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On witchcraft and lightning



MASERU – Some trek to sangomas. Others find refuge in churches.
The fear of witchcraft induced lightning is so deep in Lesotho that many people are forced to seek divine intervention for protection.
They believe that a witch can deploy lightning to kill people or livestock of selected targets.
Many Basotho believe that witches can control lightning.

Some believe that using muti is the only antidote to lightning sent by witches while others believe that churches should be engaged for divine intervention. At Sangomas they receive muti, although there is no tangible evidence of anyone being saved through such interventions.
Many families often depend on the clergy to pray or give them some amulets to fend-off witches.

A number of the members of the Basotho Reformed Church interviewed by David Semenya in 2007, as reported in Verbum et Ecclesia, believed that God would punish those engaging themselves in witchcraft practices.

Semenya found that whenever fortunes tumble, many locals suspect they are bewitched and seek divine intervention.
Amulets, badges and traditional medicines become items of choice to prop waning fortunes or to ward off witches.
Besides amulets, badges and traditional medicines, Semenya mentions other items mostly used to ward off the witches to enhance their fortunes. These include:

l Sewasho: a mixture of medicine and ashes, applied to the face to gain favour with witches. It may also be poured into a person’s bathwater, to ward off witches or have the strength to resist them.

l Metsi a thapelo: This is normally water from the ocean. Before it is given to the person, someone or a priest who is a prophet blesses the water by means of a prayer, and it is then given to the person in need. The water may be drunk or poured into a person’s bathwater before washing. Some carry little glass bottles containing this kind of water wherever they go so that they may look like a powerful person. The unemployed often go to these prophets for these little glass bottles in order to obtain employment.

l Letsoai [coarse salt]: It is blessed with prayer by a priest before it can be distributed. It is thrown around the house or inside the yard with the purpose to strengthen the house against witchcraft.
In the Roman Catholic Church, there are devotional objects like holy water, the rosary, medals and prayer books.
The cross, holy candles, church bells and consecrated herbs are used as means to ward off witches.

The questions that remain to be answered are whether these amulets, badges and traditional medicines really increase or even enlarge life force or ward off witches.

Despite these Christian prayers many people still lose their loved ones to lightning and other illnesses they associate with witchcraft.
An atheist Lee Carter, speaking for Atheists United in the, observes that for centuries Protestant and Catholic churches… taught that the air was filled with devils, tempests, and witches.

Carter referred to Saint Augustine who held this belief to be beyond controversy, Saint Thomas Aquinas who stated in his Summa Theologica that “rain and winds, and whatsoever occurs by local impulse alone, can be caused by demons”.
Carter says Christian churches tried to ward off the damaging effects of storms and lightning by prayers, the consecrating of church bells, sprinkling of holy water, and the burning of witches but lightning kept striking.

He says lengthy rites were said for the consecrating of bells, and priests prayed that their sound might “temper the destruction of hail and cyclones and the force of tempests and lightning; check hostile thunders and great winds; and cast down the spirits of storms and the powers of the air.”
He observes that it was only in 1752 when Benjamin Franklin made his famous electrical experiments with a kite and scientifically explained why and how lightning strikes.

The churches objected but at last his scientific explanation triumphed.
Franklin invented the lightning rod, which for decades the churches rejected as opposing God.
At the time, it was common for the priest to pray for the bell ringer who was frequently electrocuted while ringing the blessed bells.

It was also common for the church tower, usually the highest structure in the village, to be the building most often struck by lightning, while the brothels and gambling houses next door were left untouched.

Until the churches agreed to install lighting rods that Franklin invented, the churches were normally victims of the wrath of lightning bolts.
Carter observes that in Austria, the church of Rosenburg was struck so frequently, and with such loss of life, that the peasants feared to attend services.

Several times the spire had to be rebuilt. It was not until 1778, twenty-six years after Franklin’s discovery that the church authorities finally gave in and permitted a rod to be attached, and the trouble stopped. Carter refers to a typical case of the tower of St. Mark’s in Italy.

In spite of the angel at its summit and the bells consecrated to ward off the devils and witches in the air, and the holy relics in the church below, and the processions in the adjacent square, the tower was frequently hit and even ruined by lightning.
It was not until 1766, fourteen years after Franklin’s discovery, that a lightning rod was placed upon it, and the tower has never been struck since.
The lightning rod is a metal rod mounted on a structure and intended to protect the structure from lighting strike.

If lightning hits the structure, it will preferentially strike the rod and be conducted to ground through a wire, instead of passing through the structure, where it could start a fire or cause electrocution. Meteorologist Jeff Haby says Lightning is a flash of light created by electric discharge.

