As South Africa celebrates the legacy of OR Tambo, his links with Lesotho evoke memories of the 9 December 1982 massacre of 30 South African refugees and 12 Basotho.
Tambo attended the mass funeral, and the party that was governing at the time, the Basotho National Party, organises events every year to commemorate that day.
The Le Rona Re Batho” account of the 1982 Maseru Massacre by Phyllis Naidoo is one of very few archives of the most traumatic experiences for the small mountain kingdom of Lesotho.
In it she writes, “Time has obliterated 30 comrades and 12 Basotho from our collective memory… 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 erst while comrades, now turned agents of the regime.”
She continues, “Scores of South Africans – whom the South African government referred to as well trained terrorists – and Basotho were mercilessly killed in this barbarous act of aggression. Homes were destroyed, houses gutted by fire and bombed from the air in this cold-blooded massacre.”
The Basotho National Party , BNP governed Lesotho from 1965 to 1986
That morning of 9 December 1982 villages in Maseru were bloody scenes, homes turned to mass graves. Two weeks later on the 23 December, Oliver Reginald Tambo attended the mass funeral led by King Moshoeshoe II.
The Basotho National Party – BNP governed Lesotho from 1965 to 1986. At the height of apartheid atrocities; BNP Leader – Leabua Jonathan was Prime Minister. It was his government that took in refugees fleeing persecution from apartheid South Africa.
Every year the BNP remembers this day in part to keep Leabua’s legacy alive. In his message at the funeral Oliver Tambo said, “These events have united us because, your Majesty, your people responded to this massacre with the courage that is part of their tradition and part of their history. 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.”
During those days Lesotho became home to stalwarts including the late Chris Hani. In 2006 South Africa conferred the Supreme Order of Companions of OR Tambo Award on King Moshoeshoe II posthumously. Click below for more on the story: