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Lesotho’s village politics



Lesotho’s politics are just village politics, so said P W Botha referring to Lesotho’s political troubles. He said he wouldn’t be bothered by a country that claims to be independent yet solely relies on another state.
I concur. Lesotho’s politics have been reduced to nothing but a game named ‘mantloane (an imaginary game of “house” played by Basotho kids).
Lesotho politics lack sophistication, finesse, class, logic, reason, common sense, patriotism and consideration for the poor. They are about power struggles driven by poverty mentality. 

They have nothing to do with the love for the country, development, advancement of the youth and empowerment for the poor. Ke polotiki tsa hoposeng.

Some of us wish to see our country out of the clutches of poverty. We want to see a country that is at peace with itself. We want to see construction cranes all over, whether it means construction of high-ways, or new universities or even airports. It’s our only wish and prayer.
But that won’t be a reality with these kind of politics. Cheap politics!

We are right in the middle of a global pandemic that has caused a catastrophe. The world is on high alert to defeat this monster named Covid-19 and much to our disappointment, our politicians are busy fighting for power. Hao banna! Right in the middle of a crisis of this magnitude? That just shows how skewed our priorities are.

For the benefit of the readers that are not even aware of what has been happening or simply blocking their ears when it comes to Lesotho politics, last week, the first week of April 2020, a faction of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), signed an agreement to form a coalition government with the Democratic Congress (DC).

Yet again, hao banna! When will this game come to an end?
To top it up, two Cabinet Ministers from the ABC, received letters of dismissal. One of them even sent scathing recordings lambasting the First Lady and Minister Ntsekele. My friend Manama Letsie sent voice recorded messages in retaliation to the voice recordings sent by one of the fired ministers.

At the time of writing this piece, it looks like there’s going to be yet another cabinet reshuffle. Moreover, not forgetting the legal proceedings where the BNP and a faction of the ABC were opposing the closure of parliament.
In the middle of that political chaos, we have a national command centre that seems to be disillusioned on what to do when it comes to the Covid-19 crisis. It seems to be a case of the blind the leading the blind.

At the time of typing this piece, on Saturday, 04th April at 15:48, in Mazenod Ha-sekepe, Lesotho claimed to have zero cases of infections.
Zero cases of infection and South Africa was on 1 505. Bloemfontein had recorded 77 cases. Now, for those that are astute with your statistics, what are the chances?

I know that Facebook was flooded with messages of how good God is and how he has protected Lesotho with his hand. Look, I agree, God is good and all the time but what are the chances of Lesotho being immune to the virus?   

Now, here we are in the middle of a crisis, our politicians are busy trying to form a new government. A government of convenience with a motive to sideline the Alliance of Democrats (AD)
We all know what the end result of that agreement will be. Especially with the AD on the sidelines. We don’t need a prophet to come and predict the inevitable.

In-fact let me predict it for you. Whatever agreement has been signed between the ABC and the DC will collapse in the near future. No, I’m not a prophet of doom and don’t wish bad luck on anyone. I am just an analyst using my analysis based on past trends.

I analyse trends and the trend in Lesotho is that coalition governments do not work. We are now going to ten years with this coalition mess and it seems not to be getting any better.

As a matter of fact, most coalition governments collapse or implode due to internal party squabbles that result in splinters. Most of our political parties in Lesotho are very unstable and there’s no way of having a stable government with the ongoing internal conflict in various political parties.

Look at the infighting within the AD and RCL. Well, not negating the mess in the ABC and the BNP. What a shame! 
Like in the game of ‘mantloane conflict is an order of the day. That’s the reason why the houses are usually destroyed before sunset and have to be re-built again the following day. 

In most cases, it’s because of a fool that’s fighting to be a “Ntate” and the perks that come with it or a “kid” that’s just tired of being a kid every day and wants to graduate to being a parent the very same day. I mean, it’s just lunacy.

I’m telling you, if that faction of the ABC succeeds in forming a government with the DC, it’s only be a matter of time before a cat-fight begins. There will be an incompetent minister that never goes to work and always hangs out at a Chinese restaurant during working hours.

