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We drink from the same well



It is a short and brief excursion crossing the border into the land of somewhere and nowhere where men come with everything they wanted but oftentimes come back with nothing, for they are robbed of whatever it is that they gathered over the long months in that land where the innocent soon lose their innocence and become something else; something other than that which they left home as on their hopeful journey to the land that their forefathers sweated blood and youth to see it on its exalted pedestal.

It is a short and brief excursion crossing the border into the land of somewhere and nowhere where men come with everything they wanted but oftentimes come back with nothing, for they are robbed of whatever it is that they gathered over the long months in that land where the innocent soon lose their innocence and become something else; something other than that which they left home as on their hopeful journey to the land that their forefathers sweated blood and youth to see it on its exalted pedestal.

This is South Africa, the land whose cities the Basotho of Lesotho (especially) have built to their current status that sees them as gargantuan leviathans that swallow entire villages whole: for the young men leave (or have left since De Beers started mining for diamonds in Kimberly in the May and June or autumn and winter of 1871 and the 4th of October 1886 in Johannesburg’s Langlaagte farm) and are swallowed by the earth in search of elusive gold and diamonds, the young women leave to be maids (domestic workers! Forgive the political incorrectness) or something else.

The fact is, no one that leaves the kingdom ever comes back the same if they go into that country where shantytowns share invisible borders with affluent suburbs; the double standard is the only standard in South Africa.It is a 1000 steps from the Lesotho side to the South African side of the border, not a 1000 yards or a 1000 miles, but all these metrics could well be a million miles for many of the people that try and cross into the latter country. Twenty four years into South Africa’s independence, Basotho find themselves begging to cross at any of the border control points of the 909 kilometre long borderline that surrounds the enclave Kingdom of Lesotho, in fact, as Richard Weisfelder cites in his 2014 paper Lesotho’s interactions with South Africa and regional organisations in Southern Africa that, “South Africa was treating Lesotho ‘worse than . . . under apartheid’.”

A paper published in 2002 by SAMP (Southern African Migration Project) in partnership with Sechaba Consultants and Associates and edited by Professor Jonathan Crush begins its executive summary with the statement:It is impractical to treat Lesotho like any other foreign country in regulating movement across borders. Until 1963 no passports were required to enter South Africa from Lesotho, and it was only the security concerns of the apartheid government that led to travel documents being required.

Following South Africa’s transition to democracy, border controls with Lesotho might reasonably be subject to review. The report argues that streamlining, integration, and relaxation of immigration services at the Free State Border posts would not only be less costly  and more cost-effective, but also mutually beneficial for communities and government agencies on both sides of the border.

What Warden did when he drew Lesotho’s borderline was wrong, but it is a bitter pill Lesotho chose to swallow (meekly, for lack of a better choice). Forced to retreat to an area devoid of any arable land, Basotho and their wise king quietly retreated to the Mountain Kingdom, an area whose craggy mountains reach the sky. The colonialist that did the redrawing of the map must have failed to realise that despite the malice in his cartographic judgement, the area he had forced the peaceable Basotho was rich in minerals, but above all; that Lesotho possessed vast amounts of water.

This water and diamonds would become a bone of contention between South Africa and Chief Leabua Jonathan until his deposition in a military coup d’état in 1986. The following military government gave in to the whims of the apartheid government and signed the deal to sell Lesotho’s waters to the industrial hub of the Witwatersrand. I was a mere boy when the steamrollers rolled in to pave the road to Katse, and it was an interesting time for us as we made clay models of the excavators and made wire trucks and tippers.

What we did not know is that South Africa is not a grateful country. The bridge back then was still the old rickety steel structure that would soon be replaced with a new one with the advent of the Highlands Water Project in 1987 (Chief Leabua passed away on the 5th of April). What I remember about the border crossings back then is that they were short (one did not have to stand in the long queues in baking hot sun just because there is a new ‘biometric’ system being ‘tested’).

All my uncle did was to fill a form, accompany me to the border gate where my passport would be stamped by a white immigration officer in a pilot shirt and I would be on my way to see my relatives in the townships of the East Rand where there was no night for the lights were on the whole time. I would spend the two months of the winter break there, for there was an open option to extend the number of days given at the border post at any Home Affairs branch close to where I was.

