PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane and his deputy, Monyane Moleleki, on Tuesday led government officials and sports officials in paying tribute to the late Sports Minister, Kabelo Mafura, who died on Christmas Eve in Bloemfontein, South Africa after a short illness.
The 66-year old Mafura, who was also the deputy leader Alliance of Democrats (AD) party, succumbed to an undisclosed ailment which he contracted during a recent parliamentary session.
Addressing hundreds of people who gathered for his memorial service at Manthabiseng Convention Centre in Maseru, Mr Moleleki who is also AD leader, described Mr Mafura as a humble and dedicated patriot who served his country with distinction in every portfolio he was assigned to.
“The country benefited a lot from him while he was serving acting Lesotho Ambassador in Rome, Italy, Mr Moleleki said, adding his brief tenure at the helm of the Sports ministry had sparked a revival in the national football teams’ fortunes as evidenced by the recent exploits of the under-20 side which went all the way to the final of the regional COSAFA Cup at the expense of fancied opponents like Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola and Uganda.
“What I can tell my Prime Minister is that you have lost a very important minister.
“He worked very well with his deputy and delivered to the best we have to look at Kabelo Mafura.
“He had made a team of him, the deputy minister (Rethabile Marumo Makaeane), principal secretary and the directors.”
For her part, Ms Makaeane described the late Mr Mafura as a father figure who worked hard to improve the lives of Basotho.
“I am very weak standing in front of you, because of the responsibility I have to speak about a man who was my minister, father, and friend because he meant so much to me ever since we first met over 10 years ago.
“I got to know him in 2007 when we were legislators and he used to say that he was my father. He was right because he was the same age as my father. We worked very well together as he groomed me.
“It was then that I realised how powerful he was as a politician. We were both members of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) before we joined the Democratic Congress (DC) in an effort to improve the lives and welfare of Basotho,” Ms Makaeane said.
She said Mr Mafura loved sport and saw it as a weapon in the fight against poverty.
“His dreamed of using sports to fight poverty and he brought unity to the ministry as he worked well with all departments.”
Lesotho Sports and Recreation Commission (LSRC) president, Khiba Mohoanyane said Mr Mafura’s death had robbed the sports fraternity of a “giant who had performed wonders in a short period in charge of the ministry of sports”.
He said although Mr Mafura took charge in June 2017, it was as if he had been minister for 10 years.
“I am saying this because his work is there for everyone to see.
“Two weeks after his appointment, he called to inform me that he was studying the Lesotho Sports and Recreation Commission Act of 2002 and that had helped him to better appreciate his role which was to make policies for sports while ours was to implement those policies.
“He said he was not happy with the fact that most sporting disciplines including the High Altitude summer marathon and horse racing were directly administered by his ministry and that had to be corrected to ensure they were administered by the sports commission.
“We soon signed a memorandum of understanding and now we are administering some of those events. He called me again about having the LSRC taking over the administration of the Setsoto Stadium in Maseru and the Leshoboro Sports Complex in Mafeteng.
“I think you will agree with me when I say that within a short of time he made a huge impact and we are concerned whether his successor will have the same impact,” Mr Mohoanyane said.
Mr Mohoanyane’s sentiments were echoed by the Lesotho National Olympic Committee (LNOC) president, Matlohang Moiloa-Ramoqopo, who said Mr Mafura was a huge success in charge of the Sports ministry.
“As the LNOC, we thank the prime minister and his deputy for assigning Ntate Mafura to the sports ministry.
“We always complained about not being able to prepare our athletes well for competitions but after his appointment (Mr Mafura) decided to run like a sprinter instead of a marathon in order to make an immediate impact.
“We know his warmth because even when things were not going well he called us for a meeting where he was neutral and asked for our constitution in order to read and learn about our association.
“That helped us a lot because he listened to us and was available even after working hours,” Moiloa-Ramoqopo said.
Mr Mafura will be buried today in his home village of Ha Mafura in the Quthing district.