When the PM, whoever it will be, tries to enforce discipline, the Minister will cry foul and start causing cracks in the coalition government. That’s just how the cookie crumbles in Lesotho. We can’t work together in peace and we can’t go on like this. We simply can’t.
I think we’ve reached the height of lunacy. Lesotho is a mad house (‘mantloane) and things are about to get worse economically because of the Covid pandemic.

For Lesotho to come out of the mud, it will require very focused and concerted (streamlined) effort that will push in the same direction. I want to highlight the words, “push in the same direction”.

Currently, our political landscape does not allow for Basotho to think and act in unison. It’s as if there is a demon or an evil spirit trying to divide Basotho to be being united and loving one another. Some people and most spiritual leaders actually believe so. There is a strange force that’s just destroying unity in Lesotho.

Going back to my opinion piece published last Thursday, I highlighted a point that maybe for the sake of peace and unity, Lesotho should consider suspending democracy for ten years. That would be from the current year 2020 to the year 2030.

We need to fumigate this country and remove these toxic spirits that are sowing division and hatred amongst Basotho.
Lesotho is lucky to have a unifying figure, a Mandela in the form of King Letsie III. Yes, some of you may not agree with the solution to give King Letsie III executive powers but it may be or could be the next best solution under the circumstances. We are at our lowest and risk being incorporated into South Africa as a tenth province.

Allow me to qualify my thoughts. King Letsie III is still respected worldwide because of his status as a monarch. The world still respects monarchs. He is possibly the only prominent figure that still has his dignity intact (seriti). Most, if not all of our political figures in Lesotho have lost their dignity (ha bana seriti).

We are at ground zero. We need to rebuild our country from the ground upwards and I think King Letsie III is best suited to source the much needed investment from all over the world.
I am into property development and I know the challenge of convincing investors to see potential for investment in Lesotho. Like I said, Lesotho has a Mandela.

To digress a bit and as part of my closing comments, going back to the early 90’s, which individual was brave enough to say no to Mandela in his era? Former President Mandela held the master key. Who will be brave enough to say no to King Letsie III?

Another golden opportunity that Lesotho has at the moment is to sell Moshoeshoe One International Airport to Emirates Airlines.
As I’ve previously indicated, pair up the sale with Setsoto Stadium and Victoria Hotel. Sell those assets to Emirates in a quest to bring in FDI and to build meaningful business ties with the UAE, more especially Dubai. Who is best suited to close that deal? There goes your answer!

As a closing note, when you are at your lowest and have very limited options left, the best thing to do is to change habits. Get rid of the things that do not work. Change course, and look at options that have the highest probability of success.

Democracy has proven not to work in Lesotho. In fact, Lesotho excelled economically at a time when democracy was suppressed or even suspended. Coalition governments have proven to be a disaster. A complete mess!

What other options are available? How can we make this country work after the Corona economic meltdown? How do we reboot the economy? How can we get Basotho to unite and love one other?
Let’s try this option I’m tabling and see if it works. We’ll never know until we try and as Mandela once said, it always seems impossible until it is done.
Food for thought!

    ‘Mako Bohloa

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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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Reading, writing and the art of reflection



There is a close thread that runs through what you reflect on, what you read and what sticks in your mind. It’s almost a cyclic process with regards to how all these processes unfold. Today, in this installment we focus on the thread between reading, reflection and writing.

This appears a bit cumbersome to explain. But let’s simplify it. Let’s begin with a beautiful poem which encompasses what we have so far spoken about. Here we are! The poem is penned by “Tachibama Akemi.” It goes:

It is a pleasure
When, rising in the morning,
I go outside and
Find that a flower has blossomed
That was not there yesterday.

Seemingly, the poem is simple. But, on close analysis, it reflects very deep reflection and thoughtfulness.

The persona, in an existential fashion, reflects all about the purpose and meaning of life and his place in the overall matrix of life.

The persona carefully reflects on nature. This is what makes all this poem rustic and romantic.

The persona thinks deeply about the blossoming flowers and how the process of the growth of flowers appears almost inadvertently.

It is a poem about change, healing, the lapse of time and the changes or vissiccitudes in the life of a person are reflected creatively through imagery and poetry. We all go through that, isn’t it? We all react and respond to love, truth and beauty.

