Muckraker : Shredding Pekane

Muckraker : Shredding Pekane

SOME stories endure the test of time and memory. Take, for example, the fabulous story of a Mojalefa who lived in Mafube, a few houses from Muckraker’s home. Mojalefa was a short man with a stutter he always tried to suppress with a booming voice.
Muckraker knew about Mojalefa when she was still learning to wear her panties without leaning against a wall. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration because Muckraker only wore undies when she was around nine or ten.

What were those little elegancies to a family barely scrapping enough to eat? Still you get the idea that Muckraker knew Mojalefa at a tender age.As the stories goes, Mojalefa had spent a decade in South Africa’s mines but had nothing to show for it. Rumour had it that he was getting drunk senseless until he lost his job.

He had arrived back home with a blanket, a bag of rags, two pairs of old gumboots and a molamu stick. There was also the little shrieking radio, a shattered quartz watch and a bucket of used oil.

The other villagers passed snide comments about him having a rotten head over his shoulders. Broke and too illiterate to be employed, Mojalefa spent months moaning about his sorry plight. Not that anyone was listening because as far as the villagers were concerned he was a pig frying in its own fat.
Then one day there was a knock on Muckraker’s house and Mojalefa was standing on the door, a small bag on his shoulder. Muckraker’s grandmother started chuckling as soon as Mojalefa opened his little bag.

“So you are selling underwear, Ntate Mojalefa?” the old woman asked, a mischievous smile slashing on her face. Mojalefa nodded as he opened the bag’s zipper wide enough to expose the wares.

Granny could not bring herself to touch the underpants so she used her walking stick to fish out the yellow one that had little red hearts on the back.
“That one is M10,” Mojalefa announced.
Granny said she would take it for her sister who would be visiting over Christmas but she only had M7. Mojalefa said it was fine because he could always get the remainder later.
It was only months later that Muckraker discovered that her granny had lied about buying the underwear for her sister. One sunny afternoon little Muckraker walked into her granny room to find the wet underwear with red hearts clinging onto a nail on the wall.
It wasn’t long before Mojalefa was supplying underwear to all the women in Mafube. Mojalefa had conquered the lingerie market in Mafube and he had added laces and pulling socks to his stock.

Meanwhile, he became the butt of jokes among the village men.
“Mojalefa o rekisa liphenthi, hahahahahahah,” they burst in laughter as they gulped the local brew. But as if he had stuffed his ears with sand, Mojalefa plodded on.

It was him who introduced the G-string and thong to the teachers and nurses in the area. Whatever a woman fancied, Mojalefa brought. From the big ones that looked like garments to the small ones that looked like light threads.
Still the men kept laughing.

“Mojalefa o rekisa liphenthi, hahahahahahah!”
Then suddenly the cruel jokes stopped. Mojalefa had bought a tractor. A pick-up truck followed soon thereafter. When he built a shop the jealous men started spreading a rumour that Mojalefa was making money because he was a ritual murderer.
When a child disappeared in the area the village men threaten to burn Mojalefa’s shop.

His gun and the police saved him. It later transpired that the child had drowned in a well. Still the venerate gossips would not relent.
As you read this Mojafela has a modest life with a fairly profitable business. Those who were laughing at him are either working for him or wallowing in poverty.

The point is not that there is money in selling knickers. Rather, it is that Mojalefa created his own employment and he wasn’t ashamed of his new trade. From a down-on-his-luck miner to a mini-brief seller to a successful grocery store owner.

Muckraker was reminded of Mojalefa after seeing the bile spewed against Lerata Pekane, the PS of the Ministry of Small Business Development.
The trigger was a decent interview he gave to the Public Eye, one of only three newspapers in this country (if you are reading these words then you are glued to one of those three. The other has a quarrelsome history with this one you are reading).

Pekane was pilloried for days on social media after he allegedly said “being unemployed is a choice”. The insults came from all directions, the learned, pseudo-analysts, the usual noisemakers and certified idiots.

The common thread in the insults was that Pekane was getting haughty and too big for his shoes because he had attained a position of power. Muckraker will not address those innuendos because she does not know Pekane very well.

