Bongiwe Zihlangu & Caswell Tlali
MASERU — Makotoko “Mashai” Lerotholi’s family asked the opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC) not to take centre stage at the fugitive’s funeral yesterday.
The ABC, led by party leader Tom Thabane, last week literally took over the proceedings when Mashai’s body was brought home from South Africa where he died.
Not wanting to turn Mashai’s funeral political, the ex-soldier’s family asked the opposition party to be on the sidelines at yesterday’s burial.
The Lerotholi family also asked ABC members who would attend the funeral not to wear party regalia.
The ABC women’s league spokesperson, Mmamandla ‘Musa, confirmed to the Sunday Express that the Lerotholi family had asked the party to be on the sidelines.
“Last Friday after we had welcomed the deceased into the country, the family said they would have a meeting after which the ABC would be told what its role would be in the preparations leading to the Saturday service,” ‘Musa said.
“But it came as a great shock when the Lerotholi family got back to us on Monday, informing us that we were banned from partaking in any preparations by the Lerotholi family.
“We were informed of pretty much every step taken by the family.
According to ‘Musa, the ABC had accepted the family’s decision “as there was not much we could do or say”.
She said the explanation was that “Lerotholi comes from a background of chiefs and therefore cannot afford to plunge the family into politics”.
“We had to gracefully accept their decision as there was not much we could do,” she said.
ABC youth league spokesperson, Jane Mohoalohoalo, also confirmed the request from Mashai’s family.
“It was a shock to hear that the ABC had been excluded from the funeral programme,” he said.
“To hear that party members were also not allowed to attend the funeral donning their party colours and sing movement songs was sad indeed.
“We were always optimistic about our role in the preparations, especially when we were kept updated about new developments.
“We had hoped that we would hold a special memorial service for Ntate Mashai on Wednesday 28th October.
“But that was not to be.”
The ABC leadership did not attend Mashai’s funeral yesterday.
Nobody from the party’s higher ranks was seen entering the Roman Catholic Cathedral for the funeral service.
The family Lerotholi representative, Chief Peete Lerotholi, announced that a decision was reached that Mashai would be buried without any involvement of political parties.
“It is a family decision that no political party would be allowed to attend this funeral clad in party colours,” Chief Lerotholi said.
“We know and understand that Makotoko was a member of a party but the family has decided that party colours should be put aside and everybody is free to come as a Mosotho and bury him in a Sesotho and Christian traditional way.”
However, Thabane was spotted in attendance at the Kokobela graveyard in Maseru West.
Also, a small group of people who were clad in ABC colours were present outside the graveyard.