photo of person from Lesotho the maluti mountains
Lesotho glossary















Section 1
We may start by you telling us your name, you grew up where, and all news that could help us to understand or know you.
Yes. I am Chief ’Mepa Mokhothu. I was born right here, I grew up here.

You have how many children?
I have three boys, well they have their own homes, one is there at your village, one is in Liotloaneng, one I am still with him in my family here.

Now, tell me ntate ’Mepa, as to the mother of the children where is she?
Their mother has divorced; she filed the divorce in 1976.

Tell me ntate ’Mepa, as far as you know issues, and as far as you know this place where you grew up, do you think that there are things which have changed, which you saw as you were growing up, which are no longer seen now, or which you saw as you grew up which you still see but have changed and are not the same as in the past?
Yes, from when I grew up, when I grew up, now things of now have amazed me because they have changed, because here they are making dams, which we did not know. Now even to enter freely without the place being developed through its chief, and then be developed by other chiefs, they are being developed by these ones of development, which are there now. It is this thing which has placed me in a difficult position.

Can you say it is to disrespect chieftainship of this place as it was respected before?
I am saying exactly that?

Yes, ntate.
Because chieftainship is not respected at all, things are being decided freely, it is being done out of their love, whether this one it is a chief or not, if he says he is a chief, it is agreed that he is.

Can you clarify that point?
Yes, I will clarify it well as I am the person who grew up here. Because this place in which we are, is ’Mepa , which is its first lawful chief, in all this area of ’Mepa , spreading to as far as Mejametalana…
Section 2
By this area of ’Mepa you mean that of Molika-liko?
Yes, when I say ’Mepa I mean Molika-liko, it is still ’Mepa that place. The origin of this place is ’Mepa, this small area it is clear that here ’Mepa had kept his people, he was here because of them, as one place is called by many names.

Oh, the chieftainship changed?
The chieftainship changed, but it is not different since, it is where it were, it is still on the pipe-line. I am following that issue.

Now, maybe you have talked about this issue of chieftainship, maybe I should ask as to how you see the development of children or youth in this area when you compare it to the past?
It is not the same as in the past at all, it has changed, because even the children are no longer ordered to do things, he won’t respect you whether you are his father or not, or whether you are calling him, they no longer have that obedience. These are the changes.

Initiation is where?
Initiation is still there as it is the tradition of Sesotho; we grew up like that knowing it is the custom.

How does it help in the development of children?
In this development of youth, it has also changed; it is not the same as in the past. They no longer respect the laws we had put as the law which fulfils Sesotho, that if a child failed to go to school or if he attended school, at least he should attend school and go for initiation. Now they no longer work them that way those laws of initiation, they are the changes, which are now different with respect which were put as law.

Tell me in details, ntate Mokhothu as to how you see issues of tradition now, during this era. Are there still traditional feasts, are there still traditional practices, are there still issues related to tradition which are still observed in this area?
Some are still there as they still practice them, but they do not do them as they were being done, because early traditions - as now even prayer - when there was drought like now, we would ride on our horses and go to the plateau and then pray for rain and talk with God there. They are no longer there. Now those that are still practised are few and they are practised differently.

Can you make examples of those, which remain?
Examples of those remaining is that it is acceptable in the early traditions, we were not staying in our homes, we had where we knew that the whole village food would come boys. We would stay there or even visitors when they arrived, they came to. Now these are no longer practised in the present traditions. Those are the ones which are no longer there at all.

Which ones remain?
These ones which remain are the ones which remain.
Section 3
Examples of feasts or traditional practices which are still being observed?
It is this initiation only.

It is initiation?

There is no longer lijo tsa balimo (food for the ancestors)?
Others still make lijo tsa balimo, but they are not being made by all, because there are changes. There are others who say there is no God. Amongst you youth, they say there is no God, they do not know those things. They say it were the things of the past.

