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.
How did they die?
How did our favourite men and women of letters die? What had they written or said about death? What words of wisdom did they leave behind when they were at death’s door?
In an essay published in 1971 in a book called A New Companion to Shakespeare Studies, scholar S. Schoenbaum indicates that the great English dramatist and poet, William Shakespeare, might have died due to excessive consumption of alcohol.
“On 23 April 1616 Shakespeare died,” Schoenbaum writes. “About his last illness we have no certain information, although half a century later the vicar of Holy Trinity, John Ward, noted in his diary a story that must then have had currency in Stratford: ‘Shakespeare, Drayton, and Ben Jonson had a merry meeting , and it seemed the drank too hard, for Shakespeare died of a fever there contracted.”
But a little later, Schoenbaum goes on to insist that there are chances that this may not be very accurate. “But the anecdote is no more than that; medically it seems dubious, and as a gossip, Ward is not entirely reliable.”
It is said that Shakespeare died rather early at the age of 53. It is stated that through his will, Shakespeare left behind ten pounds to the poor of his home, Stratford. He also left some money to his friends, William Reynolds, Antony Nash and John Nash. His sole remaining sister, Mrs John Hart, was allowed to stay for the rest of her life in the Henley Street homestead. A daughter of the Halls received Shakespeare’s plate.
The bulk of Shakespeare’s estate went to his daughter, Susanna: After her death the entailed estate was to go to her eldest surviving son, and then to the late son’s male heirs…Susanna bore no sons and eventually the property was passed to strangers. Shakespeare left to his wife, Anne, “my linen, my second best bed” and other things.
Shakespeare was buried within the chancel of Holy Trinity in Stratford. More ordinary citizens, including his father and mother, were laid to rest in the churchyard. On the flagstone to his resting place there are written very interesting words, thought to have been written by him:
“Good friends, for Jesus’ sake forbear
To dig the dust enclosed here!
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.
These words are scary. They are an injunction to the living not to tamper with Shakespeare’s grave. However, they appear not to be directed to casual visitors to the church but maybe to the sextons, who sometimes had to disturb the dead in order to make room for a new grave.
In one of his key tragedies, the play Macbeth, Shakespeare has this to say about life in relation to death, through Macbeth himself, in Act 5, scene 5: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
The quote is used near the end of the play and features Macbeth’s reaction to the news that his wife, Lady Macbeth, has committed suicide. He knows his own life is near its end, as the armies of his enemies approach, and through this quote and the longer soliloquy, he expresses his new, nihilistic approach to his life.
Life comes across as a shadow or a poor actor who says a few things on the stage and disappears behind the scenes. Could it mean that life was so insignificant to Shakespeare and was he sometimes that pessimistic himself? Or, it could mean that sometimes he was given to dreary moods, like all of us?
In Julius Caesar (Act 2, Scene 2), Caesar says about death: “It seems to me most strange that men should fear (death); seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.”
These lines may mean that of all the wonders in the world, it is strange that man fears death. Here Caesar is trying to say that death is the ultimate end and it will come without warning, it is a necessary end and will come when it has to. One should face it bravely and not be fearful of it.
Chinua Achebe, the great African author from Nigeria who died on 21 March 2013 in Boston, US, has a literary oeuvre that is well known throughout the world. I know people who can recite chunks and chunks of his pioneering novel, Things Fall Apart. That novel is also estimated to have sold millions of copies.
It is also not possible to agree or disagree with everything Achebe uttered or wrote. However, we all remember certain key passages from the Achebe literature and thought; passages that are worth underlining with a pen in order to be re-read on a better day.
The late Chinua Achebe is often called “the father of African Literature.” Writing in The New Yorker once, Philip Gourevitch actually says “the fact that Achebe must be remembered as not only the father but the godfather of modern African literature, owed at least as much to the decades he spent as the editor of Heinemann’s African Writers Series.
In that capacity, Achebe served as the discoverer, mentor, patron, and presenter-to-the-world of so many of the now-classic African authors of the latter half of the twentieth century.
Achebe’s agent in London is quoted in the media as having said that Achebe had died “after a brief illness.” It is further narrated, “Mr Achebe had used a wheelchair since a car accident in Nigeria in 1990 left him paralyzed from the waist down. The death was announced by Brown University in Providence, R.I., where Mr Achebe had been a professor of Africana studies since 2009. No cause was reported. Mr Achebe made his home in the United
States since 1990 following injuries from a car crash in Lagos that left him paralyzed from the waist down.”
