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The UFC has won my heart

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I may just consider voting in the up-coming 2022 general election following an interview I heard on Harvest FM of ’Malichaba Lekhoaba from the United for Change (UFC).
I had also considered voting for Socialist Revolutionaries (SR) until its leader said Ma-Swallows ke litsotsi in a recent interview on Harvest FM. I guess he was trying to take a sarcastic jab at Nkaku Kabi by insinuating that my team, Swallows FC, is a club of crooks.
My answer to him is very simple, Swallows ke team e kholo e hlomphehang. Feela ha e selehe, ea cha!

However, here is an interesting point you may find surprising. I am really impressed by Katiso Phasumane from the Empowerment what-what party (I don’t quite remember its name but its colours resemble those of WASCO).
I’m impressed. Phasumane speaks a lot of sense and seems to understand the mechanics of a modern economy – tax revenue. If Lekhoaba fails to convince me by answering my questions, Carter (Phasumane) has my vote, unequivocally.
But before we start, I would like to pose a question to my good friend, Ramahooana Matlosa. The question is on the nickname, ‘Smart Man’. So, what does the ‘smart’ in Smart Man really mean?

Is it smart as in looks (dress-code)? “This guy looks smart.” Or is it smart as in acumen/intellect? “Hmmm, that guy sounds very smart?” Which is which? Kea leboha. Ke tla mamela Radiong.
Since we are now in the so called silly season (2022 election campaign), I have gone into a habit of listening to Harvest FM online and I must say some of the shows are quite interesting. And the funniest of them all are the Wednesday morning shows with Moruti Moleko. I tell you, that man will make you laugh, even if you try to suppress the laughter.

But what I found quite intriguing is the Monday morning politics show that has consistently featured Lekhoaba. What do you call that? Some may call it preferential treatment whilst others may see it as bias. In any case, we could say it is a paid feature on Harvest FM by the United for Change political party popularly known as the UFC.
Whichever way you chose to see it, Lekhoaba has won my heart for now even though she has literally said nothing on how she will grow the economy and create jobs. The question is on the how?

Yes, there is a lot of clutter on the radio and almost all the political parties are making silly claims about this and that. There is also one party named Hope. All that I could say after listening to them is: Dear Lord Jesus, please save us!
Anyway the real question we ask as voters is HOW? How do you plan to create jobs? How do you plan to improve the education sector? How do you plan to improve the health sector? How are you going to increase the tax revenue collection?

How do you plan to reduce crime and scourge of killings? Give us the how part. We are not interested in potholes and broken robots/traffic lights. Those are symptoms of an ailing economy.
Lekhoaba talked eloquently, highlighting a string of social ills that our country has. But those are symptoms as I have indicated.
Go to a doctor and tell the doctor that you have started coughing. If you see the doctor writing and scribbling notes before you even start talking, just know that you are in trouble. You are in S H Eye Tea, to put it mildly.

The doctor will have to examine the symptoms first and ask you: “How are you feeling? What are the symptoms? Are you coughing? Have you lost weight? Blah, blah, blah!”
The Doctor will then prescribe a ‘remedy’ to solve the problem going forward. Maybe, wear a mask when walking on Kingsway Road to avoid inhalation of dirty air. But to solve that in the short-term, here is some medicine X,Y,Z to solve the illness.

You see, this is the problem with our politicians. They go onto the radio and talk a big Blah, blah, blah about the symptoms. We all know them and that is why we are sick and tired of the ABC and DC. That’s why some of us are sick and tired of Lesotho in general. Tell us something new.


But what I found quite intriguing is the Monday morning politics show that has consistently featured Lekhoaba. What do you call that? Some may call it preferential treatment whilst others may see it as bias. In any case, we could say it is a paid feature on Harvest FM by the United for Change political party also popularly known as the UFC.
Whichever way you chose to see it, Lekhoaba has won my heart for now even though she has literally said nothing on how she will grow the economy and create jobs

It is time to give solutions to the crisis and tell us how to solve it. Now, what I was really expecting Lekhoaba to do is expand on the policies of her political party.
Well, maybe policies are a big ask for our political parties and I don’t know why. Here are some of the questions I would like to pose to Lekhoaba:

