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The settler farm in literature



If you come from Southern Africa you surely are aware of the over-powering presence of the farm. The endless stretches of wheat, cotton or tobacco lands that go from where you are “until you wonder whether the vehicle you are travelling in is still moving or not.”

It might be legitimate to argue that “the farm” in Southern Africa constitutes a socio-geographical “type”. The “farm novel” or “plaasroman” is a special novel form in Southern African literature (in both African and non-African languages.)

This is generally a novel partly or wholly set on a commercial farm. The farm novel of Southern Africa is vibrant and it reproduces itself with minor variations. In South Africa there is Olive Schreiner’s iconic novel called The Story of An African Farm.

There is also J M Coetzee’s novel of 1977 called In the Heart of the Country. Set on a karoo farm in the Western Cape, the novel is based all the way on Magda and her relations with her widowed father. But what is more critical are her relations with the black farm worker called Hendrik. He brings her black bride called Anna and Magda’s father manipulates and fornicates with the black girl. After deep contemplation over race relations, Magda shoots her fornicating father for it.

After a lot of fights and a war of wits, Hendrik rapes the white girl Magda and begins to visit her room every night for less forced sexual intercourse, breaking the standing black-white divide. When white men from nearby farms turn up looking for Magda’s father, Hendrik and Anna flee fearing that they will be blamed for his death.
In Zimbabwe alone the key examples are Doris Lessing’s The Grass is Singing and Chenjerai Hove’s Bones.

Although there is a stretch of thirty-eight years between the publication dates of Doris Lessing’s The Grass is Singing (1950) and Chenjerai Hove’s Bones (1988), the two novels, for various reasons lend themselves to comparing and contrasting.

Both The Grass Is Singing and Bones are about effects of the white Rhodesian “farming regime” on the black and white psyche. In both texts the white settler farm is a form of “frontier” as it draws indigenous labour, pitting it against the vigorous white farm system.

More important is the fact that the functions and representations of facets of the farm (like the field, the farm-house, the compound, the houseboy, the baas boy etc) in Bones are more or less as they are in The Grass Is Singing. Different physical spaces and positions on the farm tend to dramatise modes of relations between the settler farm owner and the black workers and that drama ultimately reflect on the larger settler state. Often the farm is a silent and subtle miniature colonial state.

For the settler farmer the farm is perceived as a personal property and space that should be mastered in order to eke out a living. For Slatter and Dick in The Grass Is Singing and farmer Manyepo in Bones, the farm is a potentially viable alternative to the working class life of the metropole. However the fact that the farm is a later-day acquisition, long distances away from one’s indigenous country and environment is an idea that remains at the back of the settler’s mind. The farm remains psychologically external to the settler’s nature.

It is therefore almost natural with Mary Turner to be wary of the dark African nights and to be challenged by the “waiting” African bush:
“Then a strange bird called, a wild nocturnal sound, and she ran back suddenly terrified, as if a hostile breath had blown upon her from another world, from the trees.”

Her husband, Dick can just never make the farm productive. He is a consistent failure with both the crops and livestock. He therefore becomes the laughingstock of the farming community. The African land, the environment and the elements seem to alienate Mary and Dick and they cut a very pathetic picture of whites destined to decline gradually into hell. They become a bad example of white settler community especially as these two begin to win genuine sympathies of the ‘stinking natives.’

In the Heart of the Country the white man is riled less by her rape but more by the idea that she has been raped by a black woman who reserves the right and pleasure to abandon a white woman to enjoy his black woman as if he has not tasted white woman’s intimacy.

In Schreiner’s The Story of An African Farm, for example, the independent white lady, Lyndall, attempting some “philosophic” talk, speaks thus about an African who passes by:

“Well, let me see,” she said, closing her book and folding her hands on it. “There at the foot of the kopje goes a kaffir, he has nothing on but a blanket; he is a splendid fellow-six feet high, with a magnificent pair of legs…he is going… and I suppose to kick his wife with his beautiful legs when he gets home. He has a right to; he bought her for two oxen. There is a lean dog going after him, to whom I suppose he never gives more than a bone from which he has sucked the marrow; but his dog loves him as his wife does.”

For the black farm labourer the farm is a lived irony. It is a familiar but perverted territory. Although the farm is situated in a familiar territory, it remains external to the black man’s nature because it is organised for purposes outside his indigenous philosophy. The black labourer on the farm is consistently uneasy with both the farm and the white-master. In Bones Murume rehearses his monologue (with Manyepo) and he is clearly perplexed by the way the farm regime emasculates a “real” African man:
“You say we smell of things you do not understand, we lie, we are as lazy as children… do you think we are children with all this beard on our faces? Have we, the men, not made our wives pregnant and have the wives not become pregnant after we have slept with them?”

This uneasiness is derived from Marume’s powerlessness in familiar territory turned foreign. He becomes unfamiliar even to himself. Marume represents varieties of invisibility. Mary’s series of houseboys in The Grass Is Singing are an equally uncomfortable lot. The first one is nervous, cannot understand Mary, carries himself stiffly, overly attentive and is “as scared as a dog”. The next “boy” is overly familiar without having to look at Mary.
The whiteman’s sjambok, his big boot, his dog, his gun and his horse define farm labour as unfree. These “tools” make a distinction between the powerful and the powerless. In the case of farmer Slatter in The Grass Is

Singing the sjambok is bought long before the plough. When Mary wields it, when Dick is ill, the sjambok stands for unquestioned sexless authority. The sjambok assumes a communication mode between man and beast. That is why when Moses, in his anger, behaves as if he might hit back, Mary is taken aback. In Bones Janifa the young girl can see through the farm regime. She reminisces:
“Farm people talk a lot. They say there is very little to talk about on the farm except Manyepo’s latest victims, those he has beaten or kicked in front of their own wives or children.”

