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Tsepiso S Mothibi

Being young, adolescent, full of the vigour and enthusiasm or the inexperience and weakness in character that marks the period between childhood and full adulthood’s manhood or womanhood; this is the definition of youth my concise dictionary gives. In the short play Euthphyro (translated by Benjamin Jowett in 1871), written by the Greek philosopher Plato in the period between 427-347 B.C., there is talk (dialogue) between Socrates and Euthphyro about Meletus from the deme (township) of Pitthis, whose main concern is to free the youth from the mental chains their misleaders entwine them in. The lines from Socrates to Euthphyro about Meletus’ charge go:

…He says he knows how the youth are corrupted and who are their corruptors. I fancy he must be a wise man, and seeing that I am anything but a wise man, he has found me out, and is going to accuse me of corrupting his young friends. And of this our mother the state is to be the judge. Of all our political men he is the only one who seems to me to begin in the right way, with the cultivation of virtue in youth; he is a good husbandman, and takes care of the shoots first, and clears away us who are the destroyers of them. That is the first step; he will afterwards tend to the elder branches; and if he goes on as he has begun, he will be a very great public benefactor. 

Socrates is perhaps one of the best philosophers any scholar or academic comes across in their studies, and this dialogue is one of the best discussions on human relations and harmonious living one ever gets to read. I am concerned about the state of our youth in the present times, and I believe that the focus of the discussions this Youth Month should be on the proper direction of the young peoples of the world towards the attainment of a truly harmonious global society which unites the youth into being a social class that will guarantee the true progress of humanity and the world.

The discussions and their arguments will not necessarily be peaceful; for to excise the cancers of debauchery, purposelessness, and self-servitude bequeathed upon the world by history is an exercise that requires the expression of truthful truth to rid the world of the lies history taught to mankind and its children. We cannot afford to have a world where the youth are unruly and go out and burn schools just because their peers in history did the same.

The struggles of the past are in no way similar to the challenges we face in the present: the approaches to dealing with them can therefore never use the same tactics. If violence and general uprising were applied in 1976 or any period preceding this one, that method is irrelevant in the present; we cannot go on to teach the youth that it is right to pick up arms, sticks, bricks and Molotov cocktails.

We cannot chant the same slogans our fathers did in the days of war as politics of the age seem to teach. Our father’s wars are not ours, their sins are theirs for them to deal with, and from their violent methods we should refrain; we are more enlightened from the lessons history taught to the world.

The main culprit in the destabilisation of the world and the installation of systems that nurture uncontrollable inequality, unemployment, poverty, drug abuse, criminality, listlessness, disregard for law and order, and anarchy among the youth of today is the devil’s brew concocted by colonialism, race segregation and oppression: class organisation. The evil masters of the world are in unison drivers of a system that teaches the children that only a certain standard (the ruling class’ standard) is the right one to focus upon.

A poor child growing in Africa is daily doused in a barrel of the devil’s brew of lies that are formulated to make him or her think that the only right standards to follow are from the West. That the resources to attain such stilted heights of ‘success’ are systematically gauged to lack in his or her part of the world is a reality the youth are not made aware of. Many drink the lies of the West in huge gulps served from kegs full of bullpoo disguised as ‘success’. The world is a classed entity, and whether you agree or disagree is dependent upon your level of gullibility and naivety.

The youth, I believe, must first assess their state of being and the state of their society’s being before making rash decisions to follow in the footsteps of the celebrity they are taught to worship by the media houses of the world that are largely owned by members of a ‘high’ class resident in some plush mansion in the exclusive suburbias of the First World. Those that end up in criminal activity are more often than less in pursuit of some standard foreign to their immediate vicinity or domicile. And of what use is the foreign if the only application it finds on local turf incites children into criminality? The youth must first learn to love their locale before they try to be something they see on the TV screen. What the youth of today are forced to watch on the screen is the “Expensive Sh#@%” Fela Kuti speaks against in his lyrics.

There are messages interspersed in the various books of history, in the lyrics of those musicians that truly stood for the rights of the youth of this world, because they knew that the children of the world are indeed the future of humanity. The political lie goes on to show pictures of a dead Hector Peterson 40 years after a policeman’s bullet took his life away. What we need to see are pictures of his life, that is, what he really stood for and believed in, without inciting the youth of today into the violent tantrums and episodes of looting and burning they often go into.

