Muckraker has never been one to follow the mob.
She recalls how some people ululated with vim when the ABC won the most seats in 2017.
There was unbridled euphoria in the streets of Maseru.
They said Uncle Tom would take them to Canaan. Our prayers have been heard, they eloquently declared. We have been freed from MCCD’s bondage, they crowed. Their walls on Facebook were covered with Uncle Tom’s face.
Yellow was the colour in town.
One newspaper publisher is said to have shed tears of joy as the results were announced.
“We are finally in,” he is alleged to have told colleagues.
Prayer groups gathered for Uncle Tom and his government.
Always sceptical, Muckraker gently warned friends, relatives and comrades to slow down on the celebration and sycophancy.
Their bootlicking was overdone and celebrations too loud.
Their joy was however short-lived because within a year they were screaming, squirming and cursing. Uncle Tom had proven to be a hopelessly incompetent leader who allowed himself to be controlled by excitable and thieving Chihuahuas.
He insisted that he was still in charge but it was clear that he was the tail being wagged. His darling was running the show using a cabal of overambitious and greedy opportunists. Uncle Tom was an officer who had been promoted to his position of incompetency.
Although he would occasionally emerge from under the petticoat it was clear he had neither the energy nor the skills to run a government.
This was an assignment beyond his acumen.
Those who had supported him started concocting excuses to justify his failures.
They said he was too old. Which was correct but beside the point because no one had forced him to become prime minister.
The man had been too old for the job some twenty years earlier.
They said he was a good leader being sabotaged by his appointees.
We were told that the Feselady was the source of all problems in the government because she was refusing to stay in the kitchen.
Some said Uncle Tom needed time because he had inherited a system completely broken by MCCD and his people.
Very few people admitted that they had made a mistake and were naïve to think Uncle Tom would be a different politician.
Today, the same people who claimed to be staunch followers of Uncle Tom and the ABC have found new homes somewhere.
Muckraker is saying this because she sees a repeat happening in October.
They are getting ready to ululate again. They are itching to lick another boot with gusto.
That shindig too will end in tears.
Those who put their faith in politicians will always have sore hearts.
Attend rallies for entertainment. Support by choice and vote as a right.
But keep your heart out of this business because politicians will tear it to pieces and defecate on it.
The battle against ovarian cancer
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.
Let’s re-ignite the Vuka-Zenzele spirit
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!
Difficult works of literature
When I first read TS Eliot’s iconic poem called ‘The Love songs of J Alfred Prufrock’, I was in school.
I must confess that I understood nothing even with a re-reading and a third and even fourth reading!
I have always known that some works of literature, passages or whole books, can be very difficult to comprehend. I now know that difficult literature is sometimes referred to as opaque, inaccessible, obscure etc.
Much later and with a lot of hand holding from my mentors, I gradually woke up to the realisation that ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ by T.S. Eliot is the inner monologue of a city gentleman who is stricken by feelings of isolation and inadequacy and incapability of taking decisive action.
He goes through community, through rooms full of women as if he is about to declare his love but rambling on and on about either his memories or his expectations. The difficulty is that the unwary reader does not know what exactly this man’s journey is about. The poem begins:
Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
You read and say, why is the voice in the poem inviting us to make a visit that leads us into asking the so-called “overwhelming questing.”
As the poem continues, you find out that ‘The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock’ is driven by a persona who is constantly very self-conscious with his thoughts flowing forward, backwards and sideways, sparking various psychological associations.
He goes to and fro the streets insisting that there will be time to do virtually all things that we want done in life but you wonder what all these things would be. There are also here obscure yellow smoke revisions and revisions:
And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
When you eventually get used to it, you may find out that this poem is an examination of the tortured psyche of the prototypical modern man—overeducated, eloquent, neurotic, and emotionally stilted.
Prufrock, the poem’s speaker, seems to be addressing a potential lover, with whom he would like to “force the moment to its crisis” by somehow consummating their relationship.
You may actually start to like the so called Prufrock and feel that he is in fact an aged man who is very concerned with the way people may think about what he thinks is his not so appealing appearance.
Meanwhile he is thinking about proposing love to a woman. He constantly addresses himself while he is in one spot.
He imagines himself straying into various rooms where there are many women who could easily pass negative comments about him. Finally he undertakes no physical journey at all, having already travelled mentally.
At that point you notice that had this poem not been part of your school set texts, you may not have travelled this far listening to a narrator who appears dreamy and hesitant.
You go back to this difficult poem simply because of the examination in the end. You plod and suffer.
Prufrock finally goes out to the beach and takes a restless walk, still holding mental debates within himself.
It is apparent that the use of the interior monologue in this instance is difficult to a new reader as it captures the mind of the individual who fails to come to terms with a practical reality and ends up living in his mind. In literature this tends to dramatise the neurosis of the individual in modern society.
Christopher Okigbo (born August 16, 1932, Ojoto, Nigeria—died August 1967, Nigeria), is considered one of the best and most widely anthologized African poets.
But his poetry is sometimes considered dense and inaccessible.
You learn that he is what is called a poet’s poet! Okigbo’s blending of Western ideas and techniques with a Nigerian perspective has distinguished his work from that of his contemporaries but also making it difficult and impenetrable to many others.
You eventually learn that despite his father’s devout Christianity, the late great Nigerian poet, Christopher Okigbo had an affinity with traditional Igbo Gods or deities.
You are told that he actually came to believe later in his life, that in him was reincarnated the soul of his maternal grandfather, a priest of Idoto, an Igbo deity.
