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Zambian influence in journalism

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Zambia, just like Tanzania, occupies a lofty place in the narrative of the liberation movements of many southern African countries. Zambia has intricate transnational connections and solidarity that proliferated from the early 1950s into the 1990s.

Zambia’s then President Kenneth Kaunda welcomed a number of liberation movements and their leaders in the country and his government also established the Liberation Centre on Chilimbulu Road in Lusaka with the full support of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

These liberation movements included the African National Congress, Pan Africanist Congress and the Unity Movement of South Africa, Movement for the Popular Liberation of Angola and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, Mozambique Liberation Front, South West African People’s Organisation of Namibia, the Zimbabwe African National Union and the Zimbabwe African People’s Union. Some members of these movements trained and practised journalism in Zambia.

It is therefore not surprising that two veteran nationalist journalists of Zimbabwe, Stephen Mpofu and Desmond Khumbuka, indicate through their autobiographies that their links with Zambia during the struggle for Zimbabwe’s independence are crucial and could be typical for many other journalists in the region. Their stories intertwine with events and key personalities of Zambia of the 1970’s.

In his autobiography Creatures At The Top, published 2012, by Spiderwize, Stephen Mpofu has done justice to his memories. The book will speak for journalist Mpofu long after he is gone. His grandchildren and their children’s children will be able to see Rhodesia and newly independent Zimbabwe through his eyes and not through the eyes of Mpofu’s enemies or even that of his friends!

He does not claim that he was right in whatever he did or omitted but he leaves you with a feeling that life is a journey with a twisting path and one’s enemies and friends are just sign posts on that road. What matters is one’s own indefatigable ideals and principles and to know that at least one has them.

Using a pen name, Sam, Stephen Mpofu writes about a black boy from Mberengwa in Rhodesia of the 1960s who embarks on the archetypal journey crossing into Zambia to train as a journalist, only coming back to an independent country after two decades, serving in the media during a critical period and eventually being forced to quit when the heat became too much.

This is a book that takes a cross sectional view of Zambia and Zimbabwe, two nations in transition. The point of view here is that of a humanist nationalist journalist. He wants justice and prosperity and he knows and sometimes is happy that this will bring him down.

It is a story about exile and consequently about Zambia and its hate-love relationships with exiles and war combatants from across the region. This is a story about the Copperbelt, Chimwemwe Township, the Northern Star, Sam Nujoma, Kenneth Kaunda, the Times of Zambia, Tererai Gapa, Philemon Ngandu, Vernon Mwaanga, William Saidi and others.

“In their rather harsh and but well intentioned exhortations, the Zambians however failed to acknowledge the role played by Zimbabweans whose votes had contributed to UNIP’s sweet electoral victory.”

Later on, this becomes a no holds barred story about the power games and the relentless dynamics at Zimpapers, Elias Rusike, Willie Musarurwa, Tommy Sithole, Charles Chikerema, Moeletsi Mbeki, Henry Muradzikwa, Tonic Sakaike, Davison Maruziva, Gareth Willard, Geoffrey Nyarota and others.

In the new Zambia, Sam had noticed that “there is a tendency among some aides (of the leader) to ingratiate themselves with a leader by telling him only those things that they think will please and pacify the boss. Such aides always want to think for the leader as though he were in that position by default and not on account of a demonstrated capacity to think for his nation and himself.”

His return to Zimbabwe after nearly twenty years of exile leaves Sam in a dilemma. He had long experienced freedom in Zambia and coming back to one’s newly independent country was like ‘stepping back in time.’ And seeing people repeating the errors one had seen committed in newly independent Zambia became an excruciating experience.

This is a book about what Stephen Mpofu thinks about the role of journalists in national development. For instance, editors within the public media must be strategic thinkers who provide input towards national problem solving, Stephen argues through Sam.

Where editors blindly kowtow to pressures from outside the newsroom, their crucial advisory role is compromised and moral decay sets in. For instance, the Zambian scenario had demonstrated to Sam that errant individual ministries may intimidate newsmen not to expose them, claiming that any publicity would be an attack on the government.

In this book Stephen Mpofu does not claim any heroics. He had gone to Zambia in the early 1960’s clearly to seek an education and a good job in a free environment. It never occurred to him to go for military training alongside the many young people who came from troubled Rhodesia.

He however never lost touch with the main characters in the liberation movement whom he openly supported in real life and in his writings. In fact, they counted him as one of their own.

