Mopheme/The Survivor (Maseru)

16 September 1997

Lesotho: Hark, the coronation bells are ringing

Maseru — Amid political and parliamentary mayhem reigning in Lesotho, the distant ringing of coronation bells is already filling the pure Kingdom air with a melody that must be pleasing to the ear of King Letsie III and his subjects.

The tolling of the bells was unleashed by an able and dedicated quartet in Seboping Radio programme of 11 September in the persons of the Government Secretary Mohlabi Tsekoa, Palace Principal secretary Mabotse Lerotholi, and Tourism, Sports and Culture Principal Secretary Morena Thesele Mots'oene, Radio Lesotho's "Robin White," Lefu Manyokole. Their pulling of the coronation bells' chains was in perfect synchrony and the Basotho Seboping commentators joined in the harmonious melody with gusto.

Mohlabi Tsekoa, the inimitably ever composed ex-ambassador, unfolded the protocol arrangements made for the dignitaries invited to the coronation with remarkable diplomatic ease and skill. Thesele disclosed how the chiefs and commoners in all sectors of Basotho society will interact in a classless milieu of merriment to honour their King.

His eloquent exposition of the occasion, fine sensing of Basotho mood and national pulse regarding King Letsie 111 coronation was a true reflection of the public anticipation and expectations in the weeks that lie ahead. The two dimensions of the coronation as presented by Mohlabi and Thesele were smoothly interfused with dignity and grace by Mabotse.

A man of few words but when the moment came, his contributions were offered with inimaculate precision becoming of a Palace official. The treble ringing fof the coronation bells by the three competent civil servants was amplified by Lefu who, like an accomplished conductor, modulated their sound and regulated the ding-dong tempo in harmony with the chain pulling of the bells by Seboping regular debators. A nagging question is why ninety percent of Seboping time allocated to the public is always taken up by the same familiar voices.

Is there a behind-the-scenes sifting of prospective callers? As the quartet reassured Radio Lesotho listeners that expression of views and opinions will be a continuing process until the coronation is held, deliberate effort to be selective in favour of non-regular callers will ensure representativeness of the public contributions to the programme. When the public caller bell-ringers entered the scene, they gave a clear signal that the pre-coronation activities and coronation celebrates should capture and project a sense of tradition, history and modernity. Regarding the traditional aspect, the wearing of animal-skin attire by his Majesty will enliven the dying tradition of Basotho royals clad in skin clothes.

It will be a more pleasing spectacle than the urgly Salvation Army type of uniform which King Moshoeshoe II was made to wear during the Military rule ceremonial occassions. Despite Tsekoa's security concerns about a horse convoy accompanying the King to the Stadium, the public pleaded for a mix of motorcade and horse convoy and that he should be seen on the horse.

Horseriding is a feature of Basotho tradition that is unique in Southern Africa and could not be more fittingly displayed than at the King's Coronation. Let him cruise along Kingsway in a special car ordered for the occasion.

But the convoy of cars must be flanked by Basotho riders and it's a must that he changes over to a horse as he enters the Setsoto Stadium or earlier.

This blend of tradition and modernity will be complimented by special T-Shirts for the public and colourful umbrellas for the occasion as promised by the officials. It is hoped that Basotho manufactures will be given an opportunity to actively participate in production of coronation souvenirs.

A recurrent plea by Seboping callers was improvement of city roads. It is a justifiable request as modernisation without good roads infrastructure is an empty talk.

The callers were telling planners and policy makers that "ho jeoa ka baeti". The coronation was perceived by several Seboping speakers as history in making. Their expressions of tenderness, endearment and respect for King Letsie 111 was an affirmation of their confidence in the Monarchy.

This is the most important historical perspective of the coronation. It is, however, one side of the coin. The other side is the commitment of King Letsie III to strive for relevance of the Monarchy to aspirations of Basotho. Significantly, all the radio commentators did not bring politics in the coronation discussion.

The sobering lesson one can deduce is that Basotho have reached crossroads where they are in dire need of an event that can symbolise their aspirations for unity, goodwill, and a role model that can serve as a unifying, caring, and trusted authority with whom they can identify. The coronation is an event that can fill the psychology void that the political institutions have created.

The permanence of the event's positive effects will, however, still be subject to politicians' roles. Politicians belong to a powerful institution that shapes the direction of people's ideals and values.

Up to now they have abused this sacred responsibility by tarnishing Lesotho's governance and practising divisive politics that undermine reconciliation and national unity. It is hoped that His Majesty's Government which is spearheading coronation preparations will be a forerunner to a dynamic of changing positive attitudes towards the Monarchy, and that it will value and strengthen its role in uniting Basotho to a single purpose and vision towards prosperity of Basotho.

LCD has initiated the ringing of coronation bells. The sound will echo in every corner of Lesotho if all other parties join in to make a success of the event. Even as the quartet of competent civil servants has started the bell ringing, the test of the pudding will be in the eating on the great day.

Basotho and the myriad of invited quests, ranging from royalties, statesmen, to youth, old and disabled, will not be disappointed if the various task forces working on the coronation preparations, under the able leadership of the quartet, will uphold high standards of efficiency in all preparatory stages of the coronation. However, Basotho want more than the coronation pudding.

They are anxious to taste the overdue wedding cake with great anticipation. King Letsie 111 cannot let down his subjects.

The coronation is a serious and, at the same time, jubilant occasion; His Majesty's marriage in the near future will be an exquisite moment for every Mosotho. The coronation bells should be a prelude to the wedding bells.

The Seboping Radio callers made the point in a subtle but unequivocal hint that is typical of Basotho culture.

The pertinent question is: How long are we going to wait? It is more relevant than the question which the local Sesotho media is preoccupied with decrying His Majesty's silence concerning LCD take-over of government and, lately, the parliamentary impasse.

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