Sunday

Bofutsana le Khotso (Poverty and Peace)

Ntate Moshoeshoe I knew it. He knew that a hungry, poor people cannot be peaceful. One of his trusted rules of thumb was to feed thieves and murderers and integrate them into his nation, so that they never feel again the need to steal and kill. King Letsie III says
"political instability comes from poverty," and the government must concentrate on "the battle against poverty" to avoid a repetition of the 1998 troubles. It is an uphill battle, and the 'kingdom in the sky' has some steep mountains to climb. King Moshoeshoe I was left with a mountainous, infertile kingdom when most of his arable land was annexed to the Orange Free State in the 1860s. As the nation grew, its farming communities were pushed further and further into the highlands, leaving a legacy of soil erosion, evident in the single ear of maize on each stalk. Low on natural resources, Lesotