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Burnett’s Caribbean verse in English



There is no hiding the fact that I have a soft spot for Caribbean literature. Some of their literature like the novels, Masters of the Dew and In The Castle of My Skin, remind me of Africa and its tribulations.

My recent encounter with Paula Burnett’s Caribbean Verse in English caused lots of excitement. Published in 1986 by Penguin, this huge volume is extremely unique. It elaborately follows Caribbean literature from the oral traditions up to the literary traditions.

Rarely do bodies of literature include and publish works from oral traditions.

Caribbean Literature is a distinct body of narratives from the Caribbean islands, written by people who have descended from slaves and the slave traditions. Caribbean literature, like African-American literature, is a literature that reflects on the former slaves or their descendants as they seek to find a place in a territory where they first arrived as slaves from Africa.

Caribbean and African-American literature are important to serious readers of African literature, especially those who seek a broad understanding of the condition of the black people in Africa and those outside Africa.

The Caribbean islands were first called the East Indies by Christopher Columbus, erroneously thinking that by sailing westwards, he had arrived in the famed Spice Islands in the Far East.

In due course, these islands were rightfully renamed the West Indies.

As historian Eric Williams outlines in his seminal works, the Caribbean, like the mainland USA, were part of a territory where slaves from Africa were shipped and made to work on plantations for generations.

Because of the hot and wet conditions and very rich soils, banana and sugar plantations were opened up. This is why the islands are often called the plantation islands.

The Caribbean islands are also called “the archipelago,” a geographical term referring to a portion of the sea studded by islands. The more popular of these islands are Trinidad, Martinique, Tobago, Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica and the Bahamas.

They are in the vast blue Atlantic Ocean, only miles away from the USA coast and South American countries like Venezuela, Colombia, Nicaragua, Honduras and others.

The Caribbean region is also called the melting pot because people of many origins have co-existed here for centuries. They have intermarried and this has threatened the existence of clear cut identities.

There are the Caribbean who are the indigenous people of the whole American continent sometimes called the Red Indians. They were the first to be enslaved. We have the African descendants in the Caribbean.

They made the bulk of slave labour and still remain the majority in the Caribbean. Then we have some Europeans descending from the notorious slave masters, the settlers and colonial plantation owners.

There are Indians and the Chinese who came from the Far East as indentured labour, especially at the demise of slavery.

The Caribbean territory has gone through numerous experiences including slavery, settlerism, colonialism, and neo-colonialism. In this territory, a proper sense of nationhood is weak. Each island tends to be too small to stand alone.

They speak different languages like English, French, Spanish and others. They look to Europe or America for leadership. Sometimes they look to Africa for identity and cultural inspiration.

No wonder the major themes in Caribbean literature tend to be slavery, belonging, being marooned, alienation, moving to Africa or America or Europe.

The Caribbean territory has produced poets of note, amongst them Aime Cesaire, Claude Mackay and George Campbell. The most prominent Caribbean writers have become classical and amongst them are the two poets; Edward Brathwaite and Dereck Walcott.

Their poetry is a window into Caribbean society and its complex nature. However, what you rarely find is a book that dwells on the oral literature of this region. That is why Paula Burnett’s collection remains critical.

The African people brought with them their music, dance, rituals, cuisines, and customs when they moved to the islands. These were then forged and shaped further by their experiences during slavery and colonisation.

They created dances, songs, and chants as a means of expression which reflected their lives in the plantation.

The song called “Guinea Corn,” recorded in 1797 by Robert Renny, is a song-poem. It also comes across as a work slave song sung during work by those slaves who had been brought from the African territory of Guinea. It exudes a deep sense of lodging for a far away Africa which the slaves would never ever connect with:

Guinea corn, I long to see you
Guinea corn, I long to plant you
Guinea corn, to mould you
Guinea corn, I long to weed you
Guinea corn, I long to hoe you
Guinea corn, I long to top you
Guinea corn, I long to cut you
Guinea corn, I long to dry you
Guinea corn, I long to beat you
Guinea corn, I long to grind you
Guinea corn, I long to turn you
Guinea corn, I long to eat you.

