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Our King deserves respect from South Africa

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So, some dumb South African immigration officials, fully devoid of any morality found it fitting to carry out a seriously contemptible act by treating the beloved King of the Kingdom of Lesotho worse than their own ancestors and parents were ever treated by the white man’s regime during apartheid.

These are people who, together with their relatives were given refuge in several households in this country during that era. A lot of Basotho people needlessly lost their lives when the white oppressors indiscriminately opened fire and hailed bullets on their households, accusing the Basotho of harbouring ‘outlaws’ and ‘fugitives’.

Lesotho was only worth anything in as far it provided a safe haven for them. Now that same Lesotho serves only as a nuisance and is looked upon in condescension. Did the officers even understand the possible repercussions of their acts? I seriously doubt that. Was it even within their seemingly morally degenerated minds to understand that this had the potential to cause a diplomatic row?

Maybe only those who directly suffered under the oppressive apartheid regime would have a full comprehension of the gravity of their shameful action and their impact to the stature of a man who is not only a king but also fit to be king judging by his demeanour characterised by meekness and humility.

Although the details are sketchy owing to the fact that this deplorable act took place long ago in February 2018 and for some peculiar reason was not made public, it turns out that His Majesty the King was inexplicably made to wait in the queue for two hours. To rub salt in the wound, in a country riddled with crime, where foreigners are often senselessly attacked and assaulted in acts which smack of xenophobia; and where a two year old mobile phone is worth much more than the life of its owner, ironically these officials found it necessary to search the King’s vehicles as if he was some smuggler.

Forget that the man is a king for a second, he is your typical gentleman and looks nothing like a criminal. No wonder this drew so much condemnation from the Lesotho public. The man is revered and held in high stead in this country. Is this treatment surprising in any way? Certainly not! No self-respecting country would ever issue diplomatic passports to individuals who have the potential to misuse such important travel documents.

Lesotho has never and would never do such a thing either. In as much as I am willing to bet that the King did not act in any manner suspicious or untoward to these officials to warrant such a disgraceful treatment, surely His Majesty was travelling on his diplomatic passport. This is a document which upon it being presented to such officials (more so by a King), should have sent through their sensory nerves a “respect him” message.

A well-functioning central nervous system would have interpreted the message as such and only the right actions would have subsequently been taken by these individuals. This was in no uncertain terms conduct unbecoming of these officers. Every one of us can bear testimony to the horrendous treatment Basotho people are subjected to every time they arrive on the South African side at the border post to cross over, especially at the Maseru Bridge.

The long queue would be moving at a pace slower than that of a snail in the scorching heat of the sun. Your heart would bleed when you look around to see a mother carrying a backpack, her two toddlers by her side; she would be pushing another heavy bag using her feet to slowly get closer to the immigration officers. Several old people would be looking around for places to sit and hide away from the sun. When one finally arrives at the window, if these officials are not chatting with each other, laughing and clattering on top of their voices while people are waiting patiently to be afforded services, they are busy peck-typing and swiping on their smart mobile phones.

On the day the queue is some of the longest that is when they would usually have only one official manning the work station and serving these hundreds of people at that particular time. It never rains but it pours! Amid these delays at the border gates, recently the South African home affairs department has begun installing biometrics scanners where individuals’ fingerprints have to be scanned before the individuals could be allowed to pass. I believe this is only meant to ‘punish’ Basotho even further. This has caused even more delays as most people are not familiar with this equipment.

What crime could the Basotho have possibly committed to warrant this demonic treatment? The rumour mill has it that several South African immigration officials working in Maseru have since been suspended for fraud and for taking bribes. I do not know how true this is but should it be, then it certainly explains this cruel and inhumane treatment of the people from the tiny kingdom. It is also said that a ludicrous but lame excuse that has been forwarded by their home affairs department regarding the deteriorating services at the border gate is that there is shortage of staff, but since the case involving the suspended officials is still on-going, the department is in no position to hire replacement hands to ease the crisis there.

The impact of South African heavy handedness is felt by Lesotho more than it does other Southern African countries. How many of us know that the Lesotho Special Permit (work permit) came as a result of discontentment from the Lesotho Government in that such scheme had been extended to the Zimbabweans and not to the Basotho?

I first learned about this treatment of our King on a news crawl of one South African TV news channel where bizarrely, the relevant caption read, “South Africa intervenes to avert diplomatic row after alleged ill-treatment of Lesotho King”!! Intervenes? Really?

What does that even mean in this case? So, if one takes an example of a family set up, a man ill-treats his wife and in an effort to redress his inequity, he then intervenes!!! Absurd!! There is such an insatiable sense of entitlement and self importance that seems to characterise our bigger and stronger neighbour here.

It could be a by-product of the power I alluded to earlier, but it is sickening. To their credit, the South African foreign minister was quick to acknowledge her country’s wrong doing and even promised to travel to Lesotho to personally apologise to the King after the Easter holidays. True to the promise, I understand that indeed this took place. The South African foreign minister came and actually personally met the King and duly apologised. Now, this begs the question though of whether their foreign minister is in terms of protocol the right person to come meet the King on this or not?

I would not be surprised that it should not have happened this way. South Africa is admittedly a powerful country. By virtue of that, they already are dominant in almost every aspect and therefore the flexing of muscles and the unfair application of hegemonic power by them is downright inappropriate.

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Insight

The Joker Returns: Conclusion

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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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Insight

Reading, writing and the art of reflection

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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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Insight

The Joker Returns: Part One

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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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