But old people?
Old people still make them, those traditions of theirs, they still make lijo tsa balimo, and others who still follow traditions.

Tell me about issues such as mekete ea balimo (feasts of the ancestors). Are there certain jobs that people still do together, jointly when they are being done in the village?
Yes, there at meketeng ea balimo, when they do them in the village, the neighbours still help each other to do that job so that they could finish jointly, helping this one who is the owner of the feast.

If it happens that a person does not come to help when another has made mokete oa balimo, how does the nation regard her?
She is not regarded well in the eyes of the nation because she does not have love for unity.

Then what is it that is done to her?
It is not an issue; they just look at her.

And then?
It will be clear when she makes the feast, whether she will like to be helped.

Yes, it is a fact that everybody likes to be helped; now what will happen when she makes the feast?
It is not an issue, they will keep quiet or she will do it her own way. She can do alone; they won’t have anything to do with her, but they will go and eat that food.

Oh, they will go there, not going to help her?
It would rather be the family and those whom she had informed.

Besides mekete ea lijo tsa balimo, what other jobs are done jointly?
No, joint ventures, which took place in the past, are no longer happening now in these changes. I don’t see them at all.

Even there in the fields there are no matsema (communal labour)?
There are no matsema, not unless you can organise sekoropo (work for payment). But letsema is still there if they want to help you, but they won’t come, like they used to when they had to come.
Section 4
Tell me about there where letsema is being held, how was it?
It used to be good, there would be joy, they would drink liquor and do all those things, but they no longer dance like they used to do. They would dance and make something beautiful during the old matsema. Now if they have drunk liquor and they have weeded, they have no problem. If they like, they still attend to matsema.

Maybe we should leave these ones of traditions and cooperation of the people. When there is death what happens in the village?
When there is a death, the chief will be informed, as I have to be informed, and then I will tell people that they should attend the night vigil. I also have to be there, but if I am unable to attend, I have to send a representative who will go there when the death has been announced, like that. And the people will continue with the night vigil until they go and dig the grave and then bury the dead body.

Why do they dig the grave for him? Why is it that the grave is not dug by the relatives?
Repeat it again?

Yes, I am saying why is it the people who dig for him? Why is it not done by the family?
No, it is in order that the people should dig the grave for him, the law demands it, because the dead are the dead. He has died, so he deserves to be buried by these people. He is not only his family’s responsibility.

Does is it ever happen that people refuse to dig a grave for someone?
Yes, it happens that they refuse and stay there, and then the family alone digs, in these present changed times.

What had happened?
It is when they do not understand and they do not have clear guidance.

You are saying how?
From the chiefs. If they have done that, the chief has to file charges against them.

When they have refused to dig?
Yes, when they have refused to dig.

Yes, but I would like to know as to what it is that makes them refuse to dig?
Others would say they do not know, they would never point out why they do not go to dig.

But even if they do not say, but you as an elder person who has grown up here, you might know when people drag their feet when they have to dig a grave for somebody, what it is that they had seen?
It is a lack of leadership, or if the chief does not go there, or if those from that village, have never been to that village to dig as these are separate villages.
Section 5
Oh, it is the issue of villages, neighbouring villages share common problems.
Neighbouring villages share common problems.

Well now, let us look at the issue of life. What is the main thing that people here do for their living?
Life here where I am, people live on crops such as wheat, peas and maize. These are the main crops that maintain people’s lives.

Those which make people live.
Well, yes and khomo ea fats’e (literally, the cow of the ground – cannabis). It grows naturally, nobody planted it, it just happened like that. I just have to see that, as a chief of these people, I stop theft. They have to see that at least there is oa ntekatekane (somebody from nowhere) who would give them some small money for the cannabis and use it as medicine of this country because it is a plant.

Tsa bonkhi tsa bolelele (cannabis)?
Yes, tsa bonkhi tsa bolelele. People used to smoke from kakana (pipes dug into the ground for smoking cannabis) and crush the cannabis. When they moved from that place, they would praise their chiefs, and they would be happy. Most of all it makes a strong person.