A cloud that produces lightning will tend to also have rain falling out of it.The precipitation process within a cloud is the reason lightning occurs.
As ice and water develop in clouds there is an electrical build-up. The electrical build-up on each ice and water drop is very small but the huge number of ice crystals and water drops creates a large electrical difference between different portions of the cloud.

Lightning occurs to balance the electrical build in the clouds or between the clouds and the ground. Thunder is created by a rapid expansion of air.
When lightning moves through the air it increases the temperature of the air dramatically in a very short period of time.
The air then cools rapidly.
This rapid expansion and contraction of the air gives off the sound waves that are heard from the lightning.
Scientifically, witches have no ability to send rain accompanied by lightning to strike their target.

In 2013 National Geographic found that while most Americans know that “when thunder roars, go indoors” this basic guideline is not as well known in many developing countries, which consistently see hundreds or even thousands of deaths and injuries per year from lightning strikes.
“Experts point to lack of education, but a number of doctors and meteorologists from around the world are trying to change that,” National Geographic reports.

National Geographic bemoans a largely agricultural and labor-intensive economy, poor infrastructure, and a tropical climate playing a role in higher rates of lightning-related deaths and injuries in countries such as South Africa, Malaysia, India, and Bangladesh.
Talking about the safety of homes in the developing countries, the report says open-air designs and thatched and flimsy metal roofs leave people more vulnerable.

And open-air taxis and carts don’t provide the protection from lightning that is typically afforded by solid vehicles.
There are just some areas of the world with no safe place or vehicle to go to when it storms.

“In underdeveloped countries, it is not unheard of to have 18 deaths from the same storm,” the report says.
Lack of solid infrastructure and lightning rods also lead to property and economic losses from the fires that can result from a strike
The report also found that in countries with little or no education on the science of lightning, misconceptions often run rampant.

Police spokesman Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli says Basotho should stop accusing each other of witchcraft in these years of climate change that comes with a lot of hot, windy and excessive rains that are accompanied by lightning.
“It is our plea as the police that the nation be aware of the climate changes,” Mopeli says.

“Let us please try and judge things in a civil, broader way, instead of taking the law into our hands or otherwise the whole nation will soon perish,” he says. He says Basotho seem to mistake global warming circumstances with witchcraft and ultimately end up killing each other.

Majobere Selebalo


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Lesotho’s own brandy



ROMA-“Go, eat your food with rejoicing, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart, for already the true God has found pleasure in your works,” so says the Big Book.

Driven by that divine, Mohapi Pule has gone a step further – by coming up with a new type of brandy – to make you merry.
The brandy, Mountain Spels Brandy, will make the heart of the dying man rejoice.
“The healthy nutrients in fruits that make brandy, end up in you when you drink it,” he said.

Pule studied nutrition at the National University of Lesotho.
His brandy is made by fermenting fruits into wine. The wine is then distilled into a brandy. It carries the flavour and the aroma of the original fruits.

The story began when Pule was born in Quthing, Mphaki. He was born to a hardworking mother who brew traditional beer like no other.
“She brew beer well before I was born. She is still making it to this day,” he said.

His passion for brewing was probably “born” even before he was born. Mothers have a hidden way of passing not just their looks but their passions to their children.

As he grew up, he found that he was still intertwined with his mom’s brewing business in one way or another.
“Mostly, I am expected to fetch water for the brewing process. That, I still do to this day when I visit home,” he says.
Two decades later, Pule found himself in the Roma Valley, doing BSc in Nutrition.

“At some point, I found that I had lost purpose in life. There was not a thing that I could say, well, I was passionate about this thing or that thing.”
That situation, of course, threw him into some serious soul-searching.
It brought him back to his roots.

“During this period, I recalled that when I was younger, I used to imagine helping my mom do the packaging of the beer she was making and helping distribute it countrywide,” he said.

From a young age, the issue of subsistence business didn’t appeal to him. But that imagination came and passed. Now here he was, worried that he might not amount to anything in life.

Then, boom! An idea came!
What if he produced an alcoholic drink?

He could have thought about anything to do as a business but, lo and behold! He thought about his mother’s passion!

One of the things he loves about alcoholic beverages is that they are popular.

“I haven’t seen products as popular as alcoholic drinks,” he said.
He might be wrong or right but the reality is, the rest of the world has for generations found delight in alcoholic beverages – some to the extent of overdoing it to their injury!

“Mabele khunoana ralitlhaku thabisa lihoho. Mabele u tsoa kae e le khale re u batla re sa u thole? Ueeeena mabeeeele!” (Loosely translated beer brewed from sorghum make men happy. We’ve been looking for you from afar, you sorghum. In short, this is a praise poem for the Sesotho sorghum brew).
But then came the most difficult part. Which specific beverages should he focus on and how would he do it?

He decided that he would focus on ciders. He realised that not many people in Lesotho were making ciders.

He started experimenting at home and realized how difficult the process was. He just couldn’t get it right. To worsen matters, he also did not have the right equipment.

