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Keeping it simple



Those now famous words in my mind resound over and over, and over again each time there is a serious task at hand. The words are meant to echo long, though the brief episode of their utterance lasted less than 30 seconds: Those now famous words in my mind resound over and over, and over again each time there is a serious task at hand. The words are meant to echo long, though the brief episode of their utterance lasted less than 30 seconds:

We are all pebbles in the river of life and are bound to crash from time to time…
The past few months have been a hubbub of activity in almost every sphere of life, and funnily, most of it went by unnoticed despite the fact that its expression was glaring, and its sound a blaring ear-deafening cacophony to some and sheer bliss to others. Such is life, you cannot capture all the beautiful moments, and should therefore be content that you at least saw a snippet: there is just no way one as an individual can carry it alone, there are others to share the load with on the journey along the way of life. What counts is not the amount of weight one is carrying, but what really matters is whether one can bear it all to the end. The solution lies in understanding that every wall is usually built from one brick to the next, the wall does not just pop up complete one morning after we wake: it is in practical fact built from one brick to the next until the final brick in the last course.

The story of the mason and his fraternal order rooted in the pledge to be of mutual assistance to all and to practice brotherly love at all times is not an accident or a myth. Those who struggle in life understand well the meaning of kindness and joy, because sadness and poverty is a road well-worn by their boots and unshod feet. The poor know when to gather, how to gather, and where to gather to beat the leviathan that poverty, unemployment, and disease are to the world in modern times. It oftentimes takes a group’s efforts to see a dream turn into a reality, and sometimes (even oftentimes) it takes the whole of the will of an individual to see to it that what was envisioned finally becomes a reality that can be touched and pondered over. This means that such an effort has to follow a certain pre-planned pattern based on the commitment of all those (many or individual/s) involved in the making of the entity envisioned in the wish or the dream. A lag in the amount of commitment to the plan in any of the parties may actually mean the failure to achieve the dream, the goal, or the objective envisioned.

Part mason, part teacher, lecturer and many other things in between is the man that I have come to know, and intention always acts as the guide to the commission of each and every task that comes along. Without good intention being the guide to the action, then one is bound to fall down or back and lose on what they first set out to achieve. With good intention as the guide, every task one is handed becomes and actually begins to feel like a duty, for then the hours one puts into seeing that it bears fruit begin to lose meaning, the task having become a temple of expression and freedom rather than toil and travail. Intention sets the bar one should aim at in the pursuit of the envisioned dream or goal, and where it lacks or is of the not so virtuous type, only under the par work is the result, thus the basic or primal need for one to always keep good intentions when it comes to the execution of tasks.The fact is: a wall is built one brick to the next until the last brick in the wall, and I believe that the masons of this world are aware of this fact on the various construction sites.

They toil, mixing mortar and sweat, laying the brick on the line with their eye and mind, until entire suburbs are filled and city skylines are dotted with the silhouettes of sky-scrapers. What one sees in terms of the architecture of the land they come across on their daily journeys is the direct result of how those poor ‘uneducated’ boys from the homelands and the villages followed the course from one brick to the next.  It did not matter that many of the labourers on the various construction sites that built many of the cities and the suburbs that we can see had seen only a few hours in the classroom (having more serious occupations such as tending to their herds to perform), but the fact that they had intention as expressed by the foreman to follow guided them to the end of each flat-top and high-rise that they came across.

Looked down upon by the system due to their simplicity in terms of honesty and frankness, the simple labourers actually contribute a large part in the determination of the progress of this world. The plebeian class understand very little of the complexity and sophistication of the uppity classes who can only manage the pen and the order, their world is actually less worrisome because they follow the way of the good intention, which is why most of what they aim to achieve actually comes to be. Burdened with lifestyle issues, many of those folks one sees on the African continent actually fail to achieve their dreams because they fail to acknowledge that every wall is built brick by brick. There may be shortcuts in the building of a wall, but I can bet that they are not as strong as the brick and mortar or stone and mortar wall built by the masterful hands of a patient ‘uneducated’ village boy. We lose out when we forget that being simple does not in fact dictate that we should forget our sophistication.

The problem is only when we do not know how to separate the two forms of behaviour in a manner that makes them effective tools. I often liken simplicity to a clear blue day where everything is clear to see because it is in plain sight and there is enough of the sun’s light to complement its visibility. Sophistication is similar to a cloudy day in autumn where one is not sure whether there will come a light drizzle or a torrential storm. In the clear day of simplicity, one knows where to go and can follow their path outlined on the land clearly, and this means they can map out their course with a clear mind on what to do on the particular day.