You mean in muscles?
With muscles and bravery. If you are leading regiments and they smoke, you will notice their bravery. They see enemies and they feel they can beat them.

Now, how is it? You do not consider it dangerous?
It is not dangerous at all because it gives you energy also, and also it is the life of animal and you. It does not have bad-luck.

When you say it the life of the animal and me, what do you mean?
Let me point out that when my horse has papisi (botfly, livestock disease), I give it this cannabis.

You are saying... how do you do it?
I put it in the dregs and it eats.

Now it will get rid of this papisi. In fact you will find it very healthy, smooth and fat. When it gets rid of this thing it has that kind of life. When the child is weaned, I take two small pieces of cannabis and put them there, and the child will not cry, he will be quiet.

Small pieces, you mean seeds.
Section 6
You put them where?
I put them there, they are cooked in a small tin and he drinks.


Now he does not cry?
No, no, he does not have any problem.

What does he do? Does he sleep? What does he do?
He will grow up well and he will not care about the breast of his mother. She won’t even smear anything on the breast, once he has drunk, that’s it. Again, I have not said everything about this cannabis. When a person has a heart attack, his heart tlelopa (?)…

You mean when it beats fast?
Yes, when it beats fast. When you have a heart attack, and your heart beats fast, I put in and even if I add a certain plant, I just do it to hide some information. I put these seeds and you drink and the heartbeat slows, that’s all.

It is the cannabis.
It is the cannabis.

Can you praise it?
I do not use it.

You see it from a distance?
Yes, I see it from a distance, when they are doing it only.

Let us come back to the issue which we started with. You talked about chieftainship, and when you explain yourself you said you are chief ’Mepa, and you said this place of Molika-liko is the place of ’Mepa. Could you explain this issue, I mean the issue of your chieftainship.
This chieftainship, I followed my father. My father was given it. Yes, he fought for this place. He was given it by Letsie I in 1902. As for me, I was not yet born in this world. Even during the times of Masupha I it was still him. They used to say “Masupha, don’t give up on Qiloane, Qiloane is your mother and father”. Now, when Griffith disowned my grandfather, Letsie said, “Now I want you to intervene between my brothers. I make you a mediator; you should separate these people because they are fighting over this place”.

You mean these people are who?
Masupha and Theko, when they fight over this place.

They were fighting over Thaba-Bosiu?
They were fighting over this one where we are, which you say is Molika-liko, which is ’Mepa. In 1902, that is when Masupha agreed that it should be given to ’Mepa by his elder brother Letsie I.
Section 7
And then Letsie continued giving people land. He gave him Koporala, it is still part of Mepa that Koporala. He drove away a person called Hlooho-ea-Phiri, at a place called Sosa.

Is Sosa in Machache? Beyond Machache?
At Ha Rapokolana.

Oh, at Ha Rapokolana.
He gave him a person called Hlooho-ea-Phiri, he left Matsieng and then Masupha sent away a Ndebele called Mashale. And he agreed and said, “Now that you have given this son of Mokhothu, I agree he is my other hand. Not when you wanted to give this place to Theko so that he can remove me from here”. ’Mepa then started expanding until Mejametalana, in Maseru, as far as Likotsi. Then he worked with the king, Letsie I.

Where was the change?
We are still making changes, me and my age-mate, this Letsie II, with whom we quarrelled until he also died. I said to him, “Support me man, let us continue working this way”. He continued saying, “Yes, let us do that, you are still doing that”. But there was no justice done until he died.

I don’t quite understand what actually happened.
Me, as a dependent, Mapheelle Monts’i Tsapane, went to Gauteng. I came back in 1970 here from across, but when I came back he never stopped, he gave me all my rights, as he was my guardian. The change occurred only when the one in front of me said, “Man, me also I give my family because ’Mepa has accepted Makhobalo Theko, he has come to his brother-in-law. He is the one who has received him and put him there at Thaba-Putsoa”.