  1. Macro-Economic Policy/Strategy: What is your macro-economic policy or strategy as the UFC?
    It is a fact that Lesotho cannot solve most of its challenges due to lack of funds to finance the budget allocations. Tax revenue collection is by far the biggest challenge that Lesotho has in order to fulfil its mandate to render services. My questions are as follows:
    a. How do you plan to increase the tax revenue collection to the Lesotho Revenue Authority? (Fiscal Policy)
    b. How do you plan to generate jobs? With which industries?
    c. How do you plan on stabilising inflation, the rising cost of food? (Monetary policy)
    d. How do you plan to attract more investment (FDI) in order to generate jobs and boost the economy?
  2. Micro-economic policy/strategy: What is the microeconomic policy or strategy of the UFC?
    It is a well-known fact that small and medium enterprises are a backbone of any growing economy. They also generate the highest number of jobs in any economy.
    However, the opposite has happened in Lesotho. SMEs are neglected and have been left to become an informal sector that is generally unregulated and unlegislated.
    How will the UFC counter the neglect from national government and empower this needed sector?
    a. How do you plan to support medium and micro enterprises in order to stimulate new jobs and sustain existing jobs?
    b. How will you engage the banking and micro-lending sector to offer micro-lending facilities for medium and micro enterprises?
    c. How will the UFC empower and up-skill micro-enterprises such as ‘Baitšokoli’ in order to graduate to legally registered micro enterprises.
    d. How will the UFC open up trade concessions for micro-enterprises to start exporting? Possibly to China.
    e. How will the UFC sort-out the outstanding payments worth over M1 billion to the private sector? How will you finance the payments? Source of funds?
    f. How do you plan to curb the loss of jobs more especially in the textile industry?
  3. Education and Training Policy: What is the education policy and training policy or strategy of the UFC?
    It is a well-known fact that our education sector produces half-baked products due to lack of funding from the national budget, inadequate training of teachers, a national teacher training college that is in deep crisis and a high drop-out of students following the Covid-19 pandemic.
    Here are some questions for you:
    a. How do you plan to fund or increase subvention (budget support) to the National University of Lesotho (NUL)? How are you going to finance it?
    b. How do you plan to solve the problems of poorly trained teachers? Up-skill existing teachers?
    c. How do you plan to curb the high dropout rate?
    d. How do you plan to diversify the education offerings and programmes to learners?
    e. Will teachers ever receive incentives such as medical aid, housing allowances and car allowances? If yes, how will you finance them?
  4. Agriculture and food security policy/strategy: What is the agriculture and food security policy of the UFC?
    It is a well-known fact that the agriculture sector is top generator of un-skilled and semi-skilled jobs in any economy.
    How will the UFC manage to improve the sector and guarantee food security? How will the UFC deal with the following threats to the agriculture sector?
    a. How will the UFC deal will a low-yield / output of crops in the urban and rural communities?
    b. How will the UFC restore confidence, stabilise and redress the damage made to the wool and mohair sector?
    c. How will the UFC augment and diversify the agriculture sector.
    d. How will the UFC guarantee food security?
    e. How will the UFC up-skill famers and empower the small, medium and micro enterprises in this sector?
  5. Public sector and Public service reforms policy/strategy: What is the public sector reform strategy of the UFC?
    It is a well-known fact that no economy can perform optimally without a sound and effective public sector. However, the public sector of Lesotho has been an instigator and a proponent to rampant corruption in the economy.
    Without public sector reforms that focus into reducing a bloated wage-bill and to curb rampant corruption, the economy will remain paralysed for some time. How will the UFC deal with the following?
    a. Instil discipline and an improved work ethic in the public service sector?
    b. Provide incentives such as medical aid cover (Police service), housing allowances, car allowances and education/skills support?
    c. Start reducing a bloated public service sector?
    d. How to deal with rampant corruption in the public sector?
    e. How will the UFC solve efficiency backlogs and improve effectiveness within the public service sector? E.g. High-court
    Kea leboha, ke tla mamela radiong. Khotso!

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Insight

The Joker Returns: Conclusion

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Last week I was talking about how jokes, or humour generally, can help get one through the most desperate situations (although it’s like taking a paracetamol for a headache; a much, much stronger resort is faith). I used the example of how Polish Jews, trapped and dying in the Warsaw ghetto, used humour to get them through day by day.

A similar, though less nightmarish, situation obtains in today’s Nigeria. Conditions there are less hellish than those of the Warsaw ghetto, but still pretty awful. There are massive redundancies, so millions of people are jobless. Inflation is at about 30% and the cost of living is sky-rocketing, with the most basic foodstuffs often unavailable. There is the breakdown of basic social services.

