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On doctors, quacks and medicine men



Medicine is a delicate field of human knowledge, particular in its very basic nature because it is the one field that deals directly with the most primal of human needs; the need to live and to survive in relative comfort.

The practice of medicine is possibly as old as humanity, with it stemming from the need to fight diseases that threatened the survival of the human race, and to prevent the discomfort of having to live in the uncomfortable and often painful state of illness after invasion by known and unknown germs into the bodies of the individuals within a given community or society.

That germs are part of the environment is a fact, but another fact of the matter is that they are best living without the confines of the human body where they wreak havoc with the bodily functions of the various organs comprising the human form.
Doctors as individuals or groups spend their time observing the effects (symptoms) varied germs, viruses, and bacteria have on the human body, and after careful research prescribe the right course of drugs and medicines to treat the condition observed.

Research into the prevention and the treatment of diseases takes up most of the lives of these truly honourable individuals, and the trips to the laboratories, the theatres, and the consulting rooms are in every essence what keeps the world of humanity comfortable enough to live in relative comfort; free from the fear and the negative effects of disease, so that each and every individual in society can perform their set task to the optimum required to guarantee that humanity progresses in harmony.

However, there are a few “unlearned” observations one makes as a “layman” on the profession’s progression, and what comes up is a series of questions that may in effect render one confused, if not totally lost, when it comes to developments in medicine in recent years.
Every craft, profession, and occupation has a code, and it does not matter how mundane any given duty may seem in the eyes of the less knowledgeable: the truth of the matter is that all of us are in their pursuit of their given vocation required to abide by a given law or set of oaths, to perform the duties dispensed by an individual tasked with executing such a duty,

job, task, or work to the best of their ability and without infringing on the rights of others.

A duty dispensed without the guidance of oaths or statements of intent, or commitment is reminiscent to a vehicle without a steering wheel, which cannot be manoeuvred to the direction desired, but which at its own behest flounders in all directions; in the process rendering itself a menace to those either in its path or those by the roadside who are either aware or unaware of its dangerous unguided advance.

The delegation of duties goes hand in glove with the donning of the appropriate garment of operation to avoid confusion in the minds of the individuals that will have to deal with the individual tasked with the performance of the given task.
For example, the police officer cannot go to work in a swimsuit or boxer shorts and expect to be given the attention an officer in his line of work gets from the other citizens of the state he is working in.

The blue uniform he or she wears to work is the reserve of his sector of operation, and cannot be donned by any June, Julie or Jane that walks the pavements, for in truth, the wearing of such a uniform makes it easier for the officer to establish the necessary element of rapport salient to dealing with matters his squad have to interfere in on a daily basis.

The medical profession, however, leaves one confused these days; the question being: who is the doctor, who is not . . .  when all of them (knowledgeable and pretender) are wearing the white coats of the profession, and all of them (the expert and the ignorant) are giving diagnoses of the common and rare symptoms of diseases plaguing human communities?
The medical profession is guided by the Hippocratic Oath, and one should have gone through some intensive training in the medical field to dispense medicine because the logical assumption based on the amount of time spent learning the salient aspects of the craft is that they will know what to do in the treatment of the patients’ disease or specific medical condition. There is the Hippocratic Oath which the doctors make upon graduation from their medical schools, and one could be right to guess that it serves as a guide throughout the life of the practice of medicine. The lines below encompass the most essential parts of the profession, that is:

I swear to fulfil, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:
I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.
I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of over-treatment and therapeutic nihilism.

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.
I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.

I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death.
If it is given to me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty.

Above all, I must not play at God. I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.
I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.

Sharing knowledge is the primal human mode of communication. We talk to “To share knowledge with those who are to follow” so that they can follow in our footsteps in a manner that progresses the human knowledge base. However such knowledge should be directed to avoid the disastrous results of the chaos that stems from having such knowledge landing in the wrong hands that are without either experience or authority.

