By ‘Marafaele Mohloboli
IF not us, then who will bring us change?
This is a million dollar question asked by Sheriff Mothopeng, a publicly known gender non-confirming person to stand for the national elections slated in for 7 October under the recently formed Sam Matekane’s Revolution for Prosperity (RfP).
With elections just two months away, Sheriff aspires for change and recognition.
Mothopeng, 43, is a Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans Intersex and Questioning activist and archaeologist professional who has always represented those around him on their rights, and for him the journey is far from over.
He has represented and served in and out of the country and has always flew Lesotho’s flag high on the much misunderstood LGBTIQ.
His is a life of fulfillment as he contaminates the world with his bubbly self, lighting up every dark corridor that he walks through.
Sheriff on growing up
“I grew up in a then small village of Maphotong Ha Elia in Roma, which then had about 30 households and has since grown to a bigger village of over 70 households. Access to drinking water and electricity has been a problem in my hood since time immemorial.”
What’s close to Sheriff’s heart?
“Issues around human rights, service delivery and equal access to resources and opportunities and community service are very close to my heart.”
Speaking to Lesotho Express, Sheriff says he has dedicated his life of commitment on advocating for human rights for the past 14 years.
He has been an active member of many youth clubs that focused on farming, First Aid, HIV and environmental protection. In most of those clubs he held leadership positions which exposed him to skills’ enhancement opportunities through organizations like The Lesotho Red Cross, Lesotho Young Student Community and United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Why Sheriff joined politics
With the closest health centre being two hours walk away for an average healthy person and 30 minutes’ walk to the main road to catch a taxi, I have seen my people suffer, especially the elderly.
This is the same for the young ones thirsting for education but dissuaded by long walks to their educational well. I want to bring about a change in my time.
I want to be a voice of the voiceless with influence and a change that I would like to see in my country, hence I joined politics.
“This is not new to me; I have dedicated my life to representing and protecting Basotho’s basic human rights throughout Africa and beyond. Lesotho like most other African countries is faced with a handful of economic, social and political challenges, where history has shown how HIV and other related co-morbidities have been used for self-enrichment by those in power at the expense of our people.”
Sheriff believes that with him in the political sphere, discrimination against the LGBTIQ will be a thing of the past replaced by inclusion in police formulation in the country with recognition in the Parliament of Lesotho should he win in his Thaba-Putsoa constituency come October.
Sheriff becomes the first ever of his identity to enter Lesotho’s political sphere, making his party the first to recognize his community, which forms part of the vulnerable groups still struggling for acceptance in the country due to its ‘Christianity’ norms.
Sheriff’s list of challenges
Living in Lesotho today comes with a fair share of challenges which include poverty, human trafficking and lawlessness to mention but a few, with women and children being the most vulnerable.
The irony is that, of many African countries, Lesotho has a potential to feed Africa with organic agricultural produce and sustain its economic freedom.
What’s in Sheriff’s school bag?
This archaeologist started school at Thaba-Chitja primary school between 1985-1991, where he completed the then standard seven (grade 10) with good results that landed him at St Mary’s High School, a well renowned girls’ school seated in the heart of the Roma valley, with the strictest and disciplined nurturing from the Sisters of the Holy Family of Jesus Mary and Joseph.
He later enrolled with the National University of Lesotho in the faculty of Environmental History and Cultural Heritage.
He also brags numerous other certificates of achievement in Governance and Leadership as well as Public Policy.
Fighting to be ‘The Sheriff’
This is a man who understands fully and well the pain of growing up with a ‘different identity’.
When Sheriff was born, his mother named ‘her’ Lineo as she thought she had birthed herself a daughter. It was only a few later when Mothopeng rediscovered the “man” in her and insisted on defining his sexuality as transgendered.
For all these years, Sheriff has fought stigma and discrimination as Lesotho maintains its position to remain conservative, legally silent and “less supportive” of other sexual practices viewed as not defining Basotho.
These and many other challenges have not deterred nor dampened Sheriff’s quest of finding himself and he forges on from a different terrain likely to bring about change and un-mute the silent legislators.
This identity battle is a battle Sheriff is not ready to lose, for him and for all others in the same ship hence he’s joined politics.
Sheriff has two documentaries under his name, both meant to bring understanding and acceptance in his surroundings.
“I am Sheriff” and “Man in me” can both be viewed on You Tube.
He believes that he has to stand up and be counted and be the change that he wants to see in the world, hence he questions “If not us, then who will bring the change to our doorstep.”