Idoto is personified in the river of the same name that flows through Okigbo’s village, and the “water goddess” figures prominently in Okigbo’s work. In his poem ‘Heavensgate’, Okkgibo writes that:
Before you, mother Idoto, naked I stand
When you read that poem Heavensgate away from the concept of Nigerian Gods, you may actually get lost. It is a poem that has to be read with the use of footnotes so that you don’t bring in the wrong meanings! Your teacher tells you that this is a re-incarnation of Okbibo’s maternal grand-father, who used to be the priest of the shrine called Ajani, where the Idoto, the river goddess, is worshipped and that Okigbo, should carry on his duties. In most of his poems, Okgibo takes a deep religious stance and it is after a re-reading that you access all this crucial information. Left on your own, you may put Okigbo aside and find other things to read.
In another of Okigbo’s poems, “The Passage” the reader meets the “oil bean” symbol. You are told that among the Igbo traditions, the oil bean tree is regarded as a totem, and legend has it that the spirits of little children stay there to wait for kind women that would become their earthly mothers. It is a sacred tree found in most shrines in Igbo land. There are some other trees which are equally considered sacred. In this poem, the protagonist is seen:
leaning on an oil bean,
lost in your legend
under your power wait I
watchman for the watchword
You also learn that Okigbo death came when he was very young during the Nigeria/Biafra Civil War (July 6, 1967 – Janaury 12, 1970) in the service of Biafra soon after enlisting in the secessionist army.
You then realise that Okigbo was blamesd for being inaccessible and he even once remarked sulkily to delegates that, “I don’t read my poems to non-poets!”
Another difficult poem is by an English poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins. He uses what is called “sprung rhythm,” making it sometimes elusive.
His poem called “The Windhover” is written in the “sprung rhythm,” a metre in which the number of accents in a line are counted but the number of syllables does not matter.
This technique allows Hopkins to vary the speed of his lines so as to capture the bird’s pausing and racing. Hopkins goes:
I caught this morning morning’s minion, kingdom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!
With lots of assistance, you eventually learn that the windhover is a bird with a rare ability to hover in the air, essentially flying in place while it scans the ground in search of prey.
Much like the African eagle! The poet describes how he saw (or “caught”) one of these birds in the midst of its hovering!
The bird strikes the poet as the darling (“minion”) of the morning, the crown prince (“dauphin”) of the kingdom of daylight, drawn by the dappled colours of dawn. It rides the air as if it were on horseback, moving with a steady control like a rider whose hold on the rein is sure and firm.
In the poet’s imagination, the windhover sits high and proud, tightly reined in, wings quivering and tense.
Its motion is controlled and suspended in an ecstatic moment of concentrated energy.
The other poem of Hopkins called “God’s Grandeur” begins with the surprising metaphor of God’s grandeur as actually an electric force!
The figure suggests an undercurrent that is not always seen, but which builds up a tension or pressure that occasionally flashes out in ways that can be both brilliant and dangerous:
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
Hopkins is defiantly affirmative in his assertion that God’s work is still to be seen in nature, if men will only concern themselves to look.
Refusing to ignore the discoveries of modern science, he takes them as further evidence of God’s grandeur rather than a challenge to it.
Dambudzo Marechera of Zimbabwe’s novella of 1978 called House of Hunger is an iconic piece of work in African literature. But it can make your head spin, if you read it unaided for the first time.
The novella is about an extremely sensitive young black man growing up in colonial Rhodesia with its racist laws and its oppression that gave black folk very limited space. Doris Lessing says reading The House of Hunger is “like overhearing a scream.” It is very dense and impenetrable.
House of Hunger is also about the struggle for physical and spiritual spaces. That is why; maybe, the word ‘house’ is used in various ways in that book. House means the physical home and its troubles.
It also stands for the mind of the individual as that space with turmoil. Finally ‘house’ could stand for troubled Rhodesia which is permanently in the background to this story.
In this book, Marechera adopts a style that is modernist and not linear.
Which really makes reading difficult. The story shifts constantly and in a seemingly irregular manner between home, school, home and bar. If you manage those sudden shifts, you will be able to enjoy and understand the story.
The only physical space that is travelled realistically is the journey from the point the nameless major character (who is the narrator throughout) packs all his things, leaves the house in anger and goes to the nearby bar and you may fail to come to terms with this story.
From that point onwards, the story goes ahead in series of the narrator’s reminisces, colliding in and out of one another.
At each point when an old acquaint comes into the pub, Marechera’s narrator takes us back to his old days with him or her, but always comes back to the present.
This demonstrates Marechera’s very close experience with modernist literature especially with the writings of T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Kafka and others, who felt that only a disjointed style would best describe a disjointed experience.
Throughout the novella, we observe that the nameless narrator is a vulnerable individual.
At home he is a victim of the violence of the father, mother, brother and others.
He is also morally assaulted by the township experiences for example his observation with other children of the man who rapes his wife openly and in broad daylight.
The narrator’s response to this violent society is to write. He tries to respond creatively and his first short story is about the prostitute with the drip.
The prostitute is, for the author,a symbol of Rhodesia.
Difficult texts make some people give up on a story.
When I first read Soyinka’s novel, Season of Anomy, I actually could read and comprehend the simple words but I felt the ennui or boredom underlying the text.
Its essentially a feeling of detachment from the surrounding society and its mores, often due to living in a period and or place where things are stagnating, often coupled with a general boredom with everything and everybody.
The ennui in that novel was so overpowering that I almost dropped the book.
I could only continue when a colleague told me that the novel was written in such a way that the reader should feel the anomy in the society itself and that this was actually deliberate on the part of the author and not an artistic fault! Ah, the difficult texts of literature!
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