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Basotho celebrate King's 40th birthday

King Letsie III:
»Birthday celebrations will as from today be held in different districts of Lesotho«

© Govt of Lesotho
Misanet / Mopheme, 23 July
- For the first time ever in the history of the post-independence monarchy in Lesotho, the main King's birthday celebrations were held at Matsieng-the seat of the royalty- on Thursday, 17 July.

King Letsie III's 40th birthday celebrations, according to Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, were held at Matsieng as the first step towards decentralising the King's birthday in the next ten years until King Letsie III turns 50.

- The main King's birthday celebrations will as from today until His Majesty is 50 years old be held in different districts of Lesotho, he announced.

The Principal Chief of Matsieng who is also the younger brother of King Letsie III, Prince Seeiso Bereng Seeiso told 'Mopheme - The Survivor' that moving the celebrations to Matsieng was the first step in decentralising the main King's birthday celebrations so that all Basotho could take part in and appreciate the importance of the King's birthday.

- Plans are underway to celebrate the King's birthday in Mokhotlong next year, the Prince added. "From there it will move to other districts in the country. This year it was felt that the main celebrations should be held at Matsieng which is the home of the King because he is turning 40."

The Matsieng Pitso Ground, the venue of the celebrations, was a lovely scene to behold. 444 soldiers instead of the 450 who formed the parade last year, thanks to the training of the Indian Army Training Team (IATT), made a good show which signified the solemnity and importance of this national event.

They were clad in green ceremonial uniforms, draped with white belts and wore snow-white hand gloves.

It was ululations and cheers as King Letsie III accompanied by Queen 'Masenate Mohato Seeiso entered the Matsieng Pitso Ground. They entered in style and pomp really befitting the King.

Their shiny black Mercedes Benz limousine was preceded, followed and flanked on both sides by an escort of police officers in colourful uniforms and mounted on sturdy and well-fed horses which are the trademark of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) in all important state functions.

The crowd erupted into deafening ululation and cheers as the monarch dressed in the traditional red blanket with white stripes got off his official car and greeted the Prime Minister Mosisili and the Queen mother 'Mamohato Bereng Seeiso.

King Letsie III then received the Royal Salute with the Royal Standard broken at Mast-Head amidst the heavy sound of gunfire of the 21-gun salute that is normally fired at King's birthday celebrations.

After the singing of the national anthem, "Lesotho Fat'se La Bo-Ntata Rona" and the inspection of the guard of honour by the King, the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL), the watchdog of the spiritual well-being of Basotho, led the proceedings in prayer with a reading taken from Psalm 21, after which they wished the King long life and many happy returns.

The celebrations reached their climax when the 444 Lesotho Defence Forces (LDF) members forming the parade, and commanded by the energetic Lt. Col. J.J. Mateka of the No. 1 Infantry Battalion marched past around the Matsieng Pitso Ground paying their respects to the King and wishing him many more years. It was a beautiful spectacle to behold.

The newly-introduced LDF Pipe Band stole the show with their unique and unusual mode of playing and exotic marching that captivated the crowd. The band was introduced into the LDF by the Indian Army Training Team currently in Lesotho to assist in the transformation and restructuring of the LDF.

As usual, the King's birthday celebrations were graced by choral music, famo music and the traditional "ndlamo" and "mokhibo" dance. The Queen mother 'Mamohato Bereng Seeiso stole the limelight with her majestic an stylish execution of the "mokhibo" dance.

The King's birthday celebrations were preceded by the presentation of awards and medals to members of the Lesotho Defence Force, Lesotho Mounted Police Service, Prisons Service and civilians at the Royal Palace in Maseru on Wednesday, July 16, 2003. Notable amongst the civilians honoured by the King was Ntilo Matela of the People Living with AIDS (PLOWA) who was made the Commander of the Most Gallant Order of Makoanyane (CMGOM).

King Letsie III is the first son of the late King Moshoeshoe II and Queen 'Mamohato Bereng Seeiso. He was born at the Scott Hospital, Morija on 17 July 1963. He was sworn into office of King on November 12, 1990, under the Office of King Order No.14, 1990 and assumed the title of Letsie III after Letsie I, the eldest son of Morena Moshoeshoe, the Founder of the Basotho Nation.

He is one of the last remaining monarchs in the sub-Saharan Africa. Lesotho shares the monarchy system with countries like Swaziland, Morocco, the United Kingdom, Spain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Monaco, Nepal, Japan and others.

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