What she knows for sure, though, is that the man did not say “being unemployed is a choice”. That was the headline of the story. His actual words were: “In a sense being unemployed is a choice”.

You don’t need to have gone through Grade Three to understand that those statements have different meanings. He qualified his statement by prefixing it with “In a sense”.

But he did not end there. He substantiated the statement by using himself as an example.
“It is quite interesting that when I started working I was hired in an accounting firm in year 2000 but I had clients of my own besides my job who I would attend to after working hours during weekends. Since then, to this day, I still have my own private clients apart from this work.”
So there you have it, Pekane contextualised his statement. Read it without a malicious mind and you see that at its pith is a wise message to the young people of this country.

But that context did not stop the social media battalion from pelting him with insults. Those invectives are still raining on Pekane even when it is clear someone twisted his words to manufacture brouhaha.

Pekane didn’t start this fire some people are now dancing around in a trance like some natives skipped by modernity.
His only crime was to arrange his words in a way that leaves them open to manipulation by some empty heads that happen to have enough internet bundles to play with.

Instead of using the bundles to revise their Grade Three English lessons they are perambulating the internet, a molamu in the left hand and a can of paraffin on the right.

Had they read the whole interview they would have noticed that there is much to learn from what Pekane was saying. In these days of social media people don’t read to understand but to merely pick a sound bite to plonk on their walls.

But let’s assume, without admitting, that Pekane indeed said “being employed is a choice” as the garrulous ones want us to believe. Muckraker would not have qualms with that statement because it is true.

The noise comes from the narrow definition of employment. It comes from the sick assumption that employment means to be hired by someone.
That, of course, is why our young people keep printing their CVs even when they can see that the tiny job market of ours has no space for them.
It’s not that the market has turned against them. It is just that it is not expanding fast enough to absorb them.

Instead, it’s probably shrinking. The few jobs around are stolen by twin thieves: corruption and nepotism.
Those who are employed are not dying fast enough or they are unable to graduate into employers. Yet even as they face this bleak future our graduates remain so delusional to think their salvation lies in getting hired.

Muckraker will not repeat the trifling mantra that the youths should be employers because it is just a pathetic political avowal meant to fill empty air.
The real solution lies in the youth accepting that the world does not owe them a living. They have to know that this is a mean place that has no time for crybabies clutching certificates.

Only when they stumble into that Eureka moment will they understand that there is nothing special about being young or spending years at college.
As soon as they accept that they are not unique they will come down to earth with a thud. True, we have a serious problem of youth unemployment in Lesotho. Yes the youths are disillusioned. They are frustrated. The answer to that problem, though, does not come from bellowing at the government to create jobs.

You don’t need to be an economist to know that governments don’t create employment but merely provide a conducive environment for business to thrive and create jobs. It is private companies that create jobs, not because that is their mandate but simply out of necessity.
Now let’s take a walk up Kingsway to understand why there are no jobs. There are two mobile network companies, four banks if you consider Boliba a bank, a few car sales that employ two people, a few shops and several eateries. That’s it.

Let’s go to Maseru ‘Industrial’ area: a beer company there, an oil reservouir here, a struggling funeral parlour there, some cement shops there, some Chinese spaza shops here and a wholesale here. That’s it.

To Thetsane Industrial area we go: sweatshop, sweatshops, sweatshops and then a brick maker. And that’s it.
So now that it’s clear there are no companies to hire people you may ask what the hell the youths should do. Well, they should start by perishing the thought that qualification equals employment.

Second, they should just start climbing down the ladder and get their hands dirty. Like old Mojalefa they should be willing to start small.
If you are tired of getting regret letters then you should do something. Anything as long as you are not stealing or prostituting. Muckraker is not saying start companies because you are obviously too broke and banks think you will buy a jalopy with the loan.

She is not saying invest the next best thing because you obviously have neither the talent nor the skill. She is saying do something.
And there is a lot to do instead of just shouting insults at the government and groaning about the lack of jobs.
Muckraker will not give advice more valuable than that. Now, say thank you auntie Muck. You are welcome!

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