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The full cost of our peace

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Until he opened up his satchel and took out his engraved journal, the figure sitting two seats away from me on this flight was just any other man, the name in silver on the cover of his diary, however, revealed who he really was; a famous South African cricket star whose rise to stardom on the cricket field as a left-handed batsman and part-time right-arm off spin bowler was at the expense of Australia losing a Test series at home after a long-held 16 years.

This 33-year-old from Strandfontein, Western Cape, is something of an enigma in cricket circles (and I am an avid fan of the sport), not only because of his style of play, but mainly because the record books attest to his constancy when it came to maintaining the breaking of records in his field of play.
I am not one to be wowed by the extravagance of a loudmouthed celebrity, I am ‘bowled over’ by the simplicity of men who have achieved much but still keep their sense of humility; as Jean-Paul (JP) Duminy did on this flight from here to there.

History has proven that we are a country of loudmouths with little in actual and real achievements to show, the loquacity somehow always supersedes reality, engulfs it in rigmarole and rhetorical tautologies, and at the end of the day leaves a nation confused as to who they really are in terms of achievements over the course of history.

Lies, lies, lies, and more lies we listen to on a daily basis, lies of different and varying sorts, lies that have pushed a kingdom that once was the beacon of African hope in education into the shameful rubble rouser that has achieved less than a short chisel would trying to carve a mountain’s side.
The rhetorical speeches of the politicians tell a different story, that we have walked thus far because we are a “peaceful” nation (peaceful as a well-fed crocodile that does not have to lurk for prey in the waters of the river because it lives in a pond in a zoo and thus receives its ration in chunks of meat from the zoo keepers).

A tortoise could have covered a million miles by now if it were this nation, the sloth could have climbed all the way to the moon in the past 50 years: we have walked backwards all the way to the period before the Lifaqane (circa 1810) in terms of understanding what our peace means.
Moshoeshoe oa Pele founded this nation on the basis of assimilation, inclusiveness, detribalisation, humility, diplomacy, mutual trust and acknowledgement of obvious and hidden differences, the pursuit of peace, and a spirit of unity.

His model went well until the usurper to the throne (the politician) actually thought he could rule, ignorant of the fact that he was just a mere commoner.
The commoner posed as a saviour of the people that had already been saved from perdition by the wisdom of the one true king with whose presence the Basotho were graced with.

Moshoeshoe I understood the true value of peace because he had spent many years fighting real battles with real armies . . . we do not value the full essence of peace because we do not understand the amount of sacrifice that has gone into ensuring that we are a nation with its own state, in brief; we do not respect the wishes of the forefathers and foremothers of this here country.

Respect does not mean we bow as concubines would in a harem, respect means that our sense of reverence for the sacrifices those that came before us is the source to the wells of our patriotism.
One cannot claim to love their land enough to desecrate monuments and markers that were left behind by the forebears for the current generation to follow as guides when the days are hard and the road is unclear.
The lighthouse is there to guide the ship in a storm, and the captain knows they should not forget the importance of the bright light of the tower that guides the ship in the stormy seas.

We have the fortune of being a nation that was formed by a king who lay the foundations of the peace model, a figure who understood the true essence of recovering peace, restoring a nation, and reconciling a people divided by strife and war.
What vexes my understanding is the now fashionable tendency to seek external intervention when there are problems that threaten peace and stability domestically.

I do not understand how a nation formed of the originators of the concept of peace copied by Nelson Mandela and others across the globe could at this moment in time be pining for external intervention, or, to be precise, be threatening each other with it.
I think the world that is watching thinks that we are a bunch of ungrateful dimwits. And I agree that we are nincompoops because we forgot who we were before the politician came along with his temporary solutions to long term problems.

The country is generally stifled by what one can term as “Big Brother Syndrome,” itself the legacy of the colonial era. Lesotho most often than less behaves like the beggar it is because the colonial lord taught the native that help would fall as the manna from distant England.
Well, England packed her bags and moved on to Pretoria, she had lived for the larger part of the first half century in a house on the same street as the old parliament was on.

It seems that the Basotho did not see the silent exit of the English overlords as a sign that the Basotho must get up and confront the world as it is, for the older brother was now gone. Instead of picking up their mattocks and dealing with the infringing forest of political problems, the Mosotho thought asking for external intervention was the solution.

