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Only the good die young



…A tribute to Pompi and Kamanga..

THE little boys and girls are engaged in a serious gun battle, oblivious to the reality of the recent deaths of two of their brothers from gunshot wounds at the hands of a criminal. The plastic air-pellet guns go pop as the little children shout violence at each other, perhaps thinking they are gunslingers in a TV show or movie that they watched at their homes.
The culture is what some of us grew up with in the village where the guns are more simplistic, just pieces of wood crudely cut into the shape of a pistol would do back then; these ones have the benefit of owning plastic replica copies of real firearms. These ‘toys’ often look like the real thing in appearance, even in terms of quality or the machining of the working parts of a real firearm.

These toy guns can be breeched as the real gun, they have magazines like the real guns, and sometimes they even bear the weight of the real pistol or rifle. It creates a virtual world of violence in which the children are afforded the opportunity to act out the violence they see on the screen.
It is a wrong culture that has been allowed to fester for too long. We raise generations of gunslingers that at the end of the day never get to see the danger in the possession and use of firearms. The guns have become an everyday object that is reminiscent to furniture by the time many of the children in our societies reach puberty. The truth of the saying, “if you sleep with the dogs, you will surely catch the fleas…” finds its full expression in the reality of the increasing gun violence in Lesotho.

It seems every Tom, Dick and Mary think they are Dirty Harry in a Western movie, pointing and fatally shooting anyone that opposes them or that they bear a grudge against. The lead reason is that children grow up in a culture that worships guns and sees no wrong in buying little children toy guns.
The question is simple: What type of attitude will these children have when it comes to the use and the handling of guns? The obvious answer is that the children will grow up thinking that it is right to point and fire a gun at the next human individual. Some may defend their position by citing increasing gun crime as the trigger to resorting to guns to defend themselves.

It is a flimsy defence, considering the simple fact that legal guns form a larger percentage of firearms used to commit violent crimes that often end up in fatalities. I would never buy my boys guns, Lego sets are the better practical option, but the foolishness of the world deems guns a more desirable option despite the increasing deaths from gunshot wounds.
We need to buy smarter toys for our children, and if we cannot afford them, rather stick to the old rag dolls and wooden cars. Guns are instruments of death, they have never been anything else and the only reason they are here is because we live in a world that worships violence.
When I first settled in the Maqalika area circa 2010 it became very easy to fit into the community because the young boys took a liking to me and embraced me into their inner circle. They became the first ones to advertise my skills as Jack-of-all-trades to their parents and from their word of mouth, their parents became my first clients.
Easy in demeanour and outlook and full of the fire of youth and ambition, I could easily relate to these young gallants of the Maqalika area right on the border between Berea and Maseru districts. They were full of fire then, and the fire’s flames were seen in the various self-help schemes they engaged in on the everyday. From painting houses to plant husbandry, construction to selling food and wares from house to house, I have watched the Maqalika boys that first welcomed me grow from boyhood to manhood to fatherhood. On the rocky shores of the Maqalika, we would often sit and talk in the late evening till the wee hours of the night when all would disperse to their homes. Those are the nostalgic first days I spent in the Litupung and Boinyatso sections of the Maqalika area.

We never actually call each other by first name here, nicknames are the preferred method of address, such is the beauty of the relationship we have, easygoing, respectful, and amicable; as real blood-brothers should be. Pompi, Kamanga, Coupon, Pajero, Timber, Bobatsi, Letata and others are my peers in life or in death. Calling me Jahman or Father Joseph Gerard on the regular day, the jovial manner with which the boys and I relate is the epitome of brotherhood.
I guess the circle of life is completed by one’s peers and neighbours, and the recent passing of the two young men Kamanga and Pompi leaves a chasm in my heart that can only be filled by the knowledge that they rest in peace. It is hard to forget any one man if they were as hardworking as these two were, it is even harder when one has to pass by their houses every morning on the way to Maseru or the shops.

I guess a little elegy for their departed goes some way in assuaging the anguish of their loss, we should sing praises for the valiant departed, those that have tasted and met death prematurely. It is a feeling with no clear definition, and one should be forgiven for rambling in this instance. We have lost dear brothers and a fifth we should pour in remembrance as a simple libation to the dear and the departed young men.
I remember Pompi (Kibiti Johannes Thaki born in 1991) and Kamanga (‘Muso Lancelot Koelane born in 1988) as the best of the best, the cream of the crop when it comes to the issue of dealing effectively with the currently prevalent scourge of poverty and unemployment.
They never cringed at the sight of poverty and unemployment but took it upon themselves to pick up the spade and the fork in the hassle to do away with the unpleasant circumstances the youth of today have to face. The two understood exactly what it means to hustle for a living and to make a profit out of it. The usual tendency is to wait for the big man to smile before one can collect their blessings, the two never waited for him but went to him to wrest their livelihood out of his hands.

Pompi and Kamanga hustled, and the world around them came to respect them for their efforts. Similar in a lot of ways and character, the passing of the two heroes leaves a clearly visible gap in the community. What they did affects the broader youth community in Lesotho, for many that could have gotten a tip or two from their efforts in dealing with the prevalent unemployment amongst the ranks of youth will miss it now that they are gone.
Pompi is the best storyteller that I have come across in my entire life. It is true that novelists and writers are venerated for their technique, but the oral storyteller is often not acknowledged for their finesse in recounting events. The storyteller Pompi was of the sort that could draw a clear picture in motion of the events he was recounting; all things came to life when he told a story about them, and we would listen not only because we had to: we listened because he told it in a manner that flowed and entranced with its clarity and beauty.

In the twilight, we would sit in a group on the rocks that form the retainer wall of the Maqalika dam, listening to Pompi’s jovial voice telling us of events from the far and recent past. The storytelling would go on till late at night and through the stories, I came to know and understand the community within which life had me put into. It is not easy losing a brother, even harder to lose a whole library of local tales that the oral storyteller is to those that have the opportunity to listen to. A storyteller of note is gone and the evenings are going to be pretty lonely.
This is the season Pompi would be busy pruning trees and tending his greenhouse full of roses, mop tree saplings and various other plants in his husbandry project. This was a self-initiative, started a few years ago and one could see his love and pride at a project that put food on the table for his family as the breadwinner. His parents passed on a few years ago and he dug his hands into the soils of the land to eke a living to support his siblings.

Circumstance forced him into farming and it turned out to be a passion that made him the darling of the Maqalika and Mabote communities, this heard in the councillor’s eulogy at the funeral. The greenhouse stands lonely for its tender is gone, the gardens next spring will be less lustrous for there will be no Pompi to tend to them and to provide the roses and mop trees he understood with a sense of clarity unequalled amongst his peers. From the dust we spring and to the dust we shall all return, hard to swallow now that the sower has returned to the dust from whence he sprung. It is a lonely view of the Maqalika without him amongst the group that sits in a group on the shores.

Kamanga would sell his pork trotters in special sauce, would sell grilled chicken from a dish, and would hustle for a living harder than a lot of our mates. Ever soft-spoken and jovial, here was a young man who understood the true meaning of virtuous living, highly neighbourly, and a man that understood the true meaning of honouring and respecting one’s peers regardless of age.
Kamanga is a figure who understood that circumstances do not make the individual but that the strong individual actually fashions them to suit their needs. On the several occasions that we spoke, he became a mentor and guide that helped me understand the true meaning of keeping on despite prevailing circumstances. Younger than I am by a margin, he however made a lot of sense, more sense because he actually acted out what he believed in and did not wait for a better day. Into the storm many of us have gone to confront life, and the comrades and the peers one goes with into battle actually count for more than enough in terms of the guidance support they offer one.

My basic feeling is that ‘Muso is a soldier whose life enriched those of the people that he came across in his various pursuits. Life is a constant battle, a war that the youth of today are programmed to lose if they follow the cap-in-hand mentality of those that are looking for employment in the public service. Kamanga never waited for a stint in public service but kept on hustling until the man called, just for a while before his fateful passing.
The stint in public service never changed the man he had been before, for he still remained the humble figure he had been before. The only description I have of my brother is that of a humble man for all seasons, never changing for the worse, but always growing better with the passage of time. Such are the types of figures the world misses, whose passing leaves a cold emptiness in one’s heart. There is only one question: why is it that only the good die young?
It was on campus that I first really listened to Tupac Shakur and the song in late 1990s was Life Goes On.  It is playing on in my head as I type and muse on the passing of my two brothers:

How many brothers fell victim to the streets, rest in peace young nigger, (there’s a heaven for a G)
Be a lie if I told you that I never thought of death, (my niggers), we are the last ones left…
The funeral was befitting, the cortège unrivalled, we met long-lost friends, and we gathered as the elephant herd in your honour brothers. Long remembered shall be your names, though it hurts to wonder how it could have been had that fool not pressed the trigger when he did. But such might have beens will kill the spirit of the hustle you epitomised in the brief years you spent in this world, and like Tupac would say, one has to understand one thing: Life Goes On. We now understand that the passing of any one man occurs on a day scattered among the rest of the other days without no clear pattern or sign that can be foretold or portended. All we can say is “So long, you will be missed, and rest in peace brothers”. Meet you on the other side some day brothers.

Tsépiso 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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