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The Mosisili I know

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LAST week former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili celebrated his birthday. He told the Democratic Congress (DC) youth who had brought him presents that he will no longer stand for elections. Mosisili is one of the most underrated politicians in Lesotho.His legacy is rarely appreciated.

That is precisely for two reasons. The first is that a prophet is without honour in his home town. The second is that we are so politically polarised that we refuse to give credit where it’s due. We deride everything done by a political opponent even if it’s meant to benefit the country and future generations.

Yet it should never be this way. Real political maturity is about separating fundamental issues, not emotions. It should be a contest in big ideas and policies that take the country forward. Whoever is pushing those ideas and policies should not matter as long as it benefits the country.
I have been fortunate to have walked with Mosisili. A lot has happened since he left office but I am sure his name shall live forever.

Even some of his most staunch opponents will accept that Mosisili is a democrat. Few politicians in this country have willingly left active politics like he is about to do now. He wasn’t forced to quit the DC leadership but he did.
Any other politician would have hung on to that position for a few more years.
Former Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan served this country well until 1970 when he refused to hand over power to former Prime Minister Ntsu Mokhehle.

But Mosisili took this country to elections every five years and eventually handed over power to former Prime Minister Motsoahae Thabane. As Mosisili retires we bask in a sense of pride that we have achieved an unparalleled record of success when it comes to holding free and fair elections every five years and sometimes prematurely when the rules of democracy forced us to do so.

Mosisili never imposed himself on the people.
One of Mosisili’s biggest achievements was in education. He clearly understood that education is a right, not a privilege. His administration introduced free and compulsory primary education that ensured Basotho children, rich or poor, have equal access to basic education.
That policy created a foundation for many children who might not have made it to a primary school class. The criticism, which is justified, is that it was not extended to secondary level. It is disappointing that successors have not done so.

He also introduced the free school feeding programme in Lesotho schools that was administered by village entrepreneurs. This move ensured that all Basotho children do not learn on empty stomachs regardless of their economic status. That in itself is not short of the necessary patrimony epitomised by leaders who love their people.

When Mosisili got into government, National University of Lesotho (NUL) was the only priority for National Manpower Development Services (NMDS). Today students from Lerotholi Polytechnic, Lesotho College of Education, private institutions and institutions outside of the country are able to get scholarships. Thousands of students benefited from this new policy.

Mosisili’s administration had a baptism of fire when it started in 1998. The Basotho National Party (BNP) and Basotho Congress Party (BCP) activists were burning down most of Maseru’s central business district and looting whatever remained of the city. It was Mosisili who rebuilt Maseru city from the ashes.
It was Mosisili’s administration that we achieved the economic growth rate of 6 percent. The last time our economy grew by that much was in 2012.

Mosisili’s administration ensured a fledgling economy and even money circulating among people created a lively society as opposed to the currently compressed economy where money is mostly in the hands of the few who are mostly politically connected to the major ruling party. It is during this time of sustainable economic growth that most Basotho-owned small and medium businesses boomed, with many registering their businesses and playing a meaningful role in the country’s GDP.
Mosisili’s administration ensured that industrial areas of Thetsane,

Maputsoe, Tikoe, Ha Belo, Mafeteng and Mohale’s Hoek benefited from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Those industrial areas have kept 45 000 people in jobs and sustained more than 160 000 people. His opponent might call these dirty jobs but they will be hard-pressed to point at any job they created.
The Basotho Old Age Pension gave dignity to our elderly who were living in wretched poverty. It served many old people from the indignity of having to beg for food from relatives.

Mosisili’s administration brought the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) to Lesotho. That move ensured the construction of over 120 clinics in Lesotho, covering even the hard to reach areas of the maluti mountains so that ordinary Basotho can access basic health care services in their localities. Queen ‘Mamohato Referral Hospital is also a brainchild of Mosisili’s administration. The building of this hospital contributed immensely to empowering the health sector in Lesotho.

Mosisili’s administration constructed the Metolong Dam that supplies water to Maseru, Roma and Morija. Water is life to any living organism, the supply of clean drinking water from Metolong to Maseru, Roma and Morija ensured that ordinary Basotho have access to safe and healthy drinking water, a move that complements and augments the prerequisites of healthy living for ordinary Basotho because of Mosisili’s administration.

It’s still in Mosisili’s administration that no less than 400 000 Basotho households were connected to electricity supply. That improved the lives of ordinary Basotho in terms of lighting, cooking, food preservation and security. Ordinary Basotho children schools also benefited from electricity connection because new technologies like computers could now be used in Lesotho schools.

Such feats were achieved at the back of deep-rooted patriotism that characterised Mosisili administration. Mosisili administration managed to navigate through economic challenges and other factors affecting developing countries.
The same cannot be said for those who have come after him. There are those who will argue that Mosisili could have achieved more. They are right but that doesn’t mean we should minimise what he achieved.

If you think what Mosisili achieved during his tenure is small, just look at what has been achieved since he left. what have those who came after him built? What life-changing policy have they implemented? How many lives have they transformed? Now count how many lives they have made miserable in the short time they are or were in power. You will be shocked.

Ramahooana Matlosa

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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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