Maaparankoe Mahao vir dei?
By Sofonea Shale
Following the assassination of Maaparankoe Mahao by the Lesotho Defence Force on 25 June 2015, more questions than answers about the operation that ended his life and the nature of the person he was are pervading the public sphere.
One of the questions recently added to the many that form pillars of a repertoire of the legacy he leaves, is that which is related to the revelation of his faith. Upon realisation of how committed the man was to the service of this nation, many more ask in astonishment, Maaparankoe Mahao vir dei, which put in English means So Mahao was a Man of God?
More has been said about his socialist orientation, his discipline, principled nature of engagement at work and other engagements. Until Sunday 5 July when the congregation of the Immaculate Conception of Mary celebrated a Holy Mass with ‘M’e ‘Mamphanya, the wife of Maaparankoe and their colleague at their house in Koalabata, Mahao has been honoured and respected for the principled contribution he made to this nation in the youth, civil society, sports, farming, army and on the continent of Africa but not as a man of faith per se. In the first reading, the second and the third which form part of the orderly service of the Catholic Church globally, one could clearly see the relevance to the situation in Lesotho in particular to the work of Mahao, the legacy he leaves and the manner in which he departed this world. So Mahao was a man of God, many asked after the Holy Mass. The first reading was from Ezekiel 2:2-5: “While the voice was speaking, God’s spirit entered me and raised me to my feet and I heard the voice continue; Mortal man I am sending you to the people of Israel. They have rebelled and turned against me and are still rebels, just as their ancestors were. They are stubborn and do not respect me. Whether those rebels listen to you or not, they will know that a prophet has been among them”.
Read through to the end, it will be seen that the prophet was instructed by the word to open his mouth and ordered to eat what would be given and he saw it as a book written on both sides the cries of grief, wails and groans. The bravery, dedication, humility, principle and discipline with which Mahao served the Royal Army can only be defined and understood as prophetic work. When Mahao came to the army, it was not just an opening for employment; in fact, civil society could have kept and utilised him. He went there to offer a service, to deliver a prophetic message to an agency of government that has always been part of the political dynamics—something that it should not be part of. If it is a splendid correlation and relevant contextualisation of the word of God and Mahao is taken to be a prophet referred to here, could be it be true that he was sent by God to the institution which even if it could not listen to him but would know at some time that at least there was a prophet in its ranks? Why was Mahao so firm to serve but also so willing to leave the army if the political authority found it befitting? When His Majesty, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister and in line with the Constitution of Lesotho and in terms of Section 12(1) (a) and (b) of the Lesotho Defence Force Act appointed him commander and Lieutenant General, he agreed. When the political authority advised the King otherwise, he accepted and advised how it would be properly done within the confines of the law and ultimately resorted to the courts for relief where he held a different view. Why so loyal to the rule of law? Could it be the instruction given to the prophet in Ezekiel 2:8 that “you should not turn against me like the people I am sending you to?” Mahao had been advised by friends and family to run for his life but he was firm that since he had not committed anything wrong, running away would send the wrong message. Could it be that he waited for the demise that would teach the world who he was, a departure in a manner that acclaimed global, regional and sub-regional centres of power, the UN, AU, SADC, to stand up and say “it is wrong” while Qhobosheaneng remained flatfooted?
The second reading from the second epistle of St Paul to Corinthians 12:7-10, said: “But to keep me puffed up with pride because of the many wonderful things I saw, I was given a painful physical ailment, which acts as Satan’s messenger to beat me and keep me from being proud. Three times I prayed to the Lord about this and asked him to take it away. But his answer was: My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak. I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me. I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak then I am strong”.
Mahao was one of the most educated members of the Lesotho Defence Force yet one of the most humble servants. When he was suspended for advising, he lodged a formal complaint to the Defence Council but he still humbled himself to be tried in the Court Martial. The third reading taken from St Mark 6:1-6 about the rejection of Christ despite the miracles he was performing simply because people knew him as the carpenter; son of Mary and one whose brothers Joseph, James, Judas and Simon and sisters were around revealed something too. Jesus said “prophets are respected everywhere except in their own home town and by their relatives and their family”. Indeed, Mahao was respected and wanted in military establishments on the whole continent and elsewhere except in his own. Mahao, the loyal and disciplined soldier of His Majesty had been called names for being firm on the rule of law. Today, he is celebrated by many people who saw him as bad in 1998 when he stood firm on law and refused to lead the army through illegal means. Today he is despised by people who said he was a hero when he took lawful instructions and led the exercise that evacuated Opposition Members from the National Assembly Chambers in 2007, Hon Dr Tom Thabane and Hon Moeketse Malebo to name a few. Mahao leaves this world in the hands of the army he was dedicated to serve. Could it be the prophecy “even if they do not listen to you because they are not ……..” coming true? Perhaps it is only logical that a question could be asked, So Mahao was a Man of God? Maaparankoe Mahao vir dei?