In the final analysis, Stephen Mpofu is unique in that despite what he sees as his eventual sidelining in independent Zimbabwe, he does not break ranks with nationalist ethos. He remains positively within the ideals of self-rule.

Stephen Mpofu was born in Mberengwa District. He trained at Africa Literature Centre, Zambia in 1963 and lived in exile in the neighbouring country for 17 years. From 1965 to 1980, he worked for The Times in Lusaka where he rose through the ranks to become Assistant Editor.

He returned to Zimbabwe to become the first black News Editor of The Herald in 1981. He rose to become Senior Assistant Editor until 1987 when he became Sunday Mail Editor for two years.

Mpofu was then moved to the Chronicle in Bulawayo where he headed the paper for 12 years until his retirement in 2001.

He taught briefly in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at the National University of Science and Technology and later left to concentrate on writing his latest book. He remains a writer, as he is a columnist at The Chronicle while he is also a member of the Board of Directors at New Ziana.

Creature at The Top is his third book after Shadows on the Horizon (1984) and Zambezi Waters Run Still, a sociological novel published in 1996.

On the other hand through his autobiography, ‘Misquoted’: a Personal Experience in Journalism, published in 2020 by Passpoint Private Limited, Desmond Kumbuka indicates on the blurb that his book is “not a journalism textbook and does not pretend to be one.”

I agree with him entirely. I however think that this memoir becomes many other things, becoming even more useful than the ordinary journalism textbook. This is a story about what journalism has taught one man. It is a story about the good and bad goings on in the back stage of journalism.

For those into Media in Africa studies and the connoisseurs of journalism in Zimbabwe, Kumbuka’s book offers what I could call an intelligent peek into the who is who of key media personalities in Zambia and Zimbabwe, in the past forty years.

The rich thread takes you from the mournful doe eyed Emmanuel Nyirenda, the irascible Vincent Mijoni, Adam Hamiwe, Giles Kuimba, Eric Richmond, Keith Simpson, Bill Saidi, Tonic Sakaike, Gilbert Mawarire, Stephen Mpofu, Davison Maruziva, Bester Kanyama, Douglas Takundwa, Chen Chimutengwende, Willie Dzawanda Musarurwa, Bornwell Chakaodza, Geoffrey Nyarota and many others. It is more of an evaluation sheet through which you see the rise and fall of an array of characters and organisations in the local media.

I could not put this book down from the moment I first held it. Sometimes I took a break just in order to laugh or to shake my head in disbelief. Here is a book that reads like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

A book with the capacity to arm many young journalists with the do’s and don’ts of journalism, albeit in very subtle ways. In this story, the hero (Kumbuka) seems to be always falling into one misfortune after another, just like Pimbirimano from the Shona folklore, but always getting out of trouble through his own resourcefulness, only to fall into a much bigger misfortune – on and on, without the possibility of a happily ever after.

Look at this: sometime in 1976, young reporter Desmond Kumbuka, who is coming from a nasty pub fight, walks home with a very ugly black eye. He is asked by his editor to attend a press conference at President Kenneth Kaunda’s State House.

To hide this embarrassing injury, Kumbuka hurriedly acquires a pair of dark glasses on the streets of Lusaka. But President Kaunda singles out the suspicious young man with ill-fitting dark goggles in the crowd and loudly offers to help him acquire appropriate spectacles.

The President genuinely thinks that the young journalist has a real eye problem. Later, Kumbuka writes a letter thanking Kaunda for his kindness for he went to see the offered eye specialist. But Kaunda is not done.

He writes back to poor Kumbuka, saying the young man’s letter was sincere and that “I (Kaunda) value your letter so much that I am asking you to sign it for you forgot to do that. I would wish to have it back for my personal file.”

Journalists rarely receive such attention from heads of state.

It is while at the Zambia Daily Mail that Kumbuka is accused of actually misquoting a whole Police Commissioner of Zambia, one Fabiano Chela. Kumbuka’s story had made it on the front page of the daily, claiming that the Commissioner had actually said that the Zambian police force was full of criminals! The tragic headline read: “CRIMINALS RECRUITED IN THE POLICE FORCE – CHELA.”

