Political leadership — a cause of instability?
For 50 years, Lesotho has experienced political instability in different ways. These include the refusal to accept election outcomes in 1966 and 1998; coup d’états in 1970, 1986, and 1994, military rule in 1986-1993, army mutinies in 1998 and 2015, formation of a government in parliament by a party which had not contested elections in 1997 and 2012, post-election violence, leading to Southern African Development Community (SADC) intervention, in 1998, 2007 and 2014-2016, a collapse of the first three-party coalition government, (accompanied by party-politically-inspired mutinous conduct within the army in 2014), the formation of the second seven party coalition government (following the February, 2015, snap elections), the assassination of the former commander of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), the army’s arrest, torture and detention of some members of the LDF on allegations of mutiny, and the fleeing of three leaders of opposition parties (as well as many Basotho from different walks of life) to South Africa, in 2015.
This chapter looks at the extent to which the political leadership challenge has contributed to persistent political instability in Lesotho for the past fifty years. It argues that lack of leadership skills among those who have ruled Lesotho in the last fifty years has contributed to political instability in, at least three ways.
Firstly, even before independence, Lesotho’s political elite have always placed their own political survival and control of the state resources above broad-based social and economic development of the country. This has contributed to political instability in that the country has experienced incessant self-serving power struggles by the political elites as they tried to capture the state.
Secondly, once in power, each of the sections of the political elite have established neo-patrimonialism and used the state apparatus to suppress political opposition, or to exact revenge on their perceived and real enemies. This has contributed to political instability in that a vicious cycle of corruption and counter revenge/retribution has developed.
Thirdly, the political elite have failed to build an inclusive nation. Instead they have formed narrow coalitions, often backed by their military allies, in pursuit of self-interested and ill-advised policy decisions.
This style of political leadership which has contributed to political instability and has deeply divided and polarised Basotho society has been allowed to flourish by factors such as the country’s dismal labour reserve history, lack of industrialisation and heavy dependence by the petty-bourgeios actors upon state employment in order to realise their material aspirations.
Leadership Challenges in Post-independent Africa
Scholars, observers and commentators of independent Africa lament the failure of the continent’s political leaders to translate the hope of the continent’s citizens into prosperity, peace and political stability in Africa. Various reasons have been advanced to explain the absence of prosperity, peace and stability. Principal among these is the leadership challenge.
Chris Ekene Mbah (2013:142) argues that the “fundamental cause of African underdevelopment and conflicts lies in the vicious leadership in the continent from the 1960s.” Robert Rotberg (2004: 28) is more damning of African leaders. He describes them as “ . . . poor, even malevolent; predatory kleptocrats; autocrats, whether democratically elected or military-installed; simple-minded looters; economic illiterates. . . ” Martin Meredith (2005: 162) described the first generation of African leaders as people who enjoyed great prestige and high honour.
They were seen to personify the states they led and swiftly took advantage to consolidate their control. From the outset, most sought a monopoly of power; most established a system of personal rule and encouraged personality cults.
In short, some scholars of post-independence Africa have blamed political leadership challenge for the economic, political and social woes that the continent’s people face. Political leadership, according to them, refers to a high-profile behaviour of the often-charismatic individual who occupies the top executive political office in the land as either a prime minister or a president.
In this chapter, an expanded conception of leadership that focuses on coalitions of elites is employed. Following Adrian Leftwich (2009:50), elites are those “small groups of leaders . . . (who occupy) positions of authority and power in public or private organisations or sectors.” Of special interest to this paper are the political elites who occupy positions in the apparatus of the state; they include the security sector, the leaders of political parties who seek to obtain state power, members of parliament; and so on.
The chapter takes the form of an analytic narrative organised chronologically by historical periods. The periods covered are from Lesotho’s independence in 1966, to 2016. Political instability is examined under six periods during which processes of elite coalition formation and decision-making took place:
l) Constitutional conflicts, 1966-1970;
l) Authoritarian rule, 1970-1986;
l) Military rule, 1986-1993;
l) Fragile democracy, 1993-2002;
l) One-party dominant system, 2002-2012;
l) Unstable coalitions, 2012-2016.
It shows how, since independence, the political elites, whether civilian or military, have embarked in bitter struggles to capture the state for their own benefit and that of their supporters. B. M. Khaketla (1972:11) puts it more aptly when he says that Basotho political elites were [are] “self-seeking and power-hungry.” According to K. Matlosa (1997:95) they “ . . . invest more energy and resources on annihilating the opposition than on ensuring social stability and economic development.” The result has been perpetual political instability.
Background: an Unstable Road to Independence
The early 1960s, leading to independence in 1966, were characterised by instability caused by political leaders of the Basutoland Congress Party, BCP, and the Basotho National Party, BNP, as they vied for state power following the pre-independence elections of 1965 which would lead the country to independence, in 1966.
There was also the Paramount Chief who sought extra powers beyond those recommended by the Constitutional Commission of 1963 and finally given to the Constitutional Monarch by the Lesotho Independence constitution of 1966. These actors and their activities were the causes of political instability.