But like most successful innovators, he just knew that he had to start his business right away.

Pule says he then learnt about other forms of beverages: the spirits. Spirits are very high in alcohol content. Here we are talking the likes of whiskey, vodka and brandy.

He was particularly interested in vodka. He went into one NUL laboratory and, with necessary permission, began testing a number of spirits and doing a lot of research about them.

He began saving some of the money he earned from the National Manpower Development Secretariat in the form of student allowance so he could buy equipment. Saving was not easy. The subsistence money was already not that much. Having to share it with a business was asking a little too much.

But Pule was so determined that he did it, bought equipment that allowed him to develop what he thought was “vodka”.

However, after buying the equipment he immediately realised that the equipment was to make brandy not vodka.

“Now I was forced to get into brandy by chance,” he said.
It was a mistake that he has never regretted having realised that there are very few individuals who were making brandy in Lesotho.

Pule had to throw himself fully into experiments. He read books about brandy production. He even enrolled for an online course on distillation.
In the end, he began to see some light.

“I began to feel some difference in the taste of my produce,” he said. “When I shared my produce with my lecturers, they were over the moon!”
With that encouragement, Pule began packaging his brandy and is now selling it to family and friends.

“My small equipment means that I can’t produce much. However, If I were to get bigger equipment, things would be much better.”

Own Correspondent

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Ready-to-cook vegetables



ROMA – ’MATUMANE Matela, a National University of Lesotho (NUL)-trained nutritionist, is an example of how a nutritionist should think and act.
Matela makes and sells ready-to-cook vegetables out of produce from her own farm or produce she preferably buys from local farms.
“When I make a dish, as a nutritionist, I make choices that ensure a typical package is packed with nutrition,” Matela said.

Today, we examine an interesting story of the lady who is determined to ensure that you eat healthy despite your busy schedule.
It started with her experiences in life.
She describes herself as an extremely busy woman.
She likes getting things done.
As the busy amongst us will say, the busier you become, the less you watch your diet.
She couldn’t escape the trap!

“My busy schedule meant that I ended up eating junk and I was gaining weight,” she said.
With time, she came to her senses.
As a nutritionist, she recalled that the best way to preach was to preach by example.
So, was she preaching what she practised?
Clearly, she wasn’t.
She had to find an option to maintain the busy schedule and eat healthy at the same time.

The beautiful thing about nutrition is that the healthiest foods are the closest to us: fruits and vegetables.
Some scientists even claim that our bodies seem to be designed to thrive on fruits and vegetables.
“Have you ever wondered why looking at a ripe raw peach on a tree is mouth-watering but looking at a fat cow isn’t?” asked one scientist.
Well, whether we were designed for fruits and vegetables or not, the truth is that they are good for our bodies.
That’s what good science tells us.

And we somehow “know it” too if you have heard about anything called intuition.
So one day she found herself increasingly eating fruits and vegetables.
It’s easier to change a religion than a diet, they say.
So it is commendable that she changed her diet at all.
“The idea was to chop as much vegetables as possible and put them in a fridge so that in future, I will just pull them out and cook.”
She wasn’t proposing something new.
Who amongst us doesn’t enjoy the convenience of just pulling up chopped frozen vegetables and cooking?

Little did she know that what she was doing was putting her on a path to a brilliant business.
It took a post on a social media to achieve just that.
“I took a pic of the chopped and packaged vegetables and posted them on my social media account. The reaction was swift. I began getting questions like, “how much?””
It immediately dawned on her that she could be sitting on a great business idea, after all.

So she gave it a try and started selling.
To her surprise, people started buying.
In fact, “I get orders for my products almost on a daily basis.”
That is how interested people really are.
This to an extent that her business now gets up to four irregular employees, she included, when the demand is high.
She said her training in Agriculture, Home Economics and Nutrition has helped her to give a thought into what she was doing.

For instance, where possible, she grows her own crops and sells them as first preference.
She has grown spinach, butternut, green pepper, onion, herbs and beans.
She is also in the process of renting more fields to grow more vegetables.
Then she empowers Basotho producers by requesting them to supply.
Going for foreign produce is the last resort.
Look at her packages and you realise something.
The “7 colours” proverb comes alive.

Those seven colours (several colours actually) may have been designed to appeal to your eyes but that is just the tip of the iceberg.
The colours of vegetables mean a lot in terms of nutrition.
Each colour gives you something different.
So, the more colours in one meal, the merrier.
To drive this home, let’s go a scientific route for a second.
Red, Blue and Purple: These vegetables contain substances that are good at reducing the risk of stroke, cancer and memory problems.
White: The likes of onion or garlic may help lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer and heart disease.

