By T. S. Mothibi
The steady flight of an eagle across the sky is a sight to marvel, and the acrobatic flight of the swallow before the rain is one that leaves the watcher amazed at the dexterity of the wing on the air currents invisible to the human eye, but which are felt with each inhale and exhale, or, with the touch of the breezes of the season on the skin.
One can safely guess that man has always wanted to fly as the big birds of the sky do, but lacking in wing and structure, man has had to come up with ingenious ways to aid him to sail the currents and the waves of the air in the sky. From the ancient historical mythologies such as that of Daedalus and Icarus, to the engineering masterpiece designs of the helicopter and other flight machines by Leonardo Da Vinci in the middle ages, to the hot-air balloons invented by Jacque and Josef Montgolfier floating over the skies of Paris in the late 1700’s, and the first flight of the first fixed-wing plane by Frank and Orville Wright in the early 1900’s, humanity’s progress has been by gauged by advancements in technology in relation to taming the elements to adapt them for usage in day-to-day activities.
Earth was the first when man settled and cultivated it for his food, fire became the second when man found it as a tool for cooking his meals and defending him against the predators, and with the human body’s adaptation to swimming and the invention of the boat and the ship, man felt he had indeed come to rule the elements. This victory was however not complete, because man could still not fly like the birds of the sky, but the air was not just to be so easily conquered; for one must first have wings to fly, and man is naturally born without wings. And so man made wings of his own and flew into the future.
It must be understood that the black race and other races have for the larger part of history been segregated to menial roles on the sidelines of progress despite their tremendous contribution in the form of labour and largely unacknowledged innovative techniques in the invention and improvement of technological advancements. History soon seems to forget them and their contributions while their fair-skinned peers enjoy glories that last seventy lifetimes.
An example can be made of the Tuskegee Airmen who saved countless lives in the Second World War whose stories cannot be found on the curricula and syllabi in any African state. That these young brave black men and ace pilots put their lives on the line for the peace of the world is a fact ‘education’ chooses to ignore for, instead of telling African children true tales about black people who made tremendous contributions in the form of innovation and laborious presence on projects meant to advance human civilisation, our educational systems are limited only to the advancement of the superiority complexes of only certain races whose minority on the African continent renders them super-humans if one is to compare the achievements they are said to have achieved on their own.
When the Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969, only the names of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and the others are mentioned. Of the crew at the space centre, none are named. This is the pattern of historical account, only the names at the fore of the ideology are mentioned. Those who toiled in the background are simply forgotten. So, when I chanced upon the tale of the black girl who flew into space and orbited the earth, I found it right to make mention of this brave black woman whose story soon reveals to the sceptic that women are as capable of seemingly impossible feats as men are.
The brief biography on www.wikipedia.org reveals that Mae Carol Jemison was born on October the 17th in 1956. She is an American physician and NASA astronaut who became the first African-American woman to travel in space when she went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on September 12, 1992. After her medical education and a brief general practice, Jemison served in the Peace Corps from 1985 to 1987, when she was selected by NASA to join the astronaut corps.
She then resigned from NASA in 1993 to form a company researching the application of technology to daily life (note her level of practicality). She has appeared on television several times, including as an actress in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation which remains one of the most popular sci-fi shows that has lately seen the release of a number of cinema adaptations. She is a dancer, and holds nine honorary doctorates in science, engineering, letters, and the humanities, and is the current principal of the 100 Year Starship Organization.
Mae Jemison is a woman whose occupations and interests are as diverse as those of a master who is always in constant search of some new territory of the human mind to explore; for the human being can achieve greatness only if they forget the limitations set upon them by other or fellow human beings. One of her famous quotes reveals her resolute character and stubborn will to achieve inspite of or despite prevailing circumstances. In her words she says:
Never limit yourself because of others’ limited imagination; never limit others because of your own limited imagination.
The imagination of one is ignited by one being exposed to new territories in thought and education, being shown that there is another world out there full of possibilities, and at this, the education offered has a huge role to play. That a boy herding cattle in some obscure village in the hinterlands of some forgotten part of our land believes that the world is as wide as the mountains his village lies nestled in, is not a full or true representation the full breadth of his potential; he is just limited in scope by the routine he is forced to follow.
Exposed to other activities and limitless possibilities as found in books of education, the herdboy would surprise anyone that believes his capabilities were only limited to tending to his father’s flocks. The little black girl that grew up in the 1960’s knew that she would one day go into space and, in her own words she solemnly states:
I grew up loving science and always knew that I would go into space someday, despite the barriers I faced as an African-American woman.