The politician should know that he is the primary teacher of society, and that what he teaches in his orations lands on the ears of the youth. The politician must at all times be aware that the old adage, “small jars have big ears,” is true: the youth, due to their inexperience, will often consider what is said by a public figure in government as true. Many of the speeches that are made this month portray the youth of 1976 as heroes, and of course they are, but if the violence of June 16 is portrayed as a valiant act the youth of today should mirror, then we are losing the plot: for the truth of the moment is that the previously oppressed majority own the government, and teaching the heroics of the violence of the past is no different to shooting oneself in the leg. New lessons need to be taught to the children, and the truth of the moment should form the mainstay of the lessons taught. Speaking of the violence of the past just so that one can garner in votes is miseducation.

The majority of the ruling class in Africa are the products of colonial education; that their ways will tend towards the imperialist tendencies of colonialism should be of no surprise to the youth seeking to rid him or herself of colonial tendencies. The lessons one receives from observing the ruling classes make it easy for one to make this conclusion: we need to rid ourselves of the oppressive ways of the colonist and the segregationist first to progress. That we treat each other based on class, race, religion, and political affiliation is the direct result of the lessons taught by history, and to move forward into a harmonious future, we should first get rid of the mentalities the history of the world and the continent taught to us.

BOB MARLEY: They don't want to see us unite, All they want us to do is keep on fussing and fighting -Top Ranking

BOB MARLEY: They don’t want to see us unite, All they want us to do is keep on fussing and fighting -Top Ranking

One can never hope to beat the debauched ways of the colonist and the oppressor, if they become the colonist and oppressor themselves. Tell me not that this is not the truth, for visionaries like Chris Hani, Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali, King Moshoeshoe I, Mahatma Ghandi and other heroes of the struggle for human freedom speak against it in their words. King Moshoeshoe I spoke against nepotism in his words when he taught that we should not view each other in the light of race and ethnicity.

The Basotho became one nation made of many different tribes because this wise king knew that the only thing he could do to unite people in the midst of raging Lifaqane wars was embracing the difference/s between the many different tribes and melding them into one harmonious philosophy of governance. Modern day political leaders could gain much from this lesson if they realised one fact: the state and the unity of the citizens is of more essence than petty party politics. The youth should refrain from engaging in political activities that focus on dividing them as a nation. Politics are not more important than keeping the beautiful spirit of neighbourliness salient to the running of a good society and progressive state.

Bob Marley wrote two songs whose words reverberate in one’s mind if such one is a human being that needs to see the world progress in harmony. The songs Top Ranking and Babylon System present a clear picture as to why the world is forever stuck in the clutches of chaos; the top ranks of the world deal with the developing world in a manner that incites such malaises as civil war and endless strife. The standards set present violence as the only solution to solving conflicts that would otherwise be amicably solved if the youth were made aware of the sour grapes of war’s wrath.

That young women and men are taught at school to ‘succeed’ at ‘all costs’ regardless of the needs of their fellow citizens is a lesson one should ignore, for one’s success is in reality the result of the concerted efforts of other known and unknown human individuals. The success of an engineer in his career is determined by the often uneducated labourers on his projects, and the success of a banker depends on the deposits made by the various individuals using the services of his banking institution. There is never success made in isolation: all are involved in a harmonious circle of unity. The politician that makes it into parliament and government should never forget the voters in his support and in his opposition; all are involved in justifying his place in running the state. The youth must never forget that their success depends on the relationships they have with other people; their success can never be achieved in isolation, and they first they must rid themselves of the chains of histories past.

One can never see his or her dream succeed if they have their mind stuck in the past or listens to the sermons of the priests of division and oppression. Nelson Mandela always referred to the philosophy of Ubuntu which teaches the simple lesson that:

I am, because we are.

He did not teach that some are smarter than others because they followed a certain religion or philosophy, or, that they were better beings because they belonged to a certain race, creed, or, were affiliates to a certain political party.  Muhammad Ali echoes these words in his quote when he states:

The greatest victory in life is to rise above the material things that we once valued most.