Kumbuka is dragged before the feared police commissioner, regardless of the fact that the commissioner himself had told Kumbuka that “it is very possible (that criminals could be recruited into the Zambian police). We are not God. So how would we know whether one has criminal tendencies unless they have a criminal record on our data-base? It is possible to recruit criminals as police officers…”

Desmond Kumbuka is instantly dismissed from the Zambia Daily Mail. And the lesson learnt? “In the complex game of politics and corporate gamesmanship, it is not uncommon for a supposedly responsible national leader… to vigorously, and usually with a straight face, disown reports of actions or words attributed to them in the media, if such reports or actions expose them…

Kumbuka also admits somewhere in this book that reads like a thriller that as a young journalist, he had the rather romantic notion that you find in most young journalists that a good reporter is that brusque, rough living, hard drinking and roguish character who causes the authorities headaches with probing and incisive questioning and articles that leave government officials with the proverbial egg on their faces.

He admits too to having a long affair with crime literature, through reading the likes of Spaghetti thrillers, James Hardley Chase, Mickey Spillane, Oliver Strange, Wilbur Smith, Mario Puzo and others, leading Kumbuka to enjoy crime reporting.

At some point Kumbuka would actually join the police during their patrols so that he is acquainted with the crimes and the criminals he so much liked to write about.

Clearly, this means a reporter ought to have an inherent interest in an area of his chosen specialisation.

But discipline was not one of the strong points of young Kumbuka. In his next post at the Mining Mirror, a newspaper based in Mufulira, a small mining town bordering the then Zaire and Zambia, Kumbuka joins colleagues to drink regularly across the border in Mokambo.

They have a nice time with buxom Congolese women “with their ample bosoms and rather accommodating proclivities.” It turns out that the guys are spending the proceeds from the sales of the paper, with the hope of repaying the money on the Monday, which was a pay day. On a Saturday, way before pay day, the Editor-in-Chief in distant Ndola, instructs them to bring the money to Ndola “right now!” Kumbuka and his colleagues get fired for it.

He is back on the streets and the misery of a man in a foreign country is evident.

But Kumbuka’s life has not only known the down turns, which include sleeping in the open and noisy 24 hour bars due to lack of accommodation. Life has taken Kumbuka to many very respectable stages.

It is a life well lived. After Zimbabwe’s independence, Kumbuka finds himself at the eminent Sunday Mail in Harare, where he quickly establishes himself as a reporter and columnist, later taking over from Henry Maarsdop, a prolific columnist who penned a popular Sunday column called ‘Henry Maarsdop on Sunday.’ Kumbuka’s own column became known as ‘Muongorori’s View’ and it ran side by side with the one by Maarsdop.

For several years, Kumbuka branched off into public relations. At the inception of the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), Kumbuka founded The Express Newspaper in Chitungwiza along with several other weeklies.

He also found himself at what became the Daily News and Daily News on Sunday. Prior to his stint with ANZ, Kumbuka was also involved in the establishment of another newspaper, the Daily Gazette for which he was Deputy Editor.

It is very interesting that although Geofrey Nyarota ably edited this book alongside Ruby Magosvongwe of the University of Zimbabwe, Nyarota himself is not spared in this book. He is given his due; praised here and blasted, whenever Kumbuka thinks it is necessary.

It is my view that the place of Zambia in the region is very influential and instructive, but in recent times it has been downplayed.

Memory Chirere

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The power of co-operatives

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‘To know and not to act is not to know’. This Chinese proverb relates to the predicament in which Lesotho finds itself presently. Lesotho has failed to learn from its mistakes and experiences.

Despite numerous Ministry of Economic Planning’s Five-Year National Development Plans, Lesotho hovers in the doldrums of poverty. Successful innovation depends on developing and integrating new knowledge in the innovation process.

Pointing fingers does not lead to solutions. Lesotho must focus its energies on developing endeavours that advance the livelihoods of its citizenry. For example, a government adviser suggests that Lesotho must establish a development bank.

The development bank would enable Basotho to participate in driving new investments. But we all know that Lesotho had development banks before, the likes of Lesotho Bank and Agricultural Bank. The government he advises shut down both banks.

Here, I want to pursue an idea that I brought up in the article of 18 – 24 August 2022 titled: ‘Pushing a community-based economy.’ I suggested that communities consider establishing agricultural cooperatives (co-ops) as a way toward economic emancipation.

This article reiterates the same approach. Lesotho must conquer the triple tragedy of hunger, poverty and unemployment by reverting to the basics.

Lesotho’s economic solutions lie with Basotho’s traditional communal farming practices.

So, co-ops are a solution to Lesotho’s food security crisis and can ensure that Basotho Prosper. They will ensure food and employment security for the communities they will serve. I will provide a deeper understanding of how Basotho may benefit from co-ops.

