‘I grew up with the late Lipolelo Thabane and she was always very fiery’
LIPOLELO Thabane, the murdered wife of Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane, was born and bred in the same village as me.
Though younger by a few years, we grew up together in Hermon in the district of Mafeteng. Her mother was an excellent seamstress who produced attires for the village. One of her three brothers, Lalase, became a very close friend of mine.
We moulded cattle and tractors from clay and cars from steel wire that we broke from the fence that served as a border between Lesotho and South Africa.
The broken fence allowed people easy passage, access to game and rustlers from Lesotho to access sheep.
Many dots, economic and otherwise connect Lesotho and South Africa. The migrant labour from the mountain kingdom built the mighty economy of South Africa.
Mafeteng is where the late first lady, who was murdered in February 2017, grew up. We knew her as ‘Masetinki and she was always very fiery. A drama queen par excellence who enjoyed a good fight.
The village was predominantly Basothuland Congress Party and was a strong constituency for late Ntsu Mokhehle, the third Basotho prime minister who served from April 1993 to August 1994, and again from September 1994 to May 1998. Ntate Mokhehle, as we fondly called him, died in 1999.
Lipolelo’s family was transferred to Mafeteng town where she and her siblings completed their primary schooling and proceeded to Lesotho High School for their matric.
We subsequently crossed paths extensively.
But it was when I was in Bophuthatswana and later in Pretoria that we built stronger ties as the Masetinki name receded.
We reminisced about our village. We discussed things with her enthusiastic engagement. I opened to her the past she was not aware of.
His eldest brother, Monyane, fled from Hermon in 1967 to Ha Moruthoane to rejoin his father, Marake Morebotsane.
I told her about how we visited his elder brother when we were at high school in Morija. Little did I realise that she was absorbing all this rendition with such enthusiasm.
In 2012, post the victory of her husband’s All Basotho Convention Party victory, I sent her a message as the first lady to be, reminiscing about our Hermon days and our paths crossing in Bophuthatswana and Pretoria.
Little did I know then that the battle of being a first lady would be a poisoned chalice, one suspected of being behind her untimely demise.
It is the heart of this little lass from Hermon, which rises like the one in the fairy tale of the twins Masilo and Masilonyane, that is the irony of the twin story of the first ladies.
It is shaking the political establishment in Lesotho and seeking from Masilo the heart of Masilonyane. Seeking as it were justice. May Masetinki’s soul rest in peace. – IOL
* Dr Pali Lehohla is the former statistician-general of South Africa and the former head of Statistics South Africa.