Is Thaba-Putsoa ruled by Makhobalo?
Yes, it is Makhobalo Theko. Isn’t it that he is my father’s brother-in-law. His wife is younger; my mother is the eldest, the daughter of Philip, at Mphaki. The one who comes after her is the daughter of Nkuebe. In my family they were taken from that family, those women.

Then you came back from across (Sekhooa)?
I came back from across, where I worked without any gain. It became obvious that I should come home. My guardian convinced me until I found that he has signed for my name at the Interior.
Section 8
Oh, of?
My real name to show that it is still me.

He is considered as acting?
Yes, he is considered as a guardian, like if I could give you a child, a child of a chief, and you raise him.

Now, I am still floundering.

He was still acting?
No, he slumbers, now there are many people who act whom I don’t even know. Now, I have kept quiet and I am watching them. Then, I went to Liolong, Ha Masupha, my supporter. I asked him to support me, he was on power because it is his place, he has given it away as I was a mediator but he supported. But his judgement has not been carried out because even Masupha himself has passed away.

It is like that. Now, tell me as to whether when you are here, you want to straighten the issue of your chieftainship?
Well, I am still around, I want to straighten up my issues of chieftainship, as I am still trying. They are coming out bit by bit, although they are not very clear and straight.

Now tell me ntate ’Mepa, when people fight in the village what do you do?
We intervene.

We intervene. The one who has fought will be taken to court. The court is there at my guardian’s (Mapheelle) place. The office is over there. Then I go there so that that person could be reprimanded. We have those sons of my younger brother Mapheelle and the old lady, ’Maseoli is still there, here at Ha Letlatsa.

You mean she, she is the one in power?
Yes, that one over there, the daughter of Letlatsa… not this one here. This one, over here, the husband is acting of that one, and the wife also is acting, the old lady no longer travels.

Well, lets do this, you are saying the chief of this area, I mean the one who is in power, is the one who is acting?
Yes, ntate.

You mean the guardian?

Yes, ntate.

Now, what do you say her name is?
’Maseoli Tsapane.
Section 9
Is it the old lady ’Maseoli?
Yes, ntate, he is an old person now.

Now, is she still in power or she no longer deals with issues of government?
She no longer deals with them. We used to work with her as my guardian. Now I have given her a small place and a small amount of money. I am handling external affairs and she handles the internal ones and she gets somebody to collect her payment from me, and not from the government as she can no longer walk. This child of hers pretends it is her and takes the old woman’s money and she now comes crying to me, because as a guardian, we had arranged with Letsie that she should still be given some small amount, she and Thakane. Now she no longer gets them, and she is crying there. Now those whom she has said they work for him are now abusing her.

Now let me take it that you take the person there when he has fought with another one?
Well, he still goes there, as it says that, “Let’s go to the chief”. We still go there...

Are these the issues concerning the state of government here?

Now, tell me, when you have taken someone to the chief’s place, what happens?
I charge him or I reprimand him in accordance with peacekeeping.

When you charge him, how much do you charge?
He will be charged, I will charge him. I will reprimand him, that one who has been fought, but if he asks that he be compensated, I will pass him to the court of law where he will be compensated, not here where we practice Sesotho.

Oh, with you it is just an issue of intervening?
Yes, it is just to intervene, not to pass judgement. The one who is not satisfied goes to Likalaneng.

Likalaneng is…..
The court of law.

Oh, it is the court of law?

Now, when you look at this issue of intervention, is it of any use?
Yes, it is useful. The people come in order to prevent noise, which will lead to fights because they will fight knowing that the chief is still there.

They should fight knowing that the chief is there?

