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Former PM Jonathan to be honoured in SA

Bereng Mpaki

THE late former Prime Minister of Lesotho, Leabua Jonathan, is set to be honoured for the role that he played in the liberation of South Africa with the erection of his statue in the Free State province.

A member of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party, Paseka Nompondo, made the announcement during the inaugural memorial lecture of the late liberation icon in Maseru on Friday evening.

The memorial lecture, which was organised by the Basotho National Party (BNP), was attended by guests that included Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, his deputy, Monyane Moleleki and a variety of high-ranking officials from political parties and institution in the country.

In his address at the public lecture, Mr Nompondo, who is also the current ANC Free State secretary general, said his party was grateful for Dr Jonathan’s support during the apartheid regime.

Dr Jonathan, who ruled Lesotho from 1965 to 1986 when his BNP- led government was toppled in a military coup, harboured political refugees in Lesotho who were running away from the oppressive white minority rule in South Africa.

“We as the ANC shall not forget what he did for us, that is why the Free State government is planning to erect a statue in Dr Jonathan’s honour,” Mr Nompondo said.

“The ANC is happy to have been invited to this memorial lecture of one of the greatest African leaders, who was brave and sympathetic to the South African struggle during the apartheid rule.

“We therefore take this opportunity to thank him even though he is no longer alive and his administration in taking a conscious decision to welcome members of the ANC and other South Africans during the difficult period. Through his leadership, Basotho were prepared to lay down their lives to protect South African refugees.”

It is believed that 12 Basotho, 30 ANC activists and nine other people were killed in a massacre when the then South African army descended on Maseru in December 1982.

Mr Nompondo further said ANC cadres would be in Lesotho in December to clean up the cemetery where their political exiles are buried.

Current BNP leader Thesele Maseribane added that apart from the statue, there is also a suggestion to name one of South Africa’s highways, the N8, after Dr Jonathan, although the decision would depend on the outcome of a public consultation in that country. The N8 is the route that connects South African towns of Upington, Kimberley, Bloemfontein and Maseru in Lesotho.

Chief Maseribane said the idea to honour Dr Jonathan was initiated by the Free State government as part of commemorating a centenary of Africa’s great leaders of the past.

“This is an important day for us as we remember the good legacy that Dr Jonathan left behind,” Chief Maseribane said.

Professor Kopano Makoa, who delivered the lecture on Dr Jonathan, remembered the BNP founder as a leader who ensured the country’s self-sufficiency in food production while also exporting surplus grain. This earned the country the tittle the Granary of Southern Africa.

Today Lesotho is regarded as a net importer of food stuffs, with its food the highest import after fuel, machinery and building materials among others.

Prof Makoa also described Dr Jonathan as a statesman who was strategic in seeking foreign aid so as not to compromise its independence.

“A career politician, yet a pragmatic and strategic thinker, a patriot and a diplomat able to forge friendship with the world’s most powerful countries and secure foreign assistance for Lesotho without compromising its independence.”

He was described him as the most decorated Prime Minister Lesotho has ever had, with a Dag Harmaschalt award bestowed on him in 1983, an honorary PhD in Education by the National University of Lesotho (NUL) in 1984 and the Companion of O.R. Tambo Award (gold) in 2007 (posthumously).

Dr Thabane said he remembers Dr Jonathan as a brave and courageous leader; attributes that are missing in today’s generation.

He said Dr Jonathan had a unique sense of humour yet also extremely serious especially when talking about the persecution of the ANC under the white rule in South Africa that led to them taking refuge in Lesotho.

“He got extremely angry and upset.

“A lot of us today have many things we would like to get off our chests but are not brave enough to speak out for fear of reproach,” Dr Thabane said.






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