This is a powerful song full of nationalism. Through that song, the slave can locate himself within specific geographic location and with activities that give people an identity. In the Caribbean islands, the enslaved workers resisted their conditions by finding ways to keep a sense of identity that helped them to survive the system.

Historians have discovered that resistance took place from the 17th century until emancipation in 1838, which means there was hardly a generation of enslaved people that did not confront their enslavers, often in armed struggles in their pursuit of freedom.

The slaves also developed their own languages related that were totally different from the European languages of their enslavers. In America, new languages emerged and evolved. They were, again, pidgin or creole languages which emerged from the blending of African, European, and Caribbean-European languages.

Eventually, forms of pidgin, differing from colony to colony, emerged into fully-fledged creole languages of their own. All bore strong linguistic features of the dominant African group in the region.

Caribbean and American-born slaves grew up speaking these languages naturally. A similar pattern happened among Europeans and their American-born offspring. Pidgin is easygoing but titillating, as found in this slave song below:

Gal if yuh love me an yuh no write it
How me fe know!
Gal if yuh love me an yuh no write it
How me fe know!
Gal if yuh write it an me cyan read it
How me fe know!
Talk it ah mout!
Talk it ah mout!
Talk it ah mout!

Europeans and Africans across America in Cuba, Brazil, Suriname, or Martinique, for example, spoke with distinct local voices—accents, vocabularies, and intonations.

There is a popular Negro song recorded by Mathew Gregory in Jamaica between 1816 and 1818. It is based on a story in which a planter had become notorious for his cruelty in having sick slaves carried to a solitary place upon his estate called the Gulley where they were thrown down and abandoned.

The bearers were told not to forget to bring back his frock and the board on which he had been carried. One poor soul, who had been secretly rescued and nursed back to health, later met his master by chance in Kingston, whereupon the master seized him and claimed him as his slave.

But when the story passed into the region’s folklore, public indignation was so high in Jamaica, giving birth to the song:

“Take him to the Gulley!
Take him to the Gulley!
But bringee back the frock and board
“Oh! Massa, massa! Me no deadee yet!”
“Take him to the Gulley! Take him to the Gulley!
Carry him along!”

It is said that European slave owners deprived African captives of material possessions during the Middle Passage, but survivors throughout the Americas re-created variants of familiar instruments, if possible.

When resources were not available, they created new instruments. Materials found in diverse environments throughout the Americas varied from gourds, sea shells, wood, bones, and string. In their own time, enslaved people used available materials to construct musical instrument, such as drums, rattles, bells, banjars (an ancestor to the banjo), fiddles, and other instruments.

In the process, enslaved musicians created new forms of musical expressions.

It is from here, many generations ahead and long after slavery that reggae was fashioned out. In the traditional section of this collection, one finds the lyrics of such key reggae artists such as Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley.

Reggae as a musical form born in the Caribbean brings the harsh message from the streets and slums. Reggae music documents the struggles of the impoverished black race. The lyrics go on and on about the constant fight against oppression, joblessness, hunger, and the lack of opportunity on the island.

Informed by Rastafari, reggae is a music that shares the tales of the suffering in the ghettos, repatriation to Africa, worship of Haile Selassie as a deity, and the pressures of living with the shackles of slavery and oppression.

Central to reggae music are Rastas, members of a pan-African religion and way of life known as Rastafari that started in Kingston in the 1930s. The belief system preaches Judeo-Christian scriptures cantered on former Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I, believed to be a reincarnation of Jesus Christ. Ethiopia carries a particular relevance: aside from Italy’s occupation of the country in the 1930s, it has never been colonised by a European power and therefore, carries an image of cultural continuity and steadfast resistance.

