Abimael Tlale: A man of many talents
Abimael Tlale, a prominent figure in Basotho politics in the 20th century, was a man of many talents. He plied his trade as a journalist and politician and pioneered a direction many would follow for years to come.
In 1904 Tlale and Solomon Monne founded the first Basotho-led newspaper, Naleli ea Lesotho.
He believed that an alternative viewpoint was needed to that put out by the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society (PEMS) in Lesotho, then Basutoland. The PEMS was a key player in journalism and publishing and influenced the worldviews of the Basotho.
In 1841, PEMS introduced the printed word through periodicals, books and newspaper written in Sesotho. After 22 years, PEMS published Leselinyana la Lesotho (Little light of Lesotho) in Morija. It started as a monthly publication. It suffered a period of interruption due to wars (1865-1869, 1880-1881). It was an independent missionary paper with no influence from the colonial government however it did not cater for views Basotho deemed relevant to their understanding of the socio-political issues. It was for this reason that Tlale started his own paper.
With his continued entrepreneurial spirit, he expanded his empire by establishing a publishing company, A.S. Tlale and Sons. The company published the papers Mochonono and Naleli.
Morija Printing Works sold their old hand press, after having a new power-operated press, to Monne and Tlale. The duo set up their station in Mafekeng where the real work of the printing press began. Naleli at that time started off as a fortnightly written in Sesotho and English with wide circulation in Lesotho, Free State (Orange River Colony) and Gauteng (then Transvaal) for Sesotho speaking migrant workers. Under his editorship, the paper became radical and fired shots at the colonial government though they fought back with a defamation lawsuit.
In 1911, Tlale became a founding editor of Mphatlalatsane (The Comet). The paper became the first to be published in Maseru, the capital city of Lesotho. With the exclusion of Lesotho into the Union of SA in 1910, the papers (Naleli and Mphatlalatsane) further published news of interest to Black South Africans. For instance, there was full coverage of the formation of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) on 8 January 1912.
Politician and teacher
Apart from being a newspaperman, Tlale was appointed teacher to the Letsie II and later an advisor to Paramount Chief Griffith regarding court congestion matters. He continued to showcase his leadership qualities when he was voted in to the Basutoland National Council (BNC). While he was involved with the BNC he also served as president of the Basutoland Progressive Association (BPA). His fellow countryman, Simon Majakathata Phamotse edited Naleli and was an active member of BPA.
Tlaled passed away on 19 August 1938.
Ambrose, D. Lesotho. In: Jones, D. 2001. Censorship: A World Encyclopedia, Volume 1-4. London: Routledge, pp.1403-1405.
Rosenberg, S. Wiesfelder, R.F. and Frisbie-Fulton, M. 2004. Historical Dictionary of Lesotho. Maryland: Scarecrow Press, Inc, pp.324 and 391.