The main problem these days is that medicine falls into the wrong hands and the results thereof are catastrophic. A layman experiences pains in a particular area of their body, Googles such a vague description, and then randomly picks a “cure” for their “assumed” condition and uses aptly it without consultation of a registered physician.

The result of this “quack” treatment regimen is often that one ends worse off than they were when they began, because improper procedure was followed in the self’ prescribed course of treatment (because the ‘doctor’ on the web often bears no face, and his domicile is unknown).
Measures to counter this practice are at best weak at this moment, and many will fall victim to the unknown web “doctors” and their vague diagnoses with often fatal results.
The main ethos to the practice of medicine is to prescribe relevant drugs to the best of ability for the good of the patients and to try to avoid harming them.

The problem is that what is prescribed in these times where medicine has become common ground, and anyone can establish their own practice under the guise of “natural/herbal/indigenous medicine”, many patients come out of their course of treatment worse off than they were before they began because they came across one of those quacks advertising their services via leaflets on the street, through the radio, magazines, and other forms of media.
Without controls in place by relevant health authorities, one finds an honourable profession infiltrated by an army of ignotum ignorantis and “doctor-cure-it-alls” that often dispense untested and lethal drugs to anyone if they ask or can devise a plan or method of payment for the mysterious (often without label, composition, or warning of side-effects) drugs sold at exorbitant prices.

That the drugs could in effect be damaging to the body of the patient under these uncontrolled conditions of treatment seems to be forgotten; for all that counts are the banknotes placed on the table of the quack’s surgery situated in a backstreet alley in a backroom.

The legality of such malpractices as abortion in many countries has led to the contention anti-abortion sentence of the Hippocratic Oath, but avoiding the violation of the morals of the community is one of the main guides to the practice of medicine.
To the contender whose understanding of the morals is limited only to the interest of the minute group in the face of the more sensible interests of the masses, the call is that there are “rights” each individual is granted by the constitution, which is true.

However, if such “rights” mean that one will dispose of the foetus at the village dump site where it will be mauled by dogs in full sight of minors, then one’s common sense should tell them that there are certain spheres of medicine that need to be kept private.
The billboards one sees advertising “safe abortion” are an infringement on the individual moral and religious “rights” of other members of the community as writ and declared in the constitution: the defence of these “rights”is just “moral turpitude” legalised.
To keep the good of the patient is the highest priority, and should be given such attention at all times and at all costs.

Other conflicting interests and concerns on the part of the physician or “doctor without qualification or experience” such as making money, should not override this aspect.
Pathos should be the main quality and virtue of the medical practitioner, not the modern version of greed posing as “making a living”, for in truth the doctor need not end lives in the execution of his duties in the oblivious chase for lucre.
The good of the patient should be paramount, foremost, and the only fundamental guiding the profession.

The duty of the medical practitioner should be to save lives and maintain lives; not the present chaotic scene where quacks pose as either doctors or medicine men, selling expensive cure alls that have so far cured no disease.

There are physicians, surgeons, scientists and other medical practitioners whose contribution to the welfare of the world can be seen on the books of the history of time.
One is not confused as to their tremendous contributions in the varied lives of the human race, and this is due to the fact that their cures were not expensive, and they were easily accessible.
Their vague modern version leaves one wondering who to follow, who to consult: because there are now a million voices proclaiming their cure as the best on the radio, on the TV, on the Web . . . Everywhere.  Which voices does one follow in this chorus? And by right, should medical services be advertised? I thought the adage goes: empty vessels make the most noise. Has medicine become empty? It is so loud..
Joseph Lister stated:

If we had nothing but pecuniary rewards and worldly honours to look to, our profession would not be one to be desired. But in its practice you will it to be attended with peculiar privileges, second to none in intense interest and pure pleasures. It is our proud office to tend the fleshy tabernacle of the immortal spirit, and our path, rightly followed, will be guided by unfettered truth and love unfeigned. This statement was made well before Alexander Fleming found the vaccine that should have rightly stopped the Tuskegee Project before it began.

It was made before AIDS came along only to give birth to a million unqualified doctors each with their own impotent quack concoction claiming to cure the effects of the disease.
I guess the profession should focus on getting the vaccine to HIV; before hordes of poor people die from drinking poisonous concoctions of dubious origin: because the claim of the quack is that all diseases can concurrently be treated in one course of treatment. The liver disagree . . .

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Reforms: time to change hearts and minds



A very important milestone is gradually being reached in Lesotho politics. On April 6, 2022, I attended a National Reforms Authority (NRA)’s High-level Forum on the State of the Implementation of the Lesotho National Reforms at ’Manthabiseng Convention Centre.

For the first time, I heard at that meeting politicians acknowledging that Lesotho’s political problems have a lot to do with politicians themselves, and not with written clauses of the Constitution.

This is a point that this country’s intellectuals and academics have made for years. Lesotho politicians have refused to listen both because of their dislike for the country’s academics and because of absence of any communication between the two groups as a result of that dislike.

If politicians could use their newly-acquired wisdom as a basis from which to proceed in attempts to solve Lesotho’s political problems, there is potential for great strides to be made, finally.

Political instability bedevils Lesotho because the hearts and minds of politicians continue to be inclined to break the law, or to look for ‘loopholes’, in pursuit of narrow interests; and continue to change clauses of the Constitution when such clauses do not allow the pursuit and achievement of narrow interests.

We need a change of heart and mind-set among our politicians in order to make headway in building a politically stable society. Politicians’ narrow interests should not be a basis for what needs to happen in Lesotho. The need for constitutional changes and the search for loopholes will persist but they should not be inspired by the pursuit of narrow interests, as has hitherto happened.

Instead, to us the public, it should become necessary to reform the constitution on two conditions only. First, when it is found that the constitution does not adequately address concerns with the socio-economic welfare of Basotho. Second, when it becomes necessary to ensure that Basotho exercise real power on who rules them and on how they are ruled. These conditions are cardinal.

And they should inform all thought and action in Lesotho’s politics.

As has happened many times already, even these costly ongoing reforms of clauses of the Constitution will be all for naught if concern for politicians’ own welfare continues to be a primary motive behind their pursuit for parliamentary seats, and what they do once in parliament.

It may well be that the current and next generation of politicians will be short of men and women with hearts and mind-set fit for service to Basotho’s welfare. But serious attempts need to be made to ensure the generation after the next has a critical mass of such politicians.

This cannot only be wished for. It has to be worked for. One thought is to introduce a curriculum that teaches people the capacity to think of others, and care for others. These are some of the attributes mostly missing among our politicians. Their incapacity to think of others leads to their lack of a sense of public duty that we see and experience every day.

We have neglected the task of socialising and educating empathetic hearts and mind-sets claiming that Africans and Basotho naturally and culturally subscribe to, and live in accordance with, ubuntu (humanity). It is quite obvious that this is not true. People who make this claim loudest are the middle classes who, while claiming to subscribe to ubuntu, live in houses surrounded by six feet high perimeter walls.

There may be other thoughts than socialisation on this. What we have to hope for is that from here onwards, in our search for solutions to Lesotho political problems, we will proceed from the recognition that, primarily, these problems emanate not from inappropriate written texts of the Constitution but from hearts and minds of men and women.

Motlatsi Thabane

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We have lost our moral indignation



I remember when the allegations that Tšeliso Nthane had shot and killed one of his employees first came to the surface. It was in 2019, back when the air was not so poisonous and Basotho still had much of their hope. Well not much because this is generally a hopeless, desolate wasteland but some small pretence of hope still remained. The nation was angry, and rightfully so. The consensus was that men like Nthane, no matter how deep their pockets, should not be allowed to act with impunity. A man was dead and we were baying for justice.