Rastafari sought a spiritual connection with Africa while discussing themes of Black empowerment in opposition to British imperial culture that dominated Jamaica’s colonial society

However, despite its mainstream viability and entertainment value, reggae music originated as a deeply political form of protest and contestation against the colonial and imperialist forces operative in the social context of Jamaican life.

Musical ambassadors like Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Rita Marley, and Marcia Griffiths along with many others can be credited with bringing reggae music to the world stage and giving it international recognition.

The Rastafari in Jamaica were among the first on the island to look to Africa as the source of their ancestry and identity, and were also among the first to use reggae music as a form of protest against the oppressive social conditions on the island.

Following in the revolutionary spirit of the Maroons (communities of runaway slaves who fought against British slave owners in Jamaica in the early 18th century), the Rastafari sought to distance themselves from slavery and colonial culture of the island both in appearance and in beliefs.

The lyrics of the song “African” are most touching. Peter Tosh emphasises that as long as you are a black man, you are an African. Whether you are from Clarendom, Portland, Westmoreland, Trinidad, Nassau, Cuba etc as long as you are a blackman, you are an African! Significant in this song is the view that black people are in most spaces out of Africa due to slavery.

There cannot be any meaningful solidarity of black people which does not recognise their long route through slavery. There is even an argument that the transatlantic slave trade was one of the cruellest experiences in the history of humanity.

Born in 1944 in Jamaica, Peter Tosh was a member of The Wailers reggae group from 1962 to 1973. Then he went on by himself and produced many albums and singles. His more well known album is called Equal Rights.

In this book, you find Jimmy Cliff’s lyrics from his song, The Harder They Come. He sings about the importance of being principled in the face of bribes. “I would rather be a free man in my grave than living as a puppet or slave,” Cliff sings.

You also find the lyrics of Bob Marley in this collection and of particular interest is the song Trenchtown Rock, in which he indicates that one good thing with music is that you feel no pain when it hits you.

Bob Marley is a revered musician up to this day. He was born is St Ann, Jamaica, but lived in Trench Town, an impoverished district of Kingston, as a child and young musician. With The Wailers, he brought a Rastafarian consciousness to his great musical talent and professionalism. He died of cancer in 1981.

This book also carries the writings of the iconic black activist Marcus Garvey and such poets of the literary tradition such as Edward Brathwaite and Dereck Walcott. However, it is the very wide sections on Caribbean oral traditions that is more breath-taking.

These verbal traditions were among the few but highly significant possessions brought to the Americas by the enslaved survivors of transatlantic slave trade.

Memory Chirere

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Infidelity and mental health



People usually ask me why I chose psychology. For a simple reason of being fascinated by human behaviour. Which is usually followed by what is psychology? I recall I liked how it was explained during my psychopathology class, “The study of mental processes and behaviour. A science based on evidence which can be validated by using standard scientific measures.”

If I dive into science and psychometrics, I will not stop as this is my favourite part of my work in mental and behavioural health. With that bit of background let us get into it and talk about a topic sensitive to most, infidelity.

Do you know how sometimes people think their mental health has and will always be intact? Yes, this is that article which says wrong my friend! Every now and again something will happen that will shake the limbic system off its normal functioning. This is the time when your ability to process and regulate emotions gets to be on display.

I don’t know if readers remember back in the day, on the roadside by Mama’s Fast Food; adjacent to Sefika taxi rank, there used to be street vendors who had display of pirated famo music DVDs.

I mean the DVDs were right there for one to see, regardless of how illegal the DVDs were. That is kind of what it is with infidelity. When the other partner finds out, there is no going back. The ability to process emotions will be on display, much to the delight of onlookers and passersby.

That is the sad nature of infidelity. It leads to a spiral in hormones. There is usually elevated levels of anger for the partner being cheated on.

Whereas the one who is caught cheating is likely to experience elevated levels of cortisol. This can be seen in flight responses of running away or locking themselves in a Bed and Breakfast establishment as seen by show of screenshots at one of the local businesses at Ha-Matala this week.