I do not remember apartheid, I guess I was too young to care, but I remember the journey past Maputsoe, the 1000 steps to the Ficksburg border gate, and the long ride in the Nissan E20, or the Toyota Hi-Ace (Zola Budd) to the eternal brightness of Johannesburg.Why it only took until South Africa to be ‘free’ for the border crossings to become a living hell I shall never know.

In the post-independence of 1994, crossing the border began to be a strange affair, maybe because the officer that now sat behind the plate-glass or plexiglass had a gold tooth and was the same colour of skin as I was. He or she often did not speak Sesotho, and would merely scribble the stamp he had put in my passport. A new era of gold-toothed border control officials had begun.

Come 1998, South Africa defended ‘her waters’ in what came to be known as ‘Operation Boleas’ at the cost of over a 100 lives (remember the 1982 commando raid where 42 were massacred including 30 ANC members). In a clear sense we have drunk of waters from the same well for most of our history, why South Africa of the present day seems to resort to the 1899-1902 Anglo-Boer War Scorched Earth tactics when it comes to the treatment of the Basotho is a hard fact to understand.

The border is our lifeline, that cannot be denied, but it is also the lifeline of South African business too (for 90% of the companies in this Lesotho have their headquarters in South Africa).The long queues by Lesotho citizens who want to cross over to South Africa at the border gate do not mean only industry is slowed down, or that South Africa will get its wish to turn us into a province.

The queues mean that South African authorities do not respect the rights of the people that somehow live close to their water wells. To queue at any border (except in those terrorphobic countries) is a crime against the humanity of such individuals as those that may be legally seeking entry into another country or state with proper documents of travel that are within the requirements stipulated in international conventions on cross-border travel. The double standard began 9 years ago when South Africa got the opportunity to host the FIFA World Cup.

For some strange reason, Basotho began to be labelled a security threat by the immigration authorities of South Africa (as if you get into Lesotho first before going to South Africa). The issue of the porous borders was forgotten and the citizen with the passport became the target for the systematic South African Gestapo experiment posing as border control.

South Africa is no heaven to us, it just is the South Africa we took from the status of being a mining town to being the jewel of Southern Africa.When the Gun/Disarmament/Lisemeng Wars of 1880-1881 began it was only because the South African government (call it the Cape Colony government if you feel amorous and romantic) sought to rob the Basotho of guns they had sweated blood for at the Big Hole (Die Groot Gaat) of Kimberly. Morena Lerotholi, Morena Bereng and fellow brothers defied their father’s docile concession to disarm and to handover to the colonial authorities firearms they had sweated for.

Like real men, they refused to back down and the ‘Cape’ government and Bartle Frere and Gordon Sprigg lost the war, because the mountains and their spirits rewarded their valour with a victory over the forces of a government  that thought Basotho we mere baboons. It is 2018, and it seems there are no men willing to put an end to the sadistic torture of Basotho on half-baked basis. Forced to queue for long hours, cars and men and women and children wait while some immigration official feels it right to take a piss break every quarter hour and to chat to some side dish. What I wonder is whether they even care that some of those waiting in the queue service their varied industries.

Weighed down with sanctions in the early part of this century Zimbabweans managed to get good deals with the South African Ministry of Home Affairs. They even went as far as getting South African ID’s and while the ‘biometric’ experiment goes on at Lesotho’s borders, I can bet there is nothing like it at the Beit Bridge border.              Last week I wrote Ahead of Time in which I discussed the essence of time in detail having borrowed words from the best teacher I ever had in high school, Ntate Tšele D. Thokoana.

His favourite proverb was, “A stitch in time saves nine” which in simple words means that sorting out a problem promptly saves one the tedious effort of having to fix it later. The authorities on both sides of the border have in simple words been mollycoddling each other, dilly-dallying instead of dealing with the real ramifications of the real problems the extended border-gate-go-slow pose on the ethos of the people of Lesotho. Basotho are not donkeys, they are free human beings that need to be treated humanely each time they so choose to cross the border into South Africa. It is not a favour that they get to walk the de-paved streets of once-glorious South Africa,

it is a choice inspired by personal wishes to do so which the constitution (chapter 2) of South Africa upholds in its freedom of movement bill of rights. Queuing like cattle corralled into a cattle dip makes me wonder whether they cherish the memory of South Africa like they used to in the day of apartheid when boots, knuckledusters, and bullets ruled. Subjecting free citizens of a sovereign state to the inhumanity one sees at the border gates is nonsensical.First, Lesotho is not a Bantustan. It is by choice hard-fought and negotiated that we managed to keep a kingdom intact.