And endemic violence, with widespread armed robbery (to travel by road from one city to another you take your life in your hands) and the frequent kidnapping for ransom of schoolchildren and teachers. In a recent issue of the Punch newspaper (Lagos) Taiwo Obindo, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Jos, writes of the effects of economic hardship and insecurity on his people’s mental health.

He concludes: “We should see the funny side of things. We can use humour to handle some things. Don’t take things to heart; laugh it off.”

Professor Obindo doesn’t, regrettably, give examples of the humour he prescribes, but I remember two from a period when things were less grim. Power-cuts happened all the time — a big problem if you’re trying to work at night and can’t afford a generator.

And so the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) was universally referred to as Never Expect Power Always. And second, for inter-city travel there was a company called Luxurious Buses. Believe me, the average Lesotho kombi is a great deal more luxurious (I can’t remember ever having to sit on the floor of one of those).

And because of the dreadful state of Nigerian roads and the frequent fatal crashes, Luxurious Buses were referred to as Luxurious Hearses.

Lesotho’s newspaper thepost, for which I slave away tirelessly, doesn’t use humour very much. But there is Muckraker. I’ve always wondered whether Muckraker is the pen-name of a single person or a group who alternate writing the column.

Whatever, I’d love to have a drink with him / her/ them and chew things over. I like the ironic pen-name of the author(s). Traditionally speaking, a muckraker is a gossip, someone who scrabbles around for titbits (usually sexual) on the personal life of a celebrity — not exactly a noble thing to do.

But thepost’s Muckraker exposes big problems, deep demerits, conducted by those who should know and do better — problems that the powerful would like to be swept under the carpet, and the intention of Muckraker’s exposure is corrective.

And I always join in the closing exasperated “Ichuuuu!” (as I do this rather loudly, my housemates probably think I’m going bonkers).

Finally I want to mention television satire. The Brits are renowned for this, an achievement dating back to the early 1960s and the weekly satirical programme “TW3” (That Was The Week That Was). More recently we have had “Mock the Week”, though, despite its popularity, the BBC has cancelled this.

The cancellation wasn’t for political reasons. For decades the UK has been encumbered with a foul Conservative government, though this year’s election may be won by Labour (not such very good news, as the Labour leadership is only pseudo-socialist). “Mock the Week” was pretty even-handed in deriding politicians; the BBC’s problem was, I imagine, with the programme’s frequent obscenity.

As an example of their political jokes, I quote a discussion on the less than inspiring leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer. One member of the panel said: “Labour may well have a huge lead in the polls at present, but the day before election day Starmer will destroy it by doing something like accidentally infecting David Attenborough with chicken-pox.”

And a favourite, basically non-political interchange on “Mock the Week” had to do with our former monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. Whatever one thinks about the British monarchy as an institution, the Queen was much loved, but the following interchange between two panellists (A and B) was fun:

A: Is the Queen’s nickname really Lilibet?
B: Yes, it is.
A: I thought her nickname was Her Majesty.
B: That’s her gang name.

OK, dear readers, that’s enough humour from me for a while. Next week I’m turning dead serious — and more than a little controversial — responding to a recent Insight piece by Mokhosi Mohapi titled “A reversal of our traditions and culture.” To be forewarned is to be prepared.

Chris Dunton

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Insight

Reading, writing and the art of reflection

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There is a close thread that runs through what you reflect on, what you read and what sticks in your mind. It’s almost a cyclic process with regards to how all these processes unfold. Today, in this installment we focus on the thread between reading, reflection and writing.

This appears a bit cumbersome to explain. But let’s simplify it. Let’s begin with a beautiful poem which encompasses what we have so far spoken about. Here we are! The poem is penned by “Tachibama Akemi.” It goes:

It is a pleasure
When, rising in the morning,
I go outside and
Find that a flower has blossomed
That was not there yesterday.

Seemingly, the poem is simple. But, on close analysis, it reflects very deep reflection and thoughtfulness.

The persona, in an existential fashion, reflects all about the purpose and meaning of life and his place in the overall matrix of life.

The persona carefully reflects on nature. This is what makes all this poem rustic and romantic.

The persona thinks deeply about the blossoming flowers and how the process of the growth of flowers appears almost inadvertently.