I wish it were that simple whereby a man marries a woman, a woman feels unfulfilled, goes seeking fun with another partner, they get caught, the married partners divorce, the woman pursues a relationship with the new-found partner, the husband heals, the end! Let us be honest with one another, it is far more complex than that.

The biggest lie we have been told is that marriage is built on love. While this might be true for some people, I find that such marriages are not without their fair share of challenges.

Therefore, marriage is built on love and other things. For example, physical intimacy, intellectuality, spirituality, finances, and others. I am not sure if readers have encountered that one friend who wants a divorce because their partner is no longer physically enticing.

Does it not make you wonder why this specific friend will be contemplating divorce when their love for their partner is rock solid? Evidently, it becomes an issue of love and other factors that complement love. Now, imagine that you are the husband being cheated on.

You catch your wife red-handed, call family members to come and behold “mohlolo.” How does this affect you? How do you begin to process those emotions of betrayal when it feels like your mental health has never been shaken by anything?

How do you keep a brave face when you will be trending on social media and being used as a meme for other people to make fun of your pain? The expectation is that you forgive and forget about it or undergo an unsolicited divorce, right?

If you are by any chance an adult reader then you know that a hundred things ought to have happened leading up to a handful of cars parked outside a guest house at Ha-Matala. You know for sure that military officials when called by the guest house owner will come to remedy the situation and step-in, then what?

I fear that as adults we are not having intentional conversations about what builds a long-lasting marriage. We underplay and make a mockery of everyday life challenges that pose threats to marriages. We shush a wife that expresses being hesitant to take her husband to friend get-togethers because his English accent is not posh enough for the standard set in the friends group.

Shush her all you want, she will find Jerry with a suit tailor-made at Alice’s shop at Tradorette complex. For those that do not know Alice, she is of Asian descent, she is a tailor whose hand is so good that she has redefined the formal look for those that identify as the Maseru elite.

Jerry will take your Mrs out to that fancy dinner with friends until they make a quick stop at a Bed and Breakfast, one with a beautiful tree line and swans in the ponds. I know you know the one I am talking about.

Ask yourself some reflective questions about infidelity. Are people sorry that they cheated or that they were caught? Would they have stopped if they were not caught? If they swore on a love that is happily ever after, how on God’s green earth does something like that even happen?

One of the therapists whose work in relationships resonates with me says, “Relationships are a patchwork of unspoken rules and roles that we begin stitching on the first date. We set out to draft boundaries — what is in and what is out. The me, the you, and the us. Do we get to go out alone or do we do everything together? Do we combine our finances? Are we expected to attend every family reunion?”

I echo Esther Perel’s views in that any form of relationship requires that you have conversations about how things are expected to happen. I repeat, we take it for granted that we meet the love of our lives, whisk each other into a happily ever after-land. All good and well until Jerry comes along, remember Jerry with the suit and tie?

It becomes a mental health issue when trust is broken, and we lack the emotional regulation to navigate through betrayal. At most, the woman will invite her friends over and the theme of the get-together will be, “Let’s sip and cry together for my ending marriage.” The man will enlist the help of ma-gang, the boys, ma-authi to go over how women are a special kind of snakes. Or it can easily be the other way round. One of the most invalidating things you will struggle with is being repeatedly told that everyone gets cheated on.

You will be told that this is not new as our mothers and fathers experienced it, and their parents before that. You will experience intrusive thoughts of what you can potentially do to the individual that your partner cheated with.

You will have a renewed view of a love that lives happily ever after. You are guaranteed to question monogamy. Your thoughts, feelings and emotions will literally take over your brain’s functionality and this is all you will think about for a decent number of weeks. This will be until the emotions resolve themselves or you undergo a full blown emotional breakdown with psychotic episodes.

Not everyone that lives with a mental disorder was born with it. Some people that are admitted in psychiatric care underwent emotional breakdown caused by infidelity. As a psychotherapist, my wish is that couples talk about these issues before they become unmanageable marital problems and/or infidelity.

Couples refrain from having these intentional conversations of, “I am bored in marriage, I am no longer physically attracted to you, I yearn for whirlwind fun in my life, I am going through a midlife crisis, I fear ageing and not having done things I still want to do, etc.” It would seem that marital infidelity is the scapegoat, the easy way out. Whatever the case may be, love is easy, staying together in a committed relationship is the hard part.

When it feels like Jerry’s cologne smells nicer than your husband’s and you are starting to like basic things about him, like his uneven hairline and chapped lips…this is the perfect time to say, “Hey honey, I think we should talk to someone like mohlabolli.”

“The idea that infidelity can happen in the absence of serious marital problems is hard to accept.”-Esther Perel.
Until Next Time!!!

‘Makamohelo Malimabe  works as a Psychotherapist. She holds a Master’s in Counseling Psychology. She has certifications in Global Health Delivery, Policy Development & Advocacy in Global Health, Leadership & Management in Health, as well as Fundamentals in Implementation Science. Her views are independent and not representative of her professional roles. She is ambitious about equitable health delivery, health policy and decolonised mental health approaches.

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Observations on African Literature



Recently I strayed upon Lewis Nkosi’s very thought-provoking views on African literature. The South African writer and academic has inspired and inspiring thoughts that led me to want to randomly revisit observations made by writers and scholars on aspects of African Literature and African writers.

“The African novel in the European languages is sometimes damned for its double ancestry which is both African and European,” begins Lewis Nkosi in one of his essays.

He proceeds and says that the African novel is “the bastard child of many cultures and genres, the accumulator of many styles and traditions… and that the African novel therefore, cannot properly reflect African reality.” Quite a mouthful.

It is in this context that the debate on the appropriate language of African literature alone is interesting. Cyprian Ekwensi, another great African writer, makes very interesting comments about this matter and others. Speaking to Bernth Lindfors way back in 1973, Ekwensi says that “the Igbo writer has the unfortunate heritage of finding himself in an atmosphere of controversy…because today the authorised form of Igbo is spoken seldom, if at all. I am free to tell a story in Igbo to my parents or my friends, but if I wrote that same story, it would not be acceptable as standard Igbo…”Ekwensi says that for that reason alone.

Many of his earliest works are in English and not his Igbo language. “My original folk tales are in Igbo but they were not acceptable without proper editing by the authorities who controlled written Igbo.” In Cyprian Ekwensi’s great English novel, Burning Grass, there is a delicious and delicate use of the supernatural called the sokugo or the wandering charm.

The story revolves around a series of adventures involving the Fulani in the Sunsaye family, particularly Mai Sunsaye, head of the household and chief of Dokan Toro.

Cyprian Ekwensi grew up in the northern part of Nigeria and as a result of his contact with the Fulani, he was able to appreciate their culture which he portrays through his first novel titled Burning Grass, one of his best novels. It was published in 1962 in the African writer’s Series Collection.

Asked on the African writer’s dilemma of trying to reach a wider audience versus the need to write in African languages, prominent Ghanaian author, Ama Ata Aidoo says that she worries a lot about writing in English, a language “that is not accessible to our people.”

Aidoo continues and says that she is, however, acutely aware that “writing in English makes it possible for me or any African writer to communicate with other people throughout the continent who share their colonial language….I have not pretended to myself that I have an answer. I have also thought that, whilst one is aware of the language issue as big, it is better for a writer to write in English, than not to write at all.”

The debate over the language of African literature has continued to generate significant interest ever since the emergence of African literary writing in European languages. The writers and critics who gathered at Makerere in Uganda in June 1962 at a conference called: “A Conference of African Writers of English Expression” faced the fundamental question of determining who qualified as an African writer and what qualified as African writing.

Was it literature produced in Africa or about Africa? Could African literature be on any subject, or must it have an African theme? Should it embrace the whole continent or South of the Sahara, or just black Africa? And then the question of language. Should it be in indigenous African languages or should it include Arabic, English, French, Portuguese, Afrikaans, and so on?

A year later, a Nigerian critic, Obi Wali, writing in the famous essay “The Dead End of African Literature” in Transition 10 said:

“Perhaps the most important achievement of the conference … is that African literature as now defined and understood leads nowhere.”
He declared that the literature written in European languages did not qualify as African literature. He further pointed out that until African writers accept the fact that any true African literature must be written in African languages, they would be merely pursuing a dead end.

Although Chinua Achebe countered Wali’s position, Ngugi wa Thiongo embraced it, transforming the call for a return to African languages into a critical crusade that has lasted for more than three decades.

Achebe’s argument is as follows:
“Those of us who have inherited the English language may not be in a position to appreciate the value of the inheritance. Or we may go on resenting it because it came as part of a package deal which included many other items of doubtful value and the pos¬itive atrocity of racial arrogance and prejudice, which may yet set the world on fire. But let us not in rejecting the evil, throw out the good with it.”

However, in his book of essays called “Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature,” Ngugi describes the damaging effects of colonialism on African literature, education, and culture. Ngugi describes the conflict between the economic effects of imperialism, still present in Africa, and the need for economic and cultural independence for African people. Ngugi views language and literature as playing a central role in this struggle. He asserts that language is essential to people’s self-perception and to their view of the universe.

He laments that despite his former status as only a student with one major publication, at the time of the Makerere meeting, he was invited while all the prominent Gikuyu writers were not. He describes the ways in which the colonial education system changed African perceptions of their language, and by extension, of themselves. He recounts the divide that he and other African children experienced between the languages of their home and the language of schooling. He retells his experiences of severe punishments that were inflicted on African children for speaking their native tongues in school. Some of the most brutal instances, which Ngugi recounts, include corporal punishment, humiliation, and fines. As a result, Ngugi declared that he would return to writing only in Gikuyu.

It is often stated that the Zimbabwean writer, Dambudzo Marechera looked down upon his mother tongue, Shona. On 6 May, 1982, it appears as if Marechera put his so-called diatribe against Shona into context. He is quoted by Veit Wild in 2004 as having said at a gathering:

“In Zimbabwe,” he declared, “we have these two great indigenous languages, ChiShona and SiNdebele”…”Who wants us to keep writing these ShitShona and ShitNdebele languages, this missionary chickenshit? Who else but the imperialists?”
Marechera could have been putting forward the argument that the kind of Shona and Ndebele narratives churned out from the 1950’s to 1980, were heavily manipulated by the establishment through the Southern Rhodesian Literature Bureau. A thorough study on this matter reveals that the Bureau was created in 1956 as part of the Ministry of Information. Its salient objective was to direct the novel along “the path of least ideological resistance to the Rhodesian government.”

Its founding director, a Mr. Krog, set out to search for subversive material in every manuscript before it was published. This was counterproductive to the development of the novel in Shona and Ndebele rendering it generally ‘silent on contemporary socio-political crises’ and having characters who are ‘neutral on colonial economic policies.’ It is also argued that this saw the development of fiction ‘dabbling in stereotypes based on idealistic morality and caused ‘a dearth of exploratory historical fiction.’

As a result of these influences, the Shona novel is torn between protesting against colonialism and, ironically, persuading the reader that colonialism delivered the black folk into modernity and a higher plane of existence.

The new urban setting is portrayed as destroying the Shona people’s well being, their harmony and decency. Patrick Chakaipa’s Garandichauya (1963), for example, operates in the same mode. In this novel, the rise of the urban centre is the rise of wildness and immorality.

However, the veiled suggestion (in such works) that the black people should remain in the tribal trust lands, if they are going to make real sense of their lives, is rather startling.

