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The toxic role of the media



There are bombs in Sri Lanka, there is a threat on Iran, there was a disaster in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Zambia, there is an imminent Tsunami on the Phillipines, and Ukraine just got a new president who was a comedian.
That is the gist of the news, covering vast topics of varying degrees of seriousness, all with effect on the running of the world and the understanding of the human race’s advance towards some point of progress.
At the centre of all the occurrences is the media. Sharing information, educating, entertaining, but always with the main issue in sight, media spreads the message for the interpretation by the masses that come to view it. In an age when the letter and the postman were the main mediums used in the spreading of the messages, people still could get a grip on the events in the slowly revolving world of days past. Come radio and television, they could at least get news on the day they occurred.

The Internet brought a whole new level to the transfer of news from one spot to the next, the only obvious threat being the makers of ‘false’ news. As the speed of transfer has increased, so has the number of opinionated individuals with access to resources that enable their opinions to be heard no matter the essence of the messages they spread.
One has always viewed the process of making news as a delicate affair, demanding that the reporter, journalist, and columnist be unbiased in their view: to always get the two opposing sides of the story before daring to type the story.
This means that the unbiased nature of the news personnel stems from him or her being alienated from that which they are writing about, that they should have no interest whatsoever in the story. The only purpose they should have is to spread the message for the benefit of the public and nothing else. The writer who gets attached to the topic under discussion stands to err by addressing the matter according to their interest and not according to the logistics of the story.

It is this type of bad reporting that one comes across on a daily basis on different media platforms where a report is treated as an opinion piece by the author thereof. With the advance in technology rose the tendency amongst the writing ranks to be seen as the ‘discoverer’ of a salient piece of news.
This normally goes in tandem with the certain individual demanding to be glorified, to be put on a pedestal and to have awards showered on them. The media often oblige, giving out awards without realising that they are encouraging the culture of false news in the process.
Every ordinary man and woman wants their two seconds on live television, even if it is for some fickle affair that impacts no one else but the speaker or writer.
It was on March 3 in 1991 when George Holliday took the first ‘viral’ video of an unarmed black man being brutally assaulted by several police officers. The videotaping of Rodney King’s assault was a prime example of what is termed as ‘citizen journalism’ where Holliday could only watch through the eyepiece as officers beat Rodney for more than eight minutes as he lay on the ground. The only question he thought to himself was: “what did that guy do to deserve that?”

The question is just one side of the tale, the primary point of enquiry after the fact (the savage beating) had been recorded live on videotape. That the police had chased Rodney King for some while is the other side to the tale and only comes into the foray much later (at the trial where the officers were declared ‘not guilty’ by a mostly white jury).
That the videotape would spark the worst race riots in Los Angeles and go on to become a symbol of police brutality close to three decades ago was not the journalist’s (Holliday’s) fault. In his reply he states:
People have blamed me for the disturbances. What is on the tape caused them, not the tape itself.
With a volatile piece of news in his videotape, Holliday did what every upright citizen would do, go to the police and find out if there had been any operations in the area, he got no information. He only got answers at KTLA (a local television station) who then played it on their 10pm news programme.
The TV station told him the tape was a bigger story than they had thought and so held on to it for $500. The police would later come and confiscate the tape, for reasons obvious: it was an incriminating piece of evidence working against them.

This is the process of news-making, the reporter records what is going on and spreads the message after establishing connections between the parties involved in the story and the possible impacts on society as a whole. George Holliday could not sit back like a bad citizen and allow the culture of rogue cops go on unchecked, at some point, someone had to present visual evidence of rampant police brutality.
Officers are meant or designed to be guardians of society’s welfare, and erroneously assuming that being the guardian means being at the top of the food chain or hierarchy, some officers easily become prey to rogue tendencies.
The media is often referred to as just that ‘media’ and in these days when the smart phone has taken over the role of the heavier video camera, false/fake news cover more pages than real news.
This has opened the media to attacks by parties that feel they are threatened by the presence of the media in society. It is not uncommon for one to hear some figure exposed on charges of corruption take an open swipe at the media unchecked, often hinging towards uncontrolled social media than the real media houses that play a monitoring role on the changing trends in societal issues.