It was widely reported that Achebe was buried on May 23 in his hometown in Ogidi, Anambra state. President Goodluck Jonathan attended in the company of Ghana’s President Mahama. After the church service, Mr Achebe was buried in a mausoleum on the family compound in a private ceremony. Mr Achebe’s body had arrived back in Nigeria from the US, where he died at the age of 82.
Even though he was treated after the 1990 accident, Ike, Achebe’s son said that his father had internal injuries which kept bringing problems, coupled with the fact that he was paralyzed. This means that his family knew that since his injury, Achebe was of very delicate health.
The family, Ike said, was always with Achebe in his troubles. For many in the family, Achebe’s death was not a shock but it would be for those not close to his father, Ike pointed out. He said that one thing he admired about his father was his courage. The father, Ike said, did not allow his accident to affect his work.
However, one thing that was discussed by many after Achebe’s burial was the conspicuous absence of two of Nigeria’s literary giants, Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka and notable poet and playwright John Pepper Clark. They were his contemporaries and people expected them to attend. Were they jealousy towards Achebe? Were they bitter about something? Were they not invited? Speculations continue to this day.
One of the most touching moments in all Achebe literature is the death of one of his most affable characters, the boy Ikemefuna. In a settlement with a neighbouring tribe, Umuofia wins a virgin and a fifteen-year-old boy.
Okonkwo takes charge of the boy, Ikemefuna, and finds an ideal son in him. Nwoye likewise forms a strong attachment to the newcomer.
Despite his fondness for Ikemefuna and despite the fact that the boy begins to call him “father,” Okonkwo does not let himself show any affection for him.
Ogbuefi Ezeudu, a respected village elder, informs Okonkwo in a private conversation that the Oracle has said that Ikemefuna must be killed. He tells Okonkwo that because Ikemefuna calls him “father,” Okonkwo should not take part in the boy’s death. Okonkwo lies to Ikemefuna, telling him that they must return him to his home village. Nwoye bursts into tears.
As he walks with the men of Umuofia, Ikemefuna thinks about seeing his mother. To calm himself, Ikemefuna resorts to a childhood game:
“He sang (a song) in his mind, and walked to its beat. If the song ended on his right foot, his mother was alive. If it ended on his left, she was dead. No, not dead, but ill. It ended on the right. She was alive and well. He sang the song again, and it ended on the left. But the second time did not count….”
After several hours of walking, some of Okonkwo’s clansmen attack the boy with machetes. Ikemefuna runs to Okonkwo for help. But Okonkwo, who doesn’t wish to look weak in front of his fellow tribesmen, cuts the boy down despite the Oracle’s admonishment. When Okonkwo returns home, his own son, Nwoye, deduces that his friend Ikemefuna is dead.
Death in Achebe literature is definitive, a way of putting to rest the place and role of a character. You see it also in the dramatic death of Okonkwo through suicide.
Bessie Amelia Emery Head (6 July 1937 – 17 April 1986) was a South African writer who, though born in South Africa, is usually considered Botswana’s most influential writer. She wrote novels, short fiction and autobiographical works that are infused with spiritual questioning and reflection.
Head was born in 1937. Her mother was a member of a prominent family, suffered from mental illness, and was white, while her father was a black servant in her maternal family’s household. Their relationship was illegal in South Africa at the time of Head’s birth, and she was sent into foster care as a baby.
Head trained to become a teacher and taught for a few years, but her true passion was found in writing. Along with writing for various newspapers in Cape Town, Head developed an interest in South African politics, something that eventually led to her being arrested.
Head’s life was constantly in a state of flux. She suffered from a depressive personality, and she often experienced financial problems. Head married her husband Harold Head in 1961, and they had a son, also named Harold, in 1962. Soon after, her marriage was on the rocks, and when she and her son were given visas for neighbouring Botswana, Head left her marriage and South Africa for good to teach in Serowe.
There, Head taught and worked on a farm, gathering information for her books. She gained citizenship 15 years after moving to Botswana, and was considered a refugee until that point. Towards the end of her life, she began to exhibit signs of mental illness. She died in 1986 at the age of 48 as a result of hepatitis.