Asked on what he thinks is the role of the African writer and African literature itself, Cyprian Ekwensi says, “I believe that the role of the writer is dictated by the social and political atmosphere in his country. If all the writers were locked up…they would find it difficult to do anything. But if writers were listened to as a voice, the warning voice or the voice of the prophet, Africa might benefit.”

This is more or less in line with Chinua Achebe’s views on the role of a writer in society. Achebe considered himself a teacher and lawgiver. He was aware that he was not just an artist but a cultural activist too. He felt deeply about the way Africans were looked down upon. He always hoped that maybe his books could straighten that up.

Achebe’s actual words are:

“The (African) writer cannot expect to be excused from the task of re-education and regeneration that must be done. In fact he should march right in front . . . I for one would not wish to be excused. I would be quite satisfied if my novels (especially the ones set in the past: Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God) did no more than teach my readers that their past – with all its imperfections – was not one long night of savagery from which the first Europeans acting on God’s behalf delivered them. Perhaps what I write is applied art as distinct from pure art. But who cares? Art is important but so is education of the kind I have in mind. And I don’t see that the two need be mutually exclusive…”

Kenyan writer Micere Mugo makes very critical observations on certain issues in African Literature. Through her scholarship and poetry, you quickly see that Micere Githae Mugo is an avowed Marxist, feminist and nationalist. Her position is informed by a nuanced understanding of African women in the context of history.

Talking to Adeola James in 1986, she says, “The kind of writer that I have a lot of time and respect for is a writer like Alex La Guma. I admire the fact that his writing was not only talking about struggle, but he was part and parcel of the struggle in South Africa. I admire somebody like Ngugi wa Thiongo, whose example and position in life has demonstrated his commitment to the struggle of the Kenyan people. This kind of writer I want to identify with.”

About women and feminism, Mugo says, “The African woman occupies the lowest rung of the ladder.” She clearly states that women in Africa are oppressed by both African patriarchy and colonialism. To her, they bear the double yoke. Mugo says that as feminists, we must know that not all women are oppressed because some women are part of the oppressive capitalist class because of their own historical positions and race. More specifically, Mugo says, “There is nothing wrong in singing about women but I think we must be careful to define and specify which women we are singing about…”

On the question of whether the African woman writer is muted or not, Ama Ata Aidoo says that the question of the African woman writer being muted has to do with the position of women in society in general.

She feels that African women writers are just receiving the general neglect and disregard that women in the larger society receives. Aidoo says she understands the concern that in African Literature maybe there is no woman writer who has risen to the stature of Achebe or Ngugi or Soyinka.

She indicates that this could be because the assessment of a writer’s work is in the hands of critics and it is they who put writers on pedestals or seep them under the carpet.

There are so many key issues to be dealt with; beginning with simply defining African Literature itself, there is the unresolved issue of which language to use and even on the direction that African literature ought to take. All these random observations could be useful to students of African Literature.

Memory Chirere

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Urban planning and economic growth



The rate of urbanisation in Lesotho is increasing alarmingly. Peri-urban areas are growing more rapidly than gazetted urban areas. This growth causes encroachment of residential development on prime agricultural land thereby threatening food security.

Various stakeholders such as field owners, field buyers, fly-by-night estate consultants and agents, chiefs and councils are all taking part in this disastrous practice.
Field owners illegally sub-divide their crop fields for selling to prospective buyers. Fly-by-night estate, unqualified and unregulated consultants and agents sell the plots. Corrupt chiefs prove rights ownership and false land use while under -apacitated local authorities issue fraudulent certificates of allocation.

This practice happens daily and no one seems to care, at least practically. This haphazard sub-division of land by inexperienced individuals causes havoc in the provision of services now and in the future.
Let me call it a ticking time bomb ready to explode and smash both the local property sector and the economy. Land disputes are increasing (this can be evidenced by the increasing number of cases in the district land courts) as sometimes more than one individual is allocated the same piece of land.