The world the youth of today live in is steeped in a mentality of materialism, and materialism breeds selfishness, and selfishness soon grows into violence; for the selfish individual soon believes they have the right to own everything regardless of the prevailing conditions. We are a continent rich in minerals or natural resources, but the poverty gaps are in many states abysmal. This is due to imperialist principles of colonialism, and we can only turn the tide if we teach our youth to be more considerate of the condition of others. After all, one can never truly be in the absence of others. This is the basic truth of life. So the youth should know.  

  1. S. Mothibi, Esq.

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We need a coordinated approach on youth challenges

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For a number of good reasons, all of us are concerned about problems that face Lesotho’s young people, particularly youth unemployment, and the increasing tendency towards anti-social behaviour among sections of Lesotho youth including their increasing admiration for criminality.

Not only do members of such groups admire criminality and actually commit crimes but they commit crimes without much care as to the harm and other costs that their actions inflict on immediate victims and on society-at-large.

Evidence of public concern about these problems includes the fact that within society individuals, groups and public and private institutions have all expressed concerns over problems facing the youth, with some of these parties making attempts to come up with ideas and measures to assist.

However, a number of problems seem to be emerging on, at least, three fronts. Firstly, a seeming lack of coordination in addressing problems that face young people. Secondly, lack of clarity on questions of whether (a) parties that seek to assist are basing their interventions on credibly identified sources of problems that face young people; and (b) whether any credible assessments are made to ensure that interventions such parties are proposing and implementing have potential to solve problems that face Lesotho’s young people.

There are many examples of what may seem to us, members of the general public, to be lack of coordination in approaches to solve problems facing young people. One such example may be sufficient. On January 8, 2024, Lesotho TV broadcast a statement in which the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) authorities announced establishment of some army facility where Basotho young people would be taught some values, including patriotism.

The very next day, on January 9, 2024, Lesotho TV broadcast another statement, this time by the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) authorities, announcing the LMPS’s plan to establish a police facility at which young people would be taught anti-crime and other values. In their essence, the LMPS’s plan sounded not totally dissimilar to LDF’s.
Apart from the LDF and LMPS’s plans for Lesotho’s youth, there are also public and private sector initiatives to nurture and support entrepreneurial talents of Lesotho’s youth with a view, among others, to fight youth unemployment and develop the country’s private sector.

Politicians have also been seen to sponsor football games for young people in their constituencies with a view, they say, to keep young people from crime and narcotics. These events cannot be criticised too much but given that they are one, or two-day events that take place during specific times, they look more like publicity stunts.

National sports federations are now complaining that politicians who sponsor these events put too much stress on sports as a means to fight crime. What federations want is that, if politicians want to help, they should stress the importance of sports as careers, and sponsor young people to develop their sporting talents accordingly.

Amidst expressions of concerns and various parties’ attempts to address problems facing Lesotho youth, public authorities that we have not heard from, or from who we do not hear enough, are those charged with responsibilities over precisely problems facing young people; that is, authorities at the Ministry of Youth.

Admittedly, we do not know if the initiatives of the LDF, LMPS, and others are carried out in consultation with or with the blessing of the Ministry of Youth.

The worry ought to be not only whether interventions of the LDF, LMPS, and others have the blessings of the Ministry of Youth. Instead, the worry should extend to the question of whether the Ministry has any national plan to address problems facing young people. And, if such a plan exists, we would expect that it identifies the LDF and LMPS as places where young place can be coached; and initiatives of these and other institutions would align with such a plan.

Without an identification of the army and the police as implementing agencies of the Ministry’s plan, and without the army and police’s initiatives alignment with the Ministry’s plan, at least two things are likely to result: duplication of effort — as seems to be the case with the LDF and LPMS plans; or, at worst, LDF and LMPS plans might contradict and undermine national plans entrusted to the Ministry of Youth.

In the worst case scenario that a national plan does not exist, we face the danger that anybody wishing to address problems facing Lesotho’s young people can do so, basing herself, or himself on a personal or group perception, and implementing plans and solutions based on such perception.

As in the case of too many people stirring the same cooking pot without coordination, undesirable consequences can be expected from a situation where just about anybody can apply a solution to a public problem.

