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The root causes of xenophobia



Fact: colonialism is not to blame for Africa’s current problems but is only the easiest scapegoat to point at when the dilly-dallying debates on the issue of Africa’s prevalent and subtle problems have to be sat down upon at the various conferences and debate sessions.

Colonialism found Africa an already polarised continent and the ‘divide and rule’ policies that granted vast swathes of land to the colonist via the convincing of one tribal group’s superiority over others were easy to implement.
It is not because the colonist was smart that he managed to grant vast tracts of land to himself, the African society was an already tribal entity willing to maliciously give away pieces of land to the foreigner and to steal from the neighbour to give to the foreigner for trinkets.

Before the advent of colonialism, the African was an already genocidal maniac; very racist with tendencies hinged on deep-sat racism and self-hate (for I consider it self-loathing to hate someone of the same skin colour, that lives on the same continent as I do, and whose origins and ancestry are the same as mine).
Poor colonialism is just a scapegoat to justify or to mask the African’s crude behaviours when it comes to the treatment of fellow brothers from the different parts of the continent.

Dale Carnegie asserts that humans are racist by nature, and his opinion is to a large extent very true. However, one may add that the human creature is largely formed of pride, the type of pride based on narcissism, that is, only those that are of the same group, clan, and tribe are considered worthy of the benefits and fruits of the land, the others are better off serving in the serf or beggar class.

Should the ‘other’ (often of the same skin colour) seem to be making some progress, the pride in the individuals or group that considers itself better than the rest does not allow peace to reign, for then the pride gives to jealousy at such a one’s fortune instead of breeding gratitude at the change in the fortunes of that other individual despite the fact that they may even be living in the same community as the jealous freak.

Pride is the cardinal sin, for it is the well from which all of the other sins spring, for out of it comes covetousness, sloth, wrath, envy and others which at the most potent lead to anarchy, for such an individual as that possessed by them cannot think straight and sees violence as the only way to solve their perceived problem. Foreigners are often ostracised in African communities, and why they are stems from the self-hate existent in the African mind.

The tribally hinged attacks in recent history in South Africa were not the first xenophobic attacks, we had seen the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, had seen the carnage in Angola, had seen the Zimbabwean Matabeleland ‘cleansings’, had heard of what occurred in the early 1900’s Herero killings in Namibia, had read of the Lifaqane, and found out why Mwenemutapa of Great Zimbabwe’s kingdom had fallen, why Timbuktu and ancient Egypt had decayed from being centres of civilisation to being mere tourist attractions.

The places and events are many and varied, but though scattered, they carry one root, the African’s hate of another African based on petty trivialities that could in some other society be forgotten for the sake of the welfare and benefit of the whole society.

In other continents and societies, the success of one individual is celebrated irrespective of the race or tribe of such an individual. What is considered is the benefit such a one’s success has on the whole society, for if they were a beggar dependent on state welfare cheques before, their success means that they then become a contributor to the state’s economy, contributing meaningfully for the welfare of the others less fortunate.

The jealousy with which the success of those considered ‘foreign’ despite their being fellow Africans is founded upon a misconception that they ‘steal’ when in fact, they show the way out of the poverty plaguing the continent.
Selling brooms and trinkets is not a wished way to make a living, but the smart man knows that such an individual as that who takes the courage to take it upon their selves to make a living selling what the masses need is worthy of respect. The broom sold cleans the house and saves the buyer the cost of transporting it from the town store. The methods of paying are often based on easy terms, meaning that one can pay for that which they need over a given period and according to the power of their pocket.

It is a lesson on how we should treat each other, but some of us have the audacity to insult such a teacher, accusing him or her of stealing jobs. What jobs is a broom seller stealing? Where can we get the requisite skills that we lack as a continent if not from neighbouring countries within the continent? Who shall do the jobs ‘the local’ detests? There are a thousand questions one can pose on why the foreigner is hated despite the clear benefits of their presence in our midst. Jealousy gets no one anywhere, for it is the type of slow poison that renders the mind catatonic. Rather than hate, one could benefit by learning from the foreign.

The Sesotho adage “Setlhare sa hole se chekoa mohla letšolo” means that what is beneficial may come from far, and the presence of people from other lands means that they bring their wells of knowledge with them, and such knowledge may prove to be of meaningful substance when it comes to tackling local problems. There are a thousand ways to skin a cat, and a thousand answers to answering a single question. Africa has a dearth of relevant knowledge to solve the varying problems it faces on a continuous basis.