Of the land stolen we chose to keep quiet about, but this rigmarole at the borders has one thinking that the case may still be arguable in some international land claims court. Second, what is being done at the border gates is not right. Some of us can see through the façade of this human movement control experiment which has been done since time immemorial by the upper classes that think the ordinary citizens are a private property they can do anything they wish with.

Third, South Africa did not win her freedom alone, let us not feign amnesia because we have not forgot the kindness with which the Basotho welcomed the South African émigrés into their homes at great personal risk. Fourth, the question of border control between Lesotho and South Africa is in truth behind time, what remains is sheer denialism and stark megalomania; the truth is that Lesotho is a sovereign state and enclave on the basis of whose its citizens should be respected.

Fifth, what is being done is plain racism, for I bet, citizens from Europe or any other white country do not experience the humiliation of being treated like a nonentity at any ports of entry in South Africa. I flew a few times to South Africa and beyond last year; the treatment was way different from what the common folk are experiencing at the borders across the Mohokare. Sixth, dear South African, don’t you forget that we drink from the same well: Katse Dam springs from these hills and these mountains. Respect the people of Lesotho for theirs is the cup from which you drink for your sustenance. Ae Maan!

Tsepiso S Mothibi

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Harnessing imagery in writing



All writing is imaginative. Every piece of writing reflects the artistry and mental resourcefulness of the writer.

Effective writing also reflects the colourfulness of the writer’s mind and heart; their ability to paint the world to the reader and their capacity or facility of taking the reader with them to beautiful mental and physical and picturesque journeys.

In this piece we focus on how we can hone our creative abilities through the use of imagery and the effect of using colourful and evocative imagery in writing. Let’s go! What if I say, “Learn to prepare wisely and meticulously in time,” you will still grasp the message in a very clear way, isn’t it? But would that be interesting and colourful?

But what if we put it in a colourful manner, “Make hay whilst the sun still shines,” you really grasp the colour and the full import of the message, isn’t it? That’s what imagery does to your writing; it allows you to feel, touch and smell what you are reading.

There is no doubt that the proverb, “make hay whilst the sun still shines” has taken you to the countryside, in a farming community. You hear the bleating of sheep and the neighing of horses.

At the same time, you visualise the good farmer gracefully at work, cutting grass which he is piling in orderly stacks, preparing fodder for his animals in the future. The sun’s rays buoy his attempts and ensure that the hay is prepared with care and colour.

Thus, the point of good imagery is to capture in full detail a world that allows the reader to grasp and enjoy using their five senses. Let me give you a small but beautiful extract which further drives home the point.

“With his machete he detached a brittle clod, broke it on a stone. It was full of dead twigs and the residue of dried roots that he crushed in his fingers.

“Look, there isn’t anything left. The water has dried up in the very entrails of the mountain. It’s not worth while looking any further. It’s useless.” Then, with sudden anger, “But why, damn it! Did you cut the woods down, the oaks, the mahogany trees, and everything that grow up there? Stupid people with no sense!”

Thando struggled for a moment to find words. “What else could we do, brother? We cleared it to get new wood. We cut it down for framework and beams for our hearts. We repaired the fences around our fields. We didn’t know ourselves. Ignorance and need go together, don’t they?”

The sun scratched the scorched back of the mountain with its shining fingernails. Along the dry ravine the earth panted. The countryside, baked in drought, began to sizzle.”

What a colourful piece! The extract aptly paints a countryside’s pulse and the rhythms of seasonal and climate change and how that affects the livelihood patterns of the inhabitants. Have you seen how the sun has been endowed with human-like features?

And the description of the earth assuming human-like features, for instance, “the earth panted.” No doubt, you have seen the earth subdued by the intensity of heat in a way that is similar to a person who is panting.

To paint excellent images the writer needs to have the gift of observation. He/she should be able to observe quite a panorama of things around him and immerse them in the soil of their imagination. Let’s see another good extract where you can discern the link between good images, excellent description and the power of observation.

“It’s in the morning, the fourth watch, to borrow from biblical discourse. It’s damp outside. I brace the slicing chilly weather to go outside. There is a drizzle, constant showers seeping deep down. I pace up at least 400 metres from my hood. I see lined-up, almost cubicle-like houses.

I keep walking, with a spring in the step buoyed by the damp aura wrought by the incessant downpours. I take a deep breath, and step back as it were.

I want to be deliberate. I want to take in everything in my environment; the colours, the diverse hues and plethora of landscape contours. I notice a woman, almost in her forties, from my eye-view assumptions. She is grabbing a basket clutched tenaciously almost close to her big bosom.

She is going to Mbare Musika, the famous agricultural market wherein she intends to buy items for her stall. Behind her, there is a big strapped baby covered in velvet. As she briskly walks, I see her jumping a poodle of water as she observes her stall. I also observe a man, clad in sportswear running trying to cure a big belly.

As I keep watching, I see a woman sweeping her small veranda. I keep walking. I see a woman, plump tending to her garden. She seems animated by the drizzle, thanks to the rains.

I hear another woman, especially her piercing voice, she is selling floor polish. Her voice fills the air. As I drown in the sweet voice, I notice a man staggering. He is filthy. He could have calloused the whole night. He is holding a Black Label quart, speaking gibberish in the air. I keep watching.”

So here were are! Writing is a matter of painting with words, carving images and allowing the reader to experience the impact of all the senses so as to fully grasp the sense of what is put across.

Vuso Mhlanga teaches at the University of Zimbabwe. For almost a decade and half he taught English language and Literature in English at high school.

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Politicians’ propensity to score own goals



Lesotho politicians are often in the habit of scoring own goals. For example, look at the circus that took place in the country at the opening of parliament after the winter break. These events remind me of the article that I wrote with the title ‘Scoring own goals’.

This article appeared in this publication dated March 18 – 24, 2021. It argued that Lesotho’s politicians had a propensity to score own goals.

Many say that education and academia should not involve themselves in politics. This belief is a fallacy. The two are intrinsically intertwined. Education and politics link in a complex way.

For instance, parliament is an organ that passes laws that govern and guide national education policies. The interconnectedness includes the curricula that educational institutions and schools teach. Now, if the National Assembly’s focus is misplaced, important legislative decisions may stall or be derailed by lack of action.

I must make a disclaimer though. I am not promoting any view about a political party. I am writing this article purely as a concerned citizen.

I revisit the own goal tendency of those in authority by assessing the drama that unfolded in politics and governance. I review the recent events that culminated in the failed vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Sam Matekane and his government.

I use arguments from research to demonstrate the fluidity of Lesotho’s democracy. Some politicians often take advantage of this fluidity for selfish gain. I contest that the Prime Minister and his government should treat their adversities as stepping stones to meeting their targets.

A constitution is a living document. Accordingly, to keep Lesotho’s constitution alive, current and relevant, parliament should regularly amend it.

However, in so doing, parliament must be careful that tinkering with the country’s constitution does not compromise the essence of democracy they champion. National and democratic principles must form the dogma that underpins the improvements and amendment exercises.

Personal aspirations, ambitions and creed must not underpin the amendments.

The recent events in and out of the National Assembly make one question the perceptions of the different roles players in the democratic playground in Lesotho have.

First, there was a vote of no confidence that the Speaker ruled to defer subject to the high court’s decision.

Second, there was the allegedly drunken MP’s own goal.

The third is the press conference led by the Commissioner of the Lesotho Mounted Police Services flanked by the head of the Lesotho Defence Force and the Director General of the National Security Services.

It is already a hat trick of own goals. Fourth, there was the statement of the Prime Minister claiming an attempted coup.

The fifth own goal is the moratorium that prevented parliament from holding a vote of no confidence against the Prime Minister before the lapse of three years of his inauguration.

The sixth is the practice of shirking responsibility by MPs. MPs often refer political matters to the national courts for decisions. The seventh, and the mother of all own goals, is the electoral system that Lesotho elected to pursue. The National Assembly has 120 MPs. There are 80 MPs representing constituencies and 40 proportional representatives.

The Commonwealth suggested that Lesotho review the modalities of the PR nominations. Sekatle and the Commonwealth agree that the PR system introduced plurality but at a cost. The cost is what scholars and commentators term minority rights and coalitions.

Also, it compromises accountability and transparency. It undermines the collective intelligence of the voters. Chief Jonathan warned against coalition governments by citing their instability. Political instability plagues Lesotho today.
Sekatle and the Commonwealth cited the overreliance on a threshold in awarding PR seats in parliament, cheapening them.

The PR system ballooned parliament unnecessarily. By comparison, Botswana had a population of 2.6 million in (2021). Lesotho had 2.3 million (2021). Botswana parliament currently has 65 seats, and Lesotho has 120.

A consequence emanating from the PR system in Lesotho is a hung parliament. Since 2012, there has not been an outright majority in the National Assembly. The results yielded chaos. Over that period, PMs constantly look over their shoulders. All these coalitions imploded.

Democracy is about the majority. Politicians must be persuasive to attract votes to achieve the majority. In other words, the PR system rewards failure.

The own goals cause stagnation. MPs score these own goals by serving their selfish interests. They waste time and energy on trivial things. And yet, they receive full-time salaries and earn allowances such as sittings and petrol allowances. How, then, would one explain that the external urging of parliament had to engage in the reforms exercise?

Today, reforms are lying latent. Politicians use the reform programme as an excuse for ensuring that they retain or access power. In the recent correspondences to SADC, the government and the opposition cite reforms and democracy to justify their actions. But as I write this article, there is nothing much that is happening along the lines of these very reforms. Why?

The starting point of any achievement is desire and definitiveness of purpose. The definitiveness of purpose is more than goal setting. It is one’s roadmap to achieving the overall objectives. Elsewhere, I took the definition of desire as explained by the author, Wallace Wattles.

According to Wattles, ‘Desire is possibility seeking expression, or function seeking performance’. All desires began as a thought. Expressing their desires through a manifesto is a means by which parties attempt to concretise them (their desires).

The starting point of an election campaign is the expression of political intentions and goals through manifestos. A manifesto is a public declaration of aims and policy by a political party or candidate. Political parties express their desires for what they will do in their manifestos.

After elections, these desires become the guiding principles and laws. Politically mature voters would then elect political candidates based on these manifestos.

Who instigated and drove the reforms in Lesotho? The contemporary history of Lesotho reveals that external forces pushed the reforms. Basotho merely reacted. They do not own the reform process. High on the list of their drivers are SADC, the US through AGOA and the European Union.

The practice contradicts Wattles’ definition. According to Wattles definition, desire must emanate from inside the individual, or in our case, from Basotho and be expressed outward through actions.

I do not want to comment too much about the involvement of the security agencies in politics. In my view, the relevant bodies, namely, the Law Society of Lesotho, the media and the opposition parties dealt with their involvement adequately.

Former PM Leabua Jonathan often described democracy as the government of the people by the people. But, the meaning of the construct of democracy is fluid and elusive, depending on the position of governance in Lesotho’s political arena.

Authors Hughes, Kroehler and Vander Zanden explain that democracy is a system in which the powers of government derive from the consent of the governed, namely the masses who vote, in which regular constitutional avenues exist for changing government officials.

The authors characterise the system as one which permits the population a significant voice in decision-making through the people’s right to choose among contenders for political office. Also, the system allows for a broad, relatively equal citizenship among the populace.

Lastly, it affords the citizenry protection from arbitrary state action.

Now, the question is whether the recent activities fit all the three criterias. Are the actions of the MPs who moved for the vote of no confidence in the PM’s government acting in line with Lesotho’s constitution and democracy?

This definition of democracy says that regular constitutional avenues exist for changing government officials. The no confidence vote exists in Lesotho’s constitution. But the PM and his security agencies questioned this. They claim the move by the members of the opposition to dethrone the government was a coup attempt.

The drama began when an MP from the ruling Revolution for Prosperity (RFP), Thabo Moea MP, sought an order from the High Court to delay the motion of no confidence against the Prime Minister until after the completion of the reforms process.

The opposition contests that the prayer by Moea stifles a democratic process for self-serving ends. Subsequently, the Speaker cited this impending case to defer the matter.

The constitution of Lesotho stipulates that the legislature is to pass laws, the executive is to approve and execute them, and the judiciary is to expound and enforce them. But a scholar, Nwafor, claims that the courts in Lesotho often intrude into the functions of the other arms of government.

Lesotho ‘s constitution confers powers on three arms of government in such a manner as would ensure cooperation and coordination in governance. The courts ought to bear in mind that the effective discharge of the responsibilities of the courts largely depends on the effectiveness of the other arms of government.

Nwafor brings up the issue of encroachment. He asserts that the powers of the different arms of government in such a manner would guarantee a coordinated discharge of government responsibilities to the nation. But, parliament overly relies on the courts to make political decisions. The practice encourages the risk of overreaching.

The PR electoral system denies Basotho the right to choose their representatives among contenders for political office. Instead, parties ‘hand pick’ these representatives in the pretext of the constituency elections outcomes. Often, these PR members are the ones who lost their constituency elections.

These are the politicians whose constituencies rejected them. They represent their parties and not the voters. They do not account to the voters.

Both the PM and the opposition made presentations to SADC. They overlooked the electorate. Why would SADC have power and not the electorate that elected the politicians to office? Running to SADC, an outside organisation, to settle Lesotho’s internal problems is not a solution. It is scoring an own goal. Lesotho, with its 57 years of independence, should be able to solve its internal problems.

Nonetheless, I have a completely different take from Mokhothu on the issue of the protest march by the RFP. It is unimportant to find the instigator of the protest march. The people to persuade are the voters, the people who put governments into power in a democracy, not external bodies such as SADC.

Napoleon Hill’s creed reads: ‘Every adversity brings a seed of equivalent or more benefit’. Any business person knows that business is a solution to an economic problem. So, the PM and his colleagues in his party who are business people must look at the adversity emanating from the opposition as a seed of equivalent or better benefit.

The government must dig deep to find how the problem may benefit them.
They must identify their failures and use them as stepping stones to success.

Elsewhere, I presented the views of an American scholar and activist, Anderson, who suggested that marginalised communities must cease granting candidates blank cheques. Instead, the electorate must draw their expectations and demand the campaigning party or candidate promise to meet them.

This practice is called quid pro quo. It enforces accountability and transparency.

You scratch my back, and I scratch yours. Quid pro quo is an example of one of the universal laws that demonstrate reciprocity. Reciprocity is the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit. The universal law is the Law of Cause and Effect. It means that for every effect, there is an equal cause. You plant a seed, so shall you reap.

Both the government and the opposition ran to SADC for help. Remember, Matekane is a successful businessman. He has, on more than one occasion, explained that he wanted to use his prowess in business to take Lesotho forward. As a businessman, Matekane has faith in his ability.

Words that come to mind here include self-confidence and trust in himself. He believes in himself. Running to SADC does not display this faith in his ability to deal with problems emanating from his opposition.

Hill argues that riches, or any form of success and achievement, begin with a thought. Faith removes limitations. Matekane must apply his faith as a businessman to become a successful politician.

To summarise, the article explores the events emanating from the fiasco of the no-confidence motion. The individuals who ought to champion constitutional democracy in Lesotho betrayed Basotho by scoring hordes of own goals.

I explored the meaning of concepts that helped me unpack some of these own goals. These were democracy, faith and desire. Also, I coupled these with scholarly research views on the constitution of Lesotho.

I contest that while the opposition may argue that they are within their rights to ruffle the government, the PM must use different tactics. He must display faith and confidence in himself and trust Basotho.

The move to influence the voters to back him deserves a big WOW! He must hold more campaigns to persuade voters to support his government. Voters may make or break him.

MPs waste time in discussing trivial issues that have no bearing on the national agenda. Often, they focus on self-serving matters. The RFP promised to refocus Lesotho towards national development and improving the quality of life.

The article also shows that the PR system does not benefit Lesotho. It diminishes accountability and the principle of quid pro quo. Also, it ballooned the numbers in parliament unnecessarily. It increased political instability by forging formations of coalition.

Politicians must refrain from abusing the judiciary by making them make political decisions. Involving the courts in making political decisions leads to encroachment. Encroachment defies democracy.

In conclusion, Matekane must not allow his detractors to derail his mandate. The same is true for the opposition leaders who attempt to dethrone him. No party campaigned on removing sitting PMs.