Biographer Gillian Eilersen describes Bessie Head’s last couple of years in a moving way. It is said that Bessie started to work on her biography. She said she needed a year to work on it. Meanwhile she would walk down to the Off Sales store on the main road and buy six cans of beer.
Then she would walk up the hill to her home. By the time she arrived, she would have drank four of them. Although she was no serious drinker her liver was seriously affected. Brandy and gin began to gain control over her.
By March 1986 she was drinking about a bottle a day. Her skin became yellowish. At the hospital the doctors diagnosed hepatitis and wished to admit her but Bessie refused. She got medication and strict orders not to touch alcohol.
On the 16th of April 1986 she became very weak and collapsed. An ambulance was called. In hospital, she went into a coma. Her liver was not functioning. There were suggestions to fly her to a Harare hospital but she died soon afterwards.
Bessie Head was buried at the Botolaote cemetery as she had requested. It is a sandy and dusty place overlooking the Serowe plain with a broad, sweeping vision. “I wonder what profound statement I’d make to God the day I die.
I mean that last despairing statement about waiting and waiting to simplify one’s life and all the time it was a tangle of evil,” Bessie Head once said.
Many of Bessie Head’s works are set in Serowe, such as the novels When Rain Clouds Gather (1968), Maru (1971), and A Question of Power (1973). The three are also autobiographical; When Rain Clouds Gather is based on her experience living on a development farm, Maru incorporates her experience of being considered racially inferior, and A Question of Power draws on her understanding of what it was like to experience acute psychological distress.
Rethinking higher education
At the dawn of the Third Millenium, I initiated a graduate study programme: Master of Education — African Studies in Science Education. The programme sought to spark institutions to rethink their higher education curricula. The dream was to share this programme with African universities across the continent.
Sadly, like Dr Nkrumah’s United States of Africa and Dr Martin Luther King’s speech, “I have a dream…” these remained a “dream”!
The programme idea came against the backdrop of several African developments.
For example, the apartheid regime collapsed in South Africa. Thabo Mbeki made the: “I am an African” speech when he launched the African Renaissance.
The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) became the African Union (AU) after the 1999 declaration by the Heads of States. Then there was the University of Timbuktu recovery and restoration debates and many others.
In the meantime, Lesotho promulgated several education acts. These include the Higher Education Act of 2004 and the Lesotho Qualification Framework Act of 2005.
The Higher Education Act of 2004 established the Council on Higher Education (CHE), which regulates the higher education system.
The CHE is the custodian of higher education quality assurance and facilitates social transformation and development. Lesotho’s higher education system desperately needs to meet these imperatives.
I wish to share my experiences with something closest to my heart, namely, Basotho students’ access to and success in the science field, particularly their success in this at the higher education level. I am a science teacher by training.
My interests include science and higher education research and making school science, mathematics, and higher education accessible to the underprivileged.
This article grapples with the implications of the envisaged Master’s programme for African higher education in the 4th industrial revolution and the post-Covid-19 global pandemic era.
I recently discussed the unemployment of teacher graduates with a colleague in the pre-service teacher education space.
He explained that they are exploring intensifying their teaching majors to empower graduates to become entrepreneurs.
So I wondered, is teacher education looking to empower students to become entrepreneurs in areas other than teacher education?
The revelation acknowledges that there are challenges in Lesotho’s higher education system if the supply-demand chain is disturbed.
It became clear that teacher education curricula or the entire formal education curricula needs reviewing.
Napoleon Hill warns that educational institutions do not teach students how to organise and use their acquired knowledge.
He points out that knowledge has no value unless people can apply it to something worthy. If graduates cannot use their ‘teacher-training’ knowledge, it represents miscellaneous knowledge.
Teacher education curricula could include entrepreneurship skills in personal development and facilitation because teachers already have presentation skills.
They need to explore a different audience rather than a school education. Perhaps an adult audience. So they could repackage their curricula for this new endeavour.
The endeavour to intensify teaching subjects content may not necessarily be the solution. Professions and occupations demand specialised knowledge. But, institutions should be cautious about how they approach this endeavour. Curriculum design is an ongoing process.
So the colleague makes a profound acknowledgement. The curriculum must respond to society’s needs and endeavours to address them.