According to a local scholar, Mbata, about 13% of land in Lesotho is arable. However, Mbata asserts that during the 1920s, Lesotho’s food production began declining till 1930 when the country became a net importer of food grains.

Urbanisation and migrant labour came at acost to farming in Lesotho. Today, capable men leave their fields and flock to Maseru urban in search of work. The closure of mines in South Africa worsened the already awkward predicament.

Unemployment grew. In the meantime, people continue to migrate to cities leaving their fields unattended.

I will use the importation of pork to highlight Lesotho’s food shortage plight. Big retail businesses do not buy pork from Basotho piggery farmers because there is no hygienic slaughtering facility.

Moreover, the farmers do not possess the farming management technological know-how. Therefore, these shortcomings compromise the quality of local pork.

Lesotho’s annual pork import was 7 133 tonnes in 2020. According to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade, the imports were worth US$3.1 million. There is a need to reform agriculture and food production in Lesotho.

First, I will discuss the principle that grounds cooperatives; namely crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is not a new concept to Basotho.

Basotho, who have one goal come together to form groups like burial societies, stokvels and cooperatives. Organisations such as churches or schools use concerts as functions for raising funds.

In 2006 the Oxford English Dictionary coined this new term, ‘crowdfunding’. ‘Crowdfunding’ is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising money from a large number of people who each contribute a relatively small amount, typically via the internet.

Musicians, filmmakers and artistes successfully raised funds and fostered awareness through this initiative. Crowdfunding established the Lesotho Bank. It enables the masses to raise funds as a collective. As an individual, these people would not raise enough funds. Crowdfunding may work as a revenue stream for the individual.

Two Basotho proverbs echo this phenomenon. One proverb reads, ‘lets’oele le beta poho,’ meaning: working together gives a group power to get the job done quickly. The other reads: ‘ntja-peli ha e hloloe ke sebata’, meaning: two or more people conquer impossible situations.

This article focuses on a certain form of crowdfunding, agricultural cooperatives. Co-ops facilitate business access for ordinary field owners, and small-scale farmers make inputs that could promote their development.

For example, while individual smallholder farmers may not access bank funding, co-ops may enable them to bargain as a collective. In so doing, the farmers access facilities they would otherwise not be able to. Co-ops help reduce dependence on foreign investment.

Sikwela, Fuyane and Mushunje assessed the probability for South African agricultural cooperatives to engage in collective marketing activities over time, given market and institutional characteristics.

They observed that smallholder farmers benefit from market-oriented agriculture when they get support from various institutions and operate in organised groups such as co-ops.

Market access is critical to smallholder farming.

Market access improves productivity of subsistence agriculture.

First, it alleviates food deficiency at the household level of the rural population. Secondly, it improves the incomes of farmers. Co-ops’ collective action reduces transaction costs and boosts the bargaining power of farmers concerning markets.

Smallholder farmers are subsistence farmers. Subsistence farming is predominant in Lesotho.

Cooperatives, being a collective group, have the potential to penetrate high-value markets or better-paying markets to improve their living standards. Co-ops are the best way of converting employees and buyers into business owners through shareholding.

The concept of ‘cooperatives’ is not new to Basotho. Records show that co-ops existed in Lesotho by 1931.

However, they experienced avalanches of managerial problems. There was no regulatory framework for their operations.

By 1933, co-ops thrived through promotion and information sharing. In 2019, Lesotho had 99 co-ops with 9 092 members and 320 employees.

But Noko blames the demise of the co-op movement in Lesotho on the lack of supportive legislation and excessive regulation.

First, let us understand the legislative imperatives of co-ops in Lesotho.

Although 1947 saw the enactment of their formal registration, the Cooperative Society Act of 2000 and the Cooperatives Societies (Amendment) Act of 2014 unified the legal regime for different kinds of co-ops.

The Cooperatives Societies Act, 2000 describes Cooperative Societies as private business organisations of exceptional nature. Cooperatives register under this act and operate according to their listed principles and practices (Sic).

Lesotho participates in International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) initiatives. Accordingly, ICA brings together co-op organisations worldwide. It promotes and enhances collaborations in regions.

The Cooperative College actively participated in these initiatives. But its closure is an example of Lesotho scoring its own goals against itself.

ICA defines cooperatives as autonomous associations of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled model. Gordon-Nembhard explains that members of co-ops meet their needs and earn returns on their investments.

Hence, co-ops fill market failures ignored by private businesses and governments ignore. These gaps include affordable housing, healthy organic food, credit and banking services.

Co-ops are similar to Anderson’s communities in that they are oriented toward solving their problems. Co-ops aggregate communities’ resources and capital into economic units overcoming historical barriers to development.

Co-ops increase economic activities in communities. For instance, they contribute to the national fiscus through taxes and job creation.

Noko analysed Lesotho’s legal framework for co-ops in 2021. According to Noko, co-ops do not feature in Lesotho’s Constitution. Nonetheless, the constitution provides for and protects citizens’ rights to free association.

Noko’s analysis concluded that the cooperative movement experienced setbacks for many years because of unsupportive legislation and excessive regulation. He suggested areas that need urgent attention by legislation if cooperatives are to flourish in Lesotho.

On the other hand, a supportive regulation may allow their development. Here, I can cite two examples. King and Ortmann reported that the South African government committed to providing a supportive legal environment for co-ops.

Again, according to Gordon-Nembhard, the USA’s co-ops enjoy enabling conditions. Federal and state agencies support co-op development.

As a result, co-op start-up costs are low. Non-governmental financial institutions like co-op banks provide low-cost loans to co-ops. These banks function to assist co-op organisations.

Agricultural co-ops are critical to economic empowerment and poverty eradication. Studies in the developing world show that co-op societies play an important role in developing and enhancing the economic conditions for the unemployed educated youth.

Co-ops are critical in developing and improving economic conditions for unemployed educated youth by providing work. So, they help level the playing field for the privileged ‘haves’ and the underprivileged.

They are crucial in promoting economic and social development, creating employment and generating income. In doing so, they will economically empower the marginalised poor and eradicate poverty.

In the article: ‘Pushing a community-based economy’, I interrogated Anderson’s definition of a community. Anderson says a community is the ability to pull resources and power to produce and distribute consumption in a way that creates goods and wealth under its control.

But, Gordon-Nembhard showed that communities’ co-ops combine consumers with owners and sellers in democratic structures. So, co-ops are collective problem solvers. Their purpose is to meet members’ needs and enable them to earn returns on investments. In other words, co-ops will empower communities to develop independent sustainable economies.

Alternatively, co-ops are businesses where some or all the employees are owners.

Members produce and, or sell different goods and services and share profits. Worker members play direct roles in decision-making. For instance, workers participate in setting hours of operation and decide membership eligibility criteria.

The two South African studies on co-ops made profound findings. They found that co-ops supported by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have a longer life span than government-controlled co-ops. Gordon-Nembhard reported similar results in the US.

She also found out that community co-ops stay longer. According to her study, community ownership of co-ops promotes community growth.

Consequently, I propose a co-ops model that brings farmers and business owners together. They will collectively buy goods and services that would otherwise be too costly for an individual business owner to buy alone.

Thus, they will eliminate the middleman. Co-op businesses serve members’ marketing, processing and purchasing needs.

I propose forming a co-op model comprising three subsidiaries. The first arm will be the farmers’ co-op.

The primary purpose of the farmers’ co-op will be food production. To achieve this function, the Farmers Co-op will need to undertake the production, marketing and processing of agricultural products.

The farmers’ co-op will seek to produce crop and meat products. Their goals will include supplying meat produce that meets world standards in terms of slaughtering and quality control.

The long-term goal of the farmers’ co-op will be to cut food imports into Lesotho.

Presently many fields lie fallow, with able people migrating to towns looking for jobs. Farmers’ co-ops must invite the owners of these fields to join. Simultaneously, they must negotiate with the owners to have their fields surveyed to establish their surface areas.

The co-op with the field owners must cultivate all the fields. For the fields whose owners cannot till, the co-op must negotiate contracts for block farming. Farmers’ co-op will arrange favourable prices directly with the food market, cutting the middleman.

With time, the farmers’ co-op will acquire, let, sell or otherwise supply requisites necessary for farming operations.

It will ensure that members of the co-op and communities will benefit from its activities. Members must benefit from all proceeds of the food supply chain.

The second arm will be the food co-op. It will focus on providing local, organic, free-range, natural and healthy foods to all the members and surrounding communities. Subsequently, the food co-op will be the sole supplier of food products produced and processed by our farmer members.

In this way, they will eliminate the middleman in the food supply chain and give members affordable fresh food direct from the farm.

The food co-op will include food processing. For instance, the food co-op will process pork meat into polony, ham, etc. The food co-op must work directly with the farmers for their products.

The third and last arm of the co-op model will focus on capacity building and human development. I call this arm the Academy.

The Academy will provide academic and training services for the co-op. The Academy will offer training and short-courses in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and the Ministry of Education and Training.

So I suggest the co-op model run under the stewardship of an elected board. The co-op membership must be open to people over the age of 18-years. People must apply for membership. The 2000 Act mandates that the minimum number of members in a co-op is ten.

Moreover, the co-op must agree on joining and membership fees. Members have the right to do business with or through the co-op.

Each member carries one vote in the co-op. The co-op shares will all be of the same class, ranking and nominal value. Members may apply for additional shares from the co-op.

In summary, this article scans the agricultural demise of Lesotho and suggests an approach to follow. I cite the pork import to concretise Lesotho’s food shortage plight. Lesotho is a net importer of grain crops.

I argue for a community-level approach. The solution to Lesotho’s economic problem lies with Basotho and its communal farming tradition. Accordingly, I propose that communities must establish cooperative enterprises.

Co-ops have existed in Lesotho from the second decade of the 20th century. However, they experienced numerous setbacks. These includes unsupportive legislature and excessive regulation.

Evidence from other countries show that supportive legislation enables greater co-op development.

These studies reveal that community-owned cooperatives are successful. They help ordinary people access banking services. Also, they help communities grow. At the same time, co-op members will participate in the economy and lead quality lives.

Thus, I propose establishing a three-pronged co-op model. The first is the farmers’ co-op.

This co-op’s primary task is fresh food production. They ensure that communities benefit from their activities.

The second arm is the food co-op. The food co-op shall negotiate prices directly with farmers.

So the co-op will generate affordable prices for the communities they serve by eliminating the middleman from the supply chain. Also, they will process the meat into other products.

The third and last arm is the Academy. The Academy will be responsible for human development and cutting-edge information sharing.

They will ensure that the co-op model remains on top of innovations in the food production industry.

In conclusion, our ailing economy adversely impacts economic development aggravating the triple tragedy of hunger, poverty and unemployment.

Thus, many citizens cannot participate in economic activities. Moreover, the low agricultural production and excessive food import exacerbate the awkward predicament. Community-owned cooperatives are an obvious solution. The country’s economic redemption lies firmly with Basotho communities.

Dr Tholang Maqutu

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The battle against ovarian cancer

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Once upon a time. There once existed a kholumolumo (dinosaur) who swallowed all the people in the world except one pregnant woman.

She eventually gave birth to a baby boy whom she named Senkatana. In time, the boy became a mighty hero when he confronted this monster with his shield and spear and freed all the people.

When the people met their young rescuer, they were thrilled and asked him to be their ruler. But the question that remained was how long they would be satisfied with his rule.

September is marked the National Ovarian Cancer Month on the calendar and it’s during this time that many organisations and other women, myself included, honour the courage of those affected by ovarian cancer and renew the commitments we once made to fight this disease that takes the lives of far too many women.

Cancer is defined as a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to spread to other parts of the body.

So, ovarian cancer is the growth of cells that form and multiply quickly in the ovaries and like all cancers, it is brutal and cruel, inflicting pain and suffering for women and their families.

Treatment of this cancer usually involves surgery and chemotherapy. Its symptoms may include abdominal bloating, weight loss, discomfort in the pelvic area, back pain and changes in bowel habits among others.

It is still not clear what causes this cancer but doctors have identified things that may increase the risk of the disease such as old age, inherited gene changes, post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy, endometriosis and never having been pregnant.

Even though doctors managed to pick a few risk factors that may increase the chances of acquiring this cancer, they do not have a sure way to prevent it. But taking birth control pills may help reduce its chances with you, many women have confirmed this.

The latest WHO data published in 2020 reported 0.07% of total deaths by ovarian cancer in Lesotho and the age adjusted death rate of 3.01 per 100,000 of population ranked Lesotho number 145 in the world.

It was also rated the No 4 cause of cancer deaths in women between 2003 and 2007 and the median age of women diagnosed with it was 63.

This cancer is very rare and deadly and because of its rarity many women are diagnosed with it at an advanced stage.

Research shows that despite ovarian cancer rates being highest among white women, black women are more likely to die from this disease because of lack of access to health care centres.

In the past years many initiatives have been implemented to raise awareness and improve healthcare capacity to mobilise funds to strengthen interventions on breast, prostate and cervical cancer but ovarian cancer has always been left out although it may hinder “nation building”.

Former First Lady Maesiah Thabane during her time in office swore to establish a fully equipped cancer centre that would provide improved care for Basotho diagnosed with cancer.

Today we have the Senkatana Oncology Centre (name inspired by the tale at the beginning of this article) and this is all thanks to the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation (BMSF), Ministry of Health (MoH), the National University of Lesotho (NUL) and Dr Kabelo Mputsoe, the Mountain Kingdom’s very first Oncologist.

Dr Mputsoe is a Clinical Radiation Oncologist and the first Specialist in Clinical Radiation Oncology in Lesotho. She holds a managerial position as Head of Non-Communicable Diseases Section Focal Person in Cancer Prevention and Control Programmes.

Some of her responsibilities include leading the NCD section with strategic objectives such as to raise the priority accorded to the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases in Lesotho agendas and internationally agreed development goals through strengthened international cooperation and advocacy.

The new Senkatana Cancer Clinic is manned by Dr Kabelo Mputsoe, the oncologist, Dr ‘Maseabata Ramathebane who is representing the NUL, Dr Pearl Ntšekhe of the MoH and Phangizile Mtshali representing the BMSF.

I was very fortunate to talk to one ovarian cancer survivor who was diagnosed with this disease at 35. She is now 62. She told me that after so many screening tests the results came back and she was told she had stage four ovarian cancer.

What traumatised her most was when they put a timeline on her life and said she had six months left before she could die. She went to see one top gynaecologic-oncologist who performed a radical hysterectomy and at his suggestion underwent six rounds of chemotherapy.

Although she beat the cancer, she lost the ability to bear any more children. Hysterectomy is a surgical operation to remove all or part of the uterus. Most women find it hard to conceive after undergoing this surgical procedure.

Though it may be possible, it is very rare (to fall pregnant) for the uterus is removed and there’s nowhere to house the baby. Such pregnancies often result in ectopic pregnancy because the embryo would implant in some place most likely the fallopian tube.

My message to women this month is: please make it a must to know your bodies and be observant with any changes you may notice, both normal and abnormal. Cancer screening is essential and never miss any session because early detection and proper treatment are significant factors in the battle against ovarian cancer.

“It is therefore imperative that all of us become familiar with the symptoms of ovarian cancer and the conditions that place us at an increased risk”.
May we remember to make good use of the Senkatana Oncology Centre so that we can lead healthy, happy, and full lives, cancer-free.

Bokang Masasa

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Let’s re-ignite the Vuka-Zenzele spirit

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Allow me to set the record straight and remind you of an interesting part of our history.

The first Mosotho to drive a Mercedes-Benz G-wagon came from a village named Mazenod, Ha Sekepe. Yes, the first Mercedes-Benz G-wagon in Lesotho.

It was in the year 1990 when I first saw a Mercedes-Benz G-wagon in Mr Kobuoe ‘Mile’s yard (our neighbour) and I thought I was dreaming.

Mr Koboue ‘Mile was a businessman and ran a local café named Vuka-zenzele café. The cafe was a second-generation café after he had inherited it from his father (Ntate Tšepiso ‘Mile).

There was always something peculiar about the name of the café and I always found it very fascinating. When loosely translated, Vuka-zenzele means, wake up and work for yourself. Tsoha u iketsetse in Sesotho.

So, Mr ‘Mile’s vehicle was a green left-hand drive ‘import’ and also had a car phone. Yes, a car phone located on the centre console and had a black coiled cord attached to it.

I remember, we would marvel at the vehicle for hours with my friends because it was something we had never seen in our lives. More especially, a car phone.

Remember this was a time before cell-phones even existed.

Those were the legends of our village named Mazenod. Yes, Mazenod was once great in one way or the other.

This past Friday, a good friend of mine and a coach of Swallows Football Club organised an inaugural Swallows Gala Dinner at Mojalefa Lephole Hall (Victory Hall in Moshoeshoe II.).

I attended the event and it was highly successful considering it was their first Gala Dinner.

Amongst the many guests that were present was the former Kaizer-Chiefs and Bafana-Bafana player, Pollen Ndlanya.

It felt good to see a lot of people that I grew up with converge in one place. It’s always funny to meet as adults. All you can talk about is how kids are doing. I used to find that a bit weird about parents.

They’d spend hours talking about their kids. But hey, here we are. We’ve joined the club.

So, Teele Ntšonyana organised the gala dinner as part of a bigger campaign named ‘Let’s make Mazenod great’.

There’s also a WhatsApp group that I’m part of, even though I hardly participate in it (I actually hate WhatsApp groups but don’t tell anyone).

The purpose of the campaign is to invoke the Vuka-zenzele spirit (tsoha u iketsetse).

It is also meant to promote a spirit of reviving the local economy by promoting cleanliness as well as promoting a culture of law and order.

What inspired the campaign you may ask? Mazenod is a very important place because it hosts the only international airport in Lesotho.

It starts there! Even if Beyonce happens to visit Lesotho, her point of departure would be Mazenod.

I love this campaign and I wish the same spirit could spread to places like Roma & TY. Jesus Christ please help Roma!

Roma looks like a shanty-town. This is a ‘town’ that hosts the National University but its surroundings look like a squatter camp named Diepsloot (Google search it).

Hao batho ba Roma! (Roma people). Why are you destroying your place like this? I say this because when you get to Roma, there is nothing that says this is a place of higher learning. Look at the Thomas Mofolo library! Ekare storo (It looks like a store room).

Why is it not a landmark building that can be accessed by the Roma community and tourists?

I bring this up after visiting an NUL lecturer named Mr Khoanyane last Saturday following the gala dinner.

My friend, Hlalele Rasephei insisted that we have to see the incredible work Ntate Khoanyane does.

Wow! I tell you Khoanyane is doing incredible stuff with fruit trees. After what I saw Khoanyane do with fruit trees, I concluded that our unemployment crisis in Lesotho is but a choice.

No, it’s a choice we have made as a country by repeatedly electing useless politicians.

We have hands, time (the same 24 hours that Beyonce has), land, over-abundance of water, a good climate and a young workforce. What more do we need? To sit in offices?

Khoanyane proceeded to take us on a study tour of his farm at Sefikeng. He showed us ways in which fruit trees are produced and can be reproduced.

There were various species of trees from, peaches, apricots, apples and pears that were all produced on the farm. Yes, apples do grow in Lesotho.

Khoanyane demonstrated that if we place all our focus on producing and growing fruit trees, we could defeat a monster named unemployment.

The Vuka-zenzele spirit! Tsoha u iketsetse! (Wake up and work for yourself). Instead of waiting for the government to create jobs.

Going into this week’s topic and as a follow-up to last week’s topic, I think there is something special that we can do for ourselves as citizens of this country, instead of depending on being given hand-outs from donors. More importantly, instead of depending on politicians (professional liars).

As a follow-up to last weeks topic, imagine if we could re-name the Palace Road, that cuts across Sefikeng sa Moshoeshoe, to Serena Williams Road?

I tell you, this is an opportune time to commemorate Serena Williams for her contribution to the sports fraternity.

I bring this up because the street crosses to the National Tennis Courts and this would be a perfect opportunity to commemorate the tennis legend following her retirement last weekend.

Can you imagine how much publicity and tourism this would bring to the Mountain Kingdom?

Hotels would be packed to capacity because television crews from across the world (CNN and BBC) would come and cover the ribbon-cutting event. Serena Williams could even run tennis coaching clinics for young girls.

Imagine if the ribbon cutting event is staged in between Moposo House and the Bank Tower (Damn! The Bank Tower desperately needs a fresh coat of paint).

By the way, the Bank Tower will be turning 40 years next year but still remains the tallest building in Lesotho. This symbolises 40 years of stagnation.

So, it’s not only Serena Williams that could commemorate but I think a British Formula-One super-star named Sir Lewis Hamilton deserves one road in Maseru city to be named after him. By the way, they are friends with Serena Williams and pledged some money to buy Chelsea FC.

Why do I bring Sir Lewis Hamilton into the equation? It’s because he is currently running a campaign to support South Africa to host the African leg of the F1 race.

Sir Lewis Hamilton is running the campaign in conjunction with a global logistics company named DHL.

Why is DHL part of the campaign? Because, they are an official logistics partner to the Formula One with transporting the vehicles and equipment world-wide.

Look, sports is big business and we need to open our eyes to this big opportunity should South Africa be granted the right to host the African F1 leg.

Now, can you imagine the amount of publicity Lesotho would get if it were to re-name the Airport Road, located behind the BNP Centre and the Central Bank to Sir Lewis Hamilton Road?

This would open up investment opportunities to global giants such as Petronas, Mercedes-Benz and of course DHL. Moshoeshoe I International Airport would benefit immensely and should partner with DHL as a logistics partner.

In fact, just privatise the damn airport or sell it to Emirates instead of fighting for tenders. We are missing out on golden opportunities.

Vuka-zenzele! It’s time to wake up and do it ourselves!

‘Mako Bohloa

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