Regardless of some of the dramatic and painful things that have happened in Zimbabwe in recent times, the sub-region cannot ignore that on April 18, 2023 Zimbabwe marked her 43rd anniversary of Independence. It is modern Zimbabwe’s biggest day.
In many ways, Zimbabwe’s independence came through the cooperation that the sub- region gave to the guerrilla war of the 1970s that culminated in Zimbabwe’s independence on 18 April, 1980.
Zimbabwean guerrillas, affectionately known as freedom fighters, filtered into the country then called Rhodesia, from Mozambique in the east and Zambia in the north. Many Zimbabwean nationals were domiciled in these two countries including Botswana, Lesotho and Tanzania. In Zambia and Tanzania, they shared the same bases with uMkhonto we Sizwe of South Africa and Swapo of Namibia.
However, last week my own family in Zimbabwe had a painful coincidence with Independence. In the hive of activities of the independence eve, my own brother got run over by one of the service trucks that were ferrying items to the main national event in the little town of Mount Darwin. He died on the spot.
We were all shattered and as we sat at the funeral, we could hear sounds of joy and celebration a few metres away from the Independence venue. Mount Darwin had seen the earliest action of Chimurenga, the war of liberation in the 1970’s and pushing this venue from Harare to the little town was an honour because the national event had never been allowed to leave the capital to such smaller venues beyond Bulawayo, the second largest city of Zimbabwe.
So we sat there and wallowed in our sorrow. However for me, a family member in the business of fiction, Zimbabwe’s Independence Day offers an opportunity to sit back, pick at random and read a book or a short story based on the miracle called independence. I often want to settle on Olley Maruma’s novel, Coming Home and Stanley Nyamfukudza’s collection of short stories, Aftermaths.
Olley Maruma’s Coming Home, published in 2007, is about the return of one Simon Nyamadzawo to Zimbabwe Rhodesia after an eight-year exile in the United Kingdom. It is set during the last few months before the attainment of Zimbabwe’s independence.
Maruma has chosen a subject and circumstances that he understands very well because he went through more or less the same experiences as his major character.
The ‘return of the native’ is a subject that has fascinated writers for generations because the returnee is a man or woman who looks at home from the point of past-present, doing a mental and emotional audit. He sees what those who have always been here can never see. Sometimes, as in Chekhov, he asks for people who are long buried at the local cemetery.
The very dramatic few months before Zimbabwe’s independence have tended, ironically, to occupy a blind spot in literature. Coming Home is very unique and useful. It captures the troubled mood of Zimbabwe Rhodesia that emanates from the uncertainties of the internal settlement, the breath-taking Lancaster talks and the subsequent ceasefire.
Simon comes back to a shell-shocked Salisbury, where one thinks twice before making a single step or statement. The beer flows easily but beneath every gulp lurks the unknown. There is a huge calm before the storm and the newcomer is torn between defiance and submission.
There is the distant dissatisfaction emanating from coming back home to pursue individual agendas when the forces that one fled in the first place are still holding forte. This is not the return of a hero. But Simon is well redeemed because at least his nationalist-leftist sentiments are on the side of history. For instance, his open clash with a hard-core Rhodesian journalist in front of timid black journalists places him on a higher pedestal in the bars.
He represents the new breed of black men; cosmopolitan, well read, articulate and ‘cheeky’.
Simon boasts of a good understanding of the lopsided relations between the north and the south and already he anticipates the new neo-colonial struggle that will come through attempting to open a minority economy to the povo.
The easy availability of beer and the occasional white female international journalist who throws herself at his feet leaves him wondering whether he is moving forward or backwards.
Maruma employs a laid back narrative, not hurrying to prescribe or taking obvious sides. In many ways this is a film-maker’s novel. The narrator has the eagle’s eye, seeing without being seen.
Here as in Sembene Ousmane’s The Last Of The Empire, you are being invited to think along, rest, and make a cup of tea before you can quarrel or agree.
But has the character come back home, you ask. Well, there are suggestions in this book that coming back home is complex. Nobody really comes back to the same home after long exile. The last days of Zimbabwe Rhodesia provoke a sense of shock whose waves cause questions that demand hard answers. This novel is a good alternative to the usually tortuous biography.
On the other hand, Stanley Nyamfukudza’s 1983 collection of short-stories called Aftermaths explores various emotions, expectations and some anxieties of a freshly independent people and one may settle on it for such reasons.
In the title story “Aftermaths” a “returnee” goes down his boy-hood street in the location trying to reconnect. He takes a mental register and inventory of the township houses and folk. The signature of time is plastered on the walls of the township although there is an air of carefree, a sense of tension is discernible.
The “return of the native” is generally a fascinating theme in literature. Ngugi employs it in his short-stories about the end of the Kenyan Mau-Mau war of resistance. Often the returnee has no home to return to. His wife is already married to some other man. Often, as in Chekhov, he asks after people who are long dead and lie buried in the local cemetery.
Maybe Nyamfukudza’s most dense and poetic story of the new 1980’s era is “Settlers.” It is based on the earliest Zimbabwe’s resettlement programme. A young man and his pregnant wife find themselves clearing up dense bush to set up home and field.