In early 1962, following pressure from all political parties for a rapid transition from representative to responsible government, a Constitutional Commission made up of the main political parties and the chiefs was appointed by Motlotlehi Moshoeshoe II, following the motion (No.62) passed by the Basutoland National Council, BNC, on 19 September, 1961 to make proposals for, among others, the introduction of self-government (Report of the Basutoland Constitutional Commission, 1963:22).
The Commission’s Report of 1963, was adopted by the BNC in February, 1964, as a basis for negotiations with the British Government.
This Report recommended a new pre-independence Constitution, for Basutoland, “which, after a defined interim period of preparation, might with minimum change and maximum ease become the Independence Constitution” (Report of the Basutoland Independence Conference,1966:3). It also recommended that the Paramount Chief should be a constitutional monarch at independence.
Finally, for purposes of this paper and as part of independence, parliamentary elections were to be held in 1965. It was precisely the 1965 elections and the position of the monarch that would constitute the main causes of instability leading to independence and beyond.
The 1965 elections took place under the new Constitution on 29 and 30 April and their outcome surprised not only the BNP but also the BCP.
The BNP won 41.63 percent of the vote and 31 of the 60 seats while the BCP won 39.66 percent of the vote and 25 seats and the MFP won 16.49 percent of the vote and 4 seats (Report of the Basutoland Independence Conference,1966:4).
These results gave the BNP a narrow majority as government and exposed its lack of popular support in that the Opposition parties between them polled 58.37 percent. It, however, fell on the BNP leadership to steer the country to independence. In this endeavour, the victorious BNP government was bitterly opposed by the BCP whose leaders, according to Pule and Thabane (2010:23),
. . . fearing political persecution by a BNP government, found themselves having to make a number of about-turns and modifications to their stances: they made common cause with the paramount chief and supported his bid for certain powers, including control over the internal and external affairs; they advocated the formation of a government of national unity; and they tried to lobby the National Assembly to vote for the postponement of Lesotho’s independence.
As reported in the Report of the Basutoland Independence Conference (1966:6) Ntsu Mokhehle, the leader of the Opposition and of the BCP argued that:
. . . conditions for independence set out, inter alia, in paragraph 8 of the 1964 Conference Report had not been fulfilled and that there should be further consultation with the people of Basutoland, either through new elections or through a referendum before a date for independence was fixed.
He maintained that Basutoland (as Lesotho was known then) was not yet prepared and was being rushed into independence. He also maintained that there was
. . . an open breach between the Paramount Chief and the Prime Minister and that this, together with fears that the Basutoland Government would allow the country to be turned into a Bantustan by South Africa, had caused a great deal of public unease.
On the position of the Paramount Chief, the BNP government was adamant that he would be a constitutional monarch as unanimously recommended in the Constitutional Commission Report, of 1963 and subsequently accepted by all those attending the 1964 Constitutional Conference of that year.
According to B. M. Khaketla (1972:84-85), at the Independence Conference at Lancaster House in London, in June, 1966, Chief Jonathan, the leader of the BNP, emphasised their position as follows:
Perhaps I should emphasise the Government’s attitude in regard to the position of the Paramount Chief. You will recall, Mr. Secretary, that in Section 11 of Command Paper 2371, the British Government undertook that it would not seek to amend the provisions of the Constitution relating to the status and functions of Motlotlehi except at the request of the Parliament of Basutoland.
This matter was debated at length in Parliament recently and all amendments proposing that the Paramount Chief should have greater discretionary powers were defeated. My Government would not wish to depart from this position, both in the interests of stable Government in Basutoland and in the interests, let me emphasise, of the Paramount itself.
It was at this conference that the British government rejected all the BCP’s proposals and accepted the BNP government proposals for independence as well as its stance on the Paramount Chief.
Realising that they had been defeated, the BCP and MFP delegates withdrew from the conference while the Paramount Chief refused to sign the independence agreement. The seeds for post-independence constitutional conflicts leading to political instability were sown and would germinate with dire consequences for the country during the emergent democratic dispensation of 1965-1970.
At independence, on 4 October, 1966, the stage had been set for constitutional conflicts that would dog the later part of the 1960s. These conflicts led to political instability as the Monarch, assisted by the opposition parties, confronted and attempted to dislodge the BNP-led government from power.
These constitutional conflicts emanated from the constitutional position of the Monarch. The issues revolved around whether the Paramount Chief, who, after independence and full separation from Great Britain, would be designated “King”, “should be strictly ceremonial” or he would have functions “including control over police and military…” (Khaketla, 1972:11)
Immediately after the declaration of Lesotho’s independence, the struggle for power between King Moshoeshoe II and the BNP-led government reached a crisis, as the monarch refused to accept the terms of the constitution which allowed him only ceremonial functions and minimal powers to appoint. According to Weisfelder (1969:23), the king “appeared to believe that ‘peaceful disturbances,’ were now the appropriate means of compelling the Prime Minister to accept his demands for immediate constitutional amendments.”
In pursuance of his goal, Moshoeshoe II conducted a series of lipitso (public gatherings) around the country. He was supported by opposition BCP and MFP. In calling and attending the meeting, the king was defying Jonathan’s ‘advice,’ and Jonathan said it was an attempt to depose him. This is why he was determined to crush it. The culmination of these lipitso was what the king and his supporters called a national prayer to be held on top of Thaba Bosiu, national shrine, in 1967.
Neither the king nor the opposition supporters reached the top of the mountain. Moshoeshoe II was apprehended by police as he approached the mountain, and opposition supporters who had assembled on the mountain were violently dispersed by the Police Mobile Unit (PMU), formed in 1964. An estimated ten people died from police bullets while several were injured (Khaketla, 1972:147).
In order to pre-empt further unconstitutional activities of the King, (Khaketla, 1972: 152) asserts that on the 5 January, 1967, the “College of Chiefs and the Cabinet compelled the King to sign an agreement…” The provisions of this agreement were that the king, among other things, undertook to cooperate with his government, respect the constitution and refrain from organising lipitso without the knowledge and consent of his government. Failure to abide by the conditions of the document meant that he could be taken as having voluntarily abdicated.
This ‘agreement’ marked the end of the constitutional conflicts between the Monarch and his government. In as far as the opposition was concerned, its ability to continue to challenge the government was contained through the latter’s use of violence, via the agency of the PMU, which was routinely deployed by the government against its opponents, and to quell uprisings in the country during this period and thereafter.
These developments did not, however, mean that the government had managed to increase its popular control and to reduce “the cleavages that divided the (Basotho)nation.” (Bardill and Cobbe, 1983:129) The routine use of the security forces by the government since independence marked a steady move toward authoritarian rule.
Authoritarian Rule, 1970-1986
The year 1970 was a landmark year for the country. On the positive side, it ushered in the first post-independence general elections of the 27 January, 1970, which, by all accounts, were relatively free and fair.
They were won by the BCP with 49.9 percent of the votes and 36 seats, while the BNP got 42.2 percent and 23 seats, and the MFP got 7.3 percent of votes and 1 seat (Macartney, 1973: 493).
On the negative side, the year 1970 ushered in a dark period of sixteen years of civilian authoritarian rule followed by seven years of military rule. Matlosa (1997:95) aptly describes events that unfolded in the aftermath of 1970 elections as contributing to political instability because:
. . . not only . . . [were they] a clear breach or violation of democratic culture and practice, but … [they] laid a firm ground for authoritarian rule. That rule proceeded through both repression and accommodation of opposition elements aimed mainly at entrenching the BNP political elite in power and keeping the BCP at bay. Repression was anchored upon the security establishment while accommodation rested on patronage and pork-barrel politics.
It all began when Chief Jonathan of the BNP, instead of handing over power to Ntsu Mokhehle, the leader of the BCP, annulled the general elections results, declared a state of emergency, suspended the constitution, put the king under house-arrest and, later, sent him into exile, and arrested and detained the opposition leaders.
A violent repression of the opposition ensued, and the BNP regime asserted supremacy over the state by politicising the public service bureaucracy and the PMU. Throughout the 1970s, Chief Jonathan used carrot-and-stick to tighten his grip on power, but the situation remained volatile for much of his rule, until 1986. The ‘stick’ were the tactics that he used to entrench his regime in power. This included weakening, dividing and undercutting the opposition. In pursuit of the three objectives, for example, the Internal Security Act of 1974, which gave security agencies wide powers of detention and interrogation without trial, was widely used.
At the same time, the security forces were increased and complemented by the establishment of irregular militia of ardent BNP supporters, euphemistically known as Lebotho la Khotso (Peace Corps) (Bardill and Cobbe, 1985: 133). Both the state forces and the BNP vigilantes exacted untold misery on opponents of the government. Bardill and Cobbe (1985:134) quote the figure of more than 1 000 people who died at the hands of these forces, according to International Commission of Jurists of 1974.
The regime also embarked on politicising the public service. It started by purging those who were regarded as opposition supporters. Bardill and Cobbe (1985:134) report that following the 1970 coup, between 600 and 800 public servants were dismissed and their positions were given to BNP supporters. Local administration did not escape this onslaught. District and Development Committees were staffed by BNP supporters. N.W. Pule (2002:179) ominously predicted that “with issues of autonomy and neutrality of the public service having been compromised, the task of successive regimes has been to, at least, ensure a friendly public service which very often means having their own people in key positions.”
As part of the carrot, the regime disarmed its opponents by establishing an Interim National Assembly, in 1973, in place of the suspended elected legislature. Members of the Assembly were Jonathan’s nominees and not elected. Finally, a BCP contingent was successfully drawn into this interim body. Two years later, Jonathan formed a ‘government of national unity’, (Khokanyana ea Phiri–the first by that name), in 1975. Chief Jonathan allocated a cabinet post to G. P. Ramoreboli, deputy leader of the BCP, (who was then leading a faction opposed to Mokhehle), Patrick Lehloenya of the MFP and, later, C. D. Mofeli, leader of United Democratic Party (UDP).
Frustrated by these developments and widespread violent repression carried out by Chief Jonathan’s government, the BCP leadership outside the interim body attempted a poorly-organised uprising, early in 1974, which failed and resulted in many BCP leaders, including Mokhehle, fleeing into exile while others were jailed (Mphanya, 2004:69-88).
In response to the above tactics used by the BNP regime to consolidate its grip on power, the exiled BCP leadership launched the Lesotho Liberation Army (LLA) in 1979, with the sole objective of toppling the BNP regime through military means.
This noble/legitimate or desperate/infantile (depending which side one supports) response by the BCP leadership would not only exacerbate but also prolong political instability.
The LLA attacked strategic installations, including the blowing-up of the government petrol storage facility in Maseru, post offices, electricity stations and carrying out political assassinations of minister Jobo Rampeta and Koenyama Chakela, a high ranking BCP member who had returned to Lesotho, in 1980. The BNP regime and its supporters responded in kind and a vicious cycle of violence and counter violence ensued.
The BNP regime used heavy-handed methods to contain challenges directed at it. For example, it amended the Internal Security Act of 1974, in 1982 which
. . . progressively gave the government more repressive powers . . . [such as] detention without trial, death in detention involving political prisoners, torture, . . . the blanket criminalisation of communities regarded as pro-BCP (resulting refugee problem) and a number of deaths related to the political situation in the country. (Pule, 2002: 186).
Frustrated by more repression meted to BCP leadership and supporters by the BNP regime as well as LLA’s failure to topple the Jonathan regime, the exiled BCP leadership decided to collaborate with the apartheid regime, in South Africa, as the latter embarked on destabilisation of Southern African states that supported the South African Liberation Movements in the 1980s.
In return, the apartheid regime allowed the LLA to establish a base in QwaQwa and launch attacks against Jonathan’s regime from there. The attacks continued until the military overthrew the BNP regime, in 1986, with the support of the apartheid regime. (See Mothibe and Mushonga, 2013, for a detailed analysis of LLA’s destabilisation policy).
Under the conditions of authoritarianism, mismanagement of public funds and corruption thrived. The Report of the Auditor General on the Public Accounts of Lesotho (1982: 5 and 117) for the three years ending 31 March 1978 paints a total breakdown of financial fiscal discipline and a widespread culture of officials’ failure to comply with financial regulations. The Report stated that, the decade from 1968 to 1978 (during BNP rule):
. . . witnessed a progressive decline and laxity in the management of the financial affairs of the Government . . . Widescale financial indiscipline has led to disregard of financial regulations and instructions and has culminated in the breakdown of accounting controls that has reached catastrophic dimensions in recent years. In-built safeguards against financial irregularities have been vitiated, and this has presented opportunities for the perpetuation of peculation [embezzlement] and fraud which have escaped early detection.
The most worrying aspect of the Report was where it said the Ministry of Finance, led by a long-serving minister, E. R. Sekhonyana, refused to cooperate with the Auditor General, who lamented:
Of particular concern to me is the Ministry of Finance which, by various statutes and regulations, is charged with responsibility for the overall management of scarce financial resources of Lesotho, as well as of being the chief custodian of proper financial letters to the Permanent Secretary for Finance on extremely important issues affecting the disbursements of public funds, but I regret to report that one hundred and twenty of these memoranda, issued between July 1981, remain completely unanswered to date.
The repression that was meted out to the BCP leadership and its supporters by the BNP regime, the decision by the exiled BCP leadership to embark upon armed struggle which ended up with the LLA, and the mismanagement of public financial resources all show how the political elites spared no effort in pursuing political power and access to financial resources for themselves. In these processes, the political elites’ activities led to political instability which characterised this period.
Continued Next Week…….
Infidelity and mental health
People usually ask me why I chose psychology. For a simple reason of being fascinated by human behaviour. Which is usually followed by what is psychology? I recall I liked how it was explained during my psychopathology class, “The study of mental processes and behaviour. A science based on evidence which can be validated by using standard scientific measures.”
If I dive into science and psychometrics, I will not stop as this is my favourite part of my work in mental and behavioural health. With that bit of background let us get into it and talk about a topic sensitive to most, infidelity.
Do you know how sometimes people think their mental health has and will always be intact? Yes, this is that article which says wrong my friend! Every now and again something will happen that will shake the limbic system off its normal functioning. This is the time when your ability to process and regulate emotions gets to be on display.
I don’t know if readers remember back in the day, on the roadside by Mama’s Fast Food; adjacent to Sefika taxi rank, there used to be street vendors who had display of pirated famo music DVDs.
I mean the DVDs were right there for one to see, regardless of how illegal the DVDs were. That is kind of what it is with infidelity. When the other partner finds out, there is no going back. The ability to process emotions will be on display, much to the delight of onlookers and passersby.
That is the sad nature of infidelity. It leads to a spiral in hormones. There is usually elevated levels of anger for the partner being cheated on.
Whereas the one who is caught cheating is likely to experience elevated levels of cortisol. This can be seen in flight responses of running away or locking themselves in a Bed and Breakfast establishment as seen by show of screenshots at one of the local businesses at Ha-Matala this week.
I wish it were that simple whereby a man marries a woman, a woman feels unfulfilled, goes seeking fun with another partner, they get caught, the married partners divorce, the woman pursues a relationship with the new-found partner, the husband heals, the end! Let us be honest with one another, it is far more complex than that.
The biggest lie we have been told is that marriage is built on love. While this might be true for some people, I find that such marriages are not without their fair share of challenges.
Therefore, marriage is built on love and other things. For example, physical intimacy, intellectuality, spirituality, finances, and others. I am not sure if readers have encountered that one friend who wants a divorce because their partner is no longer physically enticing.
Does it not make you wonder why this specific friend will be contemplating divorce when their love for their partner is rock solid? Evidently, it becomes an issue of love and other factors that complement love. Now, imagine that you are the husband being cheated on.
You catch your wife red-handed, call family members to come and behold “mohlolo.” How does this affect you? How do you begin to process those emotions of betrayal when it feels like your mental health has never been shaken by anything?
How do you keep a brave face when you will be trending on social media and being used as a meme for other people to make fun of your pain? The expectation is that you forgive and forget about it or undergo an unsolicited divorce, right?
If you are by any chance an adult reader then you know that a hundred things ought to have happened leading up to a handful of cars parked outside a guest house at Ha-Matala. You know for sure that military officials when called by the guest house owner will come to remedy the situation and step-in, then what?
I fear that as adults we are not having intentional conversations about what builds a long-lasting marriage. We underplay and make a mockery of everyday life challenges that pose threats to marriages. We shush a wife that expresses being hesitant to take her husband to friend get-togethers because his English accent is not posh enough for the standard set in the friends group.
Shush her all you want, she will find Jerry with a suit tailor-made at Alice’s shop at Tradorette complex. For those that do not know Alice, she is of Asian descent, she is a tailor whose hand is so good that she has redefined the formal look for those that identify as the Maseru elite.
Jerry will take your Mrs out to that fancy dinner with friends until they make a quick stop at a Bed and Breakfast, one with a beautiful tree line and swans in the ponds. I know you know the one I am talking about.
Ask yourself some reflective questions about infidelity. Are people sorry that they cheated or that they were caught? Would they have stopped if they were not caught? If they swore on a love that is happily ever after, how on God’s green earth does something like that even happen?
One of the therapists whose work in relationships resonates with me says, “Relationships are a patchwork of unspoken rules and roles that we begin stitching on the first date. We set out to draft boundaries — what is in and what is out. The me, the you, and the us. Do we get to go out alone or do we do everything together? Do we combine our finances? Are we expected to attend every family reunion?”
I echo Esther Perel’s views in that any form of relationship requires that you have conversations about how things are expected to happen. I repeat, we take it for granted that we meet the love of our lives, whisk each other into a happily ever after-land. All good and well until Jerry comes along, remember Jerry with the suit and tie?
It becomes a mental health issue when trust is broken, and we lack the emotional regulation to navigate through betrayal. At most, the woman will invite her friends over and the theme of the get-together will be, “Let’s sip and cry together for my ending marriage.” The man will enlist the help of ma-gang, the boys, ma-authi to go over how women are a special kind of snakes. Or it can easily be the other way round. One of the most invalidating things you will struggle with is being repeatedly told that everyone gets cheated on.
You will be told that this is not new as our mothers and fathers experienced it, and their parents before that. You will experience intrusive thoughts of what you can potentially do to the individual that your partner cheated with.
You will have a renewed view of a love that lives happily ever after. You are guaranteed to question monogamy. Your thoughts, feelings and emotions will literally take over your brain’s functionality and this is all you will think about for a decent number of weeks. This will be until the emotions resolve themselves or you undergo a full blown emotional breakdown with psychotic episodes.
Not everyone that lives with a mental disorder was born with it. Some people that are admitted in psychiatric care underwent emotional breakdown caused by infidelity. As a psychotherapist, my wish is that couples talk about these issues before they become unmanageable marital problems and/or infidelity.
Couples refrain from having these intentional conversations of, “I am bored in marriage, I am no longer physically attracted to you, I yearn for whirlwind fun in my life, I am going through a midlife crisis, I fear ageing and not having done things I still want to do, etc.” It would seem that marital infidelity is the scapegoat, the easy way out. Whatever the case may be, love is easy, staying together in a committed relationship is the hard part.
When it feels like Jerry’s cologne smells nicer than your husband’s and you are starting to like basic things about him, like his uneven hairline and chapped lips…this is the perfect time to say, “Hey honey, I think we should talk to someone like mohlabolli.”
“The idea that infidelity can happen in the absence of serious marital problems is hard to accept.”-Esther Perel.
Until Next Time!!!
‘Makamohelo Malimabe works as a Psychotherapist. She holds a Master’s in Counseling Psychology. She has certifications in Global Health Delivery, Policy Development & Advocacy in Global Health, Leadership & Management in Health, as well as Fundamentals in Implementation Science. Her views are independent and not representative of her professional roles. She is ambitious about equitable health delivery, health policy and decolonised mental health approaches.
Observations on African Literature
Recently I strayed upon Lewis Nkosi’s very thought-provoking views on African literature. The South African writer and academic has inspired and inspiring thoughts that led me to want to randomly revisit observations made by writers and scholars on aspects of African Literature and African writers.
“The African novel in the European languages is sometimes damned for its double ancestry which is both African and European,” begins Lewis Nkosi in one of his essays.
He proceeds and says that the African novel is “the bastard child of many cultures and genres, the accumulator of many styles and traditions… and that the African novel therefore, cannot properly reflect African reality.” Quite a mouthful.
It is in this context that the debate on the appropriate language of African literature alone is interesting. Cyprian Ekwensi, another great African writer, makes very interesting comments about this matter and others. Speaking to Bernth Lindfors way back in 1973, Ekwensi says that “the Igbo writer has the unfortunate heritage of finding himself in an atmosphere of controversy…because today the authorised form of Igbo is spoken seldom, if at all. I am free to tell a story in Igbo to my parents or my friends, but if I wrote that same story, it would not be acceptable as standard Igbo…”Ekwensi says that for that reason alone.
Many of his earliest works are in English and not his Igbo language. “My original folk tales are in Igbo but they were not acceptable without proper editing by the authorities who controlled written Igbo.” In Cyprian Ekwensi’s great English novel, Burning Grass, there is a delicious and delicate use of the supernatural called the sokugo or the wandering charm.
The story revolves around a series of adventures involving the Fulani in the Sunsaye family, particularly Mai Sunsaye, head of the household and chief of Dokan Toro.
Cyprian Ekwensi grew up in the northern part of Nigeria and as a result of his contact with the Fulani, he was able to appreciate their culture which he portrays through his first novel titled Burning Grass, one of his best novels. It was published in 1962 in the African writer’s Series Collection.
Asked on the African writer’s dilemma of trying to reach a wider audience versus the need to write in African languages, prominent Ghanaian author, Ama Ata Aidoo says that she worries a lot about writing in English, a language “that is not accessible to our people.”
Aidoo continues and says that she is, however, acutely aware that “writing in English makes it possible for me or any African writer to communicate with other people throughout the continent who share their colonial language….I have not pretended to myself that I have an answer. I have also thought that, whilst one is aware of the language issue as big, it is better for a writer to write in English, than not to write at all.”
The debate over the language of African literature has continued to generate significant interest ever since the emergence of African literary writing in European languages. The writers and critics who gathered at Makerere in Uganda in June 1962 at a conference called: “A Conference of African Writers of English Expression” faced the fundamental question of determining who qualified as an African writer and what qualified as African writing.
Was it literature produced in Africa or about Africa? Could African literature be on any subject, or must it have an African theme? Should it embrace the whole continent or South of the Sahara, or just black Africa? And then the question of language. Should it be in indigenous African languages or should it include Arabic, English, French, Portuguese, Afrikaans, and so on?
A year later, a Nigerian critic, Obi Wali, writing in the famous essay “The Dead End of African Literature” in Transition 10 said:
“Perhaps the most important achievement of the conference … is that African literature as now defined and understood leads nowhere.”
He declared that the literature written in European languages did not qualify as African literature. He further pointed out that until African writers accept the fact that any true African literature must be written in African languages, they would be merely pursuing a dead end.
Although Chinua Achebe countered Wali’s position, Ngugi wa Thiongo embraced it, transforming the call for a return to African languages into a critical crusade that has lasted for more than three decades.
Achebe’s argument is as follows:
“Those of us who have inherited the English language may not be in a position to appreciate the value of the inheritance. Or we may go on resenting it because it came as part of a package deal which included many other items of doubtful value and the pos¬itive atrocity of racial arrogance and prejudice, which may yet set the world on fire. But let us not in rejecting the evil, throw out the good with it.”
However, in his book of essays called “Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature,” Ngugi describes the damaging effects of colonialism on African literature, education, and culture. Ngugi describes the conflict between the economic effects of imperialism, still present in Africa, and the need for economic and cultural independence for African people. Ngugi views language and literature as playing a central role in this struggle. He asserts that language is essential to people’s self-perception and to their view of the universe.
He laments that despite his former status as only a student with one major publication, at the time of the Makerere meeting, he was invited while all the prominent Gikuyu writers were not. He describes the ways in which the colonial education system changed African perceptions of their language, and by extension, of themselves. He recounts the divide that he and other African children experienced between the languages of their home and the language of schooling. He retells his experiences of severe punishments that were inflicted on African children for speaking their native tongues in school. Some of the most brutal instances, which Ngugi recounts, include corporal punishment, humiliation, and fines. As a result, Ngugi declared that he would return to writing only in Gikuyu.
It is often stated that the Zimbabwean writer, Dambudzo Marechera looked down upon his mother tongue, Shona. On 6 May, 1982, it appears as if Marechera put his so-called diatribe against Shona into context. He is quoted by Veit Wild in 2004 as having said at a gathering:
“In Zimbabwe,” he declared, “we have these two great indigenous languages, ChiShona and SiNdebele”…”Who wants us to keep writing these ShitShona and ShitNdebele languages, this missionary chickenshit? Who else but the imperialists?”
Marechera could have been putting forward the argument that the kind of Shona and Ndebele narratives churned out from the 1950’s to 1980, were heavily manipulated by the establishment through the Southern Rhodesian Literature Bureau. A thorough study on this matter reveals that the Bureau was created in 1956 as part of the Ministry of Information. Its salient objective was to direct the novel along “the path of least ideological resistance to the Rhodesian government.”
Its founding director, a Mr. Krog, set out to search for subversive material in every manuscript before it was published. This was counterproductive to the development of the novel in Shona and Ndebele rendering it generally ‘silent on contemporary socio-political crises’ and having characters who are ‘neutral on colonial economic policies.’ It is also argued that this saw the development of fiction ‘dabbling in stereotypes based on idealistic morality and caused ‘a dearth of exploratory historical fiction.’
As a result of these influences, the Shona novel is torn between protesting against colonialism and, ironically, persuading the reader that colonialism delivered the black folk into modernity and a higher plane of existence.
The new urban setting is portrayed as destroying the Shona people’s well being, their harmony and decency. Patrick Chakaipa’s Garandichauya (1963), for example, operates in the same mode. In this novel, the rise of the urban centre is the rise of wildness and immorality.
However, the veiled suggestion (in such works) that the black people should remain in the tribal trust lands, if they are going to make real sense of their lives, is rather startling.
Asked on what he thinks is the role of the African writer and African literature itself, Cyprian Ekwensi says, “I believe that the role of the writer is dictated by the social and political atmosphere in his country. If all the writers were locked up…they would find it difficult to do anything. But if writers were listened to as a voice, the warning voice or the voice of the prophet, Africa might benefit.”
This is more or less in line with Chinua Achebe’s views on the role of a writer in society. Achebe considered himself a teacher and lawgiver. He was aware that he was not just an artist but a cultural activist too. He felt deeply about the way Africans were looked down upon. He always hoped that maybe his books could straighten that up.
Achebe’s actual words are:
“The (African) writer cannot expect to be excused from the task of re-education and regeneration that must be done. In fact he should march right in front . . . I for one would not wish to be excused. I would be quite satisfied if my novels (especially the ones set in the past: Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God) did no more than teach my readers that their past – with all its imperfections – was not one long night of savagery from which the first Europeans acting on God’s behalf delivered them. Perhaps what I write is applied art as distinct from pure art. But who cares? Art is important but so is education of the kind I have in mind. And I don’t see that the two need be mutually exclusive…”
Kenyan writer Micere Mugo makes very critical observations on certain issues in African Literature. Through her scholarship and poetry, you quickly see that Micere Githae Mugo is an avowed Marxist, feminist and nationalist. Her position is informed by a nuanced understanding of African women in the context of history.
Talking to Adeola James in 1986, she says, “The kind of writer that I have a lot of time and respect for is a writer like Alex La Guma. I admire the fact that his writing was not only talking about struggle, but he was part and parcel of the struggle in South Africa. I admire somebody like Ngugi wa Thiongo, whose example and position in life has demonstrated his commitment to the struggle of the Kenyan people. This kind of writer I want to identify with.”
About women and feminism, Mugo says, “The African woman occupies the lowest rung of the ladder.” She clearly states that women in Africa are oppressed by both African patriarchy and colonialism. To her, they bear the double yoke. Mugo says that as feminists, we must know that not all women are oppressed because some women are part of the oppressive capitalist class because of their own historical positions and race. More specifically, Mugo says, “There is nothing wrong in singing about women but I think we must be careful to define and specify which women we are singing about…”
On the question of whether the African woman writer is muted or not, Ama Ata Aidoo says that the question of the African woman writer being muted has to do with the position of women in society in general.
She feels that African women writers are just receiving the general neglect and disregard that women in the larger society receives. Aidoo says she understands the concern that in African Literature maybe there is no woman writer who has risen to the stature of Achebe or Ngugi or Soyinka.
She indicates that this could be because the assessment of a writer’s work is in the hands of critics and it is they who put writers on pedestals or seep them under the carpet.
There are so many key issues to be dealt with; beginning with simply defining African Literature itself, there is the unresolved issue of which language to use and even on the direction that African literature ought to take. All these random observations could be useful to students of African Literature.