Orange and Yellow: Carrots immediately come to mind.
These vegetables contain substances called carotenoids which may help improve your immune system and help to improve the health of your eyes.
Basotho, it would appear, have long known a thing or two about the relationship between carrots and eyes.
Hence the famous saying, “o jele lihoete” (they ate carrots), often applied to good sportsmen or women with symbolically “good eyesight”.

Green: Green is life. Green vegetables come packed with chlorophyll, a chemical that scientists believe can boost your immune system, eliminate fungus in your body, clean your blood, lead to healthy intestines and give you boundless energy.
As a bonus, her Home Economics background is such that she is armed with a host of recipes for each of the packages she sells.
She has great dreams for the future.
“I want to see my products decorating the shelves of big supermarkets,” she said.
It’s time!

Own Correspondent

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A new, co-operative chain store



ROMA – ’MAKUENA Lesiea is spearheading the creation of a cooperative chain store that will sell Lesotho products only.
The store is being developed under the National University of Lesotho (NUL) Innovation Hub and it will be incubated by the Hub.
“Have you seen it? Basotho are producing like never before,” Lesiea said.
“However, their products are hard to see in the markets. We want to change all that.”

The store, she said, will open branches in all districts of Lesotho, starting from Maseru.
Visit any supermarket in Lesotho and check the products on the shelves.
You will be shocked to realise that, in general, just one percent of them are made in Lesotho.
The other 99 percent comes from elsewhere.
Is it because Basotho are not producing or can’t produce at all?

“Having worked directly with the NUL Innovation Hub and the Tsa Mahlale TV programme under the Hub, I have travelled the depth and breadth of Lesotho and I was amazed at the amount of work Basotho are doing,” she said.
What is the problem?
Basotho products are not given sufficient platforms to prove themselves.
“Credit where it is due, some shops are beginning to accept and sell Basotho products,” she said.

“However, they are barely making a dent because Basotho products, being at their infancy, cannot receive full attention unless by a store that is designed to give them full attention.”
Such a store doesn’t exist.

She said the idea is not to compete with any of the existing stores because “we are getting into a new territory altogether, we are addressing a different market”.
So listen to Lesiea as she presents some features of the store that will surely persuade you to join the bandwagon:

  1. Customer and producer confidence: The store, she said, will achieve two things.
    First, when they see masses of Lesotho-made products in one place, Basotho customers will slowly grow confidence in them.
    The confidence will shoot to the roof when the customers experience that many of the products made in Lesotho are already way ahead of foreign competitors in terms of quality.
    Secondly, the store will give Basotho producers an assurance that their products have, at least, one store that is willing to take them, dark or blue.
    More production will come from such assurance.
  2. Selling “everything”: The store will sell everything from fruits and vegetables to processed foodstuffs to clothing and building materials (if Thabure car will be in production by then, it will be on the shelves too).
    “Suppose what we want to sell is not locally made, we will never cross the border, any border, to find its equivalence. We will encourage Basotho to produce it until they do.”
  3. We mean business: whereas Basotho are beginning to produce, their products are still all over the place.
    You bump across them in some few willing stores, in expos and trade shows, or as being sold by individual resellers. Those are good efforts, but they are not enough. In fact, many in Lesotho have come to see producing and selling as being more of an art, a hobby, a therapy or a hustling than a business, “so we are seriously moving away from such a casual approach, we mean business this time around.”
  4. Ownership: So when you enter this store, you could be purchasing a product made by you in a store owned by you. What a difference!
  5. Reasonable standards: the store will only demand reasonable standards. As a struggling Mosotho, try taking your products to some of the local shops and you are, at worst, turned away without reason or, at best, given a long list of standards you must meet before they can take your product.
    “In our case, as long as your products are reasonably of good quality, you are in. NUL Innovation Hub is already testing many Basotho products. We won’t ignore quality, but we won’t use it as a way to prevent Basotho products from growing either.”
  6. A cooperative chainstore: From contributing as little as M50 per month, members will use a continuous financing model to ensure that the store doesn’t just end in Maseru but reaches the ten districts of Lesotho.
    Each branch will start at a medium scale in order to grow along with Basotho products. We won’t ask for investors to come from anywhere, “we will be investors ourselves.”
  7. An export launch pad. “We are often told to export our produce. The obvious question is, if you haven’t convinced your own people to consume your own products, how can you convince people in other lands to do so? Why should they take you seriously?”
    However, the store is not meant to be a local store forever.
    It will be a means by which we export our products to other countries in the future.
    When we export the store to Soweto, we export it along with products from Lesotho.
    Don’t say no because we have seen Chinese shops and Indian shops and, of course, South African shops, filled to the brim with Chinese products and Indian products and South African products in many countries.
    “If they can do it,” Lesiea ended, “so can we.”
    “Because if it is there in some of us, it is there in all of us.”

Own Correspondent

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