemingly privileged orphan.
I consider the district of Berea truly unlucky not to have had even more than a year of Mpeqa at its helm as Lesotho tries to push the boundaries of service delivery and bring optimism to many despondent citizens who have lost hope that their livelihoods can ever be turned around.
This former DA was a man of indefatigable energy and unsurpassed enthusiasm in everything he did.
He applied real effort and determination in his job; from his days as a teacher at Holy Names and ‘Mabathoana, then moving to Lesotho Catholic Bishops Conference under both Caritas and Justice and Peace followed by a stint at Population Statistics International (PSI) and, ultimately, as District Administrator.
At some point he served in the council of the Lesotho College of Education and taught on a part-time basis at IEMS.
He always spoke of his job — no matter where he worked — with tangible passion.
In his brief spell as DA in Berea he organised a highly successful district gala dinner bringing even local business leaders together to map the way forward in addressing the issues that seem to hold many in his country back; key among which was to find a successful formula to liberate the people of Berea economically and get the wheels of self-reliance and job-creation in motion.
One of our mutual friends, Bojoalo Ramokhitli, who hails from Teya Teyaneng told me how those involved in the gala dinner raved about Mpeqa’s organisational skills and were positively looking forward to a better Berea.
Before his passing, he had invited me to his office to find out more about what his job entailed. This was never to be.
He served with unmistakable zeal and a selfless attitude and was a man who could always come up with an idea to make things work; a superb organiser and a perfectionist almost.
If only this country had many more like him we would have long made progress in many sectors of service delivery.
Some of the things that stifle progress in this country have nothing to do with a lack of resources, facilities or infrastructure but rather, the absence of the true spirit of service.
Some people, both in the public and private sector, seem to want to see the Prime Minister and his entire cabinet personally knocking on the doors at their workplaces to find out how they provide services to our people.
Of course from time to time they could arrive unannounced at some key service points to observe what goes on.
But each one of us has to dig in and get our hands dirty if we are determined to make a difference.
None of the lazy and selfish people would want to lose their jobs and face hunger and an uncertain future yet some of us provide the type of service that warrants us to be laid off.
This country needs more men and women with the dedication of Mpeqa to make things happen.
Hopefully Berea will be second time lucky and get one more DA like him to renew the hope of its people.
All of us in the circle of friends he and I shared, agree on one thing: he has been cut in his prime and we salute him for a job well done.
- Mahao Mahao is a lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the National University of Lesotho