It is a poem about change, healing, the lapse of time and the changes or vissiccitudes in the life of a person are reflected creatively through imagery and poetry. We all go through that, isn’t it? We all react and respond to love, truth and beauty.

So far everything appears very interesting. Let’s just put to the fore some good and appealing thoughts. Let’s enlarge on reading, writing and reflection.

Kindly keep in mind that thoughts must be captured, told, expressed and shared through the magical power of the written word.

As a person, obviously through keeping entries in a journal, there is no doubt that you have toyed about thoughts and ideas and experiences you wish you could put across.

Here is an example you can peek from Anthony. Anthony likes writing. He tells us that in his spare time he likes exploring a lot. And, more often than not he tells us,

“I stop, and think, and then when I find something, I just keep on writing.”

So crisp, but how beautiful. Notice something interesting here; you need to stop, to take life effortlessly and ponderously, as it were; observe, be attentive to your environment; formulate thought patterns and then write.

To some extent, this article builds on our previous experiences when we spoke at length about the reading process.

But how can you do it? It’s not pretty much different. I can help you from my previous life as a teacher of English Languge.

The most important skill you must cultivate is that of listening, close listening. Look at how people and events mingle.

What makes both of you happy; enjoy it. I am sure you still keep that journal in which you enter very beautiful entries. Reflect about Maseru, the so-called affluent city. So majestic!

How can you picture it in writing!

I am glad you learnt to reflect deep and write. Thank you very much. Kindly learn and perfect the craft of observing, reflecting and writing. Learn that connection. Let’s meet for another class.

Vuso Mhlanga

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Insight

The Joker Returns: Part One

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Don’t be put off by the title, esteemed readers; what follows has nothing to do with the Batman films. As you will be happily (or unhappily) aware, I am a big fan of jokes. There’s a common understanding that a joke is ruined if you have to explain it, and this is true, but some jokes do need a bit of background explanation. Anyway. I like jokes and I like thinking about how they work.

Many of my favourite jokes have to do with language and the way we use it. For example: “I just bought myself a thesaurus. I similar it very much.”

Other jokes have to do with human behaviour and here it is important, out of respect for others, to avoid jokes that perpetuate stereotypical ideas about gender, race, nationality, and so on. I’m afraid the following joke does depend upon a stereotype (I’ll come back to that), but here goes, after a bit of background information.

In Lesotho you have an insect called a praying mantis — stick-like, bright green, and with great bulging eyes. They are rather lovable, despite the off-putting fact that the female practices insect cannibalism; after mating, she consumes the male. So, now you’ve had your zoological primer, here goes.

Two praying mantises are getting up close and personal. The female says to the male: “before we have sex and I bite your head off, could you help me put up some shelves?”

Apologies to female readers, because, as I said, that joke perpetuates a gender stereotype, namely, that women are good with a vacuum cleaner or a dustpan and brush, but hopeless with a hammer and nails.

There are many jokes that are, as it were, much more serious than that. As I rattled on about in a couple of earlier columns, many of these are satirical — jokes that are designed to point a finger at human folly or even wickedness. In another column, titled “Should we laugh?”, I explored the question “is there any subject that should be kept out of the range of humour?”

Well, apparently not, if we take on board the following account of the Warsaw ghetto.

Historical preface first.

The Warsaw ghetto represents one of the worst atrocities in modern history. In November 1940 the genocidal Nazis rounded up all the Jews in Poland’s capital and herded them into a small sector of the city, which they euphemistically, cynically, dubbed the “Jewish Residential District in Warsaw.”

Here nearly half a million Jews were in effect imprisoned, barely subsisting on tiny food rations. An estimated quarter of a million were sent off to the death camps. An uprising against the Nazi captors was brutally crushed. Around 100 000 died of starvation or disease.

Not much to laugh about there, you might say. But then consider the following, which I’ve taken from the New York Review of Books of February 29th this year:

“In the Warsaw Ghetto in October 1941 Mary Berg, then a teenager, wrote in her diary about the improbable persistence of laughter in that hellish place: ‘Every day at the Art Café on Leszno Street one can hear songs and satire on the police, the ambulance service, the rickshaws, and even the Gestapo, [on the latter] in a veiled fashion. The typhoid epidemic itself is the subject of jokes. It is laughter through tears, but it is laughter. This is not our only weapon in the ghetto — our people laugh at death and at the Nazi decrees. Humour is the only thing the Nazis cannot understand.’”

To be concluded

Chris Dunton

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