An academic department must seek to make its curriculum relevant at all times to respond to the surrounding developments.
Curriculum design is a process with which institutions of higher learning must continually engage. The curriculum process involves the re-contextualisation of knowledge by selecting and ordering it.
Broadly, the curriculum process works with the packaging knowledge to serve social needs. In short, this is the interaction of knowledge with society.
In the context of my interest and pursuit of increased access to science and science at the higher education level, we must first conceptualise science education and place it in the context of our programme.
Then, this understood meaning would inform the nature of the ensuing curriculum.
Let me begin by presenting some views of science education. One meaning of science education focuses on the didactics of science. In this way, science education facilitates the learning of science in schools. Also, commonly, science education relates to science teacher education.
An African scholar, Uchenna, defines science education as the study of the inter-relationship between science as a discipline and the application of educational principles to its understanding, teaching and learning.
But this definition limits the discipline. There is a need for a more encompassing definition relating to a broader purpose of education.
According to Osborne, the goal of any science education is to develop scientific literacy and explore what that might consist of and why such education is necessary for contemporary society. Osborne’s definition is similar to that of Yager.
Yager explains science education as the study of the impact of science on society and vice versa. So, science education is a discipline concerned with the interaction of science and society.
One may infer from the above definitions that science education seeks to explore the interphase of science and society. But, the inference applies to education in general. Education is the interphase of knowledge and society.
Accordingly, the Master of Education: African Science Education sought to grapple with science education in an African society. Here I will use an argument I put elsewhere.
I argued that for Lesotho to liberate itself, Basotho must disentangle themselves entirely from the bondage of colonialism. The proposed Master’s programme sought to drive the research agenda to emancipate Africa fully.
Science education for the betterment of African society. This ambition applies to higher education, in general. The CHE reiterates this purpose for Lesotho in its report on the status of higher education in 2020.
Elsewhere, I explained that sociologist Basil Bernstein devised a framework for translating knowledge into pedagogy, which, in doing so, helps organise knowledge into teaching.
He called this the “pedagogic device”. Also, readers must remember that the core business of a university is knowledge production – research, knowledge re-contextualisation — teaching and learning, and community outreach.
Bernstein’s pedagogic device helps to understand the interaction between knowledge production and society.
Regardless, focusing only on African Science Education is limiting. I broaden my concerns to African higher education studies. Here Mills’ view of transformation applies.
Mills says transformation entails dismantling a colonial system that keeps re-writing itself by conditioning what we can think, do and believe well after the demise of colonisation.
I will then look to understand the subject in the post-colonial African context.
The reader must remember that while Africa is now independent, most countries are deep in debt. Many are engulfed in civil wars and are on the brink of becoming “failed states”. Many depend solely on foreign donor agencies.
Many believe that science and mathematics education will enable Lesotho to disentangle itself entirely from the bondage of colonialism.
Regardless, Africa requires education empowering countries to break the cycle of poverty, misery, and disease.
Currently, African higher education curricula mirror western ones. African curriculum must distinguish itself in its uniqueness.
So, African scholars must drive all education processes. I have listed these in this article.
The word ‘university’ denotes universal knowledge. However, it is a fallacy that knowledge is universal. To whom is it universal? In our education system, where there is so much disparity, knowledge is ‘universal’ to the ‘haves’, the elites. When government systems exclude the marginalised, these will not benefit from the ‘universal’ knowledge.
The COVID-19 pandemic worsened the already desperate predicament. There is a need, therefore, for research to explore ways of overcoming this awkward predicament. This Master’s programme could provide a platform for such research studies.
Placing the qualification at a Master’s postgraduate studies level was deliberate and strategic. Master’s is the entry point for research studies.
But more importantly, Master’s prepares students for entry into doctoral research studies. The research will be carried out in our context, driven by our scholars. Africans would own the knowledge they produce.
The envisaged Master’s programme comprises two components, coursework and a research dissertation. Consecutively, the coursework component consists of several modules or courses.
The modules would help students to find their research topics. Thus, it would enable students to handle contextual issues relating to African science and higher education on the continent.
However, the programme’s intention was not to confine students’ research topic selections.
The research component would develop students’ research skills. This component would serve two more purposes, namely; developing professional researchers and preparing students for entry for their doctoral research studies.
Consequently, teaching these subjects at the Master’s level will help the institution realise their core functions.