Well, external intervention may have been relevant in the days when the pink boys in veldskoene and Martini Henry rifles wanted to annex this piece of land on this side of the Mohokare.
The wise king back then realised we were not strong enough to weather the incessant onslaughts of the laager boys and so sought the help of England through their emissaries such as Wodehouse, Warden and others.

He was forced to look out due to real circumstances and challenges; why should we at this point in history always be looking outwards to solve internal problems?
Lack of common sense rules the day, and it tells me that one cannot always call the neighbours to have a rat in the house removed.
There are only two solutions available, the first of which is to have rat poison, and the second which is to be willing to remove the rat after it is dead.
This issue that external intervention is seen as a more viable solution to current political problems prevalent in the country is a sure sign that we have become haughty and pompous to the point where we cannot speak to each other as neighbours and this attitude has spread out to the rest of the nation.

If a family cannot converse to flesh out issues that affect them as a family unit, then the neighbours in their genuine concern will attempt to unite the family members that seem to have issues with uniting as a family.
Though it may seem the most sensible solution, the more sensible solution to the division problem in the family is that the individual family members first question their role in the family, to question whether they are the source to the problem and whether they can provide the remedy to the problem.
Adopting a self-righteous stance can never solve the division problem, for then everyone thinks their position is right and therefore cannot be criticised.

This country and state needs to engage in a national dialogue at whose core should be the peace concerns, for pretending that we do not have a peace problem will only lead to more strife and political self-righteousness.
National dialogue for the sake of peace may seem a difficult task to execute at this moment, but it can be done if one has had the time to listen to the various polarised radio stations where each commentator often comes to present their own views of what can be done based on political affiliation and not on the basis of the credo that formed the Basotho ba Moshoeshoe, that is; the credo we shall unite despite the obvious and subtle differences to sort out various problems that present themselves to us.

There are good comments one hears on the various media platforms on how we can garner in a kind of peace the nation can benefit from.
Using those good comments and ignoring political affiliation can in the long term serve to salvage this country out of the miry depths of poverty and political division. Claiming that one is right and the other wrong on the basis of political opinion can never provide lasting solutions.
It is true that one side will see solutions, but those solutions will be of a virtual kind; for where the political leader is loved, the followers often see him or her as the messiah that saves them.

The reality however, is that such a political leader is only serving the interests of one side (the supporters), and the other sides are short-changed in terms of what they rightly deserve as citizens of the state.
And there are sections of society that comprise of apolitical citizens (of which I am a part of), and these sections are forced to watch as the dogs of political wars tear each other to pieces over nonsensities at the expense of the peace that could benefit everyone in terms of rendering an environment calm enough for the full potentialities of the state to be explored.

The past 50 years of Lesotho’s independence have largely been governed by political intolerance, and this misunderstanding on the basis of difference in political opinion has been the arrest that has prevented the state’s progress despite the immense socio-economic potential the human and mineral resource base the state possesses.

Rather than focus on establishing appropriate ways in which the resources can be explored, the heckling on who was right and who is wrong goes on and on and on to disgusting infinity. I am sure the alumni of the first university in the land are wondering how their state universities progressed whilst the old man that gave most of Africa education in the dark pre and post-independence remains stuck in a moment he cannot get out of.
The university is as it is because of the political nature it somehow imbibed somewhere along the way. Depoliticising the core institutions of the land such as education, policing, defence, civil service, and the related could well send us on the way to being the kingdom the world once admired.

Claims that are empty are as loud as empty vessels, and the kind of loud talk on achievements one hears these days is just a sure sign that what once was is still going on as it did. The donkey on the winepress may have been changed, but the tedious grind to crush the grapes of wrath is still going on.
If I had seen Lesotho on the flight to somewhere and Lesotho had opened his diary, the engraving on the cover would be nice to look at, but the pages would be tattered, yellowed out, and full of irrelevances that were contrary to what had been presented about the individual I was observing.

I have so far observed that when prosperity is made, it is made in silence; the loudmouth expends their energy serving the need to satisfy their loquacity.  In the process of their blabbering instead of performing the necessary task at hand, the loudmouth loses valuable time needed to finish the task on or in time.

Political talk without real achievements has gone on for too long in this land; the blabbering on nonentities should from here on be left and a new page turned.  The full cost of our ‘peace’ is clear enough for the blind man to see: we are lagging far behind the rest of the world in terms of socio-economic achievements. What use is it being peaceful and poor? I would rather be known as violent but work at the mint, printing notes of lucre the world needs.

Tsepiso S Mothibi

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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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