What can you say about agricultural issues?
I can say concerning agriculture, we are in trouble with regards to agriculture. You understand we are being sent away.
Section 10
Well, but before you are being sent away, what is the condition?
Agriculture here is very powerful because the whole of this mountainous area of Molika-liko comes to buy their crops here because of their beauty. I can say Molika-liko is the lowland itself. Because I supply from Mants’onyane, Jordane gets its supply here, Bokong gets its supply here, Senqunyane gets its supply here and Koporala gets its supply here.

Do you plough the fields?
I plough as I have fields and my guardian also ploughs some of them.

I plough, there it is over there I have already ploughed them.

You have ploughed?

How many do you have?
I have three fields as of now. Now the fourth one I have given it to my younger brother.

Oh, you have given it to your younger brother?
Yes, ntate.

Apart from agriculture, what other means of living do you have?
Besides agriculture, these people still live on this one of bonkhi (cannabis). Even if they do not get anything from the fields, they still get small monies from the cannabis, so that children have something to eat.

Are these the only two ways?
They are the only two ways.

Do you yourself plant tse tala (cannabis)?
No, I do not plough them, they grow naturally. But there was a time when I ploughed them before I came to power. Now I do not plough them. I am just watching over my people because I am their eye.

When they live, what I want is for them to live.


Where do you get your services? Schools, church, health, post-offices, etc, all those basic services to the nation?
No, the church is there, all these churches in the area of ’Mepa, the Catholic church, the Evangelical church and the Anglican church as you already see it over there where we grew up.
Section 11
It is?
That one is the Evangelical one.

Oh, it the church of Lesotho?
Yes. It is the church of Lesotho, the Catholic one is in Bokong where I said it is where I come from, at the old man, Mepa’s place. Even the Evangelical church is there. One of them is at the top there, the Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelical Church. Roman Catholic Church is at Ha Sekolopata, Maime. The Evangelical church is at Thaba-Bosiu. There at Sosa Ha Rapokolane, it he Catholic Church. At Makhobalo it is the Evangelical church. At Ha Seotsa it is the Anglican Church, the Evangelical church and the Roman Catholic Church.

Now, do these places have schools?
Yes, they do have schools, because this one is a mission.

Does it mean Molika-liko?

Now tell me, these schools go up to which class?
They go up to seven; this one and that one of Sosa go up to standard seven.

Now, what do you do with children who want to go further?
They go down to the schools in the lowlands or others go to Marakabei.

I have listened to you, ntate ’Mepa. I think this place of Molika-liko is the place, which you like well, isn’t it?
Very much, as I grow up here.

Now let me give you these two remaining minutes, for you to tell me what it is that you like best in this area of Molika-liko, I mean this one of ’Mepa, things which you feel are at your heart.
I like this pasture very much and the agriculture, as I am right in the middle of this area. Pasture for the animals is number one.

Is it what you like?
Yes, even this water because water is in abundance.

Are you an animal farmer?
Yes, through my people, because mines are finished. I was able to grow up because of the presence of animals, and I saw that they did not have any problem in this pasture. They cannot wander away, when they leave the villages they go up to Mepa, others go to Thaba-putsoa, but they do not walk long distances.

Now you are saying that what you like about this area is…

It is pasture?
Yes, and this wheat ploughing.
Section 12
Are these the things, which you like?
These are the things on my mind.

Now tell us whether these are the only things which make you like this place or there are other things which you suspect that other places do not have them, they are only here in Molika-liko.
Yes, let me accept that this ’Mepa is very useful in as far as pasture is concerned because it covers all the areas in Matsieng. Matelile comes to this place for pasture, Berea comes up here and Thaba-Bosiu also comes here. Now I see that I am taking care of this nation, I am giving them support as far as pasture is concerned more than any other thing. Now I see that where I go all these things are not available.

They are not available?
Yes, they are not available because you will find cattle nibbling due to lack of grass.

There is no grass?

Well, I thank you ntate ’Mepa and …