By Pali Lehohla
JOHANNESBURG – Sunday, September the 13th, I received the news of the untimely death of the High Commissioner of Lesotho to Canada, Ralechate Lincoln Mokose in Ottawa.
Before being posted to Canada he was the High Commissioner of Lesotho in the Republic of South Africa.
This was a second stint that he served up to June 2019.
Upon learning of this I thought, “Damn, he was the reason I became the accidental Statistician-General of South Africa”.
It was that fateful Sunday, September, 3, 1982, when his number was called on intel of a planned assassination against his life. He had to flee Lesotho from Leabua Jonathan’s Koeoko from the unkown mysterious assassins. They were baying for his blood. His escape became my accidental responsibility.
On a late Saturday afternoon his wife and child, luggage in hand, were dropped by Aron Liphoto at my place outside the NUL campus where her husband resided and worked.
The message from his wife was heavy, but simple.
Take me to Maseru to connect with my husband. We have to be out of the country by whatever means necessary within 12 hours.
My wife and I wasted no time and drove the mother and child off to Maseru, Ha Thamae where Mokose was in hiding.
We called each other Moheshe, a general name those of us who studied at Thabeng High School and proceeded to the National University referred to one another by.
I knocked at the door and his wife called out to him. As we entered the room he was in, we saw he was dressed in a heavy World War II coat and a leather hat partly concealed his face as though he was trying not to be seen. He said, “Moheshe I have to skip the border”.
The question was how to proceed the next day.
We decided that by 4am on Sunday , the next day, we needed to pick them up as there was no more time to waste to make an escape. It could not be the Maseru border because they could be recognised easily and picked by the security police. Maputsoe border it had to be.
Along the way his son, who was five years old, had to adopt my son’s name and he had to be coached until he was perfect on the name and surname in case we got questioned at the border. We got to the Lesotho border and there was more to worry about,
He tugged the flaps of his large coat around his ears and sunk even more behind his leather hat. There was no need to stamp any passports as we indicated that we are not crossing the border. As we whipped past there was a sigh of relief the closer owards the South African border we got. They got out the car, stamped their passports and the family was gone.
It did not take long before the blood hounds were after me.
By end of September I had to flee the coutry and ended up in Mmabatho and finally in Pretoria where for 17 years I became the Statistician General of South Africa.
Subsequent to the fall of Leabua Jonathan in 1986, I visited him at his school in Leribe in 1988 after his return from Swaziland and reminisced of that fateful day.
As a High Commissioner in both time periods in South Africa, his house was the home for the Lesotho diaspora.
A lot I can write about my relationship from High School to university with this giant that has fallen, suffice to mention that we shared a hostel at high school and a room at NUl. So that I had to be so deeply immersed in the crisis was no accident, but an obligation.
May the Soul of Ralechate Mokose Rest In Peace.
Dr Pali Lehohla is the former statistician-general of South Africa and the former head of Statistics South Africa. Meet him at www.pie.org.za and @palilj01