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Moshoeshoe is credited for creating a nation in what is now a modern day Lesotho. If you wonder why there is a country called Lesotho, inside another country called South Africa, look no further than Moshoeshoe, as pointed out by the following direct quotes from an essay by Max Du Preez.

1. Moshoeshoe was a military strategist who thought like a diplomat. He preferred to outmaneuver his opponents rather than out-shoot them.

2. He…started buying horses and launched a breeding programme, and within a decade he had the biggest cavalry in Africa, armed with firearms long before any other African army

3. Yet despite his military capacity he preferred not to wage war. He made alliances with powerful kings such as Shaka and manipulated them to deal with his enemies than fight them himself.

4. Thaba-Bosiu (his fortress) was attacked many times, by Sekonyela of the Batlokoa, by the warrior chiefs of Mpangezitha and Matiwane, by the Boers of the Orange Free State, Moshoeshoe was never defeated, because his mountain was virtually impenetrable and his military strategies were devised around that.

5. After he defeated Mzilikazi’s mighty army, he famously sent a number of fat oxen after the retreating army with a note saying they clearly attacked him only because they were hungry – here’s some food for the road. An astonished Mzilikazi vowed never to attack Moshoeshoe again.

6. After the British withdrawal from Thaba-Bosiu he sent them a note congratulating them on their bravery and sent his regards to their Queen.

7. Unlike those taking part in the conflict all around, he invited refugees and stragglers to join him and gave them food and protection.

8. A band of cannibals caught and ate his beloved grandfather, Peete. Moshoeshoe’s councilors were adamant that the cannibals should be caught and killed, but the wise chief decided otherwise. Those cannibals were the living graves of his grandfather, he told them, and to kill them would be to desecrate his grave…The cannibals eventually joined his chiefdom and became productive citizens.

9. Moshoeshoe’s clan grew rapidly as more and more individuals and groups chose to live under his protection, among them many groups of Koranna, San, Zulu and Xhosa speakers. By the mid-1800’s he started calling the new nation the Basotho.

10. Moshoeshoe never insisted that the newcomers to his kingdom lose their language and culture. Besides Sesotho, he spoke isiZulu and isiXhosa fluently, and understood those cultures and traditions.

11. He established a form of government revolutionary for its time, and the closest to full democracy we saw in Africa before and even for a century after him. All the senior men in his chiefdom formed part of his khotla (court), and all important decisions had to be ratified by them.

12. There is ample evidence that Moshoeshoe was indeed opposed quite vigorously at these forums, but in the end a compromise was always found and most citizens left feeling they had been consulted.

13. He had another clever method to assure peace and respect for his authority: he married women from chiefdoms and clans in his region – among them San, Zulu and Xhosa speakers.

14. Within a few years after establishing himself at Thaba-Bosiu, he had built up vast herds of cattle. Unlike other chiefs, whose men spent their time and energies training for war, Moshoeshoe’s men spent their time being agriculturists.

15. He gave cattle on loan to the poor among his subjects. They could use the fruits of these animals, like milk and offspring, but they remained his property.

Moshoeshoe died at the age of 83, on 11 March 1870, and was buried on Thaba-Bosiu, which has since become the resting place of all Basotho Kings.

Read more about the fascinating character in this essay:

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