It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way-in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only… thus goes the first chapter (The Period) to the 1859 Charles Dickens novel A Tale of Two Cities.
It triggers a moment of awareness that one is adding a notch on the stick (cane, club, tree or what-ever-you-may-call-it) of life, and the memory of those books read so far away in the past lecture hall of a university once attended so long ago in the past. It is the challenge of everyman to remember, it is the plight of the weak and the vulnerable to be forgotten in this amnesiac world. It is even worse if you are both weak and poor, because then you are forgotten even before your funeral.
It has come to this point where one looks at the year in retrospect: as needs be, as should be, and as must be if we are to make any meaningful progress. There are resolutions at the beginning of the year, and the wise and the prudent try as much as they can to abide by their resolutions no matter how hard it is. The problem comes when the resolutions are overtaken by lack of commitment or circumstances beyond one’s control. Such resolutions as these fall victim to the two conditions mentioned and any other conditions that may come along and one is then forced to look for alternative means to reach the desired goals.
One wonders if the resolutions apply only to one individual, a collective, or the more salient entity that we call the state. I am of the opinion that state resolutions are of more importance than any other because they affect everyone more profoundly than the decisions of the single or group of individuals. A right state will always ensure that the citizens are living in relative peace and harmony, that they are law-abiding but independent, that they are allowed to explore their potential to its optimum, and that their welfare is taken care of. The past year had its ups and downs, and there are a few outstanding local and global events to be noted.
The first of them is the Bebe and Cece video of a duet performed by the premier couple in State House that has gone viral and the song (hymn) they sing in the video now even boasts a few remix versions. It is quite hard not to love this couple, and one can tell the octogenarian prime minister is a man with a good sense of humour. Many of us little men won’t be able to deal with the burning and amorous advances of a young trophy wife at his age.
The humourless scorn the video clip, the self-righteous criticise the First Lady for spreading the video on social media, I am genuinely tickled by the cross generational State House bedroom church choir supplicating the Father’s mercy in these troubled times. It is a good piece of entertainment to a year that has at been best tumultuous for the ruling government and coalition partners. It is a year that has revealed the level of rot in the system, a year that has revealed a picture of utter pride and ingrained narcissism from a certain quarter of the political sphere, and it has been a year that has exposed the cowardice of a nation that has been in limbo from 1986 to the present day.
Chapter three (The Night Shadows) of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, bears the quote:
A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it!
This country and the continent are run on a cloak-and-dagger type of pseudo-democracy, and for us opinion writers that can see into the lies spread on various mediums of communication, the frustration comes from the knowledge we gain from the constant in-depth analysis of the ‘facts’ placed for public consumption. It is frustrating when one sees whole countries and their plebeian masses sold the dummy with each passing regime. We are a nation that is very good at pretending to do something when we are in fact engaged in some other selfish pursuit.
It is therefore quite hard to know who to believe except the fact measured against facts and not wishes or pipedreams of some individuals with ulterior motives. It is a fact that the government never really cared about the plight of sheep farmers in this country, and this is measured against recent developments in November regarding the piece of legislation that controls the sale of wool and mohair. The poor farmers must brace for yet another bleak year as the authorities concerned go on pretending they are doing something about assuaging the plight of the farmers.
Another fact that has come to one’s attention is that there shall never be successful reforms in this generation; the dilly-dallying that has gone on since 2012 when it comes to the issue of national reforms means that we shall never see the day the so-called ‘reforms’ come into effect. The parliament keeps on being adjourned sine die ad infinitum and the logical question is: who will ensure that the reforms process will go on if the drivers are on indefinite leave?
The nation is just being led with a carrot like a stubborn ass by a political class that has forgotten the actual mandate that put them in parliament in the first place. African politicians are a class of individuals that seem to hold the notion that a seat of power equals invincibility, the past regime’s fall is soon forgotten by the incumbent who soon go back to the old ways that aided the regress of a state. Lobby speech is just self-righteous talk, and like the line in the Dickens novel, the intentions in the heart of the man or woman next to you forever remain a secret to you. If we were to measure what has been done against what was committed to by the politicians over the years in this land, then we would realise that we have been going around in circles after the passing of Chief Leabua Jonathan.
If these were the open seas, then our country would have the most pirates, usurping a position here, stealing a substantial amount of donor funds there, silencing those that speak there, then pretending to be sad at their funerals. A friend and ex-classmate of mine passed away under dubious circumstances this year after bearing witness to the rot in the ministry he was employed in on some public accounts commission’s hearing. No one questioned his death, all kept silent and speculated instead of confronting the issue of his death head on; he had revealed the pirates’ cache of gold in front of a panel and the nation and it is perhaps no news in a country now notorious for having one of the most violent police forces in the world.
That police brutality still goes on unchecked, and it will probably go on in this country where the police have become a law unto themselves. We shall never progress, not with the hidden agendas that form the core of everyday speak when it comes to the issue of discussing vital economic development strategies. This means that we are a perpetual beggars and it will take ages before we change.
To forget the kingdom and turn our eyes to the republic, this is the year that proved to whoever cares that racism in South Africa will never go away. It has just transmogrified into other forms. The xenophobic attacks in this country are at their most basic racist and ethnic in form. The current South African seems to hold the false notion that they are superior to everyone on the continent. It is a behaviour that came as a result of apartheid, and it seems that it has now become a part of the self-righteous black majority who do not find it wrong to judge and to attack people from neighbouring African states on the basis of their not being locals.
The manner in which the issue has been discussed by the authorities concerned leaves little to be desired, in fact, the passive manner with which the issue of xenophobia is being treated by African states means that xenophobia will never go away and the attacks on those considered ‘foreigners’ will only escalate as the poverty on the continent deepens. If we had a political class that genuinely addresses issues, occurrences of xenophobia would have by now become history.
This is the year where the early dangers of unmonitored technological advancement are being revealed. It is true that we shall progress as the human race, and the technologies that we use shall advance with us. The sad reality however, is that some of the technologies we design and implement become a Frankenstein that comes back to haunt us. Advances in technology have led to the creation of adventitious encounters that however insignificant they may seem have a profound impact on the general population’s outlook on serious issues. Before the technological age of the current times, issues had to be dealt with head on, and matters were solved timeously.
In this age, a real issue soon loses its substance in the melee created on social media platforms where serious issues soon fade into nothingness because of their being over-chewed by different minds of different levels of profound or dubious intelligence. What should be an issue of concern soon fades away because a new trending topic or video-clip takes over. This means that we shall at the end of the day have a pile of unsolved issues that will prove hard to deal with due to their age.
It does not matter how we defend our errors, it does not count whether we argue over non-issues over the social media. What matters is that the African population should start being aware that they should begin answering uncomfortable questions on issues that are prevalent in their time and age. Resorting to defensive tactics will never get us anywhere, just as much as associating the ownership of land with wealth. Land needs hands to work it, and the touch screen of an individual tweeting their opinion on social media platforms does not mean that they can work the land when the time to till and to sow comes along. We have become a highly individualised entity as human beings, and the altars we build to this form of narcissism mean that the continent will go on regressing. Unless the welfare of the majority comes before that of the individual, then we shall be stuck with a continent where every individual wants to be noted as the ‘first’ to achieve something. This is an old imperialistic sort of thought-pattern; the sad thing is found in the fact that the political police hold it as their standard.
The individualistic tendencies are coming to the light, and whether or not we like it the results shall be bitter. It helps no one that hunger and poverty have driven a large part of the human population into defensive mode, with almost everyone feeling that sharing is personal sabotage. Those that speak against the selfish tendencies of the leader class are silenced, or are labelled as fools content with starving.
I am well and fine with hunger, as long as it means that my children will not be slaves tomorrow.
The external influence on the running of this state is just too much, and the leader class should be aware of the fact that the concessions they are now signing will come back to haunt us when this land we own is sold off as surety for non-payment of the loans disguised as aid.
This is the year that one realised that the smart individuals never believe political opinion but actually bother to take a close look at the facts on the ground. The idea of class division has come back in the form of politics, and the ruling class are masters who actually care nothing about the opinions of those that elected them into office. I am just glad it is gone, would rather stare into the hopelessness of a bleak tomorrow and the so-called 4th Industrial Revolution Africans are entering into unshod.
By:Tšepiso S. Mothibi
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.
Send your comments and questions to: email@example.com
Politicians’ propensity to score own goals
Lesotho politicians are often in the habit of scoring own goals. For example, look at the circus that took place in the country at the opening of parliament after the winter break. These events remind me of the article that I wrote with the title ‘Scoring own goals’.
This article appeared in this publication dated March 18 – 24, 2021. It argued that Lesotho’s politicians had a propensity to score own goals.
Many say that education and academia should not involve themselves in politics. This belief is a fallacy. The two are intrinsically intertwined. Education and politics link in a complex way.
For instance, parliament is an organ that passes laws that govern and guide national education policies. The interconnectedness includes the curricula that educational institutions and schools teach. Now, if the National Assembly’s focus is misplaced, important legislative decisions may stall or be derailed by lack of action.
I must make a disclaimer though. I am not promoting any view about a political party. I am writing this article purely as a concerned citizen.
I revisit the own goal tendency of those in authority by assessing the drama that unfolded in politics and governance. I review the recent events that culminated in the failed vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Sam Matekane and his government.
I use arguments from research to demonstrate the fluidity of Lesotho’s democracy. Some politicians often take advantage of this fluidity for selfish gain. I contest that the Prime Minister and his government should treat their adversities as stepping stones to meeting their targets.
A constitution is a living document. Accordingly, to keep Lesotho’s constitution alive, current and relevant, parliament should regularly amend it.
However, in so doing, parliament must be careful that tinkering with the country’s constitution does not compromise the essence of democracy they champion. National and democratic principles must form the dogma that underpins the improvements and amendment exercises.
Personal aspirations, ambitions and creed must not underpin the amendments.
The recent events in and out of the National Assembly make one question the perceptions of the different roles players in the democratic playground in Lesotho have.
First, there was a vote of no confidence that the Speaker ruled to defer subject to the high court’s decision.
Second, there was the allegedly drunken MP’s own goal.
The third is the press conference led by the Commissioner of the Lesotho Mounted Police Services flanked by the head of the Lesotho Defence Force and the Director General of the National Security Services.
It is already a hat trick of own goals. Fourth, there was the statement of the Prime Minister claiming an attempted coup.
The fifth own goal is the moratorium that prevented parliament from holding a vote of no confidence against the Prime Minister before the lapse of three years of his inauguration.
The sixth is the practice of shirking responsibility by MPs. MPs often refer political matters to the national courts for decisions. The seventh, and the mother of all own goals, is the electoral system that Lesotho elected to pursue. The National Assembly has 120 MPs. There are 80 MPs representing constituencies and 40 proportional representatives.
The Commonwealth suggested that Lesotho review the modalities of the PR nominations. Sekatle and the Commonwealth agree that the PR system introduced plurality but at a cost. The cost is what scholars and commentators term minority rights and coalitions.
Also, it compromises accountability and transparency. It undermines the collective intelligence of the voters. Chief Jonathan warned against coalition governments by citing their instability. Political instability plagues Lesotho today.
Sekatle and the Commonwealth cited the overreliance on a threshold in awarding PR seats in parliament, cheapening them.
The PR system ballooned parliament unnecessarily. By comparison, Botswana had a population of 2.6 million in (2021). Lesotho had 2.3 million (2021). Botswana parliament currently has 65 seats, and Lesotho has 120.
A consequence emanating from the PR system in Lesotho is a hung parliament. Since 2012, there has not been an outright majority in the National Assembly. The results yielded chaos. Over that period, PMs constantly look over their shoulders. All these coalitions imploded.
Democracy is about the majority. Politicians must be persuasive to attract votes to achieve the majority. In other words, the PR system rewards failure.
The own goals cause stagnation. MPs score these own goals by serving their selfish interests. They waste time and energy on trivial things. And yet, they receive full-time salaries and earn allowances such as sittings and petrol allowances. How, then, would one explain that the external urging of parliament had to engage in the reforms exercise?
Today, reforms are lying latent. Politicians use the reform programme as an excuse for ensuring that they retain or access power. In the recent correspondences to SADC, the government and the opposition cite reforms and democracy to justify their actions. But as I write this article, there is nothing much that is happening along the lines of these very reforms. Why?
The starting point of any achievement is desire and definitiveness of purpose. The definitiveness of purpose is more than goal setting. It is one’s roadmap to achieving the overall objectives. Elsewhere, I took the definition of desire as explained by the author, Wallace Wattles.
According to Wattles, ‘Desire is possibility seeking expression, or function seeking performance’. All desires began as a thought. Expressing their desires through a manifesto is a means by which parties attempt to concretise them (their desires).
The starting point of an election campaign is the expression of political intentions and goals through manifestos. A manifesto is a public declaration of aims and policy by a political party or candidate. Political parties express their desires for what they will do in their manifestos.
After elections, these desires become the guiding principles and laws. Politically mature voters would then elect political candidates based on these manifestos.
Who instigated and drove the reforms in Lesotho? The contemporary history of Lesotho reveals that external forces pushed the reforms. Basotho merely reacted. They do not own the reform process. High on the list of their drivers are SADC, the US through AGOA and the European Union.
The practice contradicts Wattles’ definition. According to Wattles definition, desire must emanate from inside the individual, or in our case, from Basotho and be expressed outward through actions.
I do not want to comment too much about the involvement of the security agencies in politics. In my view, the relevant bodies, namely, the Law Society of Lesotho, the media and the opposition parties dealt with their involvement adequately.
Former PM Leabua Jonathan often described democracy as the government of the people by the people. But, the meaning of the construct of democracy is fluid and elusive, depending on the position of governance in Lesotho’s political arena.
Authors Hughes, Kroehler and Vander Zanden explain that democracy is a system in which the powers of government derive from the consent of the governed, namely the masses who vote, in which regular constitutional avenues exist for changing government officials.
The authors characterise the system as one which permits the population a significant voice in decision-making through the people’s right to choose among contenders for political office. Also, the system allows for a broad, relatively equal citizenship among the populace.
Lastly, it affords the citizenry protection from arbitrary state action.
Now, the question is whether the recent activities fit all the three criterias. Are the actions of the MPs who moved for the vote of no confidence in the PM’s government acting in line with Lesotho’s constitution and democracy?
This definition of democracy says that regular constitutional avenues exist for changing government officials. The no confidence vote exists in Lesotho’s constitution. But the PM and his security agencies questioned this. They claim the move by the members of the opposition to dethrone the government was a coup attempt.
The drama began when an MP from the ruling Revolution for Prosperity (RFP), Thabo Moea MP, sought an order from the High Court to delay the motion of no confidence against the Prime Minister until after the completion of the reforms process.
The opposition contests that the prayer by Moea stifles a democratic process for self-serving ends. Subsequently, the Speaker cited this impending case to defer the matter.
The constitution of Lesotho stipulates that the legislature is to pass laws, the executive is to approve and execute them, and the judiciary is to expound and enforce them. But a scholar, Nwafor, claims that the courts in Lesotho often intrude into the functions of the other arms of government.
Lesotho ‘s constitution confers powers on three arms of government in such a manner as would ensure cooperation and coordination in governance. The courts ought to bear in mind that the effective discharge of the responsibilities of the courts largely depends on the effectiveness of the other arms of government.
Nwafor brings up the issue of encroachment. He asserts that the powers of the different arms of government in such a manner would guarantee a coordinated discharge of government responsibilities to the nation. But, parliament overly relies on the courts to make political decisions. The practice encourages the risk of overreaching.
The PR electoral system denies Basotho the right to choose their representatives among contenders for political office. Instead, parties ‘hand pick’ these representatives in the pretext of the constituency elections outcomes. Often, these PR members are the ones who lost their constituency elections.
These are the politicians whose constituencies rejected them. They represent their parties and not the voters. They do not account to the voters.
Both the PM and the opposition made presentations to SADC. They overlooked the electorate. Why would SADC have power and not the electorate that elected the politicians to office? Running to SADC, an outside organisation, to settle Lesotho’s internal problems is not a solution. It is scoring an own goal. Lesotho, with its 57 years of independence, should be able to solve its internal problems.
Nonetheless, I have a completely different take from Mokhothu on the issue of the protest march by the RFP. It is unimportant to find the instigator of the protest march. The people to persuade are the voters, the people who put governments into power in a democracy, not external bodies such as SADC.
Napoleon Hill’s creed reads: ‘Every adversity brings a seed of equivalent or more benefit’. Any business person knows that business is a solution to an economic problem. So, the PM and his colleagues in his party who are business people must look at the adversity emanating from the opposition as a seed of equivalent or better benefit.
The government must dig deep to find how the problem may benefit them.
They must identify their failures and use them as stepping stones to success.
Elsewhere, I presented the views of an American scholar and activist, Anderson, who suggested that marginalised communities must cease granting candidates blank cheques. Instead, the electorate must draw their expectations and demand the campaigning party or candidate promise to meet them.
This practice is called quid pro quo. It enforces accountability and transparency.
You scratch my back, and I scratch yours. Quid pro quo is an example of one of the universal laws that demonstrate reciprocity. Reciprocity is the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit. The universal law is the Law of Cause and Effect. It means that for every effect, there is an equal cause. You plant a seed, so shall you reap.
Both the government and the opposition ran to SADC for help. Remember, Matekane is a successful businessman. He has, on more than one occasion, explained that he wanted to use his prowess in business to take Lesotho forward. As a businessman, Matekane has faith in his ability.
Words that come to mind here include self-confidence and trust in himself. He believes in himself. Running to SADC does not display this faith in his ability to deal with problems emanating from his opposition.
Hill argues that riches, or any form of success and achievement, begin with a thought. Faith removes limitations. Matekane must apply his faith as a businessman to become a successful politician.
To summarise, the article explores the events emanating from the fiasco of the no-confidence motion. The individuals who ought to champion constitutional democracy in Lesotho betrayed Basotho by scoring hordes of own goals.
I explored the meaning of concepts that helped me unpack some of these own goals. These were democracy, faith and desire. Also, I coupled these with scholarly research views on the constitution of Lesotho.
I contest that while the opposition may argue that they are within their rights to ruffle the government, the PM must use different tactics. He must display faith and confidence in himself and trust Basotho.
The move to influence the voters to back him deserves a big WOW! He must hold more campaigns to persuade voters to support his government. Voters may make or break him.
MPs waste time in discussing trivial issues that have no bearing on the national agenda. Often, they focus on self-serving matters. The RFP promised to refocus Lesotho towards national development and improving the quality of life.
The article also shows that the PR system does not benefit Lesotho. It diminishes accountability and the principle of quid pro quo. Also, it ballooned the numbers in parliament unnecessarily. It increased political instability by forging formations of coalition.
Politicians must refrain from abusing the judiciary by making them make political decisions. Involving the courts in making political decisions leads to encroachment. Encroachment defies democracy.
In conclusion, Matekane must not allow his detractors to derail his mandate. The same is true for the opposition leaders who attempt to dethrone him. No party campaigned on removing sitting PMs.
Also, the MPs must take the responsibilities that Basotho entrusted them with. It is high time that they make the political decisions instead of shifting them to the judiciary or external bodies.
Matekane, his business associates and technocrats in his government should revisit attributes that made them successful. One such attribute is their faith in their abilities. They must remember that riches (and success) begin with a thought, and faith removes limitations.
Dr Tholang Maqutu
Painting mood effectively
Writing is not different from beautiful artwork. Just like a skilled painter holding a brush with its broad strokes, the writer occupies the same place and vocation in life. Writing is a work of painting life’s experiences, its hues and beautiful unfolding internal journeys. In this piece we focus on mood and how it can be achieved. Many students struggle with understanding and contemplating the scope and ambit of mood in writing.
It is hard to define and frame the scope of mood in writing. What really constitutes mood? Generally, mood encapsulates the totality of the “air” or “spirit” or “aura” that a certain work of art evokes in the human mind, feeling or sensibility. There is a certain dominant feature or streak associated with a certain work of art, place or person.
There is something which is evoked in our hearts which is associated with a certain place, person or event. Every place or event or person carries or imbues with him or her a certain mood or sensibility; and there is a panorama of sensibilities; for instance, a happy or sombre or whimsical mood. We will now focus on a certain extract and discern how it paints mood.
“He quickly rights himself and keeps walking, but there is an unsteadiness to his knees. He has been given many looks in this quarter – dirty ones, blank ones, sympathetic ones, annoyed ones. For the most part, he had learned to tolerate those than can be tolerated, and ignore those that should be ignored, but the look this woman gave him is not a look one gives to humans but to flies, ticks, cockroaches, fleas…Thato feels anger, then humiliation, then something nameless. If he were in his own country he would turn and confront the woman; but now he’s hurt, wounded, a part of him wishing he were invisible. Breathing evenly, he walks with care, only lifting his eyes once he reaches his own quarters, among his own people. He proceeds to his shack. He could stop by Thapelo’s, his neighbour, where he knows that men and women are already congregated to watch videos from home. Yet, no matter the promise of good fellowship and laughter, Thabo does not join them. Watching videos is a form of forgetting; the 2008 elections, the police with batons, the soldiers with guns, the militia with machetes. Do you remember? Limbs broken. Roofs blazing. I remember.”
This extract is characterised by the intensity of feeling and evokes feelings of sadness, despair and pain. The excerpt paints a harrowing and blood-curdling account which produces a sombre, dull and subdued mood. Thato, the protagonist in the story is in a foreign land. He was impelled to leave his country as a result of political violence which saw many people lose limbs and lives. He feels lonely and unwanted in the foreign land. He feels lost and alienated.
There are sentiments of xenophobia expressed through the glances of citizens of the foreign country he is in. Even if he were to entertain himself together with his countrymen residing in that foreign land, Thato still felt a deep and nagging feeling of being an outcast. Thus, we have made very deep and broad descriptions of the circumstances in which the protagonist finds himself with a view to demonstrate how mood is created in a narrative. The creation of mood feeds into the description of the character’s circumstances, his mindset and the space and place in which he finds himself.
Mood, as we have demonstrated from the portrayal of Thato’s experience, has a link with pathos. Pathos is that streak of sadness which pervades a story and creates empathy in the reader. The aim of effective writing is to move the reader and to impel him towards certain sensibilities which are of an affective kind. Mood, when effectively created, allows the reader to grasp meaning which is not directly said in the story or composition.
Meaning in a story is an interaction between the words in a text as read together with the effect of the words, the tone used and the created mood. There are certain words in a text which do not just communicate, but etches in the reader’s mind certain thoughts, viewpoints and feelings. These words would be so evocative. One such word describes Thato’s deepest sense of alienation in the extract given above.
The word describes him as nursing a wish of invisibility, he felt or wished he were ‘invisible.’ His wish for invisibility is of great importance. It portrays how he was deeply affected by the loathing expressed in the eyes of those looking at him with hate and disdain.
So, here we are! Creating a mood is a craft which takes time to acquire and hone. But when achieved, it makes effective reading and allows the reader to get meaning which goes beyond the text.
Vuso Mhlanga teaches at the University of Zimbabwe. For almost a decade and half he taught English language and Literature in English at high school. Send your comments and questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lawyer in trouble
Trio in court for killing ‘witches’
Opposition fights back
Harnessing imagery in writing
All set for Lesotho Tourism Festival
Joang locked in rentals row with tenants
Drugs crisis fuels gangsterism
Lesotho shines on MCA scorecard
Politicians’ propensity to score own goals
Co-option tactics for self-preservation
M13.6 million for police cars
Matekane’s new Cabinet
Weekly Police Report
Reforms: time to change hearts and minds
The middle class have failed us
No peace plan, no economic recovery
Coalition politics are bad for development
Academic leadership, curriculum and pedagogy
We have lost our moral indignation
Mokeki’s road to stardom
DCEO raids PS’
Literature and reality
The ABC blew its chance
Bringing the spark back to schools
I made Matekane rich: Moleleki
Musician dumps ABC
Bofuma, boimana li nts’a bana likolong
Mahao o seboko ka ho phahama hoa litheko
Contract Farming Launch
7,5 Million Dollars For Needy Children
Ba ahileng lipuleng ba falle ha nakoana
Ba ahileng lipuleng ba falle ha nakoana
Weekly Police Report
Mahao o re masholu a e ts’oareloe
‘Our Members Voted RFP’ Says Metsing
Matekane’s 100 Days Plan
High Profile Cases in Limbo
130 Law Students Graduate From NUL
Metsing and Mochoboroane Case Postponed
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SA tycoon angers MPs
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Young Mpeka’s big dreams
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I’m here to help, says Mashudu
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𝐏𝐫𝐨𝐦𝐨𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐇𝐢𝐠𝐡-𝐐𝐮𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐁𝐞𝐥𝐭 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐑𝐨𝐚𝐝 𝐂𝐨𝐨𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐚 𝐁𝐫𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐅𝐮𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐞
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RFP member fights election disqualification
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A fitness festival in Butha-Buthe
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‘Fake’ prophet swindles duo of M13 600
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Man claims M5 million damages for lost eyes