Professional research includes research in the areas of curriculum development. For example, I referred to a colleague’s complaint about graduates’ unemployment.
Some suggest that a solution is introducing entrepreneurial skills in qualification, but this may not necessarily be the solution.
Here I would refer the reader to what Hill said about specialised knowledge. If the inclusion of entrepreneurial skills is a solution, it may not be the only one. Only research can help confirm the needs. Unemployment of graduates could be a research topic or area in the Master’s qualification.
Therefore, institutions and academic departments must base their programmes on research studies, not on mere hunches or institutions. There must be consultations with peers and fellow professionals.
A couple of years back the Lesotho government shut down the Lesotho School of Medicine (LSoM), saying that those were the recommendations of the CHE. The Government, then, was dishonest.
The CHE highlighted the LSoM’s shortcomings and made recommendations. Nowhere in the report did the CHE say the LSoM must shut down. The CHE’s evaluations are developmental to help institutions improve the quality of their offerings. Not punitive.
Our African studies would support initiatives such as the defunct LSoM’s Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery programme. The qualification was a Basotho initiative.
Basotho professionals would teach it to Basotho students. In short, the degrees were an African initiative to improve Basotho’s quality of lives. Lesotho’s Ministry of Economic Planning wrote several Five Year National Development Plans.
Common to all these and reiterated by the new Prime Minister in his inauguration speech is the need to focus on developing human resources, the country’s most important resource.
The CHE report lamented the dismally low research output in Lesotho. After the break up of the University of Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland (UBLS) to give birth to the National University of Lesotho (NUL), people referred to the NUL as a “glorified high school”.
The reference sounds derogatory because universities generate knowledge. After all, high schools consume curricula from elsewhere. But, alas, according to the CHE, this may not be true for Lesotho.
Local higher education institutions (HEI) use foreign textbooks. If our HEIs conduct research, we will become fully liberated and independent to drive our development agenda.
The lack of research is a severe hindrance to developmental progress. It deprives Lesotho of the necessary knowledge enabling Lesotho to progress into the Fourth industrial revolution.
The higher education system needs drastic innovation to help shift from pure knowledge reproduction (teaching) to knowledge production (research).
The Master’s programme had a module that would explore contemporary continental developments. The developments could be continental, regional or national.
The examples included SADC (Southern African Development Community) and its troikas, OAU (now AU) and the African
Development Bank, the African debt, the Beijing Women’s conference, gender and social justice issues, including local National Assemblies legislature processes — green and white papers, bills and acts. The module assessed the implications of these developments to science education and education in general.
African Studies in higher education would not be complete without an audit of the active contemporary actors in knowledge production.
These are the drivers of knowledge in our education systems. At a local level, the studies would seek to understand the demography of the active research scholars to understand what drives them and the nature of their research.
The studies would also suggest mechanisms for persuading non-active scholars to participate in scholarly research. One such initiative could include running staff mentorship programmes. I have such a model in place.
Often when one brings up discussions on higher education in post-colonial Africa and a Master’s programme such as this one, the issue of indigenous knowledge crops up.
Many argue that our study programmes sought to push back indigenous knowledge out of the mainstream education agenda.
Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) is part of the Master of Education in African Studies in Science Education. However, it includes other study areas.
Removing IKS from this programme would be criminal. There is a rich science and mathematics that the ancient Africans, including Basotho, practised.
Much of that knowledge is still relevant today. Smelting of iron, pottery, brewing sorghum beer, San people hunting, the science in the Egyptian pyramids and early civilisation and many others are examples of African
These studies should go beyond sociology and anthropology. I have written about some of these studies under this column in this publication. There are lessons to be learned by our generation.
These lessons would not serve as tourist learning. They provide a deeper understanding of the science and mathematics that informs them. This area also makes a rich research area.
But for students to proceed into a Master’s qualification, they must hold a relevant bachelor’s degree. Also, the CHE observed an oversubscription of diploma qualifications in Lesotho’s HEIs.
Many of these are not in strategic disciplines that enable Lesotho to develop in the desired direction. African Studies in Higher Education suggests an overhaul of the higher education system.
Institutions would re-look at their programme qualification mix and introduce relevant degree programmes. However, institutions must design new programmes based on situational (or needs) analysis.