A lot has happened since then. The Covid-19 pandemic, mass retrenchments and job losses, the ever dwindling power of the loti. This and that but all has been more negative than positive in this place so when the time came for Nthane to be handed judgment we had mostly stopped caring as we had to deal with the business of living .

Anyway the man was found not guilty. I will confess I did not read the judgement for fear it will sink me lower into the abyss that is life in Lesotho. However, news of that sort cannot escape one even if they try, more especially if they are on social media. No sooner had judgment been handed down that social media debates began raging.

Suddenly everyone was an expert in punitive versus remedial justices and the pros and cons therein. Many argued that once more the rich had been proven to be above the law. A statement clouded in naivety really because had they been paying attention they would have realised that there is nothing to prove as the rich have always been above the law.

Those who fancy themselves the harbingers of remedial justice argued that Nthane had made certain payments to the family and thus paid his debt. I have no personal knowledge of these payments but I was of course curious to know how much the price of a life is amongst these parts.

They further argued that since Nthane owned many companies that employed many Basotho it would not be in the national interests to send him to prison as jobs would be lost. I am not sure how Basotho think companies work and if they have ever heard that they are a separate legal entity from their owners but no matter. This is certainly an elucidation on the finer points of company law.

I have in the past been guilty of judging my countrymen, perhaps a little too harshly as it is sometimes hard to make sense of their motivations but to hear young people speak so vehemently for letting a man walk free after another has died simply because he is in a position to provide them with a livelihood reminded me once more of the stark hopelessness when it comes to finding a job in this country.

Basotho youths are not uneducated, they are not immoral or unfeeling and they certainly are not pro-murder. At least I hope so. What they are however is hungry and desperate and desperation can reduce even the most pious man to his knees. What good is moral outrage if one is outraged on an empty stomach?

What good will it do for them to be out in the street being activists for social and moral issues when they barely can afford the nine maloti to hop into a taxi and arrive at such a demonstration? To argue that anyone who can offer them jobs should be treated differently as far as the law is concerned is a statement borne out of the worst kind of desperation and instead of making me angry, it made me sad.

Now, I have not enough knowledge of the case against Nthane to say whether I feel the judgment was fair and just. All I know is I certainly want it not to be in favour of him simply because he has jobs and livelihoods to give. It is however easy for me to judge from my privileged position where I have a meal guaranteed every night. It is easy to be morally indignant when one does not have to worry about the indignities of joblessness.

I spoke last week of how easy it is for us to condemn young people who lay their bodies on the human resource table. We laugh at older people who walk for kilometres to attend political rallies and sing for “baetapele” (leaders) and fail to take into account that in a moment of desperation a man who offers you promises of a job you badly need is someone you would follow to a rally.

To see young women in the arms of 70-year-olds who are not even good company. To see young men vehemently justify that murder should be forgiven if the alleged murderer can offer them a livelihood will quickly disabuse one of the notion that there is any progress happening in Lesotho.

So here we are in a country where people are willing to sell their bodies and souls for a chance at a decent life.

Here we are about to enter another election season and the only people who stand to truly benefit are the owners of guest houses. Whether Nthane got a fair verdict or not is immaterial to me, what remains shocking is how we have lost our moral indignation as a country. It appears Tom Thabane, that erstwhile leader was right when he said “sera sa motho ke tlala”. To quote the younger generations of Ma2000: “Because wow”.

Thakane Rethabile Shale

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No peace plan, no economic recovery



The world’s struggle to reboot economies viciously disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic remains real. However, the impact could be more severe to countries that already had dwindling economies and lack a way out, chief amongst them Lesotho. The focus on recovery gets disrupted from time to time by new variants seemingly more infectious than the previous ones; we had the Delta variant and now Omicron.

Several countries seem to be putting their own nationals ahead of everyone else. The squabble between the European Union and the United Kingdom over vaccines was but an example of leaders who put the interests of their own people first. The leaders surely knew that the world would not win the fight over Covid unless the rest of the world is vaccinated as stated by the World Health Organisation.