The farm-house represents white power and comfort. It is a miniature metropole away from the metropole. In The Grass Is Singing, part of the agony and embarrassment of the Turners is the realisation that they cannot afford a dwelling befitting the image of real whites. However, regardless, the transfer of Moses from field labourer to houseboy is considered promotion. It is an invitation to closer proximity with power and civilisation. In Bones Chisaga the cook is considered very privileged because he works in the white man’s house. He knows that he stands a better chance with women in the compound as he:

“…washed and cleaned myself so that I smell the smells of white men. I even took a few
of the smelling things which Manyepo’s wife uses so that you can see how far I am from the days when we came here to sell ourselves like cattle at the market.”
However, considered closely, the promotion from the field to the house is to come closer to power but never having to get any. It is also to come close to seeing the ordinary humanity of the powerful whites without being allowed to partake of that humanity.

Reading The Grass Is Singing, one feels that the text points at the idea that there is something unusual about Moses looking deep into the ordinariness of colonials. And precisely for that reason, Moses subsequently gets into trouble. He attempts to join the house indeed and that is his tragedy.
The labourer’s compound is the antithesis of the farm-house. Seen through Mary’s eyes, the compound is a grotesque settlement:

The huts were closely clustered over an acre or two of ground. They looked like natural growths from the ground, rather than man-made dwellings. It was as though a giant black hand had reached down from the sky, picked up a handful of sticks and grass and dropped them magically on the earth in the forms of huts.

The farm compound is a camp, a very temporary site with minimum comfort. Hastily built, and as a rule – far away from the farm-house, the compound defines the workers’ relationship with the system. The worker is thoroughly needed but viciously secluded. The compound, like the urban “location” is a mutilated imitation of the African village. Its dictates are that the original dignity of the African village is not possible under a capitalist mode.

The baas-boy or the foreman is a very rememberable image in the farm novel. This character is a kind of go-between between the exploiter and the exploited. He is a convenient tool. He “interprets” order and policy to those of his kind for a fee. Sometimes he does not communicate the order as given or the resistance as it really is. He can be a trickster thriving on being ambiguous. However in most cases he is just like the houseboy, Chisaga, abusing those of his kind mercilessly.

Bones and The Grass Is Singing clearly expose settler colonialism to the core as a system whose facets are meant to control the native in order to be able to create wealth. It is no accident that in all liberation discourse the farm is referred to more frequently than the mine and town as the heart of colonialism.

Of course the two novels contrast sharply in some aspects. Whilst Lessing’s is a story written from the point of view of Europeans in Africa, Hove’s is about Africans on the white man’s farm in Africa.
Even the titles themselves are well grounded in contrasting literary regimes. Lessing’s novel derives its title ‘the grass is singing’ from a line in T.S. Eliot’s modernist poem of the 1920s called The Waste Land. Suggested in that poem is a Euro-modernist view that human relations are in turmoil, confused and confusing. Philosophically Lessing’s novel portrays the relationship between Moses and Mary as mystical and beyond understanding.

Hove’s Bones derives its title from what Shona orature claims to have been Nehanda’s last words at the moment of her execution for leading the 1890’s wars of resistance! “You will kill me but one day my bones will rise.” Bones is therefore deliberately anchored in a fair amount of Africanness. It refuses to be a novel only but a people’s story.

While The Grass Is Singing proceeds in modernist complexity and standard English, Bones burdens the English language with African thought patterns, idioms and proverbs. In fact it is on record that Bones won the Norma Award in 1989 largely for its Afrocentric narrative style.

Although Lessing is clearly sympathetic towards the African characters, she does not claim to know them. She paints them as unknown, distant and withdrawn characters of a culture that could be legitimate but very different from hers. Lessing cannot get to their thought patterns and cannot make them historically true. This all adds up to the mystery called Moses.
However Hove’s black characters come in their variations. There are the accommodationist like the foreman Chiriseri and cook Chisaga. There are those of passive resistance like Chatora and Muringi and those given to open resistance like Marita’s son. Here are characters whose motives we are allowed insight into. Hove creates a community and not caricatures.

However, profound as Hove’s Africans are, there is, sadly something belittling about them. They are too groomed in victimhood to be useful. Even their knowledge and use of Shona proverbs is not liberating as they use these to justify their own state of servitude. For instance Marume thinks that it is normal for settler Manyepo to exploit and taunt him because “a chief’s son is a commoner in other lands.” Marume is a pathetic victim, a small man in a big world.

Janifa’s desire and yearning for the pastoral are misplaced. She fails to see that the farm is a site for exploitation and not the seat of romanticism like the country of the good old days. Marita, the central character is almost portrayed as a very simplistic revolutionary in a big world. She is too stupid to chart a way forward or to understand her circumstances in dialectical ways.

Outside literature, the farm has found itself at the centre again in Southern Africa. The ‘land issue of Zimbabwe’ is clearly about the redistribution of farm land. The notion (in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia) that liberation is equals redistribution of land is not accidental. The settler farm has, for a long time become the image of the seat of settler power in Southern Africa. The land is touted therefore as the reason why nationalists went to war.

Memory Chirere

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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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