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The last supper


Dec. 13, 2018 10 min read

10 min read


MASERU – The early hours raid of Maseru by the then South African Defence Force (SADF) on December 9, 1982, in the incident that came to be known as Maseru Massacre, was this year commemorated in Maseru with Lesotho-South Africa joint races of 10km and 5km.

The apartheid commandos crossed the border into Lesotho at dawn to attack a cluster of houses on the outskirts of Maseru where members of the African National Congress (ANC) were believed to be in hiding. Without any opposition from Lesotho's small and less equipped army, they blasted their way through numerous homes, killing 42 people, 30 members of the ANC and 12 locals.

According to the organisers, the Maseru Massacre Race held on Sunday, was the first of its kind to be hosted in Lesotho through the landmarks associated with the massacre which was known as “Operational Blanket" by the apartheid regime.

It was organised by the relatives of the 1982 Maseru massacre in collaboration with the South African High Commission in memory of those who lost their lives. The race kicked off from Pitso Ground through Ha Hoohlo via Sea Point and back to the starting point.

 


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The race regalia was unveiled earlier bearing #leronarebatho as the race's slogan, written 82 at the back, which symbolises the year while on the left frontside it has Basotho hat with colours of the Lesotho flag, a raised fist as symbol for struggle with colours of South African flag and also 42 - a number of massacre victims.

The race attracted about 146 men and women from both South Africa and Lesotho.

During the launch of the commemoration earlier, Rebatho Mdlankomo, whose father was one of the victims after he was killed two days after she was born at Queen Elizabeth II hospital in 1982 said although she did not know her father, she was happy that he is one of those honoured for their selfless struggle for the better South Africa.

The Maseru massacre with use of a rocket launcher, rifles and some grenades of Communist-bloc origin that they said had been captured in the raid, which met with a chorus of international outrage, was defended as “a pre-emptive strike against ANC militants who had taken refuge in Lesotho over the past few months” by General Constand Viljoen of the SADF.

According to Viljoen, the ANC members were planning attacks in South Africa against political leaders in the black "homelands" of Transkei and Ciskei.

The ANC denied the charges and denounced the invasion as a "cold-blooded massacre", charging that the ANC members killed were political refugees, not terrorists.

According to the letter of condolence by the then ANC president Oliver Reginald Tambo to Lesotho’s Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan after the incident, ANC pledged its continued commitment to support Lesotho with all means in their power in its struggle to consolidate her independence and defend her sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“This coldly calculated act of terrorism will only serve to spur the ANC and the people of South Africa to redouble their efforts to remove once and for all the criminal Pretoria regime, the common enemy of the people of Africa. Please accept, Your Excellency, the assurance of the highest fraternal esteem of our National Executive Committee as well as my own,” said Tambo.

He later attended the mass funeral attended by thousands in Maseru where he uttered: “These events have united us because, your Majesty, (referring to the late King Moshoeshoe II) your people responded to this massacre with the courage that is part of their tradition and part of their history. You, yourself, led the nation in the battle in defence of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity when you went to the United Nations. Far from intimidating the people of Lesotho, the butchers of Pretoria have united them and risen them in their anger which expresses itself in their determination to defend their sovereignty and independence. Their murderous crime has lifted this nation from its geographic circumstances and planted them in the hearts of the nations of the world, winning it the support and solidarity of mankind.”

In his book ‘Le Rona Re Batho’ (we are also human) from which the theme of the Maseru Massacre is derived, Phyllis Naidoo equated the massacre to the story of the Last Supper in a painful story in Christian circles where pictures of the Last Supper grace the walls of millions of homes throughout the Christian world. Jesus, aware of his impending betrayal ate his last meal with his disciples, one of whom would later betray him. That supper was an extremely difficult one in preparation of certain death.

He penned: “But the last supper of my story was had by all, 42 in number, in and around Maseru, Lesotho, without any notice of death, a trial, premonition or otherwise of death that was to follow. Certainly we were to be betrayed by erstwhile comrades, now turned agents of the regime.

“Dinner, on this fateful night, in this particular household, in Lower Seoli, Ha Masithela, consisted of rice, meat, potatoes and salads. A fare usually had after monthly - pay out time by the UNHRC. Yes, all five were refugees and their allowance at the time was R40.00 per month. Housing was provided by the Lesotho government, and in some cases by the ANC. Those refugees lucky enough to find employment in impoverished Lesotho housed themselves.”

Speaking at the commemoration on Sunday, Basotho National Party (BNP) Deputy Leader and Minister of Public Service Chief Joang Molapo said as they recall the events of the fateful night, they also remember with pride the steadfast resolve of the Government of Lesotho under the leadership of Dr. Leabua Jonathan as prime minister and leader of BNP not to be derailed in its support for the liberation of the South African people from the oppressive apartheid system.
He said: “We also recall with pride the warm friendship and mutual trust that grew between the then President of the ANC Mr. Oliver Tambo and Chief Leabua Jonathan. This friendship played a pivotal role in placing Lesotho at the very apex of the liberation struggle which was inevitable that it would eventually lead to the overthrow of the government of Lesotho in a South African sponsored coup d'etat by elements of the Lesotho military.”
“Therefore, BNP remains proud of the principled stance of its inspirational leader in resisting the bullying tactics of the apartheid government even at such cost to himself personally and to his party,” he stated.

South African High Commissioner to Lesotho Sello Moloto thanked the then government of Lesotho and Basotho at large for showing solidarity during the trying times and providing asylum to the ANC members.
“We will never forget the selfless gesture and the spirit of Ubuntu Basotho showed to the South Africans. You did not treat them as refugees but took them as relatives as they lived with you in your own houses,” said Mr Moloto.
Professor Nqosa Mahao, National University of Lesotho Vice Chancellor, said the day would always remain a memorable one for Basotho of good will, patriots, humanists as well as genuine democrats.
He recalled that the day was observed four times as national Holiday beginning on December 9 1982 but came to an abrupt end on January 20, 1986 after seizure of state power by the military junta.

“This day has indeed not been, and will never be, lost to our memories notwithstanding that it was last officially observed as national mourning day in Lesotho 23 years ago in December 1995. The day must inspire Basotho to relentlessly fight for a just and truly politically accountable system of government in Lesotho,” said Prof Mahao.

The race regalia was unveiled earlier bearing #leronarebatho as the race's slogan, written 82 at the back, which symbolises the year while on the left frontside it has Basotho hat with colours of the Lesotho flag, a raised fist as symbol for struggle with colours of South African flag and also 42 - a number of massacre victims.

The race attracted about 146 men and women from both South Africa and Lesotho.

During the launch of the commemoration earlier, Rebatho Mdlankomo, whose father was one of the victims after he was killed two days after she was born at Queen Elizabeth II hospital in 1982 said although she did not know her father, she was happy that he is one of those honoured for their selfless struggle for the better South Africa.

The Maseru massacre with use of a rocket launcher, rifles and some grenades of Communist-bloc origin that they said had been captured in the raid, which met with a chorus of international outrage, was defended as “a pre-emptive strike against ANC militants who had taken refuge in Lesotho over the past few months” by General Constand Viljoen of the SADF.

According to Viljoen, the ANC members were planning attacks in South Africa against political leaders in the black "homelands" of Transkei and Ciskei.

The ANC denied the charges and denounced the invasion as a "cold-blooded massacre", charging that the ANC members killed were political refugees, not terrorists.

According to the letter of condolence by the then ANC president Oliver Reginald Tambo to Lesotho’s Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan after the incident, ANC pledged its continued commitment to support Lesotho with all means in their power in its struggle to consolidate her independence and defend her sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“This coldly calculated act of terrorism will only serve to spur the ANC and the people of South Africa to redouble their efforts to remove once and for all the criminal Pretoria regime, the common enemy of the people of Africa. Please accept, Your Excellency, the assurance of the highest fraternal esteem of our National Executive Committee as well as my own,” said Tambo.

He later attended the mass funeral attended by thousands in Maseru where he uttered: “These events have united us because, your Majesty, (referring to the late King Moshoeshoe II) your people responded to this massacre with the courage that is part of their tradition and part of their history. You, yourself, led the nation in the battle in defence of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity when you went to the United Nations. Far from intimidating the people of Lesotho, the butchers of Pretoria have united them and risen them in their anger which expresses itself in their determination to defend their sovereignty and independence. Their murderous crime has lifted this nation from its geographic circumstances and planted them in the hearts of the nations of the world, winning it the support and solidarity of mankind.”

In his book ‘Le Rona Re Batho’ (we are also human) from which the theme of the Maseru Massacre is derived, Phyllis Naidoo equated the massacre to the story of the Last Supper in a painful story in Christian circles where pictures of the Last Supper grace the walls of millions of homes throughout the Christian world. Jesus, aware of his impending betrayal ate his last meal with his disciples, one of whom would later betray him. That supper was an extremely difficult one in preparation of certain death.

He penned: “But the last supper of my story was had by all, 42 in number, in and around Maseru, Lesotho, without any notice of death, a trial, premonition or otherwise of death that was to follow. Certainly we were to be betrayed by erstwhile comrades, now turned agents of the regime.

“Dinner, on this fateful night, in this particular household, in Lower Seoli, Ha Masithela, consisted of rice, meat, potatoes and salads. A fare usually had after monthly - pay out time by the UNHRC. Yes, all five were refugees and their allowance at the time was R40.00 per month. Housing was provided by the Lesotho government, and in some cases by the ANC. Those refugees lucky enough to find employment in impoverished Lesotho housed themselves.”

Speaking at the commemoration on Sunday, Basotho National Party (BNP) Deputy Leader and Minister of Public Service Chief Joang Molapo said as they recall the events of the fateful night, they also remember with pride the steadfast resolve of the Government of Lesotho under the leadership of Dr. Leabua Jonathan as prime minister and leader of BNP not to be derailed in its support for the liberation of the South African people from the oppressive apartheid system.
He said: “We also recall with pride the warm friendship and mutual trust that grew between the then President of the ANC Mr. Oliver Tambo and Chief Leabua Jonathan. This friendship played a pivotal role in placing Lesotho at the very apex of the liberation struggle which was inevitable that it would eventually lead to the overthrow of the government of Lesotho in a South African sponsored coup d'etat by elements of the Lesotho military.”
“Therefore, BNP remains proud of the principled stance of its inspirational leader in resisting the bullying tactics of the apartheid government even at such cost to himself personally and to his party,” he stated.

South African High Commissioner to Lesotho Sello Moloto thanked the then government of Lesotho and Basotho at large for showing solidarity during the trying times and providing asylum to the ANC members.
“We will never forget the selfless gesture and the spirit of Ubuntu Basotho showed to the South Africans. You did not treat them as refugees but took them as relatives as they lived with you in your own houses,” said Mr Moloto.
Professor Nqosa Mahao, National University of Lesotho Vice Chancellor, said the day would always remain a memorable one for Basotho of good will, patriots, humanists as well as genuine democrats.
He recalled that the day was observed four times as national Holiday beginning on December 9 1982 but came to an abrupt end on January 20, 1986 after seizure of state power by the military junta.

“This day has indeed not been, and will never be, lost to our memories notwithstanding that it was last officially observed as national mourning day in Lesotho 23 years ago in December 1995. The day must inspire Basotho to relentlessly fight for a just and truly politically accountable system of government in Lesotho,” said Prof Mahao.

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