For example, Lesotho colleges must add cognate bachelor degrees to their programme qualification mix.
In summary, this article uses an earlier conceived Master of Education: African Studies in Science Education to give meaning to the African higher education system.
I have combined the definition of science education with Bernstein’s pedagogic device to extend this meaning to African higher education.
I built an argument for knowledge production and research in our HEIs CHE has confirmed the low research production in Lesotho’s higher education system.
I have given examples of some modules that made the Master’s . These modules distinguish our African Studies Master’s from those studied elsewhere. For example, not only did the Master’s explore African IKS, it critiqued contemporary developments.
The article suggests that the masters degree would enable our HEIs to identify their research strengths. The strengths include identifying the active actors, the areas, and the dominant methodologies.
So, these analyses would not be mere journalist inquiries but are in-depth research to build on. These institutions would then seek ways that they could use this to empower their academics to become researchers and drive the knowledge production, re-contextualisation, and pedagogy agenda.
I use the experience of a higher education colleague to highlight the utility of acquired knowledge. Graduates must meaningfully apply their acquired knowledge. Otherwise, the ‘learnt’ knowledge is valueless.
The article highlights the need for incorporating indigenous knowledge systems by giving some examples of science education in this article.
But I have also made a case for going beyond science education to include other fields. For example, there is a need for in-depth research on using the IKS to improve the quality of life today.
Lastly, I used the CHE recommendations and the need for higher education to fulfil its mandate for research output to argue for an increase in the bachelor’s degree programmes. According to the CHE, Lesotho has an oversupply of diploma qualifications.
Institutions must review their programme qualification mix to align them with the country’s strategic aspiration.
In conclusion, it is time the African education system replaced the existing Eurocentric higher education systems with Afrocentric ones. For Africa to become free, indigenous Africans must drive our knowledge agenda.
As a result, such a higher education system must make Lesotho develop the human capital capable of helping the country solve its socioeconomic challenges leading to complete liberation. Nonetheless, African scholars should guard against being assimilated back to Eurocentric bourgeoisie tendencies.
Dr Tholang Maqutu
We must create a development bank
One thing I admire about Prime Minister Sam Matekane is that he does not hold onto sentiments. He won’t hold onto something that does not work. He has already demonstrated this character trait on numerous occasions with his business ventures (Maluti Sky & Mpilo Boutique Hotel) that were making losses (not yielding profits/returns).
I hope and wish that most of our readers could read this week’s opinion piece with an open mind and leave sentiments aside because they do not put bread on the table. We need to place bread on the table for all the children in Lesotho, finish and klaar!
I also need to highlight that Ntate Lebona impressed me when he delivered his introductory speech towards the staff members of the Ministries of Police, Local Government and Home Affairs.
I was highly impressed. He spoke with so much humility. Ka utloa ke mo rata, ke sa mo tsebe. What also struck me was when he spoke to the staff members of Maseru City Council.
He spoke with so much authority. A khalema! In my heart, I said, “Shame! If only Ntate Lebona knew what he’s dealing with. The main problem is in the planning department. Otherwise, Maseru would have sky-scrappers mushrooming all over.”
It took me three full weeks to come up with the title of this week’s piece and I had to plead with my editor not to change it.
As I was sitting in an ABSA Branch last week, a thought crossed my mind that, hey, ABSA was made up of various ‘Afrikaner banks’ such as the Allied Bank, United Bank, Trust Bank. Hana was the VolksKas Bank part of the group? Ma-2000 won’t know this stuff and this is a history lesson for them.
In 1991, ABSA (Amalgamated Banks of South Africa) was established following a merger of Allied Bank, United Bank and Bankorp.
In the new democratic dispensation, the ABSA Group Limited was joined as a single brand. After remembering this part of history, an interesting thought crossed my mind. What if we merge the LNDC ,BEDCO and Lesotho Post Bank into one development bank?
Look, let’s be honest, (this is the part where I start having fights with my editor), the LNDC, BEDCO and Lesotho Post Bank have all deviated from their core mandate. Even if the intention may be true for an institution such as BEDCO, the balance sheet is not strong enough to fulfil its mandate.
However, all those three institutions are in a way, trying to achieve the same thing and that is development finance. Re thusa lihoai.
