Connect with us


Bootlicking with passion



THE imminent demise of Uncle Tom and the Feselady has unleashed a nauseating bout of unprecedented sycophancy.
Last week the Public Eye treated us to some 2 000 words from State House employees furiously bootlicking the Feselady. It was a battle of tongues as bearded men and breasted women fought to leave their saliva on the Feselady’s boots. By the time the story ended the Feselady was drowning in the saliva.

Muckraker hopes she used her international trips to get some basic swimming lessons.
First to stick out her tongue was ‘Makeketso Rebecca Motopela, a State House employee, who seemed too excited to be interviewed. Along the way she pooped some eye-popping tosh that should have stunned even the Feselady herself.

Motopela said she has worked for the Feselady and Uncle Tom for over seven years, and is close to both.
That sounded fair and fine until she announced her job at the State House.
“I work in their bedroom,” Motopela said.

Clearly, she felt it was not enough just to say she works at the State House. She just had to specify a room as if it’s a department. Muckraker wondered if Motopela does night shifts too.
It is important, at this point, to put brakes on your imagination. Let’s assume she is just a naïve woman trying to defend her boss. Her point, of course, was that she knows them too well because she works where they sleep. And that makes Muckraker wonder why she was not in the choir when the couple was singing.
We got the message loud and clear, though. Seven years in the bedroom is a long time.
What you think of her words is your business. Muckraker is responsible for her words, not your thoughts.

Then there was Keneuoe Machela who said she is the director of the Feselady’s Trust Fund. Machela was on fire as she waxed lyrical about the Feselady’s virtues.
“She is like my mother, sister, friend and everything,” she said of the Feselady.
As a rule, you should never trust anyone who says someone is “everything” to them. Suffice to say Machela looks too old to be calling the Feselady “mother”.
Machela was crying more than the bereaved.

“This whole thing is traumatising to me and my family as she has not only been good to me and my family but to the whole nation as well,” Machela said.
Notice here that the only reason this “thing” is traumatising her and her family is because the Feselady has been good to them. That is to say if the Feselady has not been good to them then her troubles would not be traumatizing Machela and her family.

That qualification is crucial. And so is the use of the word “traumatising”. She probably meant that the trauma is caused by her impending loss of a job.
In the meantime Muckraker is still flabbergasted by Machela’s lie that the Feselady has been “good” to the “whole nation”. The truth is that the Feselady has traumatised the whole nation. For three years she was hogging our newspapers, airwaves and social media with her monkey shines.

If she was not beating someone at a hospital she was tongue-lashing waitresses. When she was not throwing opulent birthday parties she was spanking senior government officials.
She had the nerve to accuse ministers of incompetence while running her own Trust Fund like a spaza shop.
We were still recovering from Motopela’s bedroom story when Nteboheleng Ralekuku entered the fray.

“Definitely! I am hundred and fifty percent convinced,” Ralekuku said when asked if she believes the Feselady had nothing to do with Lipolelo’s murder.
Only idiots are convinced 150 percent because it’s mathematically impossible to do that.

Ralekuku’s only contribution to the story was to show what dunderheads the Feselady has for friends. No surprise there.
Manama Letsie, a failed politician, was quoted as a “concerned citizen” (whatever that means).
You will remember him as that chap who was speaking for Stone Shi, the Chinese broker who pulled a fast one on wool farmers. Letsie said he had no personal relations with the Feselady but even rats in Motimoposo would laugh at such a joke.

The disclaimer sells him out. Muckraker can only say Letsie should not be too clever by half. His pseudo-analysis of the case against the Feselady makes him look silly.
In any case, anyone who describes himself as an activist in a political party has no right to be taken seriously. Being an “activist” is a job that has no pay or purpose. That is to say it is not a job. Neither is it even a hobby.

All politicians know that an “activist” is that nonentity you hire when you want some loud shrieks.

Forget the nonsensical cliché about age coming with wisdom. Sometimes age just comes alone, unaccompanied by logic and probity. As lonely as a herd boy in the mountains.
Some old men remain arrogantly stubborn to the very end. Every village has that quarrelsome grey-haired old man always itching for a fight.
Uncle Tom is at it again, confusing an already confused situation.

As his party rummages the political bins for the next Prime Minister Uncle Tom is busy playing the spoiler, spitting on those auditioning for his position.
Like Idols’ Randall, Uncle Tom has shown nothing but contempt for the contestants. Never mind that he has long lost the authority to run this show.
Two weeks ago the man reluctantly tossed the towel into the ring after his own political blunders and legal woes chocked his waning political career.
Despite the occasional barbs in his capitulation speech the old man of Lesotho politics spoke some sense. Muckraker was however far from being fooled, for this is a sly political operator sitting on a mountain of 55 years of experience in the messy and stinking business of politics.

And it wasn’t long before he pulled a knife from his socks.
Last week the Public Eye quoted him saying the brouhaha over his replacement is mischievous because “I am still the prime minister and there is no vacancy”.
“You cannot seek to fill a non-existent vacancy unless you are mad,” he added with gusto.
You read that right. Up-side-down goes the logic. Sense is on the run like the Feselady. Catch it if you can.

A man who has announced that he will leave in July or earlier says his position is not up for grabs.
If you had just dropped from another planet you would wonder why a seasoned politician is getting bamboozled by such simple things. Surely the old man cannot be getting lost in a one roomed house.

But this is Uncle Tom. He refuses to allow circumstances to render him irrelevant. He wants a piece of the action and is determined to bite a huge chunk of it. He insists on playing a rough game when his bones are just a minor tackle away from cracking.

You don’t need to be a sorcerer to decipher what is happening here.
The game plan is as clear as a goat’s behind. Uncle Tom suffers from a disease that afflicts most old people. It’s called forgetitice. Its symptoms include forgetting what you ate for breakfast and the names of those around you.

This would not be a problem if he was just an old man living out his last days in Qaqatu.
But he is leading a government. His decisions affect two million people and future generations.
It is possible that he doesn’t remember that he said he will leave in July. He probably forgot telling us that he is too old to be leading the party and the government.
Still, such amnesia would not be so toxic if Uncle Tom was not surrounded by a bunch of scheming nurses who are taking care of their interests instead of looking after him.

It is those unscrupulous nurses who have stolen Uncle Tom’s ears and have made it their toys. They are busy stuffing tosh into those ears.
They keep telling him that he is the real McCoy when he is just a sitting duck. They are lying to him that he still has the mojo when he is a man in the twilight of his career and life.
Such manipulation borders on abuse of the elderly. No senior citizen should be subjected to such callous treatment.

But Uncle Tom has only himself to blame for his misery. Over the years he had amassed a battalion of rascals with a penchant for backstabbing. It is therefore not shocking that as age caught up with Thabane this clique has become more brazen in their shenanigans. They are now pulling the old man’s strings.
This, by the way, is nothing new. It happens in every family. There are always those cousins and nephews who surround old people like maggots.
They say they are taking care of their aged relatives but they are just angling for inheritance.
The nurses at the State House say Uncle Tom needs them but the truth is that they need him more.
He is their meal ticket. Without him they will be common Basotho men and women pounding the streets of Maseru, penniless. We know them.

Nka! Ichuuuuuuuuuuu!

Continue Reading


We need a coordinated approach on youth challenges



For a number of good reasons, all of us are concerned about problems that face Lesotho’s young people, particularly youth unemployment, and the increasing tendency towards anti-social behaviour among sections of Lesotho youth including their increasing admiration for criminality.

Not only do members of such groups admire criminality and actually commit crimes but they commit crimes without much care as to the harm and other costs that their actions inflict on immediate victims and on society-at-large.

Evidence of public concern about these problems includes the fact that within society individuals, groups and public and private institutions have all expressed concerns over problems facing the youth, with some of these parties making attempts to come up with ideas and measures to assist.

However, a number of problems seem to be emerging on, at least, three fronts. Firstly, a seeming lack of coordination in addressing problems that face young people. Secondly, lack of clarity on questions of whether (a) parties that seek to assist are basing their interventions on credibly identified sources of problems that face young people; and (b) whether any credible assessments are made to ensure that interventions such parties are proposing and implementing have potential to solve problems that face Lesotho’s young people.

There are many examples of what may seem to us, members of the general public, to be lack of coordination in approaches to solve problems facing young people. One such example may be sufficient. On January 8, 2024, Lesotho TV broadcast a statement in which the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) authorities announced establishment of some army facility where Basotho young people would be taught some values, including patriotism.

The very next day, on January 9, 2024, Lesotho TV broadcast another statement, this time by the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) authorities, announcing the LMPS’s plan to establish a police facility at which young people would be taught anti-crime and other values. In their essence, the LMPS’s plan sounded not totally dissimilar to LDF’s.
Apart from the LDF and LMPS’s plans for Lesotho’s youth, there are also public and private sector initiatives to nurture and support entrepreneurial talents of Lesotho’s youth with a view, among others, to fight youth unemployment and develop the country’s private sector.

Politicians have also been seen to sponsor football games for young people in their constituencies with a view, they say, to keep young people from crime and narcotics. These events cannot be criticised too much but given that they are one, or two-day events that take place during specific times, they look more like publicity stunts.

National sports federations are now complaining that politicians who sponsor these events put too much stress on sports as a means to fight crime. What federations want is that, if politicians want to help, they should stress the importance of sports as careers, and sponsor young people to develop their sporting talents accordingly.

Amidst expressions of concerns and various parties’ attempts to address problems facing Lesotho youth, public authorities that we have not heard from, or from who we do not hear enough, are those charged with responsibilities over precisely problems facing young people; that is, authorities at the Ministry of Youth.

Admittedly, we do not know if the initiatives of the LDF, LMPS, and others are carried out in consultation with or with the blessing of the Ministry of Youth.

The worry ought to be not only whether interventions of the LDF, LMPS, and others have the blessings of the Ministry of Youth. Instead, the worry should extend to the question of whether the Ministry has any national plan to address problems facing young people. And, if such a plan exists, we would expect that it identifies the LDF and LMPS as places where young place can be coached; and initiatives of these and other institutions would align with such a plan.

Without an identification of the army and the police as implementing agencies of the Ministry’s plan, and without the army and police’s initiatives alignment with the Ministry’s plan, at least two things are likely to result: duplication of effort — as seems to be the case with the LDF and LPMS plans; or, at worst, LDF and LMPS plans might contradict and undermine national plans entrusted to the Ministry of Youth.

In the worst case scenario that a national plan does not exist, we face the danger that anybody wishing to address problems facing Lesotho’s young people can do so, basing herself, or himself on a personal or group perception, and implementing plans and solutions based on such perception.

As in the case of too many people stirring the same cooking pot without coordination, undesirable consequences can be expected from a situation where just about anybody can apply a solution to a public problem.

As hinted above, a good national plan aimed at addressing problems that face Lesotho’s young people would have two characteristics, at least. First, it would be based on our assertion of the kind of society we want to be; an investigation of problems that stand in the way of achieving such a society; how such problems can be overcome, say, through school curricula; and how, in general, from Early Childhood Care & Development (ECCD), young people can be brought up and socialised in ways that ensure they will be useful members of a society we wish to be.

Any action that is not based on an investigation of the problems that stand in the way of achieving a society we want to be has little chances of success. Such action would be based on some understanding that the young who are anti-social, unpatriotic and criminals are naturally bad people.

It is, of course, not as simple as that. For example, one possible explanation for the absence of patriotism among young people may have something to do with socio-economic inequality in Lesotho: those who are closed out of, and excluded from, benefiting from Lesotho’s wealth and power cannot be expected to be patriots.

A second characteristic of a plan aimed at addressing problems that face Lesotho’s young people is that, such a plan should identify and/or establish institutions designed — and with appropriate skills — to implement ideas and proposals that come out of credible investigations.

It is unclear whether the LDF and LMPS plans have resulted from something like considerations suggested above. While it is admitted that these institutions’ initiatives are limited to addressing problems of lack of patriotism and criminality among the young people, one clear problem with their plans and solutions is that, it might be the case that they are catching young people a little late, when schooling and general socialisation have already entrenched anti-social values that we see among sections of young people; namely, individualism and the inability to think of others.

In one word, these institutions catch these young people when tendencies towards criminality, anti-social behaviour, and lack of patriotism might have already hardened.
Perhaps the biggest hope we should have is that the army and the police will have full complement of resources necessary for providing full and wholesome mentoring to young people who undergo army and police mentoring.

Short of adequate resources necessary for achieving what the army and the police have in mind, we might end up with cohorts of young people with a faulty army and police culture that may come back to haunt us. Inserting a faulty army culture among a section of young people brought us bitter results in the 1970s and 1980s that should not be repeated.

To conclude, no one can argue against all of us being concerned with problems of youth unemployment; increasing tendencies of young people’s admiration of criminality and their participation in crime. And no one can argue against all of us coming up with ideas and proposals of how to address these problems.

However, our concerns and proposals ought to be based on:
a nationally-agreed assertion of society we want to be;
a credible investigation of difficulties that stand in the way of us becoming society we want to be;

and coordination of proposals and ideas aimed at becoming society we want to be.

As with other specific instances of socio-economic development in Lesotho, problems facing the country’s young people cry out for the long-neglected establishment of the National Planning Board, as prescribed in Section 105 of the Constitution of Lesotho.

Prof Motlatsi Thabane

Continue Reading


Call that a muffin?



In Oscar Wilde’s short story “The Canterville Ghost” (1887) one of the characters says about the British, “We have everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.” Between American English and British English there are many, many differences. Which is not to say that either American or British English are standardised; there are multiple varieties within each. As a south-western Brit I can find it difficult to fully understand what someone from Liverpool or Newcastle is saying.

I remember one year during the NUL’s International Theatre for Development project we had a student from the islands of Scotland. She was brilliant and hard-working and full of good ideas — if only one could understand the ideas when she introduced them. The NUL students grouped together and asked me: “Chris, can you translate what Kirsty is saying for us?” and I replied: “I’m as lost as you are.”

Between American and British English it’s not just a matter of pronunciation but also of vocabulary (I’ll be coming to muffins — see the title of this piece — in a while) and spelling.
In the biographical film Prick Up Your Ears British, dramatist Joe Orton shares a room with Ken Halliwell and they decide to write a novel together. Ken asks Joe “can you spell?” and Joe replies “yes, but not accurately.”

This is hardly a surprise, given that he’s a Brit. The American spelling system is far more regular and rational than the British. (Readers with laptops will have noticed that your spell-check gives the option of British or American spelling, but that doesn’t help you as in Lesotho the British system is used, so for the time being you’re stuck with it).

I mean, what can you say about a spelling system where “plough” rhymes with “now”, but “tough” rhymes with “stuff”– and “now” doesn’t rhyme with “low.” Yipes (as the Americans say). When I was lecturing in Lesotho and in Nigeria and marking assignments I was always very lenient over spelling, because I know what a mountain it is to climb (the latter word rhyming with “time”, of course).

Then there is the matter of vocabulary or denotation (a term I hope readers remember from a few weeks back). There are many examples of things that are denoted by different words in British and American English: lift / elevator; pavement / sidewalk; windscreen / windshield; petrol / gas; cinema / movie theater (and look at the American spelling of (Brit) “theatre”– a lot easier). And some of these reflect our different histories.

For example, there’s a vegetable, a kind of small marrow, the British call it a courgette (one of my favourite vegetables, in case any of you are planning to invite me for dinner). That’s a word that British English has borrowed directly from French — that is, a loan word (I’m not sure we plan to give it back).

The Americans on the other hand call it a zucchini, a loan word from Italian, which I guess reflects the size and influence of the Italian community in the USA. (Speaking of vegetables, I can’t give you an explanation for why the Brits call an aubergine an aubergine — another loan word from French — but the Americans call it an egg-plant).

Next week I’ll get around to muffins — a sore point — and I’ll move on to differences between English and French and between Sesotho and Setswana. Bet you can’t wait.

Chris Dunton is a former Professor of English and Dean of Humanities at the National University of Lesotho.

Continue Reading


Lessons from Israel: Part 3



I shall round off my account of my 1995 trip to Israel by putting on my tour guide cap. Staying in Tel Aviv, most days were fully taken up by the conference, which was my reason for being there. Tel Aviv in July is scorchingly hot, so there were walks along the beach only before breakfast and after sunset. I did take a little time off to go with South African author Stephen Gray to an art gallery that had a painting he wanted to see (a portrait by Modigliani of Beatrice Hastings, whose biography Stephen was then writing).

I wasn’t especially keen on the hotel restaurant, where dinner comprised meat served by the ton (surprisingly little fish, given that we were on the coast. By contrast, I had always been surprised and happy that Maseru restaurants are so good on fish, despite the fact that Lesotho isn’t exactly maritime). But I discovered a little Russian Jewish restaurant that offered Beluga caviar at an amazingly cheap price. I suspect it had fallen off the back of a lorry, as we say in the UK — i.e. that it was contraband, acquired illegally. I just blinked innocently and enjoyed myself. I can’t think of a more delicious way of starting a meal than with caviar, freshly-made blinis and a large glass of deeply chilled Wyberowa vodka — no ice, please. (I only say all this to show you what a very cosmopolitan chap I am).

The conference ran to a packed schedule and we worked hard (no, really). Half-way through we were given a day off and taken to Jerusalem. On arrival I teamed up with an old Nigerian friend and a friend of his from Senegal and we took ourselves first to the Dome of the Rock, the main mosque, which is splendid and radiant (wow, the mosaics!) Then we saw the Wailing Wall.

Then we trudged up the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Via marks the route along which Christ was forced to carry his cross on the way to his crucifixion (dolorosa means something like “of miseries”). I had expected it to be lined with sculptures showing the Stations of the Cross (rather like the lovely ones at Fatima, near Ramabanta).

Instead it was one tourist gift shop after another. Here I came across one of the most repugnant things I’ve seen in my life. Proudly displayed for sale, a wall clock with the face adorned with the image of the head of Christ, the two clock hands protruding from his nose.

At the top of the Via Dolorosa, the fourth century Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest site in the world for Christians, which is breathtakingly beautiful. The interior is (not visibly) divided into sections, the upkeep of each of which is the responsibility of one of the major denominations: Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Greek Orthodox, Egyptian Coptic, and so on. I had had the impression this was an arrangement worked out under the colonial regime of British Palestine, but Google tells me it dates back to the Status Quo of 1757.

My companions had done their homework and suggested we head first for the roof, which had been allocated to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (dare one possibly suggest a tinge of racism in this marginalisation?). There we found a cluster of monkish cells, each inhabited by an elderly Ethiopian monk, at least two of whom spoke English or French. They were delighted to see us, and utterly sweet, hospitable, and in their accounts of their pastoral work spellbinding.

To be concluded

Chris Dunton

Continue Reading