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Lesotho – The Three Kings

Three Kings are featured on the front of out banknote. On our right, wearing the hat, is the first king, King Moshoeshoe. On our left, wearing glasses, is King Moshoeshoe II (Constantine Bereng Seeiso) (1938-1996). In the center is the present King of Lesotho,King Letsie III (born David Mohato
Bereng Seeiso; 17 July 1963). 

The First King…

King Moshoeshoe I, was born in 1780 the eldest son of a chief of a regional clan known as the Basotho people.1 Renowned for bravery, as a young man he organized a raid on a rival, the Ramonaheng, and took posession of their herds of cattle. As customary among his people, he composed a poem depicting his exploits in which he declared that he had “shaved the beards” of the rival Ramonaheng; the action of shaving a beard making a sound resembling the sound of the spoken words “shoe” …. “shoe”, he became affectionately know as Moshoeshoe, “the shaver”.

Moshoeshoe and his followers established their village and began to grow in the early 19th century coincident with the nearby rise of Shakra and the Zulu kingdom. Military pressure from the nearby and growing Zulu, forced Moshoeshoe to relocate his people to the Qiloane plateau (elevation 2 km) which proved to be an impregnable stronghold for the people. It was later named Thaba Bosiu or “mountain at night” because it was believed “to grow during the night and shrink during day”,2 enhancing its defensive qualities. The era was to become known as “the time of troubles”3due to incessant conflicts. But Moshoeshoe took care of his people and prospered.

In addition to bravery, Moshoeshoe became renowned for diplomacy. During the time of troubles, his influence grew as he extended friendship to defeated enemies, providing them with land and protection. In later years, in the era that would come to be the Boer Wars, Moshoeshoe negotiated a treaty for protection of his people under Great Britain. With his death in 1870, the colonial era is considered to have begun. However the status of Lesotho was that of British protectorate, as negotiated by King Moshoeshoe I, rather than that of many other colonies, a forced annexation. Moshoeshoe’s people would continue on.

The Kingdom of Lesotho…

In 1966, the Kingdom of Lesotho came into existence with independence from Great Britain. The ruling party, upon losing in the first post-independence election, refused to cede power to the election winners, and imprisoned its political opponents. A struggle continued until 1986, twenty years following independence, when a military coup d’etat pushed the usurpers out of power and brought in Constantine Bereng Seeiso, who took the name King Moshoeshoe II. When he sought to strengthen executive power through amending the constitution, he was forced into exile and his son was installed as King Letsie III. King Moshoeshoe II was reinstated as king in 1995, but briefly, dying in an accident in 1996. His son, King Letsie III was brought as king and so continues to this day.

And King Meshoeshoe’s people continue, to this day.

Footnotes

  1. wikipedia: speaking sesotho language and inhabiting the region since 5th century
  2. wikipedia: Many Basotho believe that the mountain preserved magical properties. One belief is that if an individual takes some dirt from the mountain, he will find that it is gone in the morning, having returned to the mountain. As also mentioned above, news was spread as a form of intimidation to the enemies that the mountain grew larger at night.
  3. also known as Mfecane (zulu), and Difaqane or Lifaqane (sesotho) meanng crushing, forced dispersal, forced migration, the period between 1815 and 1840 of widespread warfare and chaos, wikipedia: Mfecane