Yes, the Lesotho Post Bank may have encroached into the territory of BEDCO by offering loans to micro and medium enterprises. Batho ba li-taxi le lihoai tsa literekere le bo-’M’e ba catering.
In my view, BEDCO should have evolved into a bank that now offers various financial instruments to SMME’s. Ao Ntate, joale we have board members that attend board meetings at most of these institutions to say a whole lot of nothing and dip biscuits into a cup of tea all day. Ba phoka tee!
As a matter of fact, I think the new Minister of Trade and Industry needs to review these boards and board members. Ho ntso itjelloa Board Fee feela in most of our parastatals and public companies.
In any case, the same could be said about the LNDC. This institution should have evolved into a development bank of sorts and start offering loans to medium enterprises. Not only loans but to get involved in various developments as equity partners (equity participation).
Look, in my view, it’s still a shame that the LNDC never got involved in some form of equity participation in the establishment of Pioneer Mall as well as the Maseru Mall.
If it wasn’t the equity participation, it should’ve been in other forms of financial assistance such as bridging finance transactions. But do something. Don’t just fold your arms and say, “no, that’s not part of my mandate.”
But you may then say, what would be the purpose of merging all those three institutions (LNDC, BEDCO and the LNDC)? The answer is: to create a new institution (Development Bank) with a fresh mandate and a healthy/stronger balance sheet.
Let’s talk about the balance sheet for a second. A bank’s ability to lend money lies in the strength of its balance sheet. I always hear people crying and saying, “No, my bank never gives us loans.” And I always ask them, have you seen the strength of its balance sheet?
There’s only so much that the Lesotho Post Bank can lend to its customers and that lies entirely on its balance sheet. But this can be corrected, though, and we need to think of a totally new way of doing business.
Here is my solution to our current problems: Let’s establish a sovereign wealth fund named the Loti Development Fund or Loti Fund. This fund will be funded through the sale of shares owned by the Lesotho government in institutions such as Letšeng Diamonds, Standard Lesotho Bank, Nedbank Lesotho, Maluti Mountain Brewery and Lesotho Flour Mills.
Those shares owned by the Lesotho government should be floated on the Maseru Securities Exchange. This would then create instant wealth to Basotho nationals because dividends yielded in those enterprises will go straight to the pockets of the people on the ground.
So, proceeds derived from the sale of those shares should be deposited in the Loti Sovereign Wealth Fund (Loti Fund).
Moreover, all the royalties from the Lesotho Highlands Water Project that Fraser Solar desperately needs, should also be deposited in the Loti Fund.
In addition to that, all the commercial buildings that the government of Lesotho owns should be sold to Basotho-owned property companies or Basotho consortia. I’m referring to assets such as the Post Office Buildings, Victoria Hotel and ‘Manthabiseng Convention Centre and Setsoto Stadium.
This could instantly unlock value to the tune of about M3 Billion. Deposit it into the fund. Now, we could easily raise about 5 Billion Maloti/Rands from the sale of shares, royalties and assets/buildings.
Funds in the Loti Fund should be invested in the global capital markets.
We don’t even need to go far. Coronation, M&G and Allan Gray could easily yield an interest of 10% per annum (hypothetically speaking). This is equivalent to M500 million per annum.
But what we need to strive for is to create a development bank with the backing of the Loti Sovereign Wealth Fund. How can we achieve that?
By merging/amalgamating the LNDC with BEDCO and the Lesotho Post Bank into one single development bank named Loti Bank or LesBank.
LesBank should be approached with an open mind. This could set up a pan-African bank like Eco-Bank, United Bank for Africa (UBA) and Zenith Bank.
I mean what’s stopping us? Our attachments to sentiments! LesBank could also be made public and listed on the JSE and the Nigerian Exchange Group. Why not?
This new approach to banking would then build liquidity plus a strong balance sheet that would give Basotho leverage to access credit.
This is exactly what the Malaysians have mastered. Look at the global success of companies such as Petronas. I’m sure we are only familiar with a local brand named Engen. But Engen is part owned by a Malaysian multi-national company named Petronas.
This is what LesBank should strive to achieve. To be a pan-African Bank or even a global bank. We limit ourselves by having a bank that is ‘BIG’ on Kingsway Road.
Let’s expand and think on a global scale. LesBank could be one of the best export products Lesotho has ever produced and the first publicly listed company on the JSE. Why not?
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