Urban planning and economic growth
The rate of urbanisation in Lesotho is increasing alarmingly. Peri-urban areas are growing more rapidly than gazetted urban areas. This growth causes encroachment of residential development on prime agricultural land thereby threatening food security.
Various stakeholders such as field owners, field buyers, fly-by-night estate consultants and agents, chiefs and councils are all taking part in this disastrous practice.
Field owners illegally sub-divide their crop fields for selling to prospective buyers. Fly-by-night estate, unqualified and unregulated consultants and agents sell the plots. Corrupt chiefs prove rights ownership and false land use while under -apacitated local authorities issue fraudulent certificates of allocation.
This practice happens daily and no one seems to care, at least practically. This haphazard sub-division of land by inexperienced individuals causes havoc in the provision of services now and in the future.
Let me call it a ticking time bomb ready to explode and smash both the local property sector and the economy. Land disputes are increasing (this can be evidenced by the increasing number of cases in the district land courts) as sometimes more than one individual is allocated the same piece of land.
This makes urban and regional planning seem like an unwanted child, a bastard who is disowned by the authorities. Authorities pay lip service to the importance of spatial planning in the country. Whereas they seem to understand its importance in words, in deeds they appear as though it is something useless, unwanted and many people seem to be in a wilderness in relation to how town planning ought to be. It is relegated to the side-lines while the country is being destroyed, not being aware that it is the core foundation of all built environment processes.
Currently, Lesotho’s population is estimated to be at 2,007,201, unemployment is officially at 32.8% and GDP growth is at a dire 1.2% (Bureau of Statistics, 2019). Looking at these statistics and the state of planning in our country, which sane investor would put his money in such a country and expect positive returns? The answer is, very few investors. This situation has to change and for it to change, we need to change the way we do business. Urban and regional planning should be let loose in order to offer its full potential contribution to economic growth and development of this country.
In order to render planning as a stimulator to economic growth, we need to go back to the basics of planning while also embracing the future that is technology. The basic thing in planning is control, regulation and facilitation of development of land and land use for the well-being of both the people and the natural environment. The increasing rate of growth of urban areas call for tight regulation of the development processes in these areas.
Lesotho should be zoned into grand different land uses in order to maximise production by putting to use land on its most suitable potential use. Intensive land studies should be undertaken in order to ascertain which use is most suitable for which part of the country. After these studies are completed, the National Land Use Plan should be produced and gazetted so that it becomes part of law and be easily enforced to ensure compliance. The country should be zoned into special economic zones. Today cannabis growing seems to be the new gold mine in Lesotho. Suitable places should be earmarked for cannabis growth, production and oil extraction.
This zone should include all associated activities both up, down and side stream in order to encourage beneficiation and value addition of the products. Suitable areas should be earmarked for manufacturing such as Maputsoe, Thetsane, Ha Belo and Maseru Industrial Area. Places with high concentration of mineral deposits such as diamonds, crude oil and quarry should be earmarked for mining and its associated activities.
Pristine wetlands and water sources should be protected from encroachment by other land uses especially unregulated grazing in order to safeguard the availability of clean water supply and security. Rangelands and both exotic and indigenous forests should be protected and maintained in order to enhance the production of wool, mohair, hides, milk and meat and also to fight climate change respectively.
Opportunities can be sought to produce forests for economic purposes such as timber and wood. Tourism areas and the countryside should be conserved so that nature lovers should visit our country en-masse for its beauty, fresh high altitude and crystal clear waters. Lastly, agricultural land should be highly protected for food production and security. If land use zoning is adhered to and enforced consistently, investors will be willing to spend their money on initiatives on which they believe yields would be lucrative. This will create much needed jobs and increase economic growth and development.
The government and the private sector have to both contribute in investing and planning provision. The government has to be reliable in the provision of policy certainty and requisite legislation to enforce planning. It should also make sure that its officials, from the Prime Minister down, adhere to sound planning standards in both words and deeds. It should commit adequate resources, especially financial and human to the practice of planning within its departments. Political will to planning should be displayed by the government.
While the country is still far back in terms of technological innovation, the private sector should support planning through investments in 4IR things. They should equip planners with Geographic Information Systems, drone technology, high definition satellite imagery and 3D/4D printing capabilities.
Planners should be able to forecast future events through the use of state of the art technological infrastructure in order to produce timely and reliable planning information for economic development. They should be able to monitor developments happening everywhere in the country in real time. This technology would also enhance disaster management and preparedness and rapid responses to both disasters and crime. If these investments would offer reliable planning /spatial information and advice, investors would more likely be willing to open shop and help us build our economy.
It is time that the public lodge their planning applications online, and be approved online by all local authorities in the country. They should seek planning advice from the comfort of their homes and workplaces without necessarily having to travel long distances to planning offices.
The planning cadre should be trained in order to better understand current societal challenges and how they could be solved. The private sector’s assistance would come handy in this through the sponsoring of seminars, conferences and short courses to be undertaken by the planners.
In deed all of the above propositions are dreams, they can only be realised if there is a will, and in deed money.
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