“Settlers” is a story that follows the great Ernest Hemingway’s “theory” of short-story writing: “Easy writing makes hard reading. Hard writing makes easy reading.” Hemingway’s images are like objects of nature themselves; evoking sights, sounds and smells that assault the reader’s senses with their freshness and immediacy.
“Settlers” describes the young husband intensely and sees the bush, the wife, earth and sky from his point of view.
Looking at his own circumstances, the man is overwhelmed by the sense of plenty and virginity of his new environment. The Zimbabwe revolution had delivered a first, offering virgin land to the formerly dispossessed peasants:
“Sometimes, in the morning, standing there with
his pick, shovel and axe on his shoulders, it
seemed pointless, mad even. How could one
man and woman fight against all this thick
forest, sustained only by the dream that if
they kept at it, they would in the end claim
One cannot escape from the “garden of Eden” feeling evoked by this story. The whole metaphor extends to the new nation state of Zimbabwe. There are references to the heavy rains of the first Independence summer season and the subsequent bumper harvest. The phrase “Zimbabwe the bread basket of Africa” stuck as people flocked from “tired” territories in Masvingo, Madziva, Chiweshe, Gwai… to open up heavy virgin tracts of fields in Muzarabani, Sanyati, Gokwe… Indeed “swords turned into plough-shares.” All of a sudden people wanted to settle, to dig a hole in the earth and rest like some kind of veldt birds.
As the title “Settlers” suggests, one got lost in one’s new forest. Sleeping, working or walking, husband and wife “felt they were intruders, fenced in by a forest which just stood there, as if watching and waiting…” Colonialism, as Fanon would point out, defamiliarises and raptures spiritual connection between man and his heritage.
But the fecundity overflows into the human world in this subtle short story. The man likes to sit by the fire-side “watching her (wife’s) by now faintly swollen belly as she moved about in the small, smoke filled kitchen, preparing the evening meal.” The young wife’s pregnancy creates a sense of continuity and celebration which typifies 1980.
Physically and spiritually this is a place that leaves the individual with a feeling that he has been here before. Only one does not know exactly when and why. As the husband wanders in the bush he finds it “strange” that “even in an isolated area such as this, you still found footpaths, sometimes already turned into shallow gullies…” Also “now and again he thought he heard voices passing by, but he had seen no one.”
The connection between the present and the past physically and spiritually, is central to this short-story. You feel that Nyamfukudza is teasing the mind for failing to see that colonialism is only recent. The paths and voices of our ancestors are still in these forests, asking us to reclaim them.
Nyamfukudza also dwells on the other part of the miracle of 1980: the massive journey back to school. After the war old schools reopened and new uncountable ones sprouted. They were called ‘Upper-tops.’ Old tobacco barns became schools. Old churches became adult literacy spots.
Under the big Baobab tree, a black board was erected, a teacher was hastily identified and a school was founded! Someone thought the old Rhodesian camp could be put to some good use and yet another school was founded. Men with beards and women with protruding breasts put aside the war memories and went back to school! Minister Mutumbuka travelled the length and breadth of the country preaching, coercing and opening schools.
In “A fresh start” there is captured a small school in the middle of a rural community that is emerging out of war. Everything about the school is small, makeshift and experimental. One classroom block, three teachers who stay in thatched houses and pupils who wore neither shoes nor uniforms. Everything has the magical touch of “a fresh start.” The major character in the story is a teacher from the urban areas who happens to have a soft spot for the rural and the pastoral. For him “the lack of amenities, basic books even, seemed hardly important.”
The scene, typical of the rural Zimbabwe 1980, is set for adventure. After the war, communities tended to be inward looking. The basics first, seemed to be the dictum. A people had to have at least several shops, a bar and a grinding mill at the “growth point.” Then people needed a deep tank and a small school for a start. The teacher in “A fresh start” is part of the spirit of educating the nation.
His pupils are his family. They keep a respectable behaviour as he shares with them his knowledge and sometimes his own food. They respect and revere him and he knows it. The parents fraternize with him, always using the word “teacher” before his name.
But part of the fresh start here is that the teacher stumbles into a very beautiful woman who has sadly been maimed mentally during contact in the just ended war. As the new teacher takes in the wonder and the beauty of the river, one day, the demented beauty strays onto his hideout and he cannot believe there could be such a beauty out here.
The teacher goes through a restless panic. The ugly side of the just ended war is typified by this very beautiful young woman who will neither have her mind again nor be able speak.
The message that the war was a give and take and not romance gradually descends on the teacher. In that reawakening, he is first “sad and thoughtful” and later settles on the seemingly personal but national project. “The school children looked up at him expectantly. He cleared his throat…”
Nyamfukudza captures the feelings of time with a touch that is very personal and eternal. However underneath his gaze is a whole national agenda unfolding into a drama of peace and promise.
Aftermaths is a natural sequel to Nyamfukudza’s war-time novel, The Non-Believer’s Journey. He has a certain sympathy for people that does not allow him to easily paint them right or wrong. Nyamfukudza leaves you feeling that individuals in their private endeavours represent the scattered conflicting sensibilities that make a nation.
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
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: email@example.com
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