Also, the MPs must take the responsibilities that Basotho entrusted them with. It is high time that they make the political decisions instead of shifting them to the judiciary or external bodies.

Matekane, his business associates and technocrats in his government should revisit attributes that made them successful. One such attribute is their faith in their abilities. They must remember that riches (and success) begin with a thought, and faith removes limitations.

Dr Tholang Maqutu


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Painting mood effectively



Writing is not different from beautiful artwork. Just like a skilled painter holding a brush with its broad strokes, the writer occupies the same place and vocation in life. Writing is a work of painting life’s experiences, its hues and beautiful unfolding internal journeys. In this piece we focus on mood and how it can be achieved. Many students struggle with understanding and contemplating the scope and ambit of mood in writing.
It is hard to define and frame the scope of mood in writing. What really constitutes mood? Generally, mood encapsulates the totality of the “air” or “spirit” or “aura” that a certain work of art evokes in the human mind, feeling or sensibility. There is a certain dominant feature or streak associated with a certain work of art, place or person.

There is something which is evoked in our hearts which is associated with a certain place, person or event. Every place or event or person carries or imbues with him or her a certain mood or sensibility; and there is a panorama of sensibilities; for instance, a happy or sombre or whimsical mood. We will now focus on a certain extract and discern how it paints mood.

“He quickly rights himself and keeps walking, but there is an unsteadiness to his knees. He has been given many looks in this quarter – dirty ones, blank ones, sympathetic ones, annoyed ones. For the most part, he had learned to tolerate those than can be tolerated, and ignore those that should be ignored, but the look this woman gave him is not a look one gives to humans but to flies, ticks, cockroaches, fleas…Thato feels anger, then humiliation, then something nameless. If he were in his own country he would turn and confront the woman; but now he’s hurt, wounded, a part of him wishing he were invisible. Breathing evenly, he walks with care, only lifting his eyes once he reaches his own quarters, among his own people. He proceeds to his shack. He could stop by Thapelo’s, his neighbour, where he knows that men and women are already congregated to watch videos from home. Yet, no matter the promise of good fellowship and laughter, Thabo does not join them. Watching videos is a form of forgetting; the 2008 elections, the police with batons, the soldiers with guns, the militia with machetes. Do you remember? Limbs broken. Roofs blazing. I remember.”

This extract is characterised by the intensity of feeling and evokes feelings of sadness, despair and pain. The excerpt paints a harrowing and blood-curdling account which produces a sombre, dull and subdued mood. Thato, the protagonist in the story is in a foreign land. He was impelled to leave his country as a result of political violence which saw many people lose limbs and lives. He feels lonely and unwanted in the foreign land. He feels lost and alienated.

There are sentiments of xenophobia expressed through the glances of citizens of the foreign country he is in. Even if he were to entertain himself together with his countrymen residing in that foreign land, Thato still felt a deep and nagging feeling of being an outcast. Thus, we have made very deep and broad descriptions of the circumstances in which the protagonist finds himself with a view to demonstrate how mood is created in a narrative. The creation of mood feeds into the description of the character’s circumstances, his mindset and the space and place in which he finds himself.

Mood, as we have demonstrated from the portrayal of Thato’s experience, has a link with pathos. Pathos is that streak of sadness which pervades a story and creates empathy in the reader. The aim of effective writing is to move the reader and to impel him towards certain sensibilities which are of an affective kind. Mood, when effectively created, allows the reader to grasp meaning which is not directly said in the story or composition.

Meaning in a story is an interaction between the words in a text as read together with the effect of the words, the tone used and the created mood. There are certain words in a text which do not just communicate, but etches in the reader’s mind certain thoughts, viewpoints and feelings. These words would be so evocative. One such word describes Thato’s deepest sense of alienation in the extract given above.

The word describes him as nursing a wish of invisibility, he felt or wished he were ‘invisible.’ His wish for invisibility is of great importance. It portrays how he was deeply affected by the loathing expressed in the eyes of those looking at him with hate and disdain.

So, here we are! Creating a mood is a craft which takes time to acquire and hone. But when achieved, it makes effective reading and allows the reader to get meaning which goes beyond the text.

Vuso Mhlanga teaches at the University of Zimbabwe. For almost a decade and half he taught English language and Literature in English at high school. Send your comments and questions to:

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