By Thoboloko Ntšonyane
MASERU- Crowds of the public, dignitaries, and international guests flocked to Setsoto Stadium, ascending in throngs, to witness and celebrate the King’s birthday, an occasion that highlighted his enduring life and reign marked by commitment, resilience and service.
The Head of State’s 60th birthday was but a truly regal affair.
His 60th birthday coincides with his 25th year on the throne.
A constitutional monarch, King Letsie III’s years on the throne were not always smooth sailing
Né Mohato Bereng Seeiso, King Letsie III was born on July 17, 1963 to the late King Moshoeshoe II and Queen ‘Mamohato Bereng Seeiso.
He attended primary school at Iketsetseng Primary School in Maseru from 1968 to 1972 and in 1973 he proceeded to Gilling Castle, in Yorkshire, Great Britain, where he completed his primary education in 1976.
He then proceeded to Ampleforth College in 1977, where he completed his Secondary and High School education in 1980.
In 1980 he enrolled at the National University of Lesotho and in 1984 completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Law.
He further earned a Diploma in English Legal Studies with the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom from 1984 and 1986 before proceeding to the University of Cambridge where he studied Development Studies, completing in 1989.
Thereafter, he enrolled for Agricultural Economics at Wye College of the University of London.
He was installed as the Principal Chief of Matsieng on December 16, 1989. He first ascended the throne on November 12, 1990, under the new Office of the King Order NO. 14 of 1990, promulgated on November 6, 1990. He was named King Letsie III after King Letsie I, the eldest son of King Moshoeshoe I, the founder of the Basotho nation.
On January 25, 1995, the day on which His Majesty King Moshoeshoe II, was reinstated.
Following the death of King Moshoeshoe II on January 15, 1996, King Letsie III was reinstalled as King on February 7, 1996. His coronation took place on October 31, 1997, in Maseru.
His Majesty was joined in a holy matrimony with Queen ‘Masenate Mohato Seeiso, neé Karabo Anna Mots’oeneng on February 18th, 2000. They have three children, Princess Senate, Princess ‘Maseesio and Prince Lerotholi.
His reign has not been smooth sailing as there were problems that plagued his government and the country.
In 2014, there has been what has been referred to as an attempted coup d’etat (overthrow of state) where some members of the Lesotho Defense Force (LDF) stormed the police station and in the process killed one police officer.
There have been disruptive developments that happened in 2015, there was assassination of then LDF Commander by his subordinates. The similar incident happened again where in 2017, the then acting Commander of LDF was murdered in cold blood at Ratjomose barracks.
Recently Lesotho attracted international spotlight for being in the top list of the countries with highest homicide cases appearing high on the list with countries like El Salvador and Jamaica.
King Letsie III has a keen love for agriculture. It is said that he spends most of his leisure time visiting his family’s cattle posts. He likes arable farming and enjoys country life.
His favourite sporting activities include horse riding, squash, tennis and rugby. He likes music; especially classical and traditional music.
His Majesty is at the forefront of the fight against HIV/AIDS, and he usually takes the lead on December 1, International AIDS Day. On these occasions, he seizes the opportunity to appeal for increased efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
He has been advocating for the fight against HIV/AIDS and had been at the forefront raising awareness about the disease and the associated stigma that comes with it. He has been advocating for prevention, access to treatment and support of those infected by the disease.
As the African Union (AU)’s Nutrition Champion, the King has called on African leaders to prioritize in order to ensure sustainable financing mechanisms for improved food security.
Over the past 25 years, King Letsie III has shown resilience that saw him navigate complex landscape of politics. His reign has witnessed also transformative moments of political developments including the introduction of coalition governments from 2012 to date.
At least five Prime Ministers have served under his reign and they are Messrs Ntsu Mokhehle, Pakalitha Mosisili, Motsoahae Thabane, Dr Moeketsi Majoro and the current Ntsokoane Matekane.
An ardent advocate for agriculture and food security, he aspires for the eradication of hunger and poverty as per the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development for “a world of universal respect for human rights and human dignity, the rule of law, justice, equality and non-discrimination”.
Many Basotho have expressed their continued trust of their King. Whereas the recent surveys have shown the doing trust of the members of the public to the politicians, they have steadfastly embraced the concept of monarchy. He is sometimes regarded as a stabilizing force as Basotho were said to have sharp differences across faith, religion and politics. It is when it comes to the issues of kingship that they come in unison to show admiration and support for him as their ruler.
Throughout his years on the throne, the King has been regarded as a symbol of unity, and hope for the nation.
The recent report of the Afrobarometer, says: “Almost nine out of 10 Basotho say the King should have decision-making power on national issues as well as the power to appoint a caretaker government in the event of a parliamentary no-confidence vote for the Prime Minister, a recent Afrobarometer survey indicates.
“Indeed, a substantial majority of citizens would approve of allowing the King to govern the country, survey findings show.”
His leadership acumen has been recognized and praised widely across the globe. This is manifest on account on some of the roles and titles he holds. In 2018, His Majesty was appointed by the World Bank Group to be the Champion of Human Capital project.
In 2016, the King Letsie III was appointed as Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s Special Ambassador for Nutrition.
Assuming this role, he reminded the leaders to “remember the positive correlation between nutrition and socio-economic development of nations. It is well fed and well-nourished individuals that can drive the economic development agendas of their countries”.
“To me it is a great honor to be appointed as FAO Special Ambassador for Nutrition because it is a subject matter which I feel has been neglected for many years but it is of great importance not only to us as individuals but to countries in the world as a whole, so I am hoping that through my ambassadorship I can contribute to the promotion of better nutrition and food security through the world,” he then said.
In 2019, the Prince of Songkla University conferred an Honorary Doctorate Degree of Science in Agriculture upon the King.
He also holds the title of the Nutrition Champion of the African Union.
One of His Majesty’s cherished roles as the Chancellor of the NUL, is the annual tradition of conferring caps upon the graduates. This practice symbolizes the achievement of success in their academic journey and represents a successful completion of their studies. He has previously said he finds joy and pride in capping the students following their achievements.
As Basotho and the dignitaries celebrated his 60th birthday on Monday, many continue to express support and trust to him. His Majesty symbolizes a beacon of hope for Lesotho’s prosperous future and unity.