The uncertainty of sophistication renders one hesitant, fickle, and at all times on the edge due to the simple fact that instead of envisioning or mapping out one’s route with the faith of a clear blue sky, one ends up having to live from minute to minute. Though the more desired of the two behaviours, the latter (sophistication) often gives rise to effects in character that render the individual that adopts its patterns a figure that stands out but is seen as weird, a curio that the other members of the community within which he lives ponder on most of the time. The simple man however shifts seamlessly from one task to the next without much ado and interference from the other members of the community within which he lives. The simple people are not hard to define and understand, the sophisticated are always questioned.

This is due to the fact that sophistication demands that one should wake up on a quest to be the best in every little task and travail, that they should be the leader in everything that they do. The simple know that they cannot lead in everything, that sometimes they should let others take the lead because they are more experienced or gifted in terms of executing the task at hand. I often think that the African society was actually a better place in the days when Ubuntu was the guiding credo for communal living. Back then, the “I am because you are” meant that there was an automatic sharing of roles in society based on skill and not competition, on mutual understanding and not economics.

Each person’s role in the community was determined by their level of knowledge of a given task or entity and not how popular they were. Observed from birth by the entire community, it means that one’s role was clearly defined by the time one reached puberty, and one stuck to it until the end of one’s life, giving one ample time to build their reputation in terms of efficient execution of that which they were acknowledged for. It is a different case with sophistication where one has to deal with multiple tasks to prove a point, where affiliation carries more weight than one’s reputation and level of skill.Benjamin Franklin (the face on the American $ 100 note) a man of vast and varied talents, a writer of merit and social observer writes in his masterpiece Poor Richard states:

“But with our industry, we must likewise be steady, settled and careful, and oversee our own affairs with our own eyes, and not trust too much to others; for as Poor Richard says, I never saw an oft removed tree,Nor yet an oft removed family,That throve so well as those that settled be”
In the quest for sophistication or its copy image, many have found themselves moving from one task to the next, in search of elusive success that renders its pursuer mad trying to catch its tail. There is always the lame defence that one should always try hard to gain that which they desire at all costs, but the cost is sometimes too high because it ends up costing one their life or their family.

The boy who grows up wanting to be the magnate but who lacks the understanding that the simple chores that are handed by the parents actually hone him to be the individual that executes duties flawlessly at the end of the day ends up being a drug dealer or cash-in-transit heist specialist because he wants to be like the Trump or the Motsepe but does not know that even a carpenter can become the millionaire if the carpenter puts their mind to the task at hand. Some men have become billionaires and built their fortunes from doing tasks that other individuals frown upon. The boy (and his peers) who invented (innovated actually) the machine on which I am typing this piece actually focused on improving its functioning because he followed one task (to improve the effectiveness of computers) and stuck to it until he became the Bill Gates we now know of.The lie most of the time is that one should be the many things celebrities always claim they are on the TV and other media.

The truth is simple, one can only be one thing at a time, and fatherhood or motherhood (as is commonly mentioned and listed in the stilted celebrity interviews on the telly) is not actually a task but an obligation. There should be clear lines of demarcation between what duty and calling mean, what task and chore are. The confusion that modern sophistication brings with its multiple definitions is what actually perpetuates the confusion of who and what one exactly is with regard to their true role in society.

It is only enlightened communities that know how to help raise their young in an environment that inculcates a thorough understanding of what the child’s role shall be to render them an effective member of a future society. Such communities thrive, whilst we lag behind, boastful that we are ‘educated’ with empty bank balances, claiming to be sophisticated whilst living most of the month on borrowed money. This in my view is not sophistication but poverty posing as something it is actually not, the truly sophisticated are wealthy because they know where to plant themselves and actually strive to be the best at that one task.Henry Ford became the magnate he was because he understood the true value of letting those that are talented in their given field within his company to excel at it without interference. He was simple because he was focused on one thing:

the success of Ford Motor Company. We can thrive as a continent if we acknowledge that given individuals are really talented in their given professions or fields and actually give them time and space to excel in their given profession. This confusion where a cousin or nephew is doing the work of an accountant or engineer shall throw the continent deeper into the mire of poverty it is in. We should acknowledge who we are first, what we are capable of, and then to be frank and honest enough to give due respect and acknowledgement to those that truly excel in a given field that aids in the progress of the land, the country, and the continent. It is the only way: the simple way that will lead us to true progress.

By: Tšepiso S Mothibi

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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.

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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


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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:

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