By: Mpho Shelile

Maseru – The Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC), in collaboration with the Selemo Association, celebrates the beginning of the Basotho New Year with a grand event named ‘Rata oa Heno’ in Maseru on Friday.

This initiative, which is launched to honour King Letsie III’s birthday in July, embodies the spirit of unity and community that the King has championed throughout his reign. The phrase ‘Rata Oa Heno,’ meaning ‘Love Your People,’ aims to leave a lasting legacy of service and solidarity among the Basotho people.

For the second consecutive year, the LTDC partners with the Selemo Association, recognizing the importance of supporting endeavors that promote the culture and traditions practiced by Basotho forefathers. This joyous event, inspired by a biblical verse, marks a significant moment for the Basotho people, ushering in a period of reflection, renewal, and cultural pride.

It encapsulates the spirit of community and togetherness deeply rooted in Basotho culture, bringing together people from various walks of life to celebrate their shared heritage and the dawn of a new year according to the traditional Basotho calendar.

The festivities were a vibrant showcase of Basotho culture, featuring traditional music, dance, and performances that highlighted the rich heritage of Lesotho. Attendees were also treated to a colourful display of traditional attire, crafts, and cuisine, underscoring the importance of preserving and promoting Basotho customs and traditions.

In his address, the Chief Executive Officer of LTDC, Molupe Pheko emphasizes the significance of the Basotho New Year in fostering a sense of identity and unity among the Basotho people. He notes that the celebration not only serves as a reminder of the past but also as a beacon of hope and progress for the future.

“This celebration is a testament to our resilience and our commitment to preserving our cultural heritage,” says Pheko. “It is a time for us to come together, reflect on our journey, and look forward to a prosperous year ahead.”

He emphasizes that the theme of the Selemo campaign is solidarity, stating that celebrating the new Basotho year rekindles rapport and discussions around Basotho culture, solidifying a strong base for the identity of the Basotho Nation.

Pheko concludes by stating that this fosters a culture-based economy where Basotho support each other’s endeavors, encourages patriotism, and leads to the celebration and preservation of Basotho beliefs and way of life.

In his remarks, His Majesty King Letsie III expresses his pleasure in celebrating the new year with the Basotho people and launching the ‘Rata oa Heno’ initiative. He urges every Mosotho to embrace the spirit of kindness and treat their neighbours with love.

“With this initiative, I call upon all who can help the more disadvantaged members of our communities to reach out,” says King Letsie III. He also requests all Basotho to celebrate his birthday on July 17th by showing kindness and love to fellow Basotho.

Principal Chief of Matsieng, Prince Seeiso Bereng Seeiso, highlights the importance of cultural events in strengthening community bonds and fostering a sense of belonging. “The Basotho New Year is a time for us to reconnect with our roots and celebrate the values that define us as a people,” says Prince Seeiso. “Through events like ‘Rata oa Heno,’ we aim to inspire pride in our heritage and encourage future generations to carry forward our traditions.”

He emphasizes the importance of Basotho understanding their roots, stating, “If we do not respect our culture and heritage, the peace we strive for as a nation will not come to us. We must have love, unity, and humility.” Prince Seeiso concluded with a powerful call to action, “Basotho Sekoele,” urging the Basotho people to return to their cultural foundations.

The celebration also featured various stalls and exhibitions showcasing local artisans and entrepreneurs, providing valuable opportunities for local businesses to gain exposure and connect with a broader audience, thus contributing to the region’s economic development.

In his remarks, Hon. Motlatsi Maqelepo, Minister of Tourism, Sports, Arts, and Culture, highlights that the ‘Rata oa Heno’ campaign beautifully embodies the commitment to love, unity, and community service. “This initiative is dedicated to celebrating the birthday of our revered King Letsie III throughout the month of July. His Majesty has always called upon us to unite and show love and compassion to one another. This campaign is our heartfelt response to his plea,” says Hon. Maqelepo.

 “As we embark on this journey, I call upon every one of you to participate actively in this campaign. Let us make Rata oa Heno an annual tradition, a celebration of service that will positively impact lives and strengthen the fabric of our society. By working together, we can ensure that the legacy of love and unity we are building today will inspire generations to come,” he concludes.

As the day drew to a close, the atmosphere was filled with joy and optimism. The Basotho New Year celebration had provided a platform for cultural expression and reinforced the importance of unity and community spirit.

In a world where cultural identities are increasingly under threat, events like ‘Rata oa Heno’ serve as powerful reminders of the enduring strength and beauty of Basotho culture. As the Basotho people embark on a new year, they do so with a renewed sense of purpose and deep appreciation for their rich heritage.

The LTDC and Selemo Association’s successful commemoration of the Basotho New Year promises to be a cornerstone for future celebrations, ensuring that the spirit of ‘Rata oa Heno’ continues to inspire and unite the Basotho people for generations to come.