So far everything appears very interesting. Let’s just put to the fore some good and appealing thoughts. Let’s enlarge on reading, writing and reflection.

Kindly keep in mind that thoughts must be captured, told, expressed and shared through the magical power of the written word.

As a person, obviously through keeping entries in a journal, there is no doubt that you have toyed about thoughts and ideas and experiences you wish you could put across.

Here is an example you can peek from Anthony. Anthony likes writing. He tells us that in his spare time he likes exploring a lot. And, more often than not he tells us,

“I stop, and think, and then when I find something, I just keep on writing.”

So crisp, but how beautiful. Notice something interesting here; you need to stop, to take life effortlessly and ponderously, as it were; observe, be attentive to your environment; formulate thought patterns and then write.

To some extent, this article builds on our previous experiences when we spoke at length about the reading process.

But how can you do it? It’s not pretty much different. I can help you from my previous life as a teacher of English Languge.

The most important skill you must cultivate is that of listening, close listening. Look at how people and events mingle.

What makes both of you happy; enjoy it. I am sure you still keep that journal in which you enter very beautiful entries. Reflect about Maseru, the so-called affluent city. So majestic!

How can you picture it in writing!

I am glad you learnt to reflect deep and write. Thank you very much. Kindly learn and perfect the craft of observing, reflecting and writing. Learn that connection. Let’s meet for another class.

Vuso Mhlanga

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The Joker Returns: Part One



Don’t be put off by the title, esteemed readers; what follows has nothing to do with the Batman films. As you will be happily (or unhappily) aware, I am a big fan of jokes. There’s a common understanding that a joke is ruined if you have to explain it, and this is true, but some jokes do need a bit of background explanation. Anyway. I like jokes and I like thinking about how they work.

Many of my favourite jokes have to do with language and the way we use it. For example: “I just bought myself a thesaurus. I similar it very much.”

Other jokes have to do with human behaviour and here it is important, out of respect for others, to avoid jokes that perpetuate stereotypical ideas about gender, race, nationality, and so on. I’m afraid the following joke does depend upon a stereotype (I’ll come back to that), but here goes, after a bit of background information.

In Lesotho you have an insect called a praying mantis — stick-like, bright green, and with great bulging eyes. They are rather lovable, despite the off-putting fact that the female practices insect cannibalism; after mating, she consumes the male. So, now you’ve had your zoological primer, here goes.

Two praying mantises are getting up close and personal. The female says to the male: “before we have sex and I bite your head off, could you help me put up some shelves?”

Apologies to female readers, because, as I said, that joke perpetuates a gender stereotype, namely, that women are good with a vacuum cleaner or a dustpan and brush, but hopeless with a hammer and nails.

There are many jokes that are, as it were, much more serious than that. As I rattled on about in a couple of earlier columns, many of these are satirical — jokes that are designed to point a finger at human folly or even wickedness. In another column, titled “Should we laugh?”, I explored the question “is there any subject that should be kept out of the range of humour?”

Well, apparently not, if we take on board the following account of the Warsaw ghetto.

Historical preface first.

The Warsaw ghetto represents one of the worst atrocities in modern history. In November 1940 the genocidal Nazis rounded up all the Jews in Poland’s capital and herded them into a small sector of the city, which they euphemistically, cynically, dubbed the “Jewish Residential District in Warsaw.”

Here nearly half a million Jews were in effect imprisoned, barely subsisting on tiny food rations. An estimated quarter of a million were sent off to the death camps. An uprising against the Nazi captors was brutally crushed. Around 100 000 died of starvation or disease.

Not much to laugh about there, you might say. But then consider the following, which I’ve taken from the New York Review of Books of February 29th this year:

“In the Warsaw Ghetto in October 1941 Mary Berg, then a teenager, wrote in her diary about the improbable persistence of laughter in that hellish place: ‘Every day at the Art Café on Leszno Street one can hear songs and satire on the police, the ambulance service, the rickshaws, and even the Gestapo, [on the latter] in a veiled fashion. The typhoid epidemic itself is the subject of jokes. It is laughter through tears, but it is laughter. This is not our only weapon in the ghetto — our people laugh at death and at the Nazi decrees. Humour is the only thing the Nazis cannot understand.’”

To be concluded

Chris Dunton

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