The blurring of the lines brought by the advances in technology is what renders the true role of media unclear to the general citizenry. The young man taking videos of neighbours in private moments is not a news person but a mere voyeur and Peeping Tom.
This does not apply in the case of a citizen being maltreated by authorities whose statutes of operation actually deem such authorities servants to the citizen.
Advance in technology has somehow eroded that salient aspect found in human relations: self-respect and respect for others. It is with utter dismay that one sees individuals take harrowing pictures and videos from accident scenes instead of helping the injured to get the needed medical attention. Even such uncouth tendencies are referred to under the umbrella of media, though they lack the professionalism that is definitive of media practice.
A recent watch of a popular talk-show programme revealed how bad the departure from the true purpose of news-making has become. The host was addressing the issue #menaretrash, a very caustic topic that despite being the favourite of feminist groups largely infringes on the rights of black men in post-independent Southern African societies.

The female host (for calling her ‘hostess’ would be considered an infringement of basic human rights), was openly on the side of black women blaming black men for their current state of being. Abused, raped, battered to a pulp, denied of the right to equality, the black women in these societies always point to their immediate male members of their societies as the root cause to their problems.
I thought the discussion should have focused first on the history of the black people before addressing the symptoms that are increasingly becoming virulent. A gentleman (one of the speakers on the panel of experts) that sought to address the issue of history was brashly shut down by the host, the main accusation being that he should not like other males use history as the scapegoat. Perplexed in utter terms, all one could ask themselves was: should this kind of platform be granted a place on national television? I hold the basic notion that logical sense makes one aware of a simple fact: one should question the source before they try and treat the symptoms.
It is a fact that history was not fair to all sides of society in Southern Africa, whether black or white. Apartheid policy made it worse for the black majority, and trying to place the black man as the root to all black woman’s problems is in plain terms unfounded and hypocritical.

We suffered the same heinous conditions under the same yoke of racist segregation policies of apartheid. Whoever tries to present one side as having suffered more is actually trying to serve some other interest than the interests of the masses at large.
Media personalities should be made aware that their voices and opinions reach a far wider audience than some of the personalities they interview on their shows or sections. This means that they should be instructed to observe caution when it comes to dealing with issues that in actual fact have not been given appropriate platforms for their discussions.

The issue of women’s or men’s rights has always been treated as a background issue despite its obvious impact in the foreground of human society. Feminist and sexist opinions are always given too much room in the media without the actual questioning of the issues that led to some of the more prominent symptoms of social decay festering as they do.
The media is there to present the facts and not to accuse anyone of anything; it merely puts the fact on the right platform for it to be questioned by the general public for the benefit of the entire society. Had it not been that there were cases of corruption exposed by journalists, reporters and news researchers over the years, the world would not be what it is at the moment.

Without anyone playing the all-seeing eye the journalist, reporter, columnist, talk-show host, or upright citizen plays, some of the malpractices and horrendous deeds of corruption would have gone on unchecked.
The type of media that spices the fact before its presentation to the general public is prone to presenting warped news. News should be presented without fear of reprisal from the parties involved in their making.
The writer of the news should ensure that they do not become involved in the presentation of the fact, whether emotionally or otherwise, for then the piece of news becomes a conflicted affair.
Presence of vested interested on the part of the journalist or reporter means that the piece of news loses its essence, for then it cannot be discussed without favour or bias as a topic of interest to the writer.
All the poverty statistics, the unemployment percentages, the crime rates, cases of corruption and other social maladies cannot be viewed objectively if society is to be panned with a media whose interests are in serving a particular section of society or a given political affiliation.

There has always been the need to have an instrument of monitoring in any given state. This means that such an instrument of monitoring would have to be free from the clutches of state control, for then it would mean that the state could shut and open it at will.
In the types of democratic societies in which we live, it means that the media plays the role of the voice of the masses who are governed over, serving in its rightful role as the informant, the educator, and the entertainer of the people.
Could be that the media is often misinterpreted due to lack of the understanding of its role, or that it is run by untrained individuals that actually lack in terms of the appropriate dissemination of information. Information is the constant stream which keeps the media running, but it is a stream which should be kept free from the dross that comes with unreliable sources, unverifiable informants, misinformers, and unfounded opinion.
It is a reality that information is what keeps the world revolving, but then such information should be kept as clean as possible for the masses to reach the right decisions on the basis thereof.

The journalist, the reporter, the columnist and the researcher must all understand that their role is merely to pass the information on; ‘merely’ to denote the simplicity of the position and the value of the role.
The writer’s main objective should not be to become a celebrity but to give accurate pieces of information for the purpose of making society a better place to live.
It is this quest for stardom that has tainted the name of the media to the current point, in short, the quest for glory in actual fact makes one prone to writing pieces of news that besmirch the image of media as an entity that is salient to the harmonious running of society: a guardian of the facts as they unfold.

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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