IN 1973 October, the Anti Antiques, the legendary musical band from Lesotho, came to play at Butha-Buthe High School in Lesotho where I was a student.
Tsepo Mobu Tshola and his younger brother were on the vocals, each with a tambourine beating against the thigh. They wowed the 400 or so teenagers that were cramped in the school hall jiving their way into midnight.
This was but one very early station of this giant on his 67-year life journey to greatness.
Five years later, they would wow us at the National University Netherlands Hall, this time having reincarnated themselves as Uhuru. On their return from a sojourn in London, they changed their name to Sankomota, and became the band to listen to.
I was then in Mmabatho working in the homeland government of Bophuthatswana when, in 1992, Sankomota took music to new heights. In subsequent years Tsola, also known as the Village Pope, would be a guest of honour on stages in South Africa.
Tshola will be remembered as a community builder of note.
He lives in projects, including one with Thami Mtshali of the Galela immune booster. With Tsola, Thami was driving the Awakening Africa project to ensure that Africa takes its position in the world.
The late Mobu (meaning soil) has returned to the soil.
When the Covid-19 pandemic struck in March last year, a team of Basotho in South Africa and Lesotho established the Covid-19 Obe Lesotho under the Trust of Queen Masenate Mohato Seeiso.
Obe, which is a mythical animal in Lesothos oral culture in school music, was the most appropriate lyric. Tsola drew deep and played Obe and gave it new meaning.
As chair of the grouping, it was my task to call him to request permission to have Obe play in the background of the activities of Covid-19 Obe Lesotho.
He granted permission instantly and we chatted about this new danger we faced.
A few months later, as Covid-19s aggression subsided, I called him because I wanted him to be part of a concert by rising star Zwide Ndwandwe, from Empageni in Kwa-Zulu Natal. The youngster started the Madiba Jive as a legacy programme of peace building in South Africa through music. In the fifth version of Madiba Jive, Zwides wings were about to spread after I informed him that I would talk to the Village Pope to grace Madiba Jive and etch it forever in the memories of South Africans and the world.
I said:Ntate Tsepo, there is a young man with a vision and you can add brain and wind in his dream by gracing Madiba Jive fifth version in September.
He said: Ntate Lehohla, I am to receive an award in Mpumalanga on the same date and it is tricky, but if I am able to fly out of Richards Bay to Mpumalanga, take it as done.
This is a man who had a generosity of mind and heart. Unfortunately, the Madiba Jive could not raise enough funds to make the trip possible because of Covid-19 uncertainties that surrounded the mission.
Tshola put paid to the message King Moshoeshoe, the founder of the Basotho Nation gave to Basotho and the world the importance of global citizenry long before this was contemplated. He said it was in response to a colonial system that asked what the extent of Lesotho was. His response was a superior philosophy.
Wherever there is a Mosotho, that is Lesotho.
Tshola enjoined Lesotho and South Africa.
Among mourners of note from South Africa at his funeral was EFF leader Julius Malema, and we should appreciate the project of enjoining Africa as one. He uena Africa, Khale u lutes Hae, tsamaea u eo ipatlela sa ho phela tsoha u iketsetse.
May the soul of Tsepo Tsola rest in peace.
Dr Pali Lehohla is the former statistician-general of South Africa and former head of Statistics South Africa. Meet him at http://www.pie.org.za and @Palilj01.
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