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Cattle race marks peace deal between old enemies


Pascalinah Kabi

Mohale’s Hoek

Taung Member of Parliament, Phallang Monare, on Friday organized a cattle racing competition in Ha Mohohlo village.

The unique event was to celebrate a peace deal between Ha Mohohlo and Ha Moletsane villagers who have been fighting over pasture “for years”.

Fighting between residents of the two villages over grazing land has resulted in many deaths, including that of Chief Moeketsi Mohohlo two years ago.

The dispute has further seen Ha Salemone residents relocating to different parts of the district and the village is now in ruins. A couple of houses still standing are the only testimony that this was once home to around 50 families.

Previous attempts by the government to bring peace between the two villages failed to yield fruit but Mr Monare persisted. The Home Affairs deputy minister had always believed sport to be a suitable platform for the two villages to strike a peace deal and live happily ever after.

“You will remember that every time we came to Ha Moletsane and Ha Mohohlo, it was to mediate or intervene in a dispute,” Mr Monare said.

“Each time a police van approached the two villages, every male adult went into hiding knowing they would have done something wrong.

“There was a time soldiers would be brought in to beef-up security being provided by the police.

“Houses were burnt and people relocated to Mohale’s Hoek and Mafeteng, running away from these fights over pasture and blankets.

“There was a time the people didn’t even want the police to intervene but I am glad today we come in peace. There was a time I threw in the towel because I ended up being a victim myself.

“People would accuse me of letting the killings go on but what could I do when I didn’t have the powers to end this fighting? Secondly, people would accuse me of setting the police and chief on them.”

Mr Monare congratulated the two villages’ organising committee for working tirelessly to ensure Friday became a reality and that finally, there was peace in the two villages.

Speaking at the ceremony to honour the competing farmers and their herd-boys, Ha Mohohlo Chief Rammane Mokone said Friday’s cow-racing competition was the beginning of a lasting peace deal between the villages.

“The purpose of this event is to build peace between the two villages and if what we see today is anything to go by, I am optimistic that we will have lasting peace,” Chief Mokone said, urging everyone to make it their business to ensure peace prevails between Ha Mohohlo and Ha Moletsane residents.

On her part, Ha Moletsane Chief, ‘Mabotsutsu Moletsane, said although she had always prayed for a ceasefire, she never believed Friday’s event would end peacefully.

She said given the bloodbath the two villages had experienced in the past, Friday’s race initially appeared a bad idea.

“This is a special day for me which I have longed for my whole life. After receiving a call from my husband informing me that Ntate Monare was initiating this race, I sent two men to Ha Mohohlo for peace negotiations as I didn’t believe in it myself,” Chief Moletsane said.

The chief said she only became optimistic after the two messengers informed her the meeting had been cordial.

“They informed me that everyone wanted peace and that they believed these games we are playing today would usher us into a new era but I still didn’t believe we could be here today given where we come from.”

Chief Moletsane further said nothing beats peace.

“Peace is a beautiful thing. People who live peacefully lead a beautiful life and this is a beautiful day for me because we have decided to make peace. We are all Bataung and we must live in harmony. I plead that this be the beginning of long-lasting peace,” she said.

On his part, Mafeteng Crime Prevention Unit Police Officer, Sub -Inspector Liketso Lephoto said Friday was a historic day for the villages.

“We are here to support you in this good initiative which signals that you are ready and prepared to prevent crime in your community. As police, we always encourage people to come together as a mechanism to fight crime.”

He also noted the two communities would only be able to report criminal acts if they live peacefully together.

“Let’s do things together without fighting and report any suspicious movements that might compromise your efforts to find a lasting solution to your problems.”

He encouraged Ha Mohohlo and Ha Moletsane residents to intensify efforts to put a stop to these fights, adding sport is one of the mechanism to prevent crime.

Mohale’s Hoek District Commissioner Superintendent Api Letsie also spoke at Friday’s gathering and hailed the peace deal between the villagers.

“Today, I see peace and that both Ha Mohohlo and Ha Moletsane villagers are moving freely. I can assure you that the government is happy with this initiative,” Superintendent Letsie said.

“The cause of this long-standing feud between the two villages was pasture and I am glad the organisers chose a cow as the mechanism to strike this peace deal because this is where the problem started.

“I will be happy if one day, police officers deployed in the two villages are withdrawn because the two communities would be policing themselves.”

Meanwhile, all 20 competing kraals from the two villages received prizes ranging from livestock supplements to herd-boy clothing.

The competition’s second leg would be held in Ha Moletsane village on a date yet to be announced.

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