As hinted above, a good national plan aimed at addressing problems that face Lesotho’s young people would have two characteristics, at least. First, it would be based on our assertion of the kind of society we want to be; an investigation of problems that stand in the way of achieving such a society; how such problems can be overcome, say, through school curricula; and how, in general, from Early Childhood Care & Development (ECCD), young people can be brought up and socialised in ways that ensure they will be useful members of a society we wish to be.

Any action that is not based on an investigation of the problems that stand in the way of achieving a society we want to be has little chances of success. Such action would be based on some understanding that the young who are anti-social, unpatriotic and criminals are naturally bad people.

It is, of course, not as simple as that. For example, one possible explanation for the absence of patriotism among young people may have something to do with socio-economic inequality in Lesotho: those who are closed out of, and excluded from, benefiting from Lesotho’s wealth and power cannot be expected to be patriots.

A second characteristic of a plan aimed at addressing problems that face Lesotho’s young people is that, such a plan should identify and/or establish institutions designed — and with appropriate skills — to implement ideas and proposals that come out of credible investigations.

It is unclear whether the LDF and LMPS plans have resulted from something like considerations suggested above. While it is admitted that these institutions’ initiatives are limited to addressing problems of lack of patriotism and criminality among the young people, one clear problem with their plans and solutions is that, it might be the case that they are catching young people a little late, when schooling and general socialisation have already entrenched anti-social values that we see among sections of young people; namely, individualism and the inability to think of others.

In one word, these institutions catch these young people when tendencies towards criminality, anti-social behaviour, and lack of patriotism might have already hardened.
Perhaps the biggest hope we should have is that the army and the police will have full complement of resources necessary for providing full and wholesome mentoring to young people who undergo army and police mentoring.

Short of adequate resources necessary for achieving what the army and the police have in mind, we might end up with cohorts of young people with a faulty army and police culture that may come back to haunt us. Inserting a faulty army culture among a section of young people brought us bitter results in the 1970s and 1980s that should not be repeated.

To conclude, no one can argue against all of us being concerned with problems of youth unemployment; increasing tendencies of young people’s admiration of criminality and their participation in crime. And no one can argue against all of us coming up with ideas and proposals of how to address these problems.

However, our concerns and proposals ought to be based on:
a nationally-agreed assertion of society we want to be;
a credible investigation of difficulties that stand in the way of us becoming society we want to be;

and coordination of proposals and ideas aimed at becoming society we want to be.

As with other specific instances of socio-economic development in Lesotho, problems facing the country’s young people cry out for the long-neglected establishment of the National Planning Board, as prescribed in Section 105 of the Constitution of Lesotho.

Prof Motlatsi Thabane

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Call that a muffin?

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In Oscar Wilde’s short story “The Canterville Ghost” (1887) one of the characters says about the British, “We have everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.” Between American English and British English there are many, many differences. Which is not to say that either American or British English are standardised; there are multiple varieties within each. As a south-western Brit I can find it difficult to fully understand what someone from Liverpool or Newcastle is saying.

I remember one year during the NUL’s International Theatre for Development project we had a student from the islands of Scotland. She was brilliant and hard-working and full of good ideas — if only one could understand the ideas when she introduced them. The NUL students grouped together and asked me: “Chris, can you translate what Kirsty is saying for us?” and I replied: “I’m as lost as you are.”

Between American and British English it’s not just a matter of pronunciation but also of vocabulary (I’ll be coming to muffins — see the title of this piece — in a while) and spelling.
In the biographical film Prick Up Your Ears British, dramatist Joe Orton shares a room with Ken Halliwell and they decide to write a novel together. Ken asks Joe “can you spell?” and Joe replies “yes, but not accurately.”

This is hardly a surprise, given that he’s a Brit. The American spelling system is far more regular and rational than the British. (Readers with laptops will have noticed that your spell-check gives the option of British or American spelling, but that doesn’t help you as in Lesotho the British system is used, so for the time being you’re stuck with it).

