Rousing welcome for President in Lesotho
“IT is better to misgovern ourselves than to be governed well by others.”
These are the words of Lesotho’s founding fathers that were repeated yesterday when the kingdom — in pageantry, elegance and triumph — celebrated 50 years of independence at the Sesotho Stadium in Maseru.
Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili said this while narrating Lesotho’s painful yet successful history, during an event that was led by King Letsie III.
President Mugabe received a thunderous welcome from more than 20 000 BaSotho on arrival at the venue, and so did Sadc chairperson and Swazi monarch, King Mswati III.
Botswana President Seretse Khama Ian Khama was also one of the dignitaries, as well as South African Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, who stood in for President Jacob Zuma.
The colourful proceedings kicked off in style with King Letsie receiving the royal salute.
The 21-gun salute was fired to the spectacle of the King inspecting the Guard of Honour, before he did a “lap of honour” in an opentop Land Rover Defender.
The Christian Council of Lesotho — a grouping of various denominations — led in prayer shortly after the King took to his seat between President Mugabe and King Mswati. PM Mosisili was first to the podium. “Lesotho’s journey of 50 years of independence has been a torturing journey full of challenges, failures but also full of successes,” he said, before chronicling the country’s history of civil strife, transcending a 20-year dictatorial rule under Chief Leabua Jonathan, and a military regime.
“You might have noticed that we now have the third national flag. That again is an indication of the turbulence of the journey of Lesotho.”
Despite these challenges, PM Mosisili said the kingdom has recorded massive development.
“The British left us with 1km of tarred road. The tarred road was constructed during King George’s (VI) visit in 1947, and the 1km was from the railway station to his residence,” the Prime Minister said, before giving a number of examples of infrastructural and political development.
“We’re now in the second coalition government. The first coalition government lasted two and a half years and consisted of three parties. The current coalition government consists of seven parties.”
Speaking on behalf of the region, King Mswati congratulated King Letsie and his subjects, urging them to “leave a legacy that will stand out” even when they are all gone.
“A key catalyst to achieving sustainable development for all is peace and stability,” he said.
“Let us keep peace at all times to avoid reversing the independence gains, which we’re all here for. We encourage the BaSotho to find home-grown solutions for problems that hinder progress.”
King Letsie took the opportunity to thank Sadc for timely intervention during internal conflicts.
“Lesotho like most, if not all, post-colonial African countries has faced a number of challenges. Through tenacity and hard work we’ve been able to overcome most of these challenges.
“Your Majesty King Mswati III, through you as Sadc chair, we would like to thank the region for the timely intervention,” he said. Lesotho was under British rule for 91 years. The country was united by King Moshoeshoe I who fought a series of wars with Boer settlers before Queen Victoria established a British protectorate over the then Basutoland in 1858.
On October 4, 1966 Lesotho gained full independence.
Meanwhile, President Mugabe, who returned yesterday afternoon, was received at the Harare International Airport by Vice Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko, Ministers Sydney Sekeramayi and Kembo Mohadi, service chiefs, as well as Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda, and other senior Government officials.
The President was accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi.