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It’s time to reclaim the conquered territory!

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The South African Parliament has proposed amendment of the Constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation to indigenous inhabitants of such land.
The amendment failed to pass in the Fifth Parliament’s term until it came to an end. Black South Africans hope it will be tabled in the Sixth Parliament. It gives us time as Basotho to get our act together.
South Africa is embarking on land reform so as to address the historic wrongs caused by the arbitrary dispossession of land. South Africa must remember that when land returns to its rightful owners, Basotho were also unjustly and arbitrarily dispossessed of their land.

A few weeks ago I was talking to my brother and friend, Lebeko Sello, about this matter. We spoke about the concept of “Amicus curiae” a Latin phrase meaning “friend of the court.”
Friend of the court is usually someone who is not a party to a case and may or may not have been solicited by a party and his duty is to assist a court because that person has a strong interest in the subject matter.
In most cases, such a person usually assists the court by offering information, expertise, or insight that has a bearing on the issues in the case; and this information is typically presented in the form of a brief.
I don’t know what Basotho would call themselves in the South African Parliament, but we need to petition the

Speaker and make her aware that Basotho have a strong interest in the subject matter at hand in their House.
His Majesty King Letsie II must initiate this important petition because of the lost land that belonged to King Moshoeshoe. It’s actually an opportune moment for us to act.
We would be cowards if we could sit and do nothing about the matter. For if we keep silent at this time, somebody else will claim our lost land, our generation will remain with this small piece of land till we perish. The time has arrived for Basotho to claim the lost land that belongs to them.

Our generation was born for such a time as this, when the South African Parliament wants to address the historic evils caused by the arbitrary dispossession of land.
We would not be the first to make that attempt. And we don’t lose anything, in fact we have already lost everything valuable to Basotho. King Moshoeshoe cried foul concerning the injustice of the land lost in the 19th century.

In 1919 just after the end of World War 1, the National Council of Basutoland made a petition to the King of England regarding the issue of regaining Basotho’s lost land:
“Finally we humbly pray and beseech Your Majesty to give his gracious and generous consideration to our prayer for the restoration of our rights of which we have been deprived, that is, large tracts of our land which lie to the North-West, West and South-East of Basutoland of today. Our reasons for submitting this prayer to Your Majesty is on account of understanding made by Your Majesty’s Government and those of Your Majesty’s Allies that all nations, great and small, which had had their rights violated by those more powerful than they, are to have those rights restored, and being in the same category we therefore humbly pray that Your Majesty may graciously accord is the same recognition.”

Today, the South African government clearly agrees with resolution 1817 (XVII) of 18 December 1962 regarding the Territories of Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland, that all the land taken from indigenous inhabitants must be returned to them. This is the UN resolution on the question of lost lands:

“XVIII. RESOLUTIONS ADOPTED WITHOUT REFERENCE TO A COMMITTEE
1954. Question of Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland
The General Assembly,
Recalling its resolution 1817 (XVII) of 18 December 1962 regarding the Territories of Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland, which was adopted in accordance with the terms of its resolutions 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960, 1654 (XVI) of 27 November 1961 and 1810 (XVII) of 17 December 1962,

Having considered the part of the report of the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples relating to Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland,[1]
Regretting that the administering Power has not taken effective steps to implement the provisions of resolutions 1514 (XV) and 1817 (XVII),

Being cognizant of the fact that the claim and the demand of the Government of the Republic of South Africa that these Territories should be transferred to South Africa remain unchanged,

Recalling the declaration contained in General Assembly resolution 1817 (XVII) to the effect that any attempt to annex Basutoland, Bechuanaland or Swaziland, or to encroach upon their territorial integrity in any way, will be regarded by the United Nations as an act of aggression violating the Charter of the United Nations,
Mindful of the unsatisfactory economic, financial and social conditions in these three Territories and their dire need for external assistance,

1. Reaffirms the inalienable right of the peoples of Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland to self-determination and independence;

2. Reiterates its request that the administering Power take immediate steps to return to the indigenous inhabitants all the land taken from them, whatever the form or pretext for such alienation;

3. Once more requests the administering Power to convene immediately a constitutional conference for each of the three Territories, in which all groups representing all opinions will participate with a view to devising democratic constitutional arrangements which will lead to general elections based on universal suffrage and, thereafter, to immediate independence;

4. Solemnly warns the Government of the Republic of South Africa that any attempt to annex or encroach upon the territorial integrity of these three Territories shall be considered an act of aggression;

5. Requests the Secretary-General to provide economic, financial and technical assistance commensurate with the special needs of the Territories through the United Nations programmes of technical co-operation and the specialized agencies.

1277th plenary meeting, 11 December 1963.”

In 1993 the Basotho Congress Party (BCP) had a powerful slogan “Ea khutla naha.” In translation, “the land shall return.” I have asked congress followers why we forgot about the above mentioned famous slogan and to be honest I have never received a convincing answer.

I am afraid we abandoned a mission that was very important to Basotho. Disappointing indeed, but it’s about time we claim what belongs to us as Basotho.
But the UN resolution remains for us to act upon it. This is an opportune time for us to act when indigenous people in South Africa are claiming their land back. Who will claim our land? Historically and traditionally land belongs to chiefs.
Our government must write to the South African government and inform them that Basotho have an interest in what they are discussing in their parliament.

By Ramahooana Matlosa

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We need a coordinated approach on youth challenges

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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

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Call that a muffin?

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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.

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Insight

Lessons from Israel: Part 3

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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

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