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Why are we such a stingy nation?

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Have you ever recommended a person for a certain job? Then sang praises about this person to that potential employer? Only to be disappointed by the person due to poor performance when they finally get employed?

Then the employer/boss comes back to you and says, “motho eane oa hao o otlela fatše maan”. Meaning, your person is underperforming badly. And indeed, when you check the person out you say to yourself, “what was I thinking?”

This is exactly what happened when I wrote a piece sometime last year, asking the nation to support a certain Prime Minister, Haai! What was I thinking?
The backlash I received from that piece was so bad. One of our neighbours back home shouted at me and said, Hee monna, nna ha ke tlo tšehetsa motho eno oa hao. (I won’t support your person).

I now realise what they were talking about. On second thoughts, I’m sorry. I really don’t know what I was smoking that day. But whatever it was, it must have been very potent.

Do you also remember a story I once told you about a guy I grew up with, that had a habit of farting in church? The joke was funny for sometime until the day he released an atomic bomb in an evening service. He had to be whisked out of church followed by a stench of ‘as, eich, eye, tea’. Do you still remember the story?

I had narrated that story because people just don’t know when to stop embarrassing themselves. This reminds me of a story that once happened in the year 2014.
Prior to that, about 25 – 30 years ago, when we were growing up, back home at my parents house, in the Airport City, my father would wake up to a visitor named Ntate Ndala, almost everyday of the week.

I tell you, almost every morning when we woke up, Ntate Ndala would be at the gate, at 06:00 a.m., waiting for my father. No, not to discuss anything to do with business, or matters of agriculture but to beg for money. For the past 30 years!

Sometimes I’d get so irritated when I tried to open the gate and find Ntate Ndala already camping outside the gate and would ask him to leave.
To paint a picture of what Mr Ndala looks like, he has a serious height disadvantage in stature but has a very mature face for his height. Ke mopostola (he is from the apostolic faith) so he always wears a head gear (tuku) of the Apostolic church.

As I said, sometimes I’d chase him away but my mother would get so upset and say, “What if Ndala is an angel? Or Jesus Christ for the second coming?” But I’d say no, there is just no way.
That’s because I had seen Mr. Ndala so intoxicated a few times in the village, under the influence of traditional beer (hopose) and there’d be no probability of Jesus Christ coming back to be a drunkard, le hona ea hopose. Just no way.

I would tell my mother that, “ha hona lenyeloi le ka taoang joalo”. (No angel can consume alcohol like him). But on the contrary, my father really liked Mr Ndala. Every time my father saw Mr Ndala at the gate, he would shout, “Dallas!”.

I mean this has been the story of our lives since we were kids growing up. The nick-name of ‘Dallas’ stuck with us since then.
So fast forward to when we were adults. In 2014, my younger sister passed away in a Bloemfontein hospital. So, my parents had spent a large part of their time in Bloemfontein when my sister was sick in hospital. Much to the disappointment of Mr Ndala. He had not seen my father for months because he would come to my house in the morning and bounce.

The morning following the passing of my sister, Mr. Ndala was at the gate at 06:00 sharp, to see his friend (my father). I walked to the gate, quite calm for a change and said to him, “You know what this is a very difficult time for my parents more especially my father, I would advise you to just give them a break so that they recover from the tragedy.” Ntate Ndala nodded yes but with disappointment written all year his face and walked away.

Guess what happened the following morning? Yours truly, Dallas (Oum Dallas ka sebele) was camping outside the gate at six in the morning. Hee banna!
No, not to deliver a bouquet of flowers or to contribute koleke. No, he was there to authenticate and validate my story and see whether his friend would suddenly appear from the house so that he begs for money for the day. No, Dallas didn’t have time for sympathy. For what?

In my mind, I said, Jeez! Now we have a problem and asked him a simple question, “Ntate Ndala, eleng hore uena u motho ea sa mameleng?” (Ntate Ndala, you do not listen. Do you?) He was calm as always, and replied back and said, “ke’a utloa Sir oa ka”. (I understand).

You know, and this thing of ‘Sir oa ka’ irritates the hell out of me. It’s like being called ‘monga’ka’ or ‘Chief’. Where do these things come from? Who coins all these phrases? ‘Mrena!’ Jesus!
So, after being called ‘Sir oa ka’, the beast in me came out and said, “phuma!” (Leave). But you see, what got me so irritated was the sense of entitlement and more especially, the lack of compassion.

In Sesotho we say, ho se utloele motho e mong bohloko. More especially if you have a ‘perception’ that they are rich. Ke morui so they don’t need any sympathy. In any case, my parents were not rich people at all.

So, this brings me to a very serious point. Very, very serious point. The province of Kwazulu-Natal was hit by serious floods earlier this month.
At the time of writing this piece, the death-toll was 448 people with 58 people still missing. 448 people! This is a size of a school.

Look, the floods ravaged a large part of the province of Kwazulu-Natal and had devastating effects to the city of Durban. This had never been seen before in modern history.
Of the 448 people that died, I understand that about ten of them are Basotho nationals. This is a real tragedy. However, what I find most unfortunate is that the Lesotho government has basically been watching the tragedy on the side-lines and had its arms folded throughout the whole ordeal.

Not even once, has the Prime Minister of Lesotho delivered a speech to convey a message of sympathy and solidarity to the South African Government. Not even once, did the Minister of Foreign Affairs travel to Pretoria to find out how the Lesotho government can offer or lend a hand in that crisis. How is that for being a neighbour? Aikh’ona Basotho!

I mean, not even once, did Lesotho think of deploying the Lesotho Defence Force in the eye of the storm. Not even once did the Lesotho government think of sending one helicopter to augment relief efforts already done by the South African Defence Force.

Look, Lesotho failed to even send a 20 litre bottle of water (sekupu sa metsi) to at least one of the families without fresh and clean drinking water. I’m not even going to suggest a shipping container full of fresh water from the Maliba-matšo river (pure water). No! What for?

But, this is a country that is right in the belly of South Africa. It is also a country that has a perception that South Africa is rich and does not need any help. Don’t you see sticking similarities between Mr. Ndala (Dallas) and our government?

At the same time, this is a country that is expecting a windfall in the form of SACU revenues from South Africa. It is also a country that is constantly expecting help from ‘big brother’, whenever there is a crisis.

The snow season is approaching and someone said this is going to be one of the harshest winter seasons in modern times. There could be a real tragedy caused by heavy snowfall this coming winter. Where will Lesotho run to for help? To South Africa?

No, after this, if I were President Ramaphosa, the next time Lesotho comes running to Pretoria to ask for help, I would just fold my arms and say, “ke lla le lona bo-Sir baka”. (I sympathise with you dearbrother). And just walk away.

Lesotho has to learn to start giving. It has to grow up and learn to act like an adult. The time of acting like a child and being helped from all corners of the earth has to come to an end.
I mean how old is this adult? He’s turning 60 in 2024. This is a man that is now entering old age.

Come on! Donate something towards the KZN tragedy. I mean, Patrice Motsepe donated R30 million from the Patrice Motsepe Foundation. Even the EFF donated some food parcels. Surely Lesotho can donate something.
In closing, why is our country so tight-fisted yet God is so generous? Why are we such a stingy nation?

‘Mako Bohloa

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Insight

The Joker Returns: Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Dunton

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Insight

Reading, writing and the art of reflection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can you picture it in writing!

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

Vuso Mhlanga

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Insight

The Joker Returns: Part One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Historical preface first.

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

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

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

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

To be concluded

Chris Dunton

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