This makes urban and regional planning seem like an unwanted child, a bastard who is disowned by the authorities. Authorities pay lip service to the importance of spatial planning in the country. Whereas they seem to understand its importance in words, in deeds they appear as though it is something useless, unwanted and many people seem to be in a wilderness in relation to how town planning ought to be. It is relegated to the side-lines while the country is being destroyed, not being aware that it is the core foundation of all built environment processes.

Currently, Lesotho’s population is estimated to be at 2,007,201, unemployment is officially at 32.8% and GDP growth is at a dire 1.2% (Bureau of Statistics, 2019). Looking at these statistics and the state of planning in our country, which sane investor would put his money in such a country and expect positive returns? The answer is, very few investors. This situation has to change and for it to change, we need to change the way we do business. Urban and regional planning should be let loose in order to offer its full potential contribution to economic growth and development of this country.

In order to render planning as a stimulator to economic growth, we need to go back to the basics of planning while also embracing the future that is technology. The basic thing in planning is control, regulation and facilitation of development of land and land use for the well-being of both the people and the natural environment. The increasing rate of growth of urban areas call for tight regulation of the development processes in these areas.

Lesotho should be zoned into grand different land uses in order to maximise production by putting to use land on its most suitable potential use. Intensive land studies should be undertaken in order to ascertain which use is most suitable for which part of the country. After these studies are completed, the National Land Use Plan should be produced and gazetted so that it becomes part of law and be easily enforced to ensure compliance. The country should be zoned into special economic zones. Today cannabis growing seems to be the new gold mine in Lesotho. Suitable places should be earmarked for cannabis growth, production and oil extraction.

This zone should include all associated activities both up, down and side stream in order to encourage beneficiation and value addition of the products. Suitable areas should be earmarked for manufacturing such as Maputsoe, Thetsane, Ha Belo and Maseru Industrial Area. Places with high concentration of mineral deposits such as diamonds, crude oil and quarry should be earmarked for mining and its associated activities.

Pristine wetlands and water sources should be protected from encroachment by other land uses especially unregulated grazing in order to safeguard the availability of clean water supply and security. Rangelands and both exotic and indigenous forests should be protected and maintained in order to enhance the production of wool, mohair, hides, milk and meat and also to fight climate change respectively.

Opportunities can be sought to produce forests for economic purposes such as timber and wood. Tourism areas and the countryside should be conserved so that nature lovers should visit our country en-masse for its beauty, fresh high altitude and crystal clear waters. Lastly, agricultural land should be highly protected for food production and security. If land use zoning is adhered to and enforced consistently, investors will be willing to spend their money on initiatives on which they believe yields would be lucrative. This will create much needed jobs and increase economic growth and development.

The government and the private sector have to both contribute in investing and planning provision. The government has to be reliable in the provision of policy certainty and requisite legislation to enforce planning. It should also make sure that its officials, from the Prime Minister down, adhere to sound planning standards in both words and deeds. It should commit adequate resources, especially financial and human to the practice of planning within its departments. Political will to planning should be displayed by the government.

While the country is still far back in terms of technological innovation, the private sector should support planning through investments in 4IR things. They should equip planners with Geographic Information Systems, drone technology, high definition satellite imagery and 3D/4D printing capabilities.

Planners should be able to forecast future events through the use of state of the art technological infrastructure in order to produce timely and reliable planning information for economic development. They should be able to monitor developments happening everywhere in the country in real time. This technology would also enhance disaster management and preparedness and rapid responses to both disasters and crime. If these investments would offer reliable planning /spatial information and advice, investors would more likely be willing to open shop and help us build our economy.

It is time that the public lodge their planning applications online, and be approved online by all local authorities in the country. They should seek planning advice from the comfort of their homes and workplaces without necessarily having to travel long distances to planning offices.

The planning cadre should be trained in order to better understand current societal challenges and how they could be solved. The private sector’s assistance would come handy in this through the sponsoring of seminars, conferences and short courses to be undertaken by the planners.

In deed all of the above propositions are dreams, they can only be realised if there is a will, and in deed money.

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