Connect with us


Asking the right questions



Run the age of the philosopher through the perspective of the modern or current moment in time. Go on and have a look to make an analysis at the history of humankind on earth and the likely response shall be: Human beings are in their very nature moving, socialising, and talking beings. The introduction of the new set of rules and their bylaws aimed at controlling or fully restricting the ‘normal’ characteristics of the human being is as is usually seen bound to come up to the point where certain questions have to be asked.

The demands of the moment cannot be ignored, but there are certain issues that are pertinent to the issue of human relations that cannot afford to be infringed upon by the rules and bylaws or the instigators cum enforcers thereof. In simple terms, no law or rule can be passed sans the cognition of the honour and the superiority of the human creature regarding both his sanctity as an individual and loyalty as a patriotic citizen. Orders based on such a law are in simple terms autocratic and/or draconian. They therefore should be given heed in an in-depth manner before orders are given by the authorities for their instigation without regard to the sacredness of the character of the human creature.

Made by humans, these laws, rules and regulations can therefore not be made without regard for human honour and sanctity. There is no line of difference between the lawmakers and the populace, no ‘we and them’ type of relationship. The maintenance of the balance of powers demands even more careful appreciation when the demands of the moment tend to be harsher than usual. Given the current circumstances where the entire earth is facing the danger posed by the Coronavirus, it would be inappropriate if such laws as are made to counter the effects of the spread of the disease are not observed closely enough to render them useful for the maintenance of peaceful human relations.

If it comes to a point where the armed services are seen carrying batons and truncheons, rifles and pistols in a civilian environment, then it means the law is being misinterpreted by those actually vested with the appropriate passing of laws. This pattern needs to be addressed with immediate effect where the occurrences reveal a sketch where the interaction between the armed policing services and the citizens ends in injuries and fatalities. There is in simple terms no line of difference between the officer and the citizen, both are actually legal inhabitants living in the same land facing the same disease outbreak. When their interaction turns to altercation, then it is time to ask the right questions.

It is a fact that those who are assigned the task of saving the nation from the Coronavirus should not be found to be the actual or the potential spreaders of the disease due to their apparent lack of understanding. When it comes to dealing with pandemics, such laws or rules as those installed by the appropriate global safety and health authorities should be observed by all regardless their social standing. The issue of dealing with human pandemics and disease outbreaks demands that all should be on an equal footing in terms of treatment or regard by the legal and relevant authorities.

All should be afforded the same equal rights because the disease or pestilence ultimately affects all that come to interact in the course of its lifespan equally. It therefore vexes understanding why one sees reports of incidents where the security forces are seen to use excessive force when there is a bigger issue of dealing with the plague that is in full spate. There is need to understand that the disease is the main point of focus that should be understood in full before people get excited about how they are going to interact. Lack of insight and foresight about the disease will contribute to its spread if all the parties involved seek first to assert their identity and authority. The disease does not care what level one is on the status quo, it affects all with equal reprimand.

There is actually very little information on the disease except calls to wash hands against the unknown. There is actually very little apart from these bits of information from the authorities about how we should deal with the disease. In a yes man type of environment where pleasing everyone is the norm, it would be said to appease the people and say that we are winning.
But the real question that addresses the issue of the lack of in-depth information would want to know; how do we deal with what we have little understanding of? Information on every available platform about the inner ramifications of the Coronavirus should have been passed on to the masses at this point in time by the relevant authorities. We have had other flu plagues previously and the manner with which they were dealt with was not as shallow and indifferent to the concerns of the common people as this one we are going through at this point.

There is clear evidence that the use of fear as a tool for the control of the masses is bearing bitter fruits, and this raises the question: is there need for violence where human beings have to be made aware of the danger of not observing set laws and rules? The use of fear to control human beings in actual fact leads to their rebellion and stampeding where there is little room given to move (look at the case of shops being opened for limited hours).

Prohibition never stopped anyone, what are stronger in the determination of human behaviour are the everyday realities and challenges the human is going through or has to go through. The baton, the boots, the knuckles and the guns never stopped any spirit of survival, humans will naturally revolt if locked down for extended periods. If humans could survive sabre toothed cats in the beginnings of human history, how can they not survive bullets, boots, knuckles and insults? 

How then shall we monitor the trajectory of the pestilence if power games seem to be the lead concern at this point in time? Once again, what are the medical professionals doing to assure us, why are there no warnings against excessive contact between the members of the armed service and their ‘quarry’?

The reality we share living in the Coronavirus times is that there is the constant ‘rise and fall,’ ‘fall and rise’ movement that means that one should always hold on tight to the set rules if we are to succeed in the fight to stay free from the Coronavirus. This degree of commitment in terms of dealing with the disease is reflected in the deeds of all citizens regardless their status if we are all aimed at reaching the desired goal of stemming the tide of the virus.

If one of us lets go even for a second for the sake of slaking their thirst for violence then the dream is bound to be lost. We shall surely come to a point where we regret if those in the armed service do not understand that they should treat other members of society with the respect due to every human.

Where the vain declaration that “I am officer so and so and I need to teach you the law…” becomes the norm, then the national dream to keep the virus out will be thrown to the winds of time where the answer that will come will be in the form of a weak, “We fell on hard times…” because the regular speech we will make then on a daily basis will only be on our failure to deal with what is currently plaguing us.

It is the wisest move not to obey the sinkhole conspiracy theories of a more tepid age in the past where the world could afford to live at a snail’s pace. People succeed because they understand the current circumstances and are able to use their technologies fairly well enough not to be bothered by any challenge or problem that comes along. There is in this case no need for the kind of attitude that may lead the human race to the point where they would have to rush just to feel normal. The reality of the present times is that one as an individual should stay more up than down if they are to succeed against the outbreak.

In whatever endeavours they may choose to undertake either in the natural call of nature to fill the belly for the sustenance of one or to busy the body for reasons of good health, the people should not be abused. To succeed in the broad sense termed as ‘life in the city,’ one somehow ends up believing in not sleeping before they reach their dream. This means that suggesting or ordering lockdown to and upon such an individual demands the act to be civil enough to inculcate understanding and not apprehension or fear as seems to be the case at this point in time.    

As a nation, we are often too polite when it comes to addressing issues that affect us negatively, for example; there has never been any diligent effort to deal with the unsavoury repercussions of poverty, unemployment and disease on a forum level. What one has seen thus far are campaigns that far often than less seem aimed at polishing the countenances of the campaign leader rather than to address the real long term effects of the scourges plaguing the society.

The campaigns are well and good and the intentions behind them are honourable enough, but the fact of the matter is that they do not provide needed long-term solutions to the problems that are prevalent in different societies across the continent, or to be specific, local communities with diverse needs. The current trend is a living example of how different governments that have ruled this state in the more than five decades of independence have never actually understood the power of the spirit of true unity.

These political figures seem to fail to understand the simple fact that the ‘we and them’ spirit of the past times has now come to its date of expiry. There has always been the misconstrued assertion that state control of every aspect of human life will garner success for the larger economy and state, but the truth is that the government is found lacking in terms of policy and implementation to address the challenges of epidemics. This is the point where uniting for the sake of one goal becomes paramount need for our success and survival. In this case, there is no ‘we and them’, there is only one united nation.

There is a pattern of the history of mankind in the world; wars will be incited by kings and generals, young men will go to these wars and come back in body bags, or with minds lost from shellshock and the horrendous conditions on the battlefield: then peace will be made and the youth are forgotten as new governments are formed. The only thing most have to show for their selfless efforts as reward are a few rusty medals and useless citations that will grant them no livelihood in the newly found peace of the post-war era. This time around, the foe is against all of mankind, does not discriminate, and the only way we shall be able to deal with it is only if we adopt an attitude of unity. It has come to a point where the only way we have is if we choose to agree to the reality of the moment, and to accommodate non-violent and novel ways to dealing with such challenges as mass disease breakouts.  

Though the simple reality is that we need money to keep going on, we are sadly confronted with the reality that money is not shared enough, with some parties that have it choosing to hoard it in different ways instead of sharing it with the rest of the community. It is often out of pride that the little cash we have as African people is actually used for purposes other than the upliftment of the rest of society out of the clutches of poverty that plagues the continent.

Selfishness as a reality was seen and those who countered it that include Patrice Lumumba, Steve Biko, Thomas Sankara, Chris Hani and Colonel Muammar Gadaffi are gone. The wheels of time have dealt us a new sleight of hand that finds the world having to share all that they have with their fellow human beings. The truth is that we need each other at this point in time; there is need to draw from the lives of those individuals that saw it before it occurred that it will be as it is in these Coronavirus days.

Time is of every essence, and being in time, being on time, being out of time are all determining factors in terms of eradicating the scourge of the virus. We cannot hope to get out of it alive if we have no respect for each other as human beings, if we are still divided into ‘we and them’.

Tšepiso S. Mothibi

Continue Reading


Harnessing imagery in writing



All writing is imaginative. Every piece of writing reflects the artistry and mental resourcefulness of the writer.

Effective writing also reflects the colourfulness of the writer’s mind and heart; their ability to paint the world to the reader and their capacity or facility of taking the reader with them to beautiful mental and physical and picturesque journeys.

In this piece we focus on how we can hone our creative abilities through the use of imagery and the effect of using colourful and evocative imagery in writing. Let’s go! What if I say, “Learn to prepare wisely and meticulously in time,” you will still grasp the message in a very clear way, isn’t it? But would that be interesting and colourful?

But what if we put it in a colourful manner, “Make hay whilst the sun still shines,” you really grasp the colour and the full import of the message, isn’t it? That’s what imagery does to your writing; it allows you to feel, touch and smell what you are reading.

There is no doubt that the proverb, “make hay whilst the sun still shines” has taken you to the countryside, in a farming community. You hear the bleating of sheep and the neighing of horses.

At the same time, you visualise the good farmer gracefully at work, cutting grass which he is piling in orderly stacks, preparing fodder for his animals in the future. The sun’s rays buoy his attempts and ensure that the hay is prepared with care and colour.

Thus, the point of good imagery is to capture in full detail a world that allows the reader to grasp and enjoy using their five senses. Let me give you a small but beautiful extract which further drives home the point.

“With his machete he detached a brittle clod, broke it on a stone. It was full of dead twigs and the residue of dried roots that he crushed in his fingers.

“Look, there isn’t anything left. The water has dried up in the very entrails of the mountain. It’s not worth while looking any further. It’s useless.” Then, with sudden anger, “But why, damn it! Did you cut the woods down, the oaks, the mahogany trees, and everything that grow up there? Stupid people with no sense!”

Thando struggled for a moment to find words. “What else could we do, brother? We cleared it to get new wood. We cut it down for framework and beams for our hearts. We repaired the fences around our fields. We didn’t know ourselves. Ignorance and need go together, don’t they?”

The sun scratched the scorched back of the mountain with its shining fingernails. Along the dry ravine the earth panted. The countryside, baked in drought, began to sizzle.”

What a colourful piece! The extract aptly paints a countryside’s pulse and the rhythms of seasonal and climate change and how that affects the livelihood patterns of the inhabitants. Have you seen how the sun has been endowed with human-like features?

And the description of the earth assuming human-like features, for instance, “the earth panted.” No doubt, you have seen the earth subdued by the intensity of heat in a way that is similar to a person who is panting.

To paint excellent images the writer needs to have the gift of observation. He/she should be able to observe quite a panorama of things around him and immerse them in the soil of their imagination. Let’s see another good extract where you can discern the link between good images, excellent description and the power of observation.

“It’s in the morning, the fourth watch, to borrow from biblical discourse. It’s damp outside. I brace the slicing chilly weather to go outside. There is a drizzle, constant showers seeping deep down. I pace up at least 400 metres from my hood. I see lined-up, almost cubicle-like houses.

I keep walking, with a spring in the step buoyed by the damp aura wrought by the incessant downpours. I take a deep breath, and step back as it were.

I want to be deliberate. I want to take in everything in my environment; the colours, the diverse hues and plethora of landscape contours. I notice a woman, almost in her forties, from my eye-view assumptions. She is grabbing a basket clutched tenaciously almost close to her big bosom.

She is going to Mbare Musika, the famous agricultural market wherein she intends to buy items for her stall. Behind her, there is a big strapped baby covered in velvet. As she briskly walks, I see her jumping a poodle of water as she observes her stall. I also observe a man, clad in sportswear running trying to cure a big belly.

As I keep watching, I see a woman sweeping her small veranda. I keep walking. I see a woman, plump tending to her garden. She seems animated by the drizzle, thanks to the rains.

I hear another woman, especially her piercing voice, she is selling floor polish. Her voice fills the air. As I drown in the sweet voice, I notice a man staggering. He is filthy. He could have calloused the whole night. He is holding a Black Label quart, speaking gibberish in the air. I keep watching.”

So here were are! Writing is a matter of painting with words, carving images and allowing the reader to experience the impact of all the senses so as to fully grasp the sense of what is put across.

Vuso Mhlanga teaches at the University of Zimbabwe. For almost a decade and half he taught English language and Literature in English at high school.

Send your comments and questions to:

Continue Reading


Politicians’ propensity to score own goals



Lesotho politicians are often in the habit of scoring own goals. For example, look at the circus that took place in the country at the opening of parliament after the winter break. These events remind me of the article that I wrote with the title ‘Scoring own goals’.

This article appeared in this publication dated March 18 – 24, 2021. It argued that Lesotho’s politicians had a propensity to score own goals.

Many say that education and academia should not involve themselves in politics. This belief is a fallacy. The two are intrinsically intertwined. Education and politics link in a complex way.

For instance, parliament is an organ that passes laws that govern and guide national education policies. The interconnectedness includes the curricula that educational institutions and schools teach. Now, if the National Assembly’s focus is misplaced, important legislative decisions may stall or be derailed by lack of action.

I must make a disclaimer though. I am not promoting any view about a political party. I am writing this article purely as a concerned citizen.

I revisit the own goal tendency of those in authority by assessing the drama that unfolded in politics and governance. I review the recent events that culminated in the failed vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Sam Matekane and his government.

I use arguments from research to demonstrate the fluidity of Lesotho’s democracy. Some politicians often take advantage of this fluidity for selfish gain. I contest that the Prime Minister and his government should treat their adversities as stepping stones to meeting their targets.

A constitution is a living document. Accordingly, to keep Lesotho’s constitution alive, current and relevant, parliament should regularly amend it.

However, in so doing, parliament must be careful that tinkering with the country’s constitution does not compromise the essence of democracy they champion. National and democratic principles must form the dogma that underpins the improvements and amendment exercises.

Personal aspirations, ambitions and creed must not underpin the amendments.

The recent events in and out of the National Assembly make one question the perceptions of the different roles players in the democratic playground in Lesotho have.

First, there was a vote of no confidence that the Speaker ruled to defer subject to the high court’s decision.

Second, there was the allegedly drunken MP’s own goal.

The third is the press conference led by the Commissioner of the Lesotho Mounted Police Services flanked by the head of the Lesotho Defence Force and the Director General of the National Security Services.

It is already a hat trick of own goals. Fourth, there was the statement of the Prime Minister claiming an attempted coup.

The fifth own goal is the moratorium that prevented parliament from holding a vote of no confidence against the Prime Minister before the lapse of three years of his inauguration.

The sixth is the practice of shirking responsibility by MPs. MPs often refer political matters to the national courts for decisions. The seventh, and the mother of all own goals, is the electoral system that Lesotho elected to pursue. The National Assembly has 120 MPs. There are 80 MPs representing constituencies and 40 proportional representatives.

The Commonwealth suggested that Lesotho review the modalities of the PR nominations. Sekatle and the Commonwealth agree that the PR system introduced plurality but at a cost. The cost is what scholars and commentators term minority rights and coalitions.

Also, it compromises accountability and transparency. It undermines the collective intelligence of the voters. Chief Jonathan warned against coalition governments by citing their instability. Political instability plagues Lesotho today.
Sekatle and the Commonwealth cited the overreliance on a threshold in awarding PR seats in parliament, cheapening them.

The PR system ballooned parliament unnecessarily. By comparison, Botswana had a population of 2.6 million in (2021). Lesotho had 2.3 million (2021). Botswana parliament currently has 65 seats, and Lesotho has 120.

A consequence emanating from the PR system in Lesotho is a hung parliament. Since 2012, there has not been an outright majority in the National Assembly. The results yielded chaos. Over that period, PMs constantly look over their shoulders. All these coalitions imploded.

Democracy is about the majority. Politicians must be persuasive to attract votes to achieve the majority. In other words, the PR system rewards failure.

The own goals cause stagnation. MPs score these own goals by serving their selfish interests. They waste time and energy on trivial things. And yet, they receive full-time salaries and earn allowances such as sittings and petrol allowances. How, then, would one explain that the external urging of parliament had to engage in the reforms exercise?

Today, reforms are lying latent. Politicians use the reform programme as an excuse for ensuring that they retain or access power. In the recent correspondences to SADC, the government and the opposition cite reforms and democracy to justify their actions. But as I write this article, there is nothing much that is happening along the lines of these very reforms. Why?

The starting point of any achievement is desire and definitiveness of purpose. The definitiveness of purpose is more than goal setting. It is one’s roadmap to achieving the overall objectives. Elsewhere, I took the definition of desire as explained by the author, Wallace Wattles.

According to Wattles, ‘Desire is possibility seeking expression, or function seeking performance’. All desires began as a thought. Expressing their desires through a manifesto is a means by which parties attempt to concretise them (their desires).

The starting point of an election campaign is the expression of political intentions and goals through manifestos. A manifesto is a public declaration of aims and policy by a political party or candidate. Political parties express their desires for what they will do in their manifestos.

After elections, these desires become the guiding principles and laws. Politically mature voters would then elect political candidates based on these manifestos.

Who instigated and drove the reforms in Lesotho? The contemporary history of Lesotho reveals that external forces pushed the reforms. Basotho merely reacted. They do not own the reform process. High on the list of their drivers are SADC, the US through AGOA and the European Union.

The practice contradicts Wattles’ definition. According to Wattles definition, desire must emanate from inside the individual, or in our case, from Basotho and be expressed outward through actions.

I do not want to comment too much about the involvement of the security agencies in politics. In my view, the relevant bodies, namely, the Law Society of Lesotho, the media and the opposition parties dealt with their involvement adequately.

Former PM Leabua Jonathan often described democracy as the government of the people by the people. But, the meaning of the construct of democracy is fluid and elusive, depending on the position of governance in Lesotho’s political arena.

Authors Hughes, Kroehler and Vander Zanden explain that democracy is a system in which the powers of government derive from the consent of the governed, namely the masses who vote, in which regular constitutional avenues exist for changing government officials.

The authors characterise the system as one which permits the population a significant voice in decision-making through the people’s right to choose among contenders for political office. Also, the system allows for a broad, relatively equal citizenship among the populace.

Lastly, it affords the citizenry protection from arbitrary state action.

Now, the question is whether the recent activities fit all the three criterias. Are the actions of the MPs who moved for the vote of no confidence in the PM’s government acting in line with Lesotho’s constitution and democracy?

This definition of democracy says that regular constitutional avenues exist for changing government officials. The no confidence vote exists in Lesotho’s constitution. But the PM and his security agencies questioned this. They claim the move by the members of the opposition to dethrone the government was a coup attempt.

The drama began when an MP from the ruling Revolution for Prosperity (RFP), Thabo Moea MP, sought an order from the High Court to delay the motion of no confidence against the Prime Minister until after the completion of the reforms process.

The opposition contests that the prayer by Moea stifles a democratic process for self-serving ends. Subsequently, the Speaker cited this impending case to defer the matter.

The constitution of Lesotho stipulates that the legislature is to pass laws, the executive is to approve and execute them, and the judiciary is to expound and enforce them. But a scholar, Nwafor, claims that the courts in Lesotho often intrude into the functions of the other arms of government.

Lesotho ‘s constitution confers powers on three arms of government in such a manner as would ensure cooperation and coordination in governance. The courts ought to bear in mind that the effective discharge of the responsibilities of the courts largely depends on the effectiveness of the other arms of government.

Nwafor brings up the issue of encroachment. He asserts that the powers of the different arms of government in such a manner would guarantee a coordinated discharge of government responsibilities to the nation. But, parliament overly relies on the courts to make political decisions. The practice encourages the risk of overreaching.

The PR electoral system denies Basotho the right to choose their representatives among contenders for political office. Instead, parties ‘hand pick’ these representatives in the pretext of the constituency elections outcomes. Often, these PR members are the ones who lost their constituency elections.

These are the politicians whose constituencies rejected them. They represent their parties and not the voters. They do not account to the voters.

Both the PM and the opposition made presentations to SADC. They overlooked the electorate. Why would SADC have power and not the electorate that elected the politicians to office? Running to SADC, an outside organisation, to settle Lesotho’s internal problems is not a solution. It is scoring an own goal. Lesotho, with its 57 years of independence, should be able to solve its internal problems.

Nonetheless, I have a completely different take from Mokhothu on the issue of the protest march by the RFP. It is unimportant to find the instigator of the protest march. The people to persuade are the voters, the people who put governments into power in a democracy, not external bodies such as SADC.

Napoleon Hill’s creed reads: ‘Every adversity brings a seed of equivalent or more benefit’. Any business person knows that business is a solution to an economic problem. So, the PM and his colleagues in his party who are business people must look at the adversity emanating from the opposition as a seed of equivalent or better benefit.

The government must dig deep to find how the problem may benefit them.
They must identify their failures and use them as stepping stones to success.

Elsewhere, I presented the views of an American scholar and activist, Anderson, who suggested that marginalised communities must cease granting candidates blank cheques. Instead, the electorate must draw their expectations and demand the campaigning party or candidate promise to meet them.

This practice is called quid pro quo. It enforces accountability and transparency.

You scratch my back, and I scratch yours. Quid pro quo is an example of one of the universal laws that demonstrate reciprocity. Reciprocity is the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit. The universal law is the Law of Cause and Effect. It means that for every effect, there is an equal cause. You plant a seed, so shall you reap.

Both the government and the opposition ran to SADC for help. Remember, Matekane is a successful businessman. He has, on more than one occasion, explained that he wanted to use his prowess in business to take Lesotho forward. As a businessman, Matekane has faith in his ability.

Words that come to mind here include self-confidence and trust in himself. He believes in himself. Running to SADC does not display this faith in his ability to deal with problems emanating from his opposition.

Hill argues that riches, or any form of success and achievement, begin with a thought. Faith removes limitations. Matekane must apply his faith as a businessman to become a successful politician.

To summarise, the article explores the events emanating from the fiasco of the no-confidence motion. The individuals who ought to champion constitutional democracy in Lesotho betrayed Basotho by scoring hordes of own goals.

I explored the meaning of concepts that helped me unpack some of these own goals. These were democracy, faith and desire. Also, I coupled these with scholarly research views on the constitution of Lesotho.

I contest that while the opposition may argue that they are within their rights to ruffle the government, the PM must use different tactics. He must display faith and confidence in himself and trust Basotho.

The move to influence the voters to back him deserves a big WOW! He must hold more campaigns to persuade voters to support his government. Voters may make or break him.

MPs waste time in discussing trivial issues that have no bearing on the national agenda. Often, they focus on self-serving matters. The RFP promised to refocus Lesotho towards national development and improving the quality of life.

The article also shows that the PR system does not benefit Lesotho. It diminishes accountability and the principle of quid pro quo. Also, it ballooned the numbers in parliament unnecessarily. It increased political instability by forging formations of coalition.

Politicians must refrain from abusing the judiciary by making them make political decisions. Involving the courts in making political decisions leads to encroachment. Encroachment defies democracy.

In conclusion, Matekane must not allow his detractors to derail his mandate. The same is true for the opposition leaders who attempt to dethrone him. No party campaigned on removing sitting PMs.

Also, the MPs must take the responsibilities that Basotho entrusted them with. It is high time that they make the political decisions instead of shifting them to the judiciary or external bodies.

Matekane, his business associates and technocrats in his government should revisit attributes that made them successful. One such attribute is their faith in their abilities. They must remember that riches (and success) begin with a thought, and faith removes limitations.

Dr Tholang Maqutu


Continue Reading


Painting mood effectively



Writing is not different from beautiful artwork. Just like a skilled painter holding a brush with its broad strokes, the writer occupies the same place and vocation in life. Writing is a work of painting life’s experiences, its hues and beautiful unfolding internal journeys. In this piece we focus on mood and how it can be achieved. Many students struggle with understanding and contemplating the scope and ambit of mood in writing.
It is hard to define and frame the scope of mood in writing. What really constitutes mood? Generally, mood encapsulates the totality of the “air” or “spirit” or “aura” that a certain work of art evokes in the human mind, feeling or sensibility. There is a certain dominant feature or streak associated with a certain work of art, place or person.

There is something which is evoked in our hearts which is associated with a certain place, person or event. Every place or event or person carries or imbues with him or her a certain mood or sensibility; and there is a panorama of sensibilities; for instance, a happy or sombre or whimsical mood. We will now focus on a certain extract and discern how it paints mood.

“He quickly rights himself and keeps walking, but there is an unsteadiness to his knees. He has been given many looks in this quarter – dirty ones, blank ones, sympathetic ones, annoyed ones. For the most part, he had learned to tolerate those than can be tolerated, and ignore those that should be ignored, but the look this woman gave him is not a look one gives to humans but to flies, ticks, cockroaches, fleas…Thato feels anger, then humiliation, then something nameless. If he were in his own country he would turn and confront the woman; but now he’s hurt, wounded, a part of him wishing he were invisible. Breathing evenly, he walks with care, only lifting his eyes once he reaches his own quarters, among his own people. He proceeds to his shack. He could stop by Thapelo’s, his neighbour, where he knows that men and women are already congregated to watch videos from home. Yet, no matter the promise of good fellowship and laughter, Thabo does not join them. Watching videos is a form of forgetting; the 2008 elections, the police with batons, the soldiers with guns, the militia with machetes. Do you remember? Limbs broken. Roofs blazing. I remember.”

This extract is characterised by the intensity of feeling and evokes feelings of sadness, despair and pain. The excerpt paints a harrowing and blood-curdling account which produces a sombre, dull and subdued mood. Thato, the protagonist in the story is in a foreign land. He was impelled to leave his country as a result of political violence which saw many people lose limbs and lives. He feels lonely and unwanted in the foreign land. He feels lost and alienated.

There are sentiments of xenophobia expressed through the glances of citizens of the foreign country he is in. Even if he were to entertain himself together with his countrymen residing in that foreign land, Thato still felt a deep and nagging feeling of being an outcast. Thus, we have made very deep and broad descriptions of the circumstances in which the protagonist finds himself with a view to demonstrate how mood is created in a narrative. The creation of mood feeds into the description of the character’s circumstances, his mindset and the space and place in which he finds himself.

Mood, as we have demonstrated from the portrayal of Thato’s experience, has a link with pathos. Pathos is that streak of sadness which pervades a story and creates empathy in the reader. The aim of effective writing is to move the reader and to impel him towards certain sensibilities which are of an affective kind. Mood, when effectively created, allows the reader to grasp meaning which is not directly said in the story or composition.

Meaning in a story is an interaction between the words in a text as read together with the effect of the words, the tone used and the created mood. There are certain words in a text which do not just communicate, but etches in the reader’s mind certain thoughts, viewpoints and feelings. These words would be so evocative. One such word describes Thato’s deepest sense of alienation in the extract given above.

The word describes him as nursing a wish of invisibility, he felt or wished he were ‘invisible.’ His wish for invisibility is of great importance. It portrays how he was deeply affected by the loathing expressed in the eyes of those looking at him with hate and disdain.

So, here we are! Creating a mood is a craft which takes time to acquire and hone. But when achieved, it makes effective reading and allows the reader to get meaning which goes beyond the text.

Vuso Mhlanga teaches at the University of Zimbabwe. For almost a decade and half he taught English language and Literature in English at high school. Send your comments and questions to:

Continue Reading