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Third World dreams



The walk past the shopping complex, across the road to the hardware where men and their bakkies or trucks wait for clients that need to have their goods carried to their places of habit, then back to the shopping complex to fix three gas heaters at a popular hangout where the patrons have somehow managed to wreck in their inebriated mirth and merriment, and in the drunken orgy also somehow managed to break the plate glass to the private bar that too has to be removed and replaced, it is a sprint in the pursuit of money, the oil that makes the world go round and the answer to some and most of the economic realities we face: rent, food, clothing, medical bills, transport, entertainment (for everyone needs a moment of repose in the face of the tedious drag we call life living below the poverty line on this here continent), dependents and other such things related to the use of lucre.

It is a constant chase in pursuit of a habitual dream, to make it in life or to get by as is seen in the patrons at a popular gambling parlour where women and men can bet the lotto, horses, greyhounds, soccer, rugby, slots, and whatever you may name related to the ‘art’ of gambling. Most of them are regular patrons and they know all the games related to the nagging of fortune’s whim to turn their way, some are professionals and they come from time to time to make a bit that will cover part of their expenses: all of them are in pursuit of that million that will get them out of the squalid quarters of the underclass, that will trebuchet them into the big league where they will get to rub shoulders with the who’s who of the world, for to be the celebrity and the hero of the day seems to be the main preoccupation of the current generation, if the tweets and the posts on popular social media websites are to be taken to head.

There is no point in hesitating when opportunity presents itself here, and it comes in a thousand forms. There is just no use in being choosy as to the selection of the proper method of garnering in wealth in this here country. Walk the country and the city streets and find out how the poor of the world chase their dream to get out of the squalid quarters of the rented rooms tsa malaeneng to their own perfect and nice little houses with double garages and devil fork (steel palisade) fences. From vending snacks, to grilling chicken in the open dusty streets of Maseru and other towns, to selling fish and makoenya (doughnuts or fat-cakes), the wretched of the continent eke their mournful existence (or subsistence if one may rightly say).

The wheels of fortune turn at any time, and the point is for one to be ready to turn with them sans any care as to who says what in terms of judgement of that which one is doing to make enough to live on or a fortune that will cover their needs until the rapture is spent. There are councils of judges that judge (never mind them, for that is what critics and judges do) that assess what one is doing to make a living or to gather wealth, forget these ones for they believe in making beggars out of noble men and women. Chase that dream however you can, cling on to it until the whenever you will get to see the seeds of your toil come to the light as fruits you get to enjoy.

This is the Third World (forget those sugar-coated politically correct terms in use) and the only way to stay afloat is to keep on moving, to keep on working even when the arms are numb and the legs wobble from fatigue. It is the only way we can keep on keeping on. I have always wondered why there are people that spend most of their lives in gambling parlours at popular hotels and casinos when they could be doing a more “meaningful” job trying to gain funds. I was a judge of that which I had little understanding of, cosy in the cushioned world where my parents would provide all the means of survival I needed. This carried on until I met a figure who had somehow managed to gamble all of his life’s savings away in a recovery programme at a rehabilitation centre.

We would speak, and he would tell me how he had managed to somehow spend every cent he had made over forty years in casinos, with the hope that somehow he would make enough to buy a beach house in Cape Town. The figures he mentioned were in the millions, money one previously thought could not be spent in a single lifetime. He told me of the abysmal hunger for more that is both the result of our human condition and also the result of living in poverty for extended periods. One just feels they have to get more because what they get is more often than less not enough to cover some of the basic needs of life living in the city demands from everyone that is resident therein.

It is almost everyone’s dream to ‘make it’ and the mantra of the time is, “one day will be one day” and when that day will come does not matter, as long as it comes one day, and those who hustle will go on hustle irrespective of who they hassle in the course of the daily ‘hustle’ to make ends meet to form the rectangle of the banknote or the circle of the coin. Money makes the world go round, money corrupts and is the means that sustains corruption, but money is also the basic means of exchange to cover the basic needs of the people that have to feed in order to live, a people that need to put some kind of cover on their bodies in the form of clothing, a people that need a place of domicile to live in and a people that need to interact with the rest of the world on some basis.

Money buys everything, including time, love, and happiness, and there is no getting around the fact that we need to have money to be (that which we want to be), and to achieve those dreams that we envision in our secret places and private moments. The illusion of the world is that it can somehow be got from the winnings of gambling, the reality is that those who so think are dreamers too, for fortune is born of incessant toil at something for the poor Third World child that wants to reach a certain rung high on the social hierarchical ladder. What the continent is, is the direct result of colonialism, and the sad thing is that colonialism never really went away but stayed on in the form of political governance. True, the average politician on the continent is the child of the plebeian class with dreams of the regular serf that feels having more money than one can spend raises one to the level of the chief.

This type of thinking leads one to reining in behaviours that tend more towards corruption than the upliftment of the masses that once were not ‘free’ under colonialism but are now chained in the clutches of poverty, unemployment and rampant disease. It is a bleak picture which is used as the main theme of the lobbying rhetoric of the politician seeking to garner in votes to guarantee them a seat in parliament where lavish luncheons, per diems and benefits of office await the successful candidate. Of the masses that elected them into power, very little is ever given due consideration, or so it seems from the realities one comes across on a daily basis. A Third World dream cannot be sustained by laying back and waiting for the world to change for the better. A Third World dream needs one to constantly knock on doors for whatever job one may come across.

Those letters from university are no guarantee that one shall be employed somewhere, those contents of the brown envelope that include transcripts, certified copies of certificates, curriculum vitae, medical forms, police clearances and other papers are not surety, in fact, the average bachelor’s degree is only good for framing and putting up on the wall. The best bet is for one to go around looking for jobs to keep one’s hands busy with the hope that they will be paid for their effort by the client they come across on the carpetbagging excursions in the pursuit of the basic dream to get food to feed the body that needs it to live. I have always had the simple answer to the dearth in jobs and it goes:
If you cannot get employed, employ your hands…

Naïve as it may seem, it is a vision held by those who have somehow managed to evade the clutches of poverty by mastering the art of multi-tasking and moonlighting. There is just no use waiting for the messiah to come back with manna for one, there is practicality in engaging a myriad jobs to get some kind of income, for however little it may be, it still covers a large part of the expenses one incurs on a daily basis in the demanding world that once was coined ‘concrete jungle’ by Bob Marley and the Wailers. From making bead necklaces to fixing shoes, from being a cleaner to being a plumber, being a painter today and construction site labourer tomorrow, selling clothes in a shoddy mkhukhu to grilling chicken in the open streets of the city, the African child is chasing the constant Third World dream to keep one’s head above the poverty line and to be ‘someone’ if fortune rains money into one’s begging cap.

The secret is to maintain the constancy of the toil and not to falter despite the seemingly insurmountable odds pitted against the dreamer on a daily basis, it is what sustains the Third World dream, and it is what keeps it in the realm of the living. I have pondered the core to the Third World dream for a number of years now, and what I see is a world full of dreamers whose main impediment is often just the simple fear to take the first step towards the attainment of their dream. We fear the unknown and our fear is often fuelled by pride, that is, we fear to fail because of what others may say. What many do not realise is that though it may be true that there are councils of critics and sceptics with a chronic type of PHD (Pull Him/Her Down) syndrome waiting for one to fail, the reality is that most of us are too busy tending to the growth of their own dreams to even care what one is doing to achieve their dream.

One’s success therefore, depends on their tenacity and obstinacy in the pursuit of the dream to reach relative comfort in life (for that is the best many can achieve in life). Giving in to the fear never helped anyone, and those that feared in the past made rivers out of ankle-deep streams and never got across to the Promised Land. I honestly do not care who judges what I do in pursuit of the oil that keeps the machine running (money), and frankly speaking, those critics should learn to mind their own business, or alternatively try and count stars in the daytime (who knows, they might just discover new galaxies doing so). Those that succeed are often labelled thieves, witches, and corrupt by these judges of people’s dreams, but they still go on to succeed.

If one views the world around us at this point in time, they soon realise that those hip-hop music video dreams are only there to encourage the world to chase the dream. We just cannot afford not to dream for it is what keeps us moving towards the goal we can reach: relative comfort free of all the worries of the when and the how one shall reach the land flowing with milk and honey. I believe in making my world with my hands, and I shall keep on using them to fashion it to whatever shape and form I envision it to be in my private musings. The world belongs to dreamers valiant enough to chase their dreams. Chase that Third World dream.

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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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