There is therefore benefit if we sit down and share solutions to problems that are common on the continent, and this means that fellow brothers and sisters from other parts of the continent may be the carriers of such solutions. We can only get to find such solutions if we embrace rather than ostracise them, limiting them only to the peripheries of society where they constantly feel excluded.

The idiom of expression, “Tšoeu ha li tsoane” means that the Europeans never sell each other out and it stems from the fact that they share and complement each other instead of pulling each other down as is the tendency in African societies.

It is selling each other out if we spend the larger part of our days scheming on each other on the basis of the difference in clan or tribe instead of supporting each other on the basis of our Africanness.
Morena Moshoeshoe I is perhaps the only figure in African society that first saw the benefit of guiding a detribalised society. It did not matter where one came from in his eyes and society, what mattered was whether such a person could contribute meaningfully to the growth and the advancement the growing Basotho nation.

What a lot of us do not know is that his “U se ke ua re ho Moroa, Moroa tooe!” meaning that one should not look upon those they consider foreign with disdain or condescension is what actually gave birth to the Basotho nation and kept it bound together despite its composition of different tribes and clans.
The spear makers were of Zulu origin (Matebele), and they are honoured for their skill as iron-smiths. The wisdom in the last great king on the African continent made him aware that their skill mattered more than their not being his kith or kin.

There was war all around and the armies needed spears in their arsenals, only the foreign iron-smiths from a rival nation had the skill to make the best spears and he took them into his house. There is poverty and unemployment prevalent on the continent and in our local societies, only the ‘foreigner’ from other parts of the continent has the entrepreneurial flair to show us how to get out of poverty and unemployment.

Only pride stands in the way of those individuals that mask their laziness with such statements (excuses) as, “there are no jobs!” when there is in fact something that can be done about the situation. Rather than hate, we should be learning from those that come with solutions from other parts of the continent.

The Rwandan genocide of 1994 became the catalyst for the country to move forward to levels unprecedented, because the Rwandese chose to forget the carnage and see to the rebuilding of their nation and country. The recent xenophobic attacks should become a catalyst to the process of understanding why we should as Africans embrace each other for the sake of the upliftment of the continent out of the beggarhood status.

We beg because we choose not to forget the past, and we beg because we choose to blame colonialism instead of pointing what the real problem is with us as African individuals when it comes to understanding each other.
And so we spend years giving non-issues undivided attention when we should be discussing solutions to the most prevalent problems on the continent, problems that have seen countries go down on their knees and beg for aid at the expense of their sovereignty. Political affiliation is a good thing, but it serves to foment the sad colonial spirit of divide and rule that split an entire continent into smithereens.

Recollecting the pieces of the continent shall require more than just aid, it will need the individual African to understand why there should be so much hate for fellow brothers from the different regions of the continent and to erase it.

It is nonsensical to keep on avoiding issues, for it means that they balloon to proportions where they cannot be dealt with, sort of like raising an elephant in a room until it is bigger than the door and necessitates the smashing of the house down to get it out.
We have been silent for too long on the issue of xenophobia, and I guess that most of the questions asked were irrelevant to the situation. We did not question our own individuality and to find out why we are as we are, accepting evil tendencies as if they are normal behaviours.

It does not make sense why I should feel that someone from another clan or tribe is different when we have intermarried to the extent that the concepts of tribe and clan have lost their sense and being. One should carry the simple understanding that they are not alone, that they may need the presence of the figure they are chiding sometime in the future. History has ensured that we lived together at some point in time, and it therefore does make sense why we should pretend that we never did.

The African that hacks down another on the basis of ‘foreignness’ is a fool that must have been asleep as the years of struggle and exile were still the rule of the day. Pretending that one has not lived in another’s land is in plain terms hypocrisy of the worst kind, the type the possessor of should be subjected to an intense catholic demon exorcism session.

We could write endless justifications for the present state of affairs on the continent, but the one truth is that our self-hate is the root cause to all the problems the continent is currently facing. Had the African embraced their pan-Africanism in fact and not only in word as done in the immediate post-independence period, this continent would not be stuck where it is at the present moment in time. There is nothing wrong with someone being foreign; all of us have got different reasons for leaving the lands of our birth for other parts of the world.

In fact, there is no natural law against migration; one can go anywhere they want to on the continent and across world. The only thing left is for us is to face facts as they are and begin to understand the simple fact that there will always be someone foreign amongst us.

Moshoeshoe I knew of this fact, and this is the main reason why he ended up with this nation, which is in fact the Rainbow Nation that came well before the South African one born in the Nelson Mandela era. The pride with which we regard ourselves should be granted to those of us that come from other parts of the graceful continent.

Tšepiso 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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