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The Jezebel effect



Comrade Chris Hani warned against this sort of behaviour, ‘Comrade’ Maimane is very vocal these days about it, that is, the tendency for African politically elected leaders to hold on to power for so long that they begin to think and believe that the state is their private property with which they can do anything.
Chris Hani foresaw an African leadership that would after liberating the masses go on to live the lavish lifestyles of their erstwhile oppressors and colonisers and forget about the call of the struggle, that is, the emancipation of the people not only from the oppression of the coloniser, but also from abject poverty and all its related maladies.

The birth of independence and its aftermath has often, consistently, seen the rise of a new upper class made of the ruling political elite.
Shamelessly living the lavish lifestyles of the former ‘oppressors’, these new political Joneses flaunt the ‘rewards of their struggle’ in the presence of the poor masses that put them in office.

Only their entourages stand to benefit as they scramble for the often hefty crumbs from the new feudal lords disguised as liberators.
The African continent has often had to be freed from the clutches of the liberator for, many a time, the liberator’s megalomania has gotten the better of them that they cling on to the seat of power and do not want to relinquish their power.

The main reason for the political failure is caused by the now cultivated tendency on the part of the ruling class to hold the false notion that their position grants them, their families, and their allies primary right of access to the resources of the land.
The supporters, often not smart enough to realise the dangers of these new regressive behaviours, or, as is often the case, in denial of the fact that their leaders should uphold the highest moral courtesies in terms of the management of financial and natural resources, blindly follow and support their leaders until such a time that the abuse of the land is so bad that its solution lies in the use of arms and violence to excise it.

If a leader puts the blame on the European, the question is, why then do their followers condone such reprehensible practices as their leaders going on shopping sprees in European destinations while their people suffer back home?
The truth to this is that the African has never really been freed from the clutches of the colonial culture of materialism, where the individual in possession of the most European pieces of material was respected and looked upon with reverence because they were the most similar in terms of material possession to the colonial lord.

Of the freedom from tedious labour for little pay, of the rampant levels of crime in their neighbourhoods that needs addressing, of the abject poverty and squalor in which they and their neighbours have to live in, and of the diseases that plague them, the docile masses soon forget of as their party ascends the seat of power.

I often deem political contests and elections as nothing more than the old feudal practices where the natives were happy with just being associated with a certain lord or tribal chief. And the political leaders have somehow gotten the gist of this behaviour, and they go on to live like tribal chiefs of old who sold their subjects into slavery at a whim.

I am not impressed when the masses toyi-toyi in the streets for the removal of a certain leader they cheered for when they still naively believed he would serve their interests.  My reason for remaining blasé is simply due to the fact that there is no truth in what the masses are fighting for. Corruption, abuse of power, instability, and other so-called causes to the mass demonstrations to root out rotten leadership are just mere scapegoats.
The truth lies in the fact that the African never really got the tribal mentalities and gangster tendencies of the pre-colonial period out of the way; people gather in the name of independence when they have brought the scourge upon themselves.

A few years ago, there were chants of happiness in once mighty Zimbabwe as farmers were attacked by marauding gangs of ‘war veterans’, those same veterans are now calling for Robert Mugabe’s ouster. Where is the truth in loving the tyrant one day as you would a saint because he is serving your interests, and then hating him as you would the devil the next day because he has all of a sudden ‘been too long in power?’

There is a saying by the Stoic Roman author Persius Flaccus as quoted by Ralph Waldo Emerson that I often refer to when I come to the judgement of real truth and it states in Latin, “Omne verum vero consonant (Every truth is consonant/in agreement with every other truth)”. This statement in brief means that what is true does not have to defend itself at any point in time, because it is consistent and constant in terms of its origin and form.
It is wrong to defecate into the silo, it is wrong to spit into the wind; it is foolish for one to soon believe that they are invincible in these volatile African political landscapes: for a man can one day be the most loved, and be the wearer of the mark of Cain the next day.

The basic truth is that the leaders should be individuals that exercise the quintessential virtues of humility, moderation, honesty, loyalty, selflessness, and utter sense of patriotism to the motherland. Constant self-evaluation is of utmost importance, lest a man forget that they got to their exalted position for the sole purpose of serving country and state and not their followers.
I have observed unattached as Africans erred in terms of judgement when it comes to making the decision to effect the change of the guard.
The change of the guard is often accompanied by noises of a violent kind, not the usual quiet exchange and passing on of duties of state and position as exercised by sentries in police or military barracks. Why there should be noise when the masses feel that someone has to abdicate their high seat flummoxes me.
A mentor of mine in rehabilitation many moons ago had this statement he had me repeat on a daily basis in our contact sessions, “The manner of your exit from one level determines your entry into the next . . . ”
Exiting the scene in chaos naturally means that entry into the next phase shall be a chaotic one. We have seen such occurrences across the globe, with Libyans now regretting their so-called battles to oust Colonel Muammar Gaddafi as a living example.

One sees a new kind of political school of thought that has since the beginning of time managed to topple superpowers; bedroom politics.
The demise of Adam was at the behest of Eve, that of Ahab at the influence of the bejewelled Jezebel, and for Comrade Mugabe his rumbustious ‘Madame Gucci’ who, for some strange reasons seems to have in the recent past lost interest in the shopping sprees at Harrods, Monaco, Dubai and all those other expensive destinations she used to go to, boarding planes more than I take rides in 4+1’s while the rest of her country starved.
Grace was just ungraceful when it came to showing vested interest and her covetousness for the seat of power must have angered many in the old guard represented as ‘war veterans’.

The hunger that had over the years after the sanctions reached stratospheric proportions must have also had an influence. Like a line in Bob Marley’s ‘Them belly full’, Grace’s antics just somehow served as the catalyst to what is now unfolding in Monomotapa’s kingdom.
A favourite song by the great Roots Rock reggae star plays in my head as I view the scenes:
Every man gotta right to decide his own destiny,

And in this judgement there is no partiality,
So arm in arms, with arms, we’ll fight this little struggle,
‘Cause that’s the only way we can overcome our little trouble.

The truth is that this continent or the world is not yet ready for political monarchies as an idea or practice, that is, political empires run by families where the wife or the son takes over the reins of power when the old man kicks the bucket.

The Beijing pill seems to somehow have convinced a certain sector of society that they can order the states from the bedroom, well, it shall not suffice.
The reality of the matter is that many of those figures that shall attempt to govern states from the comfort of their private quarters in the state house shall sooner than later be thrown out of the window and be eaten by stray dogs like Jezebel was if they go on like poor Grace was going.
For me, swapping an old devil for a new one is the same as not moving at all. The old tendency to believe that the advent of a new era means change is proving to be an unreality for a lot of the continent’s states.

There are questions, too many questions, as to the credibility of the figures we often associate with new changes in the new era. Far often than less, the new figures have themselves been active participants in the ‘injustices’ that took place in the era that is being kicked off the pedestal.
This means that they have to a large extent been complicit in the commission of the crimes the main scapegoat is being accused of. How they end being considered cleaner than the accused I will never really understand, but can frankly declare this as a sure sign of hypocrisy.
The backhanded dealing and unctuousness that follows these struggles for ‘justice’ as we now see in Zim is plain sickening. Especially if you are genuinely politically disinterested and your main concern is the welfare of fellow African brothers and sisters who are bandied like a deck of cards by these poker-faced politicians.

I had to go around the block for a smoke and to really wrap my head around this one; how can we Africans deal properly for the effective rooting out of the greedy post-colonial bourgeoisie class posing as liberation fighters?
I think we should stop being Janus-faced about reality, the truth is that these new cultures of materialism and their tendencies will sooner than later see us at the bottom of the ocean.

Material rots, depreciates, fades into dust and nothingness, why it should have a once prosperous continent amok is a travesty.
The African has not for a moment been decolonised; we are even more colonised than we were in the days when chain-gangs and rampant genocides were the order of the day.

It is upon us to be rid of the mentality that had us thinking that the tendencies of the figure that taught us ‘long-sleeve’ and ‘short-sleeve’ were the guides on the right way to live in our city states and villages.
I have been in pursuit of the illusion for most of my life; and the illusion tried to convince me that I was at my best when I was not being me, when I was being someone other who I really am: that I would be better than others if I got educated.

On my first flight, I wondered why people were so fascinated by flying; the darn experience felt like a bus ride, it was just faster.
We see countries run by individuals who get so hooked on flying in the air that they forget how to walk the earth that gave birth to their forebears, and we for our part rather naively start believing that they can get us to a better future.

The earth is tilled by different people of different tribes, of varying opinions and interests.
The tyrant should have been seen in the Hitler style genocides he committed for the larger part of his early years.
I have always somehow questioned the man’s Hitler moustache, and I was beginning to wonder when Jezebel would see to his demise.
The waiting is over, Jezebel has done him in; and now the dogs are sharpening their teeth. Gukurahundi.

Tsepiso S 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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