WHILE I respect the position of the family of Tefo Hashatsi to prevent coverage of the funeral of their beloved son by local media on Saturday, I wish to note a few things about this young man, whose life was cut too soon.
I was part of hundreds of mourners attending the funeral service and burial in Wepener Road, Mafeteng last Saturday, where only the SABC was allowed coverage – I absolutely have no problem with this as a family representative directly told me how they reached the decision.
I should mention from the onset that I attended the funeral not only as a journalist, but mostly as a friend to Tefo. So, I write here both as a journalist and a friend. This article reflects my personal opinion.
I grew up with Tefo from a tender age after meeting when we were still at primary education level. At some later stage, we were members of the now defunct but renowned Mafeteng-based rap music group, Undakround Struglazz, and that’s when we got to be very close.
But even so, I had other friends who were much closer to Tefo than I was. These people would best describe him and describe more vivid life experiences they shared with him than I, given a chance.
What I am certain about though, is that from all the stories told about Tefo, one always gets a sense of some deep loyalty within him. It is this loyalty that made Tefo a great soldier in my view. Of course, some people may beg to differ.
One of the speakers at the funeral, former Mafeteng District Administrator and Democratic Congress activist Hlalele Letšaba, stated that “almost every boy or girl in Mafeteng who aspired to join the army was inspired by Tefo”. I probably use different words to state the same point.
It is my strong belief that some senior officers in the army took advantage of Tefo’s loyalty towards them and abused his loyalty for their selfish interests. They abused his loyalty to the detriment of his potential to become a distinguished soldier.
Tefo’s life in the military typified the adage attributed frequently to Napoleon that there is no bad solider but only a bad officer. He became a living example of the poor administration of the Lesotho Defence Force for lack of a better word.
The impact of the ever-meddlesome politicians into the affairs of the LDF prove how indecisive the command has been.
Yes, the law dictates our army should be under civilian control through the prime minister of the day and the King. But I am sure the same law stipulates to what extent the political interference should be.
The LDF has been associated with exclusively protecting the interests of the congress movement, lately the Lesotho Congress for Democracy.
LCD leader Mothetjoa Metsing was earlier this year quoted saying the army “put its head on the block for them to be government”, thereby exposing the impunity our politicians enjoyed.
In the aftermath of Ntate Metsing’s statement, I waited with bated breath for the army to issue a counter statement and distance themselves from the LCD leader’s reckless remarks, but to no avail.
I am curious for a response by army commander if he was to be quizzed why Colonel Tefo Hashatsi and Brigadier Bulane Sechele were not given military funeral honours.
The two army officers were reportedly shot in the barracks. They must have still been in their army uniform. The little knowledge I have is that an officer can only be denied a military send-off upon committing suicide.
Speaking at the funeral, Advocate Zwelakhe Mda (KC) was unequivocal that Tefo had never been charged before any court of law and convicted for any crime. All that people have done was to criminalise the ‘Mosotho Man’ without evidence tested by courts of law.
One other speaker who shook my emotions was the Movement for Economic Change leader Selibe Mochoborane who condemned politicians who flee the country when they are supposed to face the music, leaving poor citizens behind to die for them.
The family of the former army commander, Lt-Gen Maaparankoe Mahao, who was also assassinated by his army colleagues with Hashatsi and Sechele implicated, was clear they did not want both the government and the military at their brother’s funeral.
I don’t recall this as being the position of the families of Hashatsi and Sechele.
I have a strong feeling that if Hashatsi and Sechele had received a military send-off similar to their commander, Lt-Gen Khoantle Motšomotšo, that would have brought Lesotho closer to drawing a distinctive line between the army and politics, thus abolishing any factionalism that may exist in the army.
Rest in peace Tefo. Who are we to judge you?
- Ntsukunyane is MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism Journalist and Editor.