I mean, what can you say about a spelling system where “plough” rhymes with “now”, but “tough” rhymes with “stuff”– and “now” doesn’t rhyme with “low.” Yipes (as the Americans say). When I was lecturing in Lesotho and in Nigeria and marking assignments I was always very lenient over spelling, because I know what a mountain it is to climb (the latter word rhyming with “time”, of course).

Then there is the matter of vocabulary or denotation (a term I hope readers remember from a few weeks back). There are many examples of things that are denoted by different words in British and American English: lift / elevator; pavement / sidewalk; windscreen / windshield; petrol / gas; cinema / movie theater (and look at the American spelling of (Brit) “theatre”– a lot easier). And some of these reflect our different histories.

For example, there’s a vegetable, a kind of small marrow, the British call it a courgette (one of my favourite vegetables, in case any of you are planning to invite me for dinner). That’s a word that British English has borrowed directly from French — that is, a loan word (I’m not sure we plan to give it back).

The Americans on the other hand call it a zucchini, a loan word from Italian, which I guess reflects the size and influence of the Italian community in the USA. (Speaking of vegetables, I can’t give you an explanation for why the Brits call an aubergine an aubergine — another loan word from French — but the Americans call it an egg-plant).

Next week I’ll get around to muffins — a sore point — and I’ll move on to differences between English and French and between Sesotho and Setswana. Bet you can’t wait.

Chris Dunton is a former Professor of English and Dean of Humanities at the National University of Lesotho.

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Lessons from Israel: Part 3

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I shall round off my account of my 1995 trip to Israel by putting on my tour guide cap. Staying in Tel Aviv, most days were fully taken up by the conference, which was my reason for being there. Tel Aviv in July is scorchingly hot, so there were walks along the beach only before breakfast and after sunset. I did take a little time off to go with South African author Stephen Gray to an art gallery that had a painting he wanted to see (a portrait by Modigliani of Beatrice Hastings, whose biography Stephen was then writing).

I wasn’t especially keen on the hotel restaurant, where dinner comprised meat served by the ton (surprisingly little fish, given that we were on the coast. By contrast, I had always been surprised and happy that Maseru restaurants are so good on fish, despite the fact that Lesotho isn’t exactly maritime). But I discovered a little Russian Jewish restaurant that offered Beluga caviar at an amazingly cheap price. I suspect it had fallen off the back of a lorry, as we say in the UK — i.e. that it was contraband, acquired illegally. I just blinked innocently and enjoyed myself. I can’t think of a more delicious way of starting a meal than with caviar, freshly-made blinis and a large glass of deeply chilled Wyberowa vodka — no ice, please. (I only say all this to show you what a very cosmopolitan chap I am).

The conference ran to a packed schedule and we worked hard (no, really). Half-way through we were given a day off and taken to Jerusalem. On arrival I teamed up with an old Nigerian friend and a friend of his from Senegal and we took ourselves first to the Dome of the Rock, the main mosque, which is splendid and radiant (wow, the mosaics!) Then we saw the Wailing Wall.

Then we trudged up the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Via marks the route along which Christ was forced to carry his cross on the way to his crucifixion (dolorosa means something like “of miseries”). I had expected it to be lined with sculptures showing the Stations of the Cross (rather like the lovely ones at Fatima, near Ramabanta).

Instead it was one tourist gift shop after another. Here I came across one of the most repugnant things I’ve seen in my life. Proudly displayed for sale, a wall clock with the face adorned with the image of the head of Christ, the two clock hands protruding from his nose.

At the top of the Via Dolorosa, the fourth century Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest site in the world for Christians, which is breathtakingly beautiful. The interior is (not visibly) divided into sections, the upkeep of each of which is the responsibility of one of the major denominations: Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Greek Orthodox, Egyptian Coptic, and so on. I had had the impression this was an arrangement worked out under the colonial regime of British Palestine, but Google tells me it dates back to the Status Quo of 1757.

My companions had done their homework and suggested we head first for the roof, which had been allocated to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (dare one possibly suggest a tinge of racism in this marginalisation?). There we found a cluster of monkish cells, each inhabited by an elderly Ethiopian monk, at least two of whom spoke English or French. They were delighted to see us, and utterly sweet, hospitable, and in their accounts of their pastoral work spellbinding.

To be concluded

Chris Dunton

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