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Moshoeshoe film screened at UFS as part of transformation programme
2004-10-14

A ground-breaking documentary film on the life and legacy of King Moshoeshoe I, the founder of the Basotho nation, will be screened at the University of the Free State (UFS) tonight (Wednesday 13 October 2004) at 19:00.

Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, prof. Frederick Fourie, said the UFS commissioned the documentary as a practical demonstration of the university’s commitment to the continued transformation of the campus and the creation of a new inclusive institutional culture for all staff and students.

It is part of a larger UFS project to honour the Moshoeshoe legacy of nation-building and reconciliation and to explore his role as a model of African leadership.

The documentary tells the life story of the legendary king, with emphasis on his remarkable leadership skills, his extraordinary talent for diplomacy and conflict resolution and his visionary commitment to creating a new nation from a fragmented society.

Almost all the filming was done on or around Moshoeshoe’s mountain stronghold, Thaba Bosiu.

The last part of the documentary explores the lessons for African leadership to be learnt from Moshoeshoe. The hour-long documentary film was produced by the well-known journalist Mr Max du Preez and was commissioned by the UFS as part of its centenary celebrations.

“Through this documentary film about King Moshoeshoe, the UFS commits itself to developing a shared appreciation of the history of this country,” said prof. Fourie.

“King Moshoeshoe was a great African statesman and leader. He was born in this region of the country, but his influence and legacy extends way beyond the borders of the Free State, Lesotho and even way beyond the borders of South Africa,” said prof. Fourie.

As part of the larger project, the UFS is investigating a possible annual Moshoeshoe memorial lecture that will focus on African leadership, nation-building and reconciliation, possible PhD-level research into the life and legacy of King Moshoeshoe and a literary anthology including prose and poetry.

“We must gain a deeper understanding of what really happened during his reign as king. Therefore the University of the Free State will encourage and support further research into the history, politics and sociology of the Moshoeshoe period, including his leadership style,” said prof. Fourie.

According to prof. Fourie the Moshoeshoe project will enable the UFS to give real meaning to respect for the diversity of our languages and cultures, and the unity South Africans seek to build as a democratic nation through such diversity.

According to the producer of the documentary, journalist Mr Max du Preez, the UFS deserves credit for recognising this extraordinary man and for financing this important documentary.

Du Preez said: “It was about time that South Africa rediscovered Moshoeshoe. Colonialist and Afrikaner Nationalist historians have painted him as a sly, untrustworthy and weak leader. Most historians have preferred to glorify leaders in South Africa’s past who were aggressors and conquerors. In the process most present-day South Africans came to regard Moshoeshoe as a minor tribal figure.”

“Yet this was the man who broke the cycle of violence, famine and suffering during the traumatic time in central South Africa in the early 1800s. During the entire 19th century, Moshoeshoe was virtually the only leader in South Africa who did not answer violence with violence, who did not set forth to conquer other groups and expand his land,” said Mr du Preez.

“I have no doubt that the stability that the Free State region has enjoyed over more than a century was largely due to Moshoeshoe’s leadership and vision. He can quite rightly be called “The Nelson Mandela of the 19th Century,” Mr du Preez added.

Explaining the title of the documentary film, Mr du Preez said: “We decided to call the documentary “The Reniassance King” because whichever way one looks at it, Moshoeshoe symbolised everything behind the concept of an African Renaissance.”

“He was progressive, just and fair; he deeply respected human life and dignity (we would nowadays call it human rights); he embraced modernity and technology without ever undermining his own people’s culture or natural wisdom; he never allowed European or Western influence to overwhelm him, make him insecure or take away his pride as an African,” said Mr du Preez.

“Moshoeshoe was the best of Africa. If only contemporary African leaders would follow his example of what African leadership should be,” Mr du Preez said.

Among the interviewees in the film were Lesotho’s most prominent historian, Dr LBBJ Machobane, the head of the UFS’s Department of History, prof. Leo Barnard, Moshoeshoe expert and Gauteng educationist Dr Peter Seboni, Lesotho author and historian Martin Lelimo and Chief Seeiso Bereng Seeiso, Principal Chief of Matsieng and direct descendant of the first King of the Basotho.

The documentary film on King Moshoeshoe will be screened on SABC 2 on Thursday 4 November 2004.
 

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