Doctor Jemison boldly states that the images she saw on television (aboard Star-Trek’s USS Enterprise) are what fired up her imagination and saw her end up as part of the Endeavour’s crew in 1992. It is a fact that images oftentimes show us possibilities we never thought existed; they open up a secret door in the mind of man that leads to innovation, creation and application of what is imagined. A lot of times, fantasy is what gets us through to reality, for what is fantasised is the makeup of what we dream about, what guides our vision.
That a girl from a race considered the underclass of the world could have ended up where she did is not an accident; she chose the freedom to dream and to follow up on her dreams. Many of us dream to achieve big but then, many of us fail dismally when it comes to following the pattern that leads to the achievement of the dream, and so the dreams die without ever seeing the light of day. The dream which you seek to achieve should be the daily mantra repeated as in a class where the learner attains knowledge by rote.
Repeating the dream’s pattern on a daily leads to one achieving their dream inspite of, or, despite prevailing circumstance, for, what is perceived as an impediment oftentimes turns out to be the whetstone on which the finer details of the dream can be sharpened to precision. When the spaceship Apollo 11 blasted off to the moon from Kennedy Space Centre in 1969, Mae must have been there with the crew in her mind and would go on to repeat the same feat a mere 23 years later. She imagined, and she achieved and can now boldly state veni, vidi, vici (I came, I saw, I conquered). I guess our girls should have the same kind of imagination.
It is said that early in her childhood, Mae Jemison understood the connection of everyday life to science by studying nature, and that once when a splinter infected her thumb, her mother, a public school teacher, turned it into a learning experience: she ended up doing a whole project about pus. Despite the fact that Doctor Jemison’s parents were very supportive of her interest in science, some of her teachers were not very supportive. She states:
“In kindergarten, my teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I told her a scientist. She said, ‘Don’t you mean a nurse?’ Now, there’s nothing wrong with being a nurse, but that’s not what I wanted to be.”
That her teachers were not supportive of her dreams did not deter her from achieving her dream, but the sad reality is that most or many African children end in unsavoury careers because their teachers fail to guide them in the right direction. Only subjects popular in a given era are encouraged and supported by the educational bodies, and despite their being hard to achieve or not in the interest of the pupils, they are fed into the minds of the children as the catechism is fed to the pious.
Everyone should have the freedom to follow the career they dreamt of as children; otherwise they will end up sour incompetent and ineffective workers in their careers. Do what you love, do it with a passion and this black woman’s tale will be a reality to you in your given pursuit for happiness.
In an interview with a popular online magazine, Mae C. Jemison explains how her deeply ingrained interest in science was not accepted.
“Growing up…I was just like every other kid. I loved space, stars and dinosaurs. I always knew I wanted to explore. At the time of the Apollo airing, everybody was thrilled about space, but I remember being irritated that there were no women astronauts. People tried to explain that to me, and I did not buy it.”
Limitation only affects those that agree to be limited, an eagle that believes it is a chicken will indeed believe that it is a rooster and will never take to flight. What the lifestory of Doctor Mae Jemison reveals is the simple fact that we choose to be limited by the imposed opinions of others on our dreams, and we forget the natural fact that every individual is born with a dream or gift unique as their fingerprint and their individuality. That the universe is said to be wide as it is, is a sure sign that the possibilities that exist therein are as endless as the stars found within its confines (if it is confined that is…which I personally do not believe in).
That Mae Jemison sailed to the moon (into space) is a testament that we can achieve whatever it is we want to set our minds upon: for possibility exists forever and impossibility is soon proven a molehill to those that believe that mountains can be transformed into hills if one just believes in their dream. Doctor Jemison says she was inspired by the quintessential Civil Rights activist Reverend Martin Luther King Jnr. To her, Reverend Luther King Jr’s dream was not an elusive fantasy but a call to action, for, she states that though people paint him like Santa, her view of Martin Luther King is one that reveals him as an individual who had a strong attitude, audacity, and bravery. The Civil Rights movement was all about breaking down the barriers to human potential. None of us should therefore let those dream-killers stand in the way of the achievement of our dreams and, in her own words:
The best way to make dreams come true is to wake up.
Only then can we fly to the moon and into space where possibilities to succeed are endless.
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.
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
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.
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