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Relocate Parliament to Thaba-Bosiu

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Happy spring day! Happieee! It feels good to finally shed the heavy coats and jerseys and to dress in bright-coloured clothes.

It felt good to visit the offices of thepost newspaper about two weeks ago. Well, a lot of people assume I have a designated desk with a computer at thepost. On the contrary, I don’t. I actually visited the Managing Editor for the first time since the hard lockdown of 2020.

Believe it or not, it had literally been two years since I had been to the offices.

Another interesting story that you might find amusing is that I also received quite an interesting feedback regarding an award that the Maseru City Council (MCC) received from the PMR Africa Awards.

To recap, the MCC received a gold award for maintaining a clean environment in Maseru city, promoting job creating (job creation), keeping the city safe (crime-fighting) and for attracting investment in the city.

I was asked quite a difficult yet easy question. “Which Maseru City is the award based on?” I haven’t been able to answer the question because I’ve been asking myself the same question too.

Muckraker, what’s your take on this award?

Another point of feedback that I got was on the predictions I made regarding the elections outcome. Some people thought that ten constituencies for the RFP, is a bit on the low side. However, I still maintain that 60+1 seats envisioned by the RFP is way too ambitious.

Remember that the ABC only managed to secure 17 constituencies in the 2007 general elections and their campaign was way bigger than that of the RFP. So, 60+1 hoped by the RFP is simply what we call a future impossible tense.

Going into the topic at hand, one thing that you may find interesting is that I’m addicted to the Lesotho Television (LTV) news, more especially on Mondays.

This is a time when LTV covers all sorts of political rallies that took place over the past weekend. Jesus! Litoro tsa faro. (Pharaoh’s dreams).

I tell you, you’ll hear all sorts of hallucinations. Things like, “re tlo kenya liphoofolo lichipi.” (We are going to microchip your animals). And you wonder, what is ‘chipi’? Is he trying to say tšepe? (steel).

One politician once said, “ha re kena pusong, re tlo aha international airport Mafeteng. Re tlo kenya le sporo sa terene Mafeteng.” (When we take over the government, we are going to build an international airport in Mafeteng.

We are also going to build a railway in Mafeteng). An international airport in Mafeteng? And you ask yourself, what are these people smoking?

But a classic was when one politician said he’s going to open thirty new mines when he’s elected into power. And you think, really? But you can’t even fill potholes along Koffi-Annan Road.

By the way, the condition of Koffi Annan is appalling. Haikh’ona. I don’t know what excuse those tasked with managing our roads have coined this time around to keep the potholes exposed. Why can’t you get one load of gravel and fill the potholes? Tipara e le ngoe ea koari? (One truckload of gravel).

I mean, this is the road that connects the Moshoeshoe One International Airport to Maseru City. What are potential investors saying and what first impression are we making to tourists?

I have an idea though. What if we rename the Koffi-Anan road to Bill Gates Highway and invite Bill Gates to reopen it? Or possibly Elon Musk? Maybe he’ll feel embarrassed to see the condition of the road and build Mokhothu’s highway’ with fly-overs and tunnels to the city centre.

It’s actually not a bad idea. Imagine the amount of publicity we’d get if we name one road in Maseru after a world-wide sensation like Jay-Z.

Hotels would be packed and this would boost tourism immensely. Think about it.

As a matter of fact, the road that links Ha Motšoeneng (Lithabaneng) to Thaba-Bosiu, does not have an official name. Why not name it Beyonce Knowles Highway? And the one that links Ha Foso or Sakamaneng to Ha Mabote. Why not name it Barack Obama Road? Food for thought!

So, going back to LTV. One story that caught my attention when I was watching LTV about three weeks ago, was an act of arson that led to a fire over the Thaba-Bosiu mountain. Herd-boys were rumoured to be the ones behind the fire, in pursuit of sprouting green summer pastures.

This was a very disturbing story and I could feel the pain in his voice when he was narrating a story of how the fire started and which areas of the mountain were affected.

I could feel the frustration in Chief Khoabane Theko’s voice when he said, these acts of arson really embarrass the nation. “Li hlokisa naha seriti.” And I said, he’s 100% correct.

You know, if there’s one thing I’ve realised about us Basotho is that, we don’t cherish the monuments we have. We don’t protect our assets. Re batho ba maonatso. (We do not know how to take care of our own).

Take a short drive to Thaba-Bosiu and look at the urban landscape and tell me whether Thaba Bosiu has any characteristics of a national monument? Not only a national monument but also a national key point. Not at all.

When you get to Thaba Bosiu, you’ll find a scrap yard on the foot-hills of the mountain. As ‘Moea Makhakhe once said, “Thaba Bosiu has become one big scrap-yard.”

What disturbs me the most is a pink building that looks like a hospital, as one enters Thaba Boisu. It doesn’t blend with the urban landscape and has no cultural semblance to the place. It’s just out of context to the heritage of the place.

So, this act of arson made me think of an idea I’ve been harbouring for some years now and allow me to plant this idea as a seed.

What if we relocate the house of parliament to Thaba Bosiu and convert the current house of Parliament to a new Government Complex? More like what the Union Buildings are for Pretoria. It’s on a hill and visible from most points of Pretoria. Not a bad idea.

Can you imagine the amount national pride this relocation would do for Basotho?

The current house of Parliament has no cultural semblance and significance either. It has no characteristic of our indigenous architecture. One Catholic nun once told me that she thinks the Parliament building looks like a box of matches. In her words, “ekare tosi ea mollo.”

This relocation would also have so much cultural significance. Maybe, it would also influence good patriotic thoughts and intentions from the MPs.
We won’t see people standing on chairs and sleeping on pillows (mesamo) in the new relocated House of Parliament. It will be a respectable place that has been built by Basotho from their pockets (No donations).

You may be wondering where it could be built. There is a flat piece of land in front of Qiloane Mountain. This development would work perfectly at Qiloane and the land is flat enough to also include a museum, library and a parliamentary village and schools.

This is a project that could revitalise the economy of Thaba Bosiu and create thousands of jobs. It will also create economic spin-offs for Metolong Dam due to increased tourism related activities.

This would be a perfect project to boost our national pride and to demonstrate that we are capable of doing something of significance for ourselves. The Vukazensele spirit!

‘Mako Bohloa

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Insight

We need a coordinated approach on youth challenges

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For a number of good reasons, all of us are concerned about problems that face Lesotho’s young people, particularly youth unemployment, and the increasing tendency towards anti-social behaviour among sections of Lesotho youth including their increasing admiration for criminality.

Not only do members of such groups admire criminality and actually commit crimes but they commit crimes without much care as to the harm and other costs that their actions inflict on immediate victims and on society-at-large.

Evidence of public concern about these problems includes the fact that within society individuals, groups and public and private institutions have all expressed concerns over problems facing the youth, with some of these parties making attempts to come up with ideas and measures to assist.

However, a number of problems seem to be emerging on, at least, three fronts. Firstly, a seeming lack of coordination in addressing problems that face young people. Secondly, lack of clarity on questions of whether (a) parties that seek to assist are basing their interventions on credibly identified sources of problems that face young people; and (b) whether any credible assessments are made to ensure that interventions such parties are proposing and implementing have potential to solve problems that face Lesotho’s young people.

There are many examples of what may seem to us, members of the general public, to be lack of coordination in approaches to solve problems facing young people. One such example may be sufficient. On January 8, 2024, Lesotho TV broadcast a statement in which the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) authorities announced establishment of some army facility where Basotho young people would be taught some values, including patriotism.

The very next day, on January 9, 2024, Lesotho TV broadcast another statement, this time by the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) authorities, announcing the LMPS’s plan to establish a police facility at which young people would be taught anti-crime and other values. In their essence, the LMPS’s plan sounded not totally dissimilar to LDF’s.
Apart from the LDF and LMPS’s plans for Lesotho’s youth, there are also public and private sector initiatives to nurture and support entrepreneurial talents of Lesotho’s youth with a view, among others, to fight youth unemployment and develop the country’s private sector.

Politicians have also been seen to sponsor football games for young people in their constituencies with a view, they say, to keep young people from crime and narcotics. These events cannot be criticised too much but given that they are one, or two-day events that take place during specific times, they look more like publicity stunts.

National sports federations are now complaining that politicians who sponsor these events put too much stress on sports as a means to fight crime. What federations want is that, if politicians want to help, they should stress the importance of sports as careers, and sponsor young people to develop their sporting talents accordingly.

Amidst expressions of concerns and various parties’ attempts to address problems facing Lesotho youth, public authorities that we have not heard from, or from who we do not hear enough, are those charged with responsibilities over precisely problems facing young people; that is, authorities at the Ministry of Youth.

Admittedly, we do not know if the initiatives of the LDF, LMPS, and others are carried out in consultation with or with the blessing of the Ministry of Youth.

The worry ought to be not only whether interventions of the LDF, LMPS, and others have the blessings of the Ministry of Youth. Instead, the worry should extend to the question of whether the Ministry has any national plan to address problems facing young people. And, if such a plan exists, we would expect that it identifies the LDF and LMPS as places where young place can be coached; and initiatives of these and other institutions would align with such a plan.

Without an identification of the army and the police as implementing agencies of the Ministry’s plan, and without the army and police’s initiatives alignment with the Ministry’s plan, at least two things are likely to result: duplication of effort — as seems to be the case with the LDF and LPMS plans; or, at worst, LDF and LMPS plans might contradict and undermine national plans entrusted to the Ministry of Youth.

In the worst case scenario that a national plan does not exist, we face the danger that anybody wishing to address problems facing Lesotho’s young people can do so, basing herself, or himself on a personal or group perception, and implementing plans and solutions based on such perception.

As in the case of too many people stirring the same cooking pot without coordination, undesirable consequences can be expected from a situation where just about anybody can apply a solution to a public problem.

As hinted above, a good national plan aimed at addressing problems that face Lesotho’s young people would have two characteristics, at least. First, it would be based on our assertion of the kind of society we want to be; an investigation of problems that stand in the way of achieving such a society; how such problems can be overcome, say, through school curricula; and how, in general, from Early Childhood Care & Development (ECCD), young people can be brought up and socialised in ways that ensure they will be useful members of a society we wish to be.

Any action that is not based on an investigation of the problems that stand in the way of achieving a society we want to be has little chances of success. Such action would be based on some understanding that the young who are anti-social, unpatriotic and criminals are naturally bad people.

It is, of course, not as simple as that. For example, one possible explanation for the absence of patriotism among young people may have something to do with socio-economic inequality in Lesotho: those who are closed out of, and excluded from, benefiting from Lesotho’s wealth and power cannot be expected to be patriots.

A second characteristic of a plan aimed at addressing problems that face Lesotho’s young people is that, such a plan should identify and/or establish institutions designed — and with appropriate skills — to implement ideas and proposals that come out of credible investigations.

It is unclear whether the LDF and LMPS plans have resulted from something like considerations suggested above. While it is admitted that these institutions’ initiatives are limited to addressing problems of lack of patriotism and criminality among the young people, one clear problem with their plans and solutions is that, it might be the case that they are catching young people a little late, when schooling and general socialisation have already entrenched anti-social values that we see among sections of young people; namely, individualism and the inability to think of others.

In one word, these institutions catch these young people when tendencies towards criminality, anti-social behaviour, and lack of patriotism might have already hardened.
Perhaps the biggest hope we should have is that the army and the police will have full complement of resources necessary for providing full and wholesome mentoring to young people who undergo army and police mentoring.

Short of adequate resources necessary for achieving what the army and the police have in mind, we might end up with cohorts of young people with a faulty army and police culture that may come back to haunt us. Inserting a faulty army culture among a section of young people brought us bitter results in the 1970s and 1980s that should not be repeated.

To conclude, no one can argue against all of us being concerned with problems of youth unemployment; increasing tendencies of young people’s admiration of criminality and their participation in crime. And no one can argue against all of us coming up with ideas and proposals of how to address these problems.

However, our concerns and proposals ought to be based on:
a nationally-agreed assertion of society we want to be;
a credible investigation of difficulties that stand in the way of us becoming society we want to be;

and coordination of proposals and ideas aimed at becoming society we want to be.

As with other specific instances of socio-economic development in Lesotho, problems facing the country’s young people cry out for the long-neglected establishment of the National Planning Board, as prescribed in Section 105 of the Constitution of Lesotho.

Prof Motlatsi Thabane

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Insight

Call that a muffin?

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In Oscar Wilde’s short story “The Canterville Ghost” (1887) one of the characters says about the British, “We have everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.” Between American English and British English there are many, many differences. Which is not to say that either American or British English are standardised; there are multiple varieties within each. As a south-western Brit I can find it difficult to fully understand what someone from Liverpool or Newcastle is saying.

I remember one year during the NUL’s International Theatre for Development project we had a student from the islands of Scotland. She was brilliant and hard-working and full of good ideas — if only one could understand the ideas when she introduced them. The NUL students grouped together and asked me: “Chris, can you translate what Kirsty is saying for us?” and I replied: “I’m as lost as you are.”

Between American and British English it’s not just a matter of pronunciation but also of vocabulary (I’ll be coming to muffins — see the title of this piece — in a while) and spelling.
In the biographical film Prick Up Your Ears British, dramatist Joe Orton shares a room with Ken Halliwell and they decide to write a novel together. Ken asks Joe “can you spell?” and Joe replies “yes, but not accurately.”

