Moshweshwe's diplomatic relations with the indigenous chiefs of Southern Africa, 1822-1870

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Seboni, Peter
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University of the Free State
Moshweshwe's diplomatic relations and foreign policy with many of his contemporary Black chiefs emanated from a notion of being a great ruler and superior chief in and around the Caledon River valley. He entertained this notion in his early life. He wished to be acknowledged as a man of high status and be obeyed without being questioned. That was his ambition. At one stage while being a young boy he is reported to have killed five young boys who infuriated him by not obeying his command.¹ He wanted to command respect and be revered. But he later realized that respect based on fear does not last as it leads to enmity and challenges. It is generally believed that Moshweshwe was born in about 1786. His place of birth was Menkhoaneng near Butha Buthe in northern Lesotho. His father was Mokhachane the second son of Peete. Moshweshwe's people belonged to the Bamokotedi such as Mohlomi, to be blessed.³ Peete, (Moshweshwe's grandfather) took him there for blessings. The ceremony for passing blessings was conducted by uttering some words and rubbing of foreheads. Mohlomi did all these to young Moshweshwe. In about 1805 Moshweshwe was old enough to be sent to lebollong - an initiation school. Boys were sent to this school to undergo training for manhood and adulthood. Memories were tested to see how retentive they were by encouraging the initiates to recite long praise poems of their choice. Reliability, trustworthiness and loyalty were encouraged. Tolerance, patience and leadership qualities were identified.⁴ Circumcision was a rite that was performed here. The trainers or initiators were trusted men of the community. The initiates were given new names symbolizing a new social status.⁵ After returning from the lebollo Moshweshwe felt he was old enough to marry. He needed cattle of his own to enable him to pay the dowry - bohadi. He was proving to be innovative. Together with his lebollo mate, Makuanyane, (who later bacame a general of his warriors) he went for cattle raiding. They attacked the village of Ramonaheng at Kholelong. They captured almost all his cattle. Moshweshwe praised himself for his feat and praised himself in this way: "Ke 'na Moshoeshoe Moshoashoaila oa ha Kali Lebeola le beotseng Ramonaheng litelu."⁶ Literally translated it means: "I am Moshweshwe, the barber of Kali the shaver that shaved the beard of Ramonaheng." All along he was called Lepoqo and after the Ramonaheng incident the name "Moshweshwe" superceded Lepoqo and in the long run this name ceased to be used. With the cattle available his father and grandfather got him a woman to marry. It was the daughter of a man named Seepheephe and her name was Mabela. It is believed that his marriage took place in 1810. A son was born called Mohato and Mabela came to be called 'Mamohato'⁷ - the term means Mohato's mother. Moshweshwe appeared unhappy. He wished to be superior to all other men. His grandfather again took him to Mohlomi who was at Maritoe - near the present day Ficksburg. His anxiety for megalomania made him appear as though he was mentally deranged. According to Peete and Mokhachane he was to be cured of his "madness". Both he and Peete expected the doctor, (Mohlomi) to give him medical treatment and a talisman. To their surprise they were told that Moshweshwe is to be cured psychologically. Mohlomi went on to say: " is truly his heart alone that we are changing, his mind that we are curing and resetting anew his medicine is his knowledge and pursuance of peace and justice in his service and relations with all men regardless of their status .... ". Moshweshwe's attitude had to change if he wished to be anything great. According to Mohlomi he was to look at life in a different perspective. Mohlomi had been a great traveller and had built affinal relationships with many chiefs whose daughters or sisters he married. In every country he visited he married somebody there. He had realized the advantage of such a relationship : it keeps countries in harmony. He was the first man in Southern Africa who had an opportunity to form political alliances had such an idea dawned on his mind. But whenever he left the place he had visited he left his newly married wife behind. He did not take any of the women he had married to his country. They, in turn, were free to re-marry and the children born belonged to him as he was the first man to have paid out the bohadi (lobola) cattle to consumate the first marriage.
Thesis (Ph.D. (Faculty of Arts))--University of the Free State, 1994
Moshoeshoe, King of Lesotho, approximately 1786-1870, Lesotho, foreign relations, South Africa, history, To 1966