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Winnie: The mother who chose to defend her children



What is and what was, what could be and what will be, where we were, are, and will be, when it will happen and how it will occur, these are all promontory entities that form the core of our relative being on earth; and relative we are because all we do and its reaction are on average indeterminable, and the best that we can do to improve their scale of determination is to use the main tool available to us: choice.

What we choose may determine what occurs after the execution of such a choice with regard to our wish, our goal, our target and all that is yearned for or whose occurrence is necessary to effect that which women and men dream of: change. Change is born of choice, and all that comes after one selects a certain method or course of action is to a large degree dependent upon what they choose to do to effect the desired change. It is not a random process guided by the voices of the masses, and it is neither a result of wisdom or prudence, it is more likened to being a fate one cannot choose, but that which comes upon one as rain does in the midst of spring.

The point at which we have to choose how the future should be arrives unannounced, and when that moment arrives, one should at least be ready in their mind to accept that which they cannot change, and to have the courage to act when they should. I watched the documentaries and film-biographies on the life of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela over the weekend after her funeral and I was hit by one aspect: the great become great because the choices fate throws their way force them to make choices that at the end of the day are felt by all concerned and unconcerned.

Chauvinistic for a long time, I have always been one that held the misconstrued view that women’s rights often tended to ignore the rights of men. The watching of the life of the woman that bore the brunt of apartheid on her family, her neighbours and nation state of South Africa and Africa changed my egotistic male view on the true essence of women in human society. For them to give birth to us but still be considered second (even third) class citizens is utterly wrong and is in actual fact that which has seen human society remain bogged in the swampy marshes of regression.

We fail as human society because of our patriarchal tendencies that do not acknowledge the full expanse of the contribution of women in our societies. Mandela and company languished in re-education on Robben Island, Winnie and her sisters in arms took the rabid hound of apartheid by the tail, plucked its teeth out, and rendered it an impotent mutt.

In her own words, Winnie did not choose to get married to Nelson, and she puts emphasis on the fact that she had not for a second thought that she would be the great figure she ended up as. What she shows is that fate oftentimes just points a finger at one and orders (through occurrences uncomprehended) that one’s path in life changes its trajectory.

Faced with the reality of the moment, the human figure is left with only two choices: to give in to the desires of the oppressor/ion, or to stand up and fight. Only those that face the leviathan and use the power they have shall be remembered for time eternal as the warrior son of Peleus, Achilles states just before the siege of Troy.

Isolated (banished) to the Free-State town of Brandfort (Majoe-Masoeu) Winnie could have stopped her political activism ad become the docile creature that was pliable in the hands of the oppressors as was the wish. Instead, her educational background and her demeanour kicked in, for she was raised as a boy and having herded cattle growing up, Winnie could fight; and fight she did for the rights of the Brandfort community and the oppressed nation. Fate threw a choice her way and she followed the right path as a result.

The Roman statesman and orator Cicero (106-43 BC) in his masterpiece De Inventione, posits: “Genuine reasons for actions can always be formulated in terms of aims or statements of goals . . . ”

Such figures as those that end up being the luminaries of their time and age end up so largely due to the choices they make, and these choices are the ‘genuine reasons’ that influence the ‘actions’ that at the end of the day summate the full breadth and totality of that which they become, that which they do, and that which they will be remembered for at the end of the day.

A choice needs to be based upon a genuine premise or concern, and in the life of Mama Winnie, the systematic fragmentation of her family and society, the denigration of the black and minor groups of the South African society by the apartheid government led to the decision to be what is in parlance termed ‘freedom fighter’: a thorn in the side of the racist system and a threat to the relative comforts of a minority that sought to thrive at the expense of others.

The 1976 student uprising against the inculcation of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in schools became her moment of epiphany. Her maternal instinct kicked and erased any of the fear that she faced on the regular from the security police. Gathering the bodies of the children shot in the protests, one can only guess her pain as a mother, but one cannot experience its full effect on her psyche due to the simple fact that men do not give birth to children and can therefore not feel the pain of the death of a child as women and mothers do.

She and other matriarchs must have felt the pain of their children, the children forced into the warrior role of their fathers who languished in jail cells or cowered in shebeens drowning their shame in barrels of cheap brews and papsak (cheap wine made from the dross of fermented grapes). Everyone has their moment of revelation, and it is that point in time where the coward of the county chooses to stand up and fight their molesters, to put to silence the jeers and the booing.

It does not take voodoo practice to change the course of time; it often takes just one second to decide what to do next and to stick with the repercussions of the decision. Winnie Mandela became not only the hero of her party, but she became the symbol of true womanhood, expressing it in her resolute decision to stand her ground despite or inspite of the unsavoury possibilities resulting from the apartheid authorities. She chose her path and was willing to bear the full load.

Of what happened post South African independence, of the stories one hears on her life, on her divorce from Mandela, I stand not as a judge, but as a figure that understands the frailty of our humanness. I understand that we are forced to bite the bullet when the conditions demand that we go against the grain or swim against the tide. Winnie Mandela is a model for the choices one should make in the course of a single lifetime, and listening to the recordings, there is one feature in her words that counts far above the rest, her frankness.

She was not one to work really hard at impressing people at the expense of her personal freedom; she was not one to mince her words with trivial niceties for the sake of being loved. Instead, she told it as is and in the process gained her freedom and the freedom of the women and the children who suffered the most in the days when apartheid ruled the land. The right path is that which begins with the right intention to correct some wrong which is preventing us from living as we rightly should, not as some tyrant wishes us to live for the benefit of his personal wishes. If we choose to be right, we first have to right ourselves like she did standing up for her children and the children of other women in her society.

The issue of making choices may at first seem easy, but the truth of the matter is that it is hard. Choice leads to actions, and such actions become the seen result of the decisions we made in our private quarters. How one chooses to follow a certain course of action does not simply hinge on being right and being wrong, it gets its proper basis on the possible outcome after it is executed. The now is only present as a platform or podium from which one can map their way into the future, and this means that the decision one takes focuses more on the prevalent possibilities than the current realities.

In his De Inventione Cicero defines actions when he speaks of cases where, “some disadvantage, or some advantage is neglected in order to gain a greater advantage or avoid a greater disadvantage . . . ” departure from the normal is often frowned upon, but the reality (present and prevalent) actually counts more than the set norm sometimes. Winnie did not choose to be what she became, like she says, she was born into it and was forced by circumstance to choose the path she took for the rest of her life.

We can distinguish between three possible sources of purpose in the field of life: The general purpose aimed at by the individual in the decision process (perhaps ‘to earn a living’ or to live comfortably enough), the communication purpose aimed at by the words or events in the current situation (perhaps ‘to render the masses aware’) and the specific purpose aimed at by a particular strategy or procedure, for example, Mama Winnie’s decision to fight literally in order to expose the fallacies and structural flaws of the apartheid system.

Purpose is the direct result of the target one seeks to achieve, we can only attain what we call purpose in life if we follow the dreams we envision for ourselves and our human society. All men and women are born equal, and it is wrong if some begin to think they are more equal than others despite their having to share the same basic spaces on an ordinary day. The ruling minority of her early days served a contradiction in that they had a domestic force of workers drawn from the oppressed masses. They could well have been poisoned, their offspring harmed, their houses looted, but it did not occur because at the most basic the filial human instinct kicked in and saved the world.

In her days at Brandfort, Winnie showed that we are all similar despite or in spite of our delusions of grandeur the oppressors felt. She shopped in ‘Whites Only’ stores, she walked the pavement as whites (blacks were not allowed to walk the pavements but had to walk ‘in’ the road if a ‘baas’ or ‘madam’ was approaching), and she was feared for instilling a spirit of dissension amongst the blacks living in the location. Seen as inciting the spirit of uprising in the ‘k****’ masses, she chinned on for the next nine years after which her long incarcerated husband was freed.

Winnie chose not to walk where she would be knocked over by the traffic, instead she risked encounters with racist whites who thought they owned the pavement. Largely embroiled in accusation most of her life, she stands vindicated by history as the mother figure that chose to defend her children and her turf when others sold out to askari-hood. I guess her choosing the path she took opened the world’s eyes to the possibility that we too can remember a humanness our vices sought to erase from our ethos. The world is now a better place because of the choices such as her made in their lifetimes.

We have to stand up for our rights as a choice, but standing too for the rights of those that cannot defend themselves is the more honourable deed. Lala ngoxolo Mama Winnie.

Thank you for making the simple aware of the power of choice and following the right path to reach a better destination for all of humanity. Thank you.



An open letter to President Hichilema



Your Excellency,

I am certain that you are wondering where and/or how I have the temerity to write to you directly, but a recent post you put on WhatsApp piqued my interest; your meeting with His Excellency the Prime Minister of Lesotho, and his delegation. The delegation came to introduce to you and your good office the candidate of the Government of Lesotho, for the post of Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Joshua Setipa.

Let me set off by stating that I have a friendship with Setipa, for over 50 years, so I may not be the best person to give an objective appraisal or opinion of him; this I will leave to the government.

Further to that, as a citizen of Lesotho, I may embellish the information that I would provide on Lesotho, thus I will as far as possible keep to information that is contained in books. This is not a research report, but more a simplified literature review of what I have read. I shall not quote them, or reference them, thus allowing others the space to research this matter further.

First, let me state my surprise at the alignment of time that I see; Commonwealth Day in 2024 is on the 11th March, the day we celebrate a life well lived, that of Morena Moshoeshoe.

Further to that, this year also starts the 200th anniversary of the move by Morena Moshoeshoe and his followers from Menkhoaneng to Thaba Bosiu. They arrived at Thaba Bosiu in winter, circa 1824.

Next year, 2025 will also be the 100th anniversary of the ‘plenary’ that saw the birth of this Commonwealth of Nations. A handover from the bi-centenary, to the centenary celebrations.

We are all aware that the Commonwealth was started at the Imperial Conference of 1926, but it had what I call a plenary in 1925; this happened in Maseru, Basutoland. It was held at the ‘secretariat’ building on Kingsway. The building was used as the Prime Ministers’ office after independence, more recently, and to date as the Ministry of Defence.

When King George came to visit Lesotho in 1948, to thank the country and her citizens for their participation in the Second World War, High street as it was then known, had its name changed to Kingsway.

At this plenary Britain called the ANZaC states, Australia, New Zeeland and Canada, together with South Africa. It had been only 13 years (1912) since the Basotho monarch had been asked to attend the formation of the South African National Native Conference (SANNC), whose aim was to preserve African land. The SANNC was the forerunner to the African National Congress (ANC).

With the formation of the Union of South Africa, the union wanted to engulf Bechuanaland (Botswana) Swaziland (eSwatini) and Basutoland (Lesotho). This had been unsuccessful.

Next they came up with the Native Land Act of 1913, to remove African land rights. So, the conference that brought about the birth of the SANNC was a pre-emptive response to this act; an attempt to keep African land rights and traditions intact.

I would like to point out that the founding document of the Imperial Conference that brought about the Commonwealth states that all member states are autonomous and not subordinate to another.

At the time of the plenary, Basutoland was subordinate to Britain. But in a masterstoke became what I believe to be one of the founders of the Commonwealth.

Despite her subordination, Basutoland had placed so strong an objection to the presence of a representative South Africa in Basutoland, that South Africa’s invitation had to be withdrawn, and South Africa did not attend. This was the first ‘anti-apartheid’ shot, made in the world; what is more important is that it was made by an African country.

No matter how one looks at it, she may not have been a ‘founding member state’, but Basutoland was part of the founding fabric of the Commonwealth.

One just has to imagine the anger of the South Africans and their government: Dr. D. F. Malan, the first Nationalist Prime Minister of South Africa, was a minister responsible for housing at that time.

Had Basutoland’s lead been followed, spatial apartheid might never have happened. The Commonwealth would take till the 1960’s, and the formal legalisation/legislation of apartheid to remove South Africa from within her fold. A matter that Basutoland saw as far back as the 1920’s.

As shown, at the conceptualisation of the Commonwealth Lesotho was not just there, but an active and formidable participant; though one has to look further to see her relationship with Great Britain/the United Kingdom.

Basutoland/Lesotho’s history is strange, to say the least. The first Europeans to arrive here in 1833, were French Missionaries. At this time Europe was embroiled in wars, which inevitably included the French and English.

But it is these same priests, most notably Casalis, who helped steer the country to Britain, and British protection. Casalis acted almost as a foreign secretary/minister of foreign affairs at that time.

The first treaty between Basutoland and England was the Napier Treaty of 1843, though it took till 1866 to solidify this treaty into a protected land.

The history of the cavalry in Lesotho, the only African cavalry south of the Sahara, is quite long. It starts in about 1825, when F. D. Ellenberger in his book ‘History of the Basutho’, states that Morena Moletsane had come across gun powder quite by mistake.

They had been raiding a missionary’s home and came across a strange powder, which they found useless, so they threw it into a fire, which ‘exploded’. Thus, to his people called European style housing, ‘Ntlo-ea-thunya’, a house that shoots. But after having his people ravaged/savaged by Mzilikazi, he sent his best warriors to work on Boer farms, and with their remuneration purchase arms and horses.

We are often told of a ‘battle of/at Berea’. My answer is that it was not a battle but a cattle raid. Its importance is not just in the battle, but in democracy. The British called Morena Moshoeshoe ‘paramount chief’, a first amongst the others. The time before Berea shows something slightly different.

As Casalis writes in ‘My life in Basutoland’, the British had demanded 10,000 head of cattle, for stock theft. A great ‘pitso’ was called and all eligible men, those who owned land, were called.

At the end of the pitso, after many votes, the citizens refused to give their cattle to pay the demand of the British. The significance herein is that there was a plebiscite, a vote. Morena Moshoeshoe lost the backing of the people and thus the vote; the British then attacked to ‘collect’ the cattle themselves.

Both Morena Moshoeshoe and Morena Moletsane were heavily involved in the ‘battle’ which was won by the strength of the Basutho cavalry. Looking forward to the gun wars, it was most fortuitous that Morena Moshoeshoe’s ally, Morena Moletsane would outlive him, till the end of the gun wars.

After annexation in 1866, in the mid 1870’s the British, citing distance and as such expense, ceded Basutoland to the Cape, which was what the Basotho had been fighting against for a long time; they wanted direct British rule. They wanted to be ruled by Mofumahali Queen Victoria.

The first, and most critical mistake that the Cape made was, not so much in attacking Morena Moorosi, accusing his son of cattle theft, but in beheading him.

So, when some years later they wanted to disarm the Basutho, and they found those of the south of Basutoland who knew of the beheading, reluctant to go with the plan. The Cape decided to go ahead with disarmament forcefully and met equal if not greater force.

The Basutho were better armed, more knowledgeable on the terrain and better supplied. Helped by his father’s long-standing ally, Morena Moletsane, Morena Lerotholi was able to field a well-armed strong cavalry, which inflict great pain to the Cape.

This led to the Cape defeat. Together with the number of other wars that the Cape was fighting, there was fight fatigue among her people.

So bad was it, that they did not come and collect their fallen troops; in Mafeteng there is a cemetery called ‘mabitla-a-makhooa’, or graves of the white men. The SA Military History Society has a ‘roll of honour’ for some of the dead, as not all were buried in Basutoland.

There are two significant outcomes of the war. In his book ‘The Mabille’s of Basutoland’, Edwin W. Smith states that there was a fact-finding mission to Basutoland by members of the Cape parliament, including Rhodes. Their conclusion was that the Basutho should be handed back to Britain for direct rule; which was the original wish of the Basutho.

As Whitehall was reluctant to take this role back, Basutoland spent a period of close to two years of self-rule. Thus it became the first African country (only?) to unshackle itself of colonial rule. And became the first African country to get the colonial rule it wanted; and re-shackled itself to Britain.

The second is how Britain agreed to go back and rule Basutoland. In his book, Rhodes Goes North, J. E. S. Green shows how the Prime Minister of the Cape went to Britain to sue for peace, and eventually agreed to give Britain 20 000 pounds per annum, of her import tax revenues to govern Basutoland.

Whilst not a founding member of the Commonwealth, Basutoland has carried her fair weight in the battle to save both the Commonwealth, and together the rest of the Commonwealth, the world at large.

Whilst SA will hype the losses during the maritime accident of the SS Mendi in the English Channel, Lesotho is less inclined to speak of the losses on the SS Erinpura. The Erinpura was sunk by German war planes in the Mediterranean Sea. Though I should say that, the prayer of the men on the Mendi would resound so well with those who lost their lives on the Erinpura.

When British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill said; never was so much owed by so many to so few, I am certain he was speaking not just of the people of the British Isles, but the broader community within the Commonwealth, that stood together at this time of international need.

But having heard Sir Winston, there is a special bond of Basutoland within, and with the Commonwealth, that I would like to highlight. Apart from the ANZaC countries and South Africa, there were no air squadrons from other Commonwealth countries that I am aware of; except for Basutoland that is.

They paid for 12 or so Spitfire aircraft that would form the 72nd Basutoland, which flew in the Battle of Britain. No moSotho actually flew (in?) them, but they had been financed by the Basotho.

For all the prowess of a moSotho man with arms, in his book ‘Basotho Soldiers in Hitler’s War’, Brian Gary not only writes about the gift of aircraft that fought in the Battle of Britain, he also shows that Basotho soldiers, who were hauling various ordinances through the Italian Alps, were allowed to carry arms.

Aircraft and carrying arms for an African in World War II; Lesotho is not just a pioneer member of the Commonwealth, but a beacon.

As Lesotho many of these pioneering attributes continued. Whist South Africa was banned from sports and entertainment, Lesotho filled the gap for her. Exiles like Hugh Masekela and Mirriam Makeba were hosted for sell out concerts in Lesotho. South African interracial sports, with matches between the likes of Orlando Pirate, Wits University, Kaiser Chiefs, to name those I remember, started in Maseru.

I have touched on politics and war, sport and entertainment; let me go to superstition. It would go against what is expected of me not to go without anything superstitious.

Britain has given the world three major sporting codes. Rugby, which is dominated by the big three of New Zeeland and South Africa. Cricket, which expands from the rugby three to include India, Pakistan, most of the Caribbean states and a few African counties.

These sports are obviously ‘Commonwealth Sports’, as they are dominated, or played predominantly by Commonwealth countries. They have also given us football. This is a truly global sport, the largest sport played across the world, on all types of surfaces, with all types of round looking objects. We can’t call all of these footballs.

The last time a Commonwealth country won the World Cup it was England in 1966; the year Lesotho gained her independence.

The next World Cup is in 2026, the millennium celebrations of the Commonwealth; who will head the Commonwealth then? Will a Commonwealth team have the necessary ‘juju’ to make it?

Your Excellency, this is but a brief note on Lesotho, and it is my way of using the words attributed to Morena Moshoeshoe, when asking for protection from Queen Victoria that say; take me, and all the lice (those that are symbiotic to me) in my blanket. I do hope that these words will be of use to you as seek consensus on Lesotho and her candidate for the post of Secretary General of the Commonwealth.

Yours truly

Khasane Ramolefe

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Culture quibbles



A few weeks ago these pages carried a substantial piece by Mokhosi Mohapi titled “A reversal of our traditions and culture”, written in the form of an open letter to the government of Lesotho. The first sentence of Mohapi’s article took me by surprise, as he stated: MPs and Senators’ primary role is to protect and preserve the traditions and culture of the Basotho people. I would have thought the primary role of MPs and Senators would be to ensure that Basotho are secure (being protected, for example, from criminals), that they have adequate access to social services such as education and healthcare, that the economy is sufficiently stable to offer citizens some chance of employment, and so on. Fat chance, you might scoff.

But then I realised that Mohapi had a more specific contention in mind, as he stated: The Laws of Lerotholi were set to protect social order, traditions and culture of Basotho. Mohapi’s immediate concern is with the 2024 Estates and Inheritance Bill, which proposes radical changes to the existing order of things. (See the article in last week’s thepost, “MPs bulldoze through Inheritance Bill”, which gives a good idea of the background).

I’m aware that this Bill has provoked considerable controversy, and that is not my topic in this article. Nor do I wish to contest what Mohapi was saying in his piece — this is by no means a case of Dunton v Mohapi. But I did take note of the way the phrase “traditions and culture” kept resounding in Mohapi’s article, rather like a cracked bell, and what I want to do is open up those terms for examination.

Please bear with me as I slip aside for a moment with a little academic stuff. Back in 2006 I published an article titled “Problematizing Keywords: Culture, tradition and modernity.” For those of my readers with a scholarly bent and who might want to hunt it down, this was published in a journal called Boleswa Occasional Papers in Theology and Religion 2:3 (2006), pages 5-11. There I made a number of points I want to bring up in what follows.

The first fallacy I tackled in that article was the tradition/modernity binary — the notion that in Africa there was tradition and then, wham!, the white man arrived and there was modernity. Are we seriously to believe there were no great cities in Africa before the white man landed, that the peoples of a whole continent lived entirely in villages? Nigeria tells a different story.

Are we to believe there were no great libraries? Mali and Ethiopia tell a different tale. No writing systems? No medicine? I’m not saying that if I’m in pain I don’t prefer a dose of oramorph to an infusion made from some leaves picked off the slopes of Thaba Bosiu, but the point remains: the tradition/modernity binary is crude and crass and it’s demeaning about Africa.

We cannot get very far with simplistic ideas about where we are coming from and where we are at. And yet of course we do come from a past. I’ll quote — or, rather, paraphrase from memory, as I don’t have the work to hand — an observation made by T.S Eliot in his essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent”: We know so much more than those who came before us. But they are a large part of what we know.

But of those who came before who is it, exactly, that we know? When Mohapi repeatedly uses the phrase “the traditions and culture of the Basotho people” I take it he is thinking of the Basotho as constituted under Moshoeshoe I and the descendants of those generations.

For how much do we know about the “traditions and culture” of the various Sotho-speaking groups let’s say two hundred years before Moshoeshoe gathered them together to form the modern Lesotho state? Isn’t it likely there were significant differences between the “traditions and culture” of these groups, differences that were later rationalised or homogenised?

Two points here. First, we mustn’t forget what an extraordinary innovator Moshoeshoe was —and I guess that might be said also of Lerotholi, whose laws are the chief focus of Mohapi’s article. Second, culture is not static, it is not immutable. It evolves all the time.

For example, for how long has it been the case that adherence to the Christian faith could be said to be part of the culture of Basotho? (Or, for how long has football been part of the culture of the English? We are credited with the invention of football, but that doesn’t mean it’s been part of who we are since time immemorial).

That brings me to my next point, or a string of points, moving from England back to Lesotho. When I was a schoolboy I bought myself a copy of the book Components of the National Culture (1968) by the great British Marxist Perry Anderson. One of my schoolmasters — one of the few who didn’t like me — caught me with it and said “just the sort of book I’d expect a troublemaker like you to be reading. Just don’t show it to anyone else!”

The significant term in Anderson’s title is “components.” Culture is put together — it is an assemblage — and its components may have different sources.
That leads me on to the invention of tradition, and an example for Basotho.

I guess all my readers know Qiloane, the sandstone pillar at Thaba Bosiu the distinctive peak of which is said to be the inspiration for the shape of the traditional Basotho straw hat. Well, that notion is dubious to say the least; there were hats of the same shape from elsewhere in the region long before the Basotho got hold of the design.

Does this really matter? Well, no, because even if a tradition is invented, it still has the persuasiveness of a tradition. It’s just that knowing this might dissuade us from making big claims about the unchangeable nature and sanctity of tradition.

And the same goes for culture. I leave you with a quotation from the Ghanaian philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah (it’s from his terrific book Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers): We do not need, have never needed, a homogenous system of values, in order to have a home. Cultural purity is an oxymoron.

Chris Dunton is a former Professor of English and Dean of Humanities at the National University of Lesotho.

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The Joker Returns: Conclusion



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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