This is hardly a surprise, given that he’s a Brit. The American spelling system is far more regular and rational than the British. (Readers with laptops will have noticed that your spell-check gives the option of British or American spelling, but that doesn’t help you as in Lesotho the British system is used, so for the time being you’re stuck with it).

I mean, what can you say about a spelling system where “plough” rhymes with “now”, but “tough” rhymes with “stuff”– and “now” doesn’t rhyme with “low.” Yipes (as the Americans say). When I was lecturing in Lesotho and in Nigeria and marking assignments I was always very lenient over spelling, because I know what a mountain it is to climb (the latter word rhyming with “time”, of course).

Then there is the matter of vocabulary or denotation (a term I hope readers remember from a few weeks back). There are many examples of things that are denoted by different words in British and American English: lift / elevator; pavement / sidewalk; windscreen / windshield; petrol / gas; cinema / movie theater (and look at the American spelling of (Brit) “theatre”– a lot easier). And some of these reflect our different histories.

For example, there’s a vegetable, a kind of small marrow, the British call it a courgette (one of my favourite vegetables, in case any of you are planning to invite me for dinner). That’s a word that British English has borrowed directly from French — that is, a loan word (I’m not sure we plan to give it back).

The Americans on the other hand call it a zucchini, a loan word from Italian, which I guess reflects the size and influence of the Italian community in the USA. (Speaking of vegetables, I can’t give you an explanation for why the Brits call an aubergine an aubergine — another loan word from French — but the Americans call it an egg-plant).

Next week I’ll get around to muffins — a sore point — and I’ll move on to differences between English and French and between Sesotho and Setswana. Bet you can’t wait.

Chris Dunton is a former Professor of English and Dean of Humanities at the National University of Lesotho.

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Insight

Lessons from Israel: Part 3

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I shall round off my account of my 1995 trip to Israel by putting on my tour guide cap. Staying in Tel Aviv, most days were fully taken up by the conference, which was my reason for being there. Tel Aviv in July is scorchingly hot, so there were walks along the beach only before breakfast and after sunset. I did take a little time off to go with South African author Stephen Gray to an art gallery that had a painting he wanted to see (a portrait by Modigliani of Beatrice Hastings, whose biography Stephen was then writing).

I wasn’t especially keen on the hotel restaurant, where dinner comprised meat served by the ton (surprisingly little fish, given that we were on the coast. By contrast, I had always been surprised and happy that Maseru restaurants are so good on fish, despite the fact that Lesotho isn’t exactly maritime). But I discovered a little Russian Jewish restaurant that offered Beluga caviar at an amazingly cheap price. I suspect it had fallen off the back of a lorry, as we say in the UK — i.e. that it was contraband, acquired illegally. I just blinked innocently and enjoyed myself. I can’t think of a more delicious way of starting a meal than with caviar, freshly-made blinis and a large glass of deeply chilled Wyberowa vodka — no ice, please. (I only say all this to show you what a very cosmopolitan chap I am).

The conference ran to a packed schedule and we worked hard (no, really). Half-way through we were given a day off and taken to Jerusalem. On arrival I teamed up with an old Nigerian friend and a friend of his from Senegal and we took ourselves first to the Dome of the Rock, the main mosque, which is splendid and radiant (wow, the mosaics!) Then we saw the Wailing Wall.

Then we trudged up the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Via marks the route along which Christ was forced to carry his cross on the way to his crucifixion (dolorosa means something like “of miseries”). I had expected it to be lined with sculptures showing the Stations of the Cross (rather like the lovely ones at Fatima, near Ramabanta).

Instead it was one tourist gift shop after another. Here I came across one of the most repugnant things I’ve seen in my life. Proudly displayed for sale, a wall clock with the face adorned with the image of the head of Christ, the two clock hands protruding from his nose.

At the top of the Via Dolorosa, the fourth century Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest site in the world for Christians, which is breathtakingly beautiful. The interior is (not visibly) divided into sections, the upkeep of each of which is the responsibility of one of the major denominations: Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Greek Orthodox, Egyptian Coptic, and so on. I had had the impression this was an arrangement worked out under the colonial regime of British Palestine, but Google tells me it dates back to the Status Quo of 1757.

My companions had done their homework and suggested we head first for the roof, which had been allocated to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (dare one possibly suggest a tinge of racism in this marginalisation?). There we found a cluster of monkish cells, each inhabited by an elderly Ethiopian monk, at least two of whom spoke English or French. They were delighted to see us, and utterly sweet, hospitable, and in their accounts of their pastoral work spellbinding.

To be concluded

Chris Dunton

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