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Fighting the cancer monster



MASERU – WHEN Rakosi Hlehlethe, 43, speaks his voice betrays little emotion. But bottled inside are feelings of anxiety and depression caused by having to deal with foot cancer.
He said the problem started in 2017 when his big toe became sore and swollen.

“While still monitoring it, my toenail fell off,” Hlehlethe recalled.

He said he limped his way to Malealea Clinic in Mafeteng and was encouraged to sterilise his toe.
He said it affected the next toenail which also fell off.

“An open wound made its way from my foot,” he said, adding that “it was a sore that would heal and resurface.”

His third toe broke in his sleep and he only realised it in the morning.
Eight months later, the pain became unbearable as another wound formed.

“I have been treating something I didn’t know for the past two years,” he said.

He said it was only in July 2021 when a doctor in Mafeteng Hospital confirmed he had cancer and referred him to Motebang Hospital in Leribe, which re-transferred him to Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Maseru.

There, he was only scrubbed and advised to keep cleaning the wound.

“Unfortunately, it got rotten and stinky.”

He has one toe hanging on his feet.

“The pain on my foot is unbearable,” he said, breaking down.

He said his foot had worms just last month.

“I am not really sure what happened as I followed my routine of cleansing it after every three days,” he said.

Hlehlethe wishes for amputation as he was diagnosed late for cancer.
Another cancer patient, ’Majakote Lejaha-Letebele, 54, was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2007 and since then she has visited many medical practitioners in search of a cure.

She saw a dimple like lump on her left breast and went to the Maloti Seventh-Day Adventist Hospital for a biopsy and got her results two weeks later.

“I had stage two breast cancer and I did mastectomy as advised by doctors citing it will prolong my life expectancy,” she said.

She said the tests confirmed she was pregnant, something she was unaware of. She also had five lymph nodes (litšoelesa) under her armpit.
She was referred to Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital and was booked to Bloemfontein, in South Africa, six months later for treatment.

During her check-ups at the local hospitals, results never showed that the cancer was spreading and she completed her nine months of pregnancy. She started six chemotherapy sessions four months later after giving birth.

She said she would vomit and poop at the same time, lost her hair, her nails became darker, her skin was very dry and she was weak and forgetful and she lost too much weight.
Afterwards, she started a six-week radiotherapy which led to a five-year pills (tamoxifen) treatment.

At last, cancer was arrested.
However, that was not the case as during her sixth year, she went for a check-up with a painful hip.

“The pain got deeper by weeks and in 2016, I went for consultation suspecting cancer but I was misdiagnosed as the doctor said it was arthritis,” she said.

“I was injected and the relief only lasted five hours,” she said, recalling her return with a painful hip, again, a week later.

“The doctor still maintained that it was arthritis and I requested X-rays for confirmation. But he didn’t budge and I had to take the matter further with his manager.”

Lejaha-Letebele said she was transferred to Bloemfontein for treatment right away as an emergency after the doctors confirmed cancer on her hip and lungs.
She underwent radiotherapy to strengthen her bones. She was discharged without any cure, just hoping for divine intervention.

“The most painful part was coming home to wait for my death in 2016,” she said, praising God. “He heard my prayers and responded accordingly.”

She said she went to a doctor who practises homeopathy in Port Elizabeth who gave her a lot of medicines and she paid “a lot of money as I was told that cancer is irreversible”.

“I had to take a loan and I spent over half a million maloti trying to work on myself after the doctors did their part and concluded it was the end for me.”

“My medication is costly and I had to stop eating meat and fruits completely. I was so thin but after following the instructions, I slowly regained my weight,” she said, adding that she now eats meat in small portions balancing it with green vegetables.

She still takes painkillers but the pain is no longer as strong and she gains strength daily as the cancer is no longer spreading.
Lejaha-Letebele says the absence of a cancer facility is a major challenge for Basotho.

“During my time (at Mediclinic), I watched as many Basotho were sent back home daily due to delays by the government in making payments and the polite excuse given was they needed a blood transfusion,” she said.

“There were so many needless deaths which I believe could have been prevented if we had our own facility.” When a 53-year-old ’Mamosa Mosola bled after intercourse in October 2018, she didn’t think much of it, even less that it could be a sign of cancerShe was diagnosed with stage 3 cervical cancer, she was overwhelmed by the news, and the pain that followed was unimaginable.

“They were like birth pains,” she said.

Her children took her to Makoanyane Military Hospital where she was admitted for two weeks, but that was just the start of her journey managing a disease that is affecting many Basotho women.
She was referred to Queen Elizabeth II Hospital before being taken to Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital where cancer was confirmed.

For survivors such as Mosola, the hope is that the government deals with the challenge as a matter of urgency so that other women do not have to go through the pain she suffered.
The pain made her feel like death was knocking on her door.

“I couldn’t walk anymore and had to use a wheelchair,” said Mosola, adding: “I could see death getting nearer and nearer.”
She was referred back to Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in December and was told to seek further treatment in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

But the doctors were on leave and would only be available in January.

“I lost all hope,” she said.

A ray of light filtered when she learnt of a visit to Lesotho by some Indian doctors, who eventually attended to her.
Mosola later sought for treatment in India in February 2019, where she underwent chemotherapy sessions for six weeks.

Afterwards, she said she underwent two radiation sessions.
She urged Basotho to go for cancer screening before it’s too late.

“The pain I suffered, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”
‘Malisela Tšilane sobs as she narrates how her 63-year-old mother succumbed to cancer in 2015.

She said she had a lump which looked like a boil under her armpit.
She went to Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital and got treated as an outpatient following numerous check-ups and given different antibiotics for the same thing.

“Doctors were negligent as they kept prescribing different pills without running tests even though the cancer had spread to her breasts and her situation worsened with time.”
She said she changed doctors to a privately owned health centre.

“Worse, she was misdiagnosed with mastitis there,” Tšilane said.
She said she returned to Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital but “unfortunately we didn’t see a doctor as we were given an appointment for a biopsy which was to be done in three months”.

She said the biopsy was finally done and it confirmed she had breast cancer, hence her referral to Bloemfontein.

“In the meantime, her problem was escalating as her breast was shrinking and itchy and when she scratched, the cancer wound appeared and she was hurting,” she said.

“But because they didn’t care, she was given antibiotics until forever.”

It took six more months before she could get a six-week chemotherapy treatment.

“Unfortunately, she died after her fifth chemo, we were least expecting it as she looked better with lesser pain,” she said, adding: “I don’t think she would have died had she been diagnosed and treated much earlier.”

These cases are just the tip of the iceberg as many Basotho continue to suffer.
Speaking at a press conference recently, the Health Services Director General, Dr ’Nyane Letsie, said cancer is now a major cause of morbidity and mortality in Lesotho.

She said it is the fifth cause of death among adult men and second among female adults, saying cervical cancer is among the highest in women, followed by breast cancer and prostate cancer in men.

She said the country continues to refer cancer patients to Bloemfontein for care and treatment. However, the costs remain high for testing and treatment.
She said the government spends between M150 000 and M200 000 per patient from diagnoses, treatment and rehabilitation.

“The government solely pays for this,” Dr Letsie said.

“Also, despite all this, the mortality rate among our patients who are already under care is significantly high,” she said.

“We lose more than half of them and this is really shocking.”

Dr Letsie, therefore, said to ‘close the care gap’ in Lesotho, there is a need for infrastructure, skilled human resources for the management of cancer as well as drugs and supplies.
She added that plans are underway for the construction of a cancer hospital in the country.

“Despite the delay of construction of a cancer hospital, we are glad to note that at least now the processes have begun and I am sure that the ministry in charge will soon announce the processes to ensure that construction continues.”

She announced that Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital has a cancer unit designed to provide cancer services since 2010 and “we began to deploy staff to ensure that chemotherapy is provided”.
She said four operation theatres are also being maintained and the new Queen II Hospital will provide a fully equipped chemotherapy unit.

She said the first Mosotho oncologist has resumed duty and has already conducted a baseline assessment.

“It is an honour as most services that were not given will be given. And now that we have the oncologist, soon we will not have to refer many patients but those in critical conditions.”

She added that medical physicists, radiotherapists, doctor and nurses oncologists and cytologists amongst others have been trained.

“There is light because most cancer services will be provided in the country although those who will need referral will still go to Bloemfontein.”

“The death rate will decline as we will be able to diagnose them sooner,” she said.

Meanwhile, she said the country spends M12 million per month on cancer patients.

’Mapule Motsopa



An open letter to President Hichilema



Your Excellency,

I am certain that you are wondering where and/or how I have the temerity to write to you directly, but a recent post you put on WhatsApp piqued my interest; your meeting with His Excellency the Prime Minister of Lesotho, and his delegation. The delegation came to introduce to you and your good office the candidate of the Government of Lesotho, for the post of Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Joshua Setipa.

Let me set off by stating that I have a friendship with Setipa, for over 50 years, so I may not be the best person to give an objective appraisal or opinion of him; this I will leave to the government.

Further to that, as a citizen of Lesotho, I may embellish the information that I would provide on Lesotho, thus I will as far as possible keep to information that is contained in books. This is not a research report, but more a simplified literature review of what I have read. I shall not quote them, or reference them, thus allowing others the space to research this matter further.

First, let me state my surprise at the alignment of time that I see; Commonwealth Day in 2024 is on the 11th March, the day we celebrate a life well lived, that of Morena Moshoeshoe.

Further to that, this year also starts the 200th anniversary of the move by Morena Moshoeshoe and his followers from Menkhoaneng to Thaba Bosiu. They arrived at Thaba Bosiu in winter, circa 1824.

Next year, 2025 will also be the 100th anniversary of the ‘plenary’ that saw the birth of this Commonwealth of Nations. A handover from the bi-centenary, to the centenary celebrations.

We are all aware that the Commonwealth was started at the Imperial Conference of 1926, but it had what I call a plenary in 1925; this happened in Maseru, Basutoland. It was held at the ‘secretariat’ building on Kingsway. The building was used as the Prime Ministers’ office after independence, more recently, and to date as the Ministry of Defence.

When King George came to visit Lesotho in 1948, to thank the country and her citizens for their participation in the Second World War, High street as it was then known, had its name changed to Kingsway.

At this plenary Britain called the ANZaC states, Australia, New Zeeland and Canada, together with South Africa. It had been only 13 years (1912) since the Basotho monarch had been asked to attend the formation of the South African National Native Conference (SANNC), whose aim was to preserve African land. The SANNC was the forerunner to the African National Congress (ANC).

With the formation of the Union of South Africa, the union wanted to engulf Bechuanaland (Botswana) Swaziland (eSwatini) and Basutoland (Lesotho). This had been unsuccessful.

Next they came up with the Native Land Act of 1913, to remove African land rights. So, the conference that brought about the birth of the SANNC was a pre-emptive response to this act; an attempt to keep African land rights and traditions intact.

I would like to point out that the founding document of the Imperial Conference that brought about the Commonwealth states that all member states are autonomous and not subordinate to another.

At the time of the plenary, Basutoland was subordinate to Britain. But in a masterstoke became what I believe to be one of the founders of the Commonwealth.

Despite her subordination, Basutoland had placed so strong an objection to the presence of a representative South Africa in Basutoland, that South Africa’s invitation had to be withdrawn, and South Africa did not attend. This was the first ‘anti-apartheid’ shot, made in the world; what is more important is that it was made by an African country.

No matter how one looks at it, she may not have been a ‘founding member state’, but Basutoland was part of the founding fabric of the Commonwealth.

One just has to imagine the anger of the South Africans and their government: Dr. D. F. Malan, the first Nationalist Prime Minister of South Africa, was a minister responsible for housing at that time.

Had Basutoland’s lead been followed, spatial apartheid might never have happened. The Commonwealth would take till the 1960’s, and the formal legalisation/legislation of apartheid to remove South Africa from within her fold. A matter that Basutoland saw as far back as the 1920’s.

As shown, at the conceptualisation of the Commonwealth Lesotho was not just there, but an active and formidable participant; though one has to look further to see her relationship with Great Britain/the United Kingdom.

Basutoland/Lesotho’s history is strange, to say the least. The first Europeans to arrive here in 1833, were French Missionaries. At this time Europe was embroiled in wars, which inevitably included the French and English.

But it is these same priests, most notably Casalis, who helped steer the country to Britain, and British protection. Casalis acted almost as a foreign secretary/minister of foreign affairs at that time.

The first treaty between Basutoland and England was the Napier Treaty of 1843, though it took till 1866 to solidify this treaty into a protected land.

The history of the cavalry in Lesotho, the only African cavalry south of the Sahara, is quite long. It starts in about 1825, when F. D. Ellenberger in his book ‘History of the Basutho’, states that Morena Moletsane had come across gun powder quite by mistake.

They had been raiding a missionary’s home and came across a strange powder, which they found useless, so they threw it into a fire, which ‘exploded’. Thus, to his people called European style housing, ‘Ntlo-ea-thunya’, a house that shoots. But after having his people ravaged/savaged by Mzilikazi, he sent his best warriors to work on Boer farms, and with their remuneration purchase arms and horses.

We are often told of a ‘battle of/at Berea’. My answer is that it was not a battle but a cattle raid. Its importance is not just in the battle, but in democracy. The British called Morena Moshoeshoe ‘paramount chief’, a first amongst the others. The time before Berea shows something slightly different.

As Casalis writes in ‘My life in Basutoland’, the British had demanded 10,000 head of cattle, for stock theft. A great ‘pitso’ was called and all eligible men, those who owned land, were called.

At the end of the pitso, after many votes, the citizens refused to give their cattle to pay the demand of the British. The significance herein is that there was a plebiscite, a vote. Morena Moshoeshoe lost the backing of the people and thus the vote; the British then attacked to ‘collect’ the cattle themselves.

Both Morena Moshoeshoe and Morena Moletsane were heavily involved in the ‘battle’ which was won by the strength of the Basutho cavalry. Looking forward to the gun wars, it was most fortuitous that Morena Moshoeshoe’s ally, Morena Moletsane would outlive him, till the end of the gun wars.

After annexation in 1866, in the mid 1870’s the British, citing distance and as such expense, ceded Basutoland to the Cape, which was what the Basotho had been fighting against for a long time; they wanted direct British rule. They wanted to be ruled by Mofumahali Queen Victoria.

The first, and most critical mistake that the Cape made was, not so much in attacking Morena Moorosi, accusing his son of cattle theft, but in beheading him.

So, when some years later they wanted to disarm the Basutho, and they found those of the south of Basutoland who knew of the beheading, reluctant to go with the plan. The Cape decided to go ahead with disarmament forcefully and met equal if not greater force.

The Basutho were better armed, more knowledgeable on the terrain and better supplied. Helped by his father’s long-standing ally, Morena Moletsane, Morena Lerotholi was able to field a well-armed strong cavalry, which inflict great pain to the Cape.

This led to the Cape defeat. Together with the number of other wars that the Cape was fighting, there was fight fatigue among her people.

So bad was it, that they did not come and collect their fallen troops; in Mafeteng there is a cemetery called ‘mabitla-a-makhooa’, or graves of the white men. The SA Military History Society has a ‘roll of honour’ for some of the dead, as not all were buried in Basutoland.

There are two significant outcomes of the war. In his book ‘The Mabille’s of Basutoland’, Edwin W. Smith states that there was a fact-finding mission to Basutoland by members of the Cape parliament, including Rhodes. Their conclusion was that the Basutho should be handed back to Britain for direct rule; which was the original wish of the Basutho.

As Whitehall was reluctant to take this role back, Basutoland spent a period of close to two years of self-rule. Thus it became the first African country (only?) to unshackle itself of colonial rule. And became the first African country to get the colonial rule it wanted; and re-shackled itself to Britain.

The second is how Britain agreed to go back and rule Basutoland. In his book, Rhodes Goes North, J. E. S. Green shows how the Prime Minister of the Cape went to Britain to sue for peace, and eventually agreed to give Britain 20 000 pounds per annum, of her import tax revenues to govern Basutoland.

Whilst not a founding member of the Commonwealth, Basutoland has carried her fair weight in the battle to save both the Commonwealth, and together the rest of the Commonwealth, the world at large.

Whilst SA will hype the losses during the maritime accident of the SS Mendi in the English Channel, Lesotho is less inclined to speak of the losses on the SS Erinpura. The Erinpura was sunk by German war planes in the Mediterranean Sea. Though I should say that, the prayer of the men on the Mendi would resound so well with those who lost their lives on the Erinpura.

When British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill said; never was so much owed by so many to so few, I am certain he was speaking not just of the people of the British Isles, but the broader community within the Commonwealth, that stood together at this time of international need.

But having heard Sir Winston, there is a special bond of Basutoland within, and with the Commonwealth, that I would like to highlight. Apart from the ANZaC countries and South Africa, there were no air squadrons from other Commonwealth countries that I am aware of; except for Basutoland that is.

They paid for 12 or so Spitfire aircraft that would form the 72nd Basutoland, which flew in the Battle of Britain. No moSotho actually flew (in?) them, but they had been financed by the Basotho.

For all the prowess of a moSotho man with arms, in his book ‘Basotho Soldiers in Hitler’s War’, Brian Gary not only writes about the gift of aircraft that fought in the Battle of Britain, he also shows that Basotho soldiers, who were hauling various ordinances through the Italian Alps, were allowed to carry arms.

Aircraft and carrying arms for an African in World War II; Lesotho is not just a pioneer member of the Commonwealth, but a beacon.

As Lesotho many of these pioneering attributes continued. Whist South Africa was banned from sports and entertainment, Lesotho filled the gap for her. Exiles like Hugh Masekela and Mirriam Makeba were hosted for sell out concerts in Lesotho. South African interracial sports, with matches between the likes of Orlando Pirate, Wits University, Kaiser Chiefs, to name those I remember, started in Maseru.

I have touched on politics and war, sport and entertainment; let me go to superstition. It would go against what is expected of me not to go without anything superstitious.

Britain has given the world three major sporting codes. Rugby, which is dominated by the big three of New Zeeland and South Africa. Cricket, which expands from the rugby three to include India, Pakistan, most of the Caribbean states and a few African counties.

These sports are obviously ‘Commonwealth Sports’, as they are dominated, or played predominantly by Commonwealth countries. They have also given us football. This is a truly global sport, the largest sport played across the world, on all types of surfaces, with all types of round looking objects. We can’t call all of these footballs.

The last time a Commonwealth country won the World Cup it was England in 1966; the year Lesotho gained her independence.

The next World Cup is in 2026, the millennium celebrations of the Commonwealth; who will head the Commonwealth then? Will a Commonwealth team have the necessary ‘juju’ to make it?

Your Excellency, this is but a brief note on Lesotho, and it is my way of using the words attributed to Morena Moshoeshoe, when asking for protection from Queen Victoria that say; take me, and all the lice (those that are symbiotic to me) in my blanket. I do hope that these words will be of use to you as seek consensus on Lesotho and her candidate for the post of Secretary General of the Commonwealth.

Yours truly

Khasane Ramolefe

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Culture quibbles



A few weeks ago these pages carried a substantial piece by Mokhosi Mohapi titled “A reversal of our traditions and culture”, written in the form of an open letter to the government of Lesotho. The first sentence of Mohapi’s article took me by surprise, as he stated: MPs and Senators’ primary role is to protect and preserve the traditions and culture of the Basotho people. I would have thought the primary role of MPs and Senators would be to ensure that Basotho are secure (being protected, for example, from criminals), that they have adequate access to social services such as education and healthcare, that the economy is sufficiently stable to offer citizens some chance of employment, and so on. Fat chance, you might scoff.

But then I realised that Mohapi had a more specific contention in mind, as he stated: The Laws of Lerotholi were set to protect social order, traditions and culture of Basotho. Mohapi’s immediate concern is with the 2024 Estates and Inheritance Bill, which proposes radical changes to the existing order of things. (See the article in last week’s thepost, “MPs bulldoze through Inheritance Bill”, which gives a good idea of the background).

I’m aware that this Bill has provoked considerable controversy, and that is not my topic in this article. Nor do I wish to contest what Mohapi was saying in his piece — this is by no means a case of Dunton v Mohapi. But I did take note of the way the phrase “traditions and culture” kept resounding in Mohapi’s article, rather like a cracked bell, and what I want to do is open up those terms for examination.

Please bear with me as I slip aside for a moment with a little academic stuff. Back in 2006 I published an article titled “Problematizing Keywords: Culture, tradition and modernity.” For those of my readers with a scholarly bent and who might want to hunt it down, this was published in a journal called Boleswa Occasional Papers in Theology and Religion 2:3 (2006), pages 5-11. There I made a number of points I want to bring up in what follows.

The first fallacy I tackled in that article was the tradition/modernity binary — the notion that in Africa there was tradition and then, wham!, the white man arrived and there was modernity. Are we seriously to believe there were no great cities in Africa before the white man landed, that the peoples of a whole continent lived entirely in villages? Nigeria tells a different story.

Are we to believe there were no great libraries? Mali and Ethiopia tell a different tale. No writing systems? No medicine? I’m not saying that if I’m in pain I don’t prefer a dose of oramorph to an infusion made from some leaves picked off the slopes of Thaba Bosiu, but the point remains: the tradition/modernity binary is crude and crass and it’s demeaning about Africa.

We cannot get very far with simplistic ideas about where we are coming from and where we are at. And yet of course we do come from a past. I’ll quote — or, rather, paraphrase from memory, as I don’t have the work to hand — an observation made by T.S Eliot in his essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent”: We know so much more than those who came before us. But they are a large part of what we know.

But of those who came before who is it, exactly, that we know? When Mohapi repeatedly uses the phrase “the traditions and culture of the Basotho people” I take it he is thinking of the Basotho as constituted under Moshoeshoe I and the descendants of those generations.

For how much do we know about the “traditions and culture” of the various Sotho-speaking groups let’s say two hundred years before Moshoeshoe gathered them together to form the modern Lesotho state? Isn’t it likely there were significant differences between the “traditions and culture” of these groups, differences that were later rationalised or homogenised?

Two points here. First, we mustn’t forget what an extraordinary innovator Moshoeshoe was —and I guess that might be said also of Lerotholi, whose laws are the chief focus of Mohapi’s article. Second, culture is not static, it is not immutable. It evolves all the time.

For example, for how long has it been the case that adherence to the Christian faith could be said to be part of the culture of Basotho? (Or, for how long has football been part of the culture of the English? We are credited with the invention of football, but that doesn’t mean it’s been part of who we are since time immemorial).

That brings me to my next point, or a string of points, moving from England back to Lesotho. When I was a schoolboy I bought myself a copy of the book Components of the National Culture (1968) by the great British Marxist Perry Anderson. One of my schoolmasters — one of the few who didn’t like me — caught me with it and said “just the sort of book I’d expect a troublemaker like you to be reading. Just don’t show it to anyone else!”

The significant term in Anderson’s title is “components.” Culture is put together — it is an assemblage — and its components may have different sources.
That leads me on to the invention of tradition, and an example for Basotho.

I guess all my readers know Qiloane, the sandstone pillar at Thaba Bosiu the distinctive peak of which is said to be the inspiration for the shape of the traditional Basotho straw hat. Well, that notion is dubious to say the least; there were hats of the same shape from elsewhere in the region long before the Basotho got hold of the design.

Does this really matter? Well, no, because even if a tradition is invented, it still has the persuasiveness of a tradition. It’s just that knowing this might dissuade us from making big claims about the unchangeable nature and sanctity of tradition.

And the same goes for culture. I leave you with a quotation from the Ghanaian philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah (it’s from his terrific book Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers): We do not need, have never needed, a homogenous system of values, in order to have a home. Cultural purity is an oxymoron.

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

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The Joker Returns: Conclusion



Last week I was talking about how jokes, or humour generally, can help get one through the most desperate situations (although it’s like taking a paracetamol for a headache; a much, much stronger resort is faith). I used the example of how Polish Jews, trapped and dying in the Warsaw ghetto, used humour to get them through day by day.

A similar, though less nightmarish, situation obtains in today’s Nigeria. Conditions there are less hellish than those of the Warsaw ghetto, but still pretty awful. There are massive redundancies, so millions of people are jobless. Inflation is at about 30% and the cost of living is sky-rocketing, with the most basic foodstuffs often unavailable. There is the breakdown of basic social services.

And endemic violence, with widespread armed robbery (to travel by road from one city to another you take your life in your hands) and the frequent kidnapping for ransom of schoolchildren and teachers. In a recent issue of the Punch newspaper (Lagos) Taiwo Obindo, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Jos, writes of the effects of economic hardship and insecurity on his people’s mental health.

He concludes: “We should see the funny side of things. We can use humour to handle some things. Don’t take things to heart; laugh it off.”

Professor Obindo doesn’t, regrettably, give examples of the humour he prescribes, but I remember two from a period when things were less grim. Power-cuts happened all the time — a big problem if you’re trying to work at night and can’t afford a generator.

And so the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) was universally referred to as Never Expect Power Always. And second, for inter-city travel there was a company called Luxurious Buses. Believe me, the average Lesotho kombi is a great deal more luxurious (I can’t remember ever having to sit on the floor of one of those).

And because of the dreadful state of Nigerian roads and the frequent fatal crashes, Luxurious Buses were referred to as Luxurious Hearses.

Lesotho’s newspaper thepost, for which I slave away tirelessly, doesn’t use humour very much. But there is Muckraker. I’ve always wondered whether Muckraker is the pen-name of a single person or a group who alternate writing the column.

Whatever, I’d love to have a drink with him / her/ them and chew things over. I like the ironic pen-name of the author(s). Traditionally speaking, a muckraker is a gossip, someone who scrabbles around for titbits (usually sexual) on the personal life of a celebrity — not exactly a noble thing to do.

But thepost’s Muckraker exposes big problems, deep demerits, conducted by those who should know and do better — problems that the powerful would like to be swept under the carpet, and the intention of Muckraker’s exposure is corrective.

And I always join in the closing exasperated “Ichuuuu!” (as I do this rather loudly, my housemates probably think I’m going bonkers).

Finally I want to mention television satire. The Brits are renowned for this, an achievement dating back to the early 1960s and the weekly satirical programme “TW3” (That Was The Week That Was). More recently we have had “Mock the Week”, though, despite its popularity, the BBC has cancelled this.

The cancellation wasn’t for political reasons. For decades the UK has been encumbered with a foul Conservative government, though this year’s election may be won by Labour (not such very good news, as the Labour leadership is only pseudo-socialist). “Mock the Week” was pretty even-handed in deriding politicians; the BBC’s problem was, I imagine, with the programme’s frequent obscenity.

As an example of their political jokes, I quote a discussion on the less than inspiring leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer. One member of the panel said: “Labour may well have a huge lead in the polls at present, but the day before election day Starmer will destroy it by doing something like accidentally infecting David Attenborough with chicken-pox.”

And a favourite, basically non-political interchange on “Mock the Week” had to do with our former monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. Whatever one thinks about the British monarchy as an institution, the Queen was much loved, but the following interchange between two panellists (A and B) was fun:

A: Is the Queen’s nickname really Lilibet?
B: Yes, it is.
A: I thought her nickname was Her Majesty.
B: That’s her gang name.

OK, dear readers, that’s enough humour from me for a while. Next week I’m turning dead serious — and more than a little controversial — responding to a recent Insight piece by Mokhosi Mohapi titled “A reversal of our traditions and culture.” To be forewarned is to be prepared.

Chris Dunton

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