“WE Shall Overcome” were the words inscribed just above the pictures of the late former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Commander Maaparankoe Mahao hung meticulously on the tents housing guests to his heavily-attended memorial service at Machabeng College yesterday.
The same words also emblazoned the white and black shirts worn by some at the event, accompanied by a variety of the slain brigadier’s pictures.
The phrase, as explained by his brother, Qamako Mahao in an interview with the Lesotho Times yesterday, was a “slogan” the late soldier often used in times of adversity during his younger days.
Mr Mahao said: “Our brother was very active in youth organisations when he grew up. He used to chant the slogan ‘We Shall Overcome’ during the struggle days. His comrades and family members agreed on using the phrase to describe the theme of his memorial service today.”
The white shirts, Mr Mahao said, were bought and printed by the many civic organisations paying their last respects to Brigadier Mahao on his final journey.
The black shirts, he added, were organised by the family on the same token.
“The black ones, as you might have noticed, are further printed Bakhoele (the family’s clan) at the back, indicating the family’s unity over the passing of their beloved son, brother, father and husband,” Mr Mahao said.
He said another batch of black shirts donated by well-wishers would be sold at a prayer session to be held in Mokema, Brigadier Mahao’s birthplace, today, ahead of the burial on Saturday.
The family, Mr Mahao said, has firmly appealed to those attending the funeral not to wear their political party regalia.
“The reason being that our brother, Maaparankoe, served this nation regardless of political party affiliations,” he said.
The other reason, Mr Mahao revealed, was that Brigadier Mahao was born in one of the chieftainship families, “which does not lead in terms of political party affiliations”.
During the memorial, friends, family members, businesspeople, activists, politicians, trade unionists and colleagues described Brigadier Mahao as a principled cadre, a gentle giant, true soldier, a man of his word, son of the soil and heroic husband, among other titles.
In one of the moving speeches, Brigadier Mahao was described as “a Basotho hero whose voice is louder today (in his death) than he could ever speak in person (while he was still alive)”.
Brigadier Mahao (47) was shot dead by LDF members as he left his farm in Mokema on the afternoon of 25 June. The army has since claimed he was killed during a special operation investigating alleged mutiny in the LDF.
According to an orbituary prepared by the family and friends, Brigadier Mahao “always had his heart in the soil, often returning to work the land during his college vacations, and he met his death still farming, with eyes on commercial cropping, piggery and poultry”.