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Emotional send-off for Mashai

Caswell Tlali

MASERU — Makotoko “Mashai” Lerotholi was laid to rest at an emotional funeral at Kokobela cemetery in Maseru West yesterday.
Relatives, friends and sympathisers who had come in hundreds followed his hearse in a convoy of cars to a tiny graveyard situated in Maseru West, an upmarket section of the city where Lesotho’s rich and powerful live.
His only daughter Lets’abisa wept uncontrollably as his casket was lowered into the grave.
Lets’abisa had earlier moved the hearts of many mourners who attended the funeral at the Roman Catholic Church Hall when she expressed how she loved her father.
She said she knew that he was a loving father even though he had not been at home for a long time.
Mashai died on October 16 in South Africa.
He fled Lesotho in 2007 following his arrest and torture in connection with the attacks on government ministers’ homes.
Wearing a black shawl and a black skirt, Lets’abisa stood beside her father’s shiny light brown oak casket and talked to him as if he would respond, like he was alive.
Her message was touching and many mourners nodded in approval as she expressed her love for Mashai.
Before she proceeded to the stage, the church choir sang a hymn she had requested: “I will go to you in the kingdom of heaven, Maria I will go to you.”
“Some people here suggested that I should give this message to someone to read it for me but I decided not to.
“I am Lets’abisa Lerotholi, the daughter of a man who was not a coward.
“And I am not a coward too,” she stunned everybody as she bravely spoke at her father’s funeral, which is not a norm in Lesotho.
Lets’abisa expressed her loss and the deep love she had for Mashai.
“I love you ntate and I thank God for protecting me so that I could not see your suffering.
“Ntate, forgive me for all wrongs I have done against you,” she said.
“I wish I was there when you needed your family, when you were sick. I did not have a chance to take care of you, wash you and change your bed linen in hospital.
“Continue protecting us and I promise that I will fulfil your dreams about us.
“You always wanted to see us prosper.”
Her brother and the only son Mashai had, Malebanye, told mourners that they had only seen their father three times since he fled to South Africa.
“It is hurtful that we, as his family, his children were only able to communicate with him through a telephone,” he said.
“We were with him in June and he was very sick, complaining of excessive headache and backache and we learned of his fractured skull.”
He said on June 23 they met him again in Gauteng in South Africa and he was with one Mofokeng whom he said was looking after him.
In September, Mofokeng phoned the family saying Mashai was very sick and he wanted Malebanye to go to Gauteng urgently.
“I told him that I would go at the weekend,” Malebanye said.
“It was after we spent two weeks not communicating and we did not know what was happening with him at the time.”
When Mofokeng called again he told them the sad news of Mashai’s passing on.
His maternal cousin, Chief Shoaepane Letsie from Molumong in Mokhotlong blamed people who “slandered” Mashai saying he was involved in criminal activities which led to his arrest, torture and fleeing the country.
“The one who slandered my cousin should take the blame,” Chief Letsie said.
“God’s law forbids telling lies about one’s brother because such lies endanger people’s lives,” he said.
“My cousin was slandered and he had to take refuge in another country and died far away from his family.”
The Roman Catholic priest who conducted the mass at the funeral service also blamed Mashai’s death on his banishment from the country after political disturbances in following the 2007 elections.
“I am taken aback by Makotoko Lerotholi’s death because he died in a foreign land away from the warmth of his family,” the priest said.
“He died away from the land of his forefather Moshoeshoe.
“When he died, no family member was at his side so that they could close his eyes.
“What is even more surprising about his death is that this happened in a democratic Lesotho.
“Why should we believe that we are in democracy when we encounter problems such as this one?”
Politics that surrounded Mashai’s death made the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) decline to attend his funeral and bury him in a manner befitting retired officers.
Mashai was a Warrant Officer     One when he retired from the army.
Under normal circumstances the army should have buried him according to military tradition but the LDF commander, Lieutenant Thuso Motanyane, allegedly refused to participate.
The Lerotholi family representative who conducted the funeral service, Chief Peete Lerotholi from Thabang in Mokhotlong read Motanyane’s letter in which he declined to participate in Mashai’s burial.
The letter was written to Mashai’s brother, Makhobalo.
“Mr Makotoko Lerotholi was suspected of taking part in criminal activities and therefore the Lesotho Defence Force will not take part in his funeral,” Chief Lerotholi read the letter which he said was from the LDF commander.

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