They however made plans to keep their people safe first, protect their boundaries and then set stringent entry conditions into their countries to further protect their own people. Though this may seem selfish, who in their right mind would not do the same?

As countries draw and implement plans to get their economies back on track, Lesotho has very little to show if anything at all. Businesses shut doors and the few people who had jobs lost their only incomes. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Lesotho was already struggling to engage in much needed capital projects because it simply did not have the money.
Sadly, there is no watertight plan let alone a draft to increase dwindling revenue following the reviewed Southern Africa Custom Union’s approach. There is basically no plan to support entrepreneurs to scale up thereby increasing the tax base. Instead, the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) is expected to milk dry the remaining few dying cows.

With this hopeless state of affairs in Lesotho, one would be misled to think that Lesotho is not capable of making solid plans and sticking to them. The reality is, Lesotho, a country of around 2 million people only is indeed capable of doing more for her few people. She has abundant resources; minerals and human capital.

Sadly, the skills and resources are always misdirected to produce negative energy among Basotho. The only fully funded strategy that Lesotho is committed to at the moment and can be articulated clearly by all parties involved without having to consult is Mothetjoa Metsing’s arrest. Metsing is accused of treason based on a hard-to-understand incident where he was a coalition partner and a Deputy Prime Minister, yet he is said to have been involved in an attempt to unseat the then Prime Minister Thabane.
Thabane of course did leave the country but Metsing never dreamt of taking over the premier’s office. The police, Public Prosecutor and the executive are all on the same page about progress and what the next move against Metsing should be.

There are officers ready to do whatever it takes to bring him down. There is no shortage of resources when it comes to arresting him. Intelligence is on top of its game when it comes to him. The propaganda machinery is fully empowered. When will the government get its priorities right?
The army commander Lt Gen Motšomotšo and senior army officials Col Sechele and Col Hashatsi were shot dead in broad daylight, within the army barracks and there is absolutely nothing and no one who has been held accountable for their killing. This against the background that former army commander Lt Gen Tlali Kamoli and others remain in prison for years pending the case surrounding among others the killing of yet another army commander Maaparankoe Mahao.

Where is the logic here? No investigations, no arrests, absolutely nothing on the killing of the three high profile army officials. Yet the government is persecuting Metsing for allegedly plotting to oust a government which never happened.
Around 80 people died in cold blood in police custody under the All Basotho Convention-led operation – “Tokho”. The then Prime Minister Tom Thabane allowed the police to torture people and the Lesotho Congress for Democracy tried to force the premier to withdraw his instructions to the police. That however drew a blank.

The police chief has not yet been called to account for these deaths. The police are doing what Basotho were complaining about during the reign of the previous regime that the army was acting with impunity. Suddenly, it is ok for the police to brutally torture and kill Basotho.
Suddenly, it is ok for army bosses to be killed with impunity. That’s the only reasonable conclusion that one arrives at based on the hesitation of the government to do anything about the killers on the government’s payroll.
The government of Lesotho needs to focus on revamping this country’s economy, creating jobs, improving health services, building infrastructure, promoting peace and unity and managing the escalating crime rate. Lesotho fails to acknowledge that the country’s peace is a group effort and Basotho must all be in it to work.

Investors are unlikely to risk their money in a country that is not at peace with itself. Until the government get its priorities right, Lesotho will continue to struggle to have peace and a stable economy. This will translate to high unemployment worse compared to where it is currently.
Metsing had a peace plan that was unfortunately not supported by some parties. Those who opposed it could only assume that it would let him go free. They never weighed options nor tabled alternative peace-making efforts. To them the country would rather suffer, rather be divided than accept the fact that the government was never toppled. There are far more pressing issues in Lesotho. Instead of paying loads of money to a foreign prosecutor, and taking much valuable time from our courts of law, we should be focusing our priorities on something positive. We need to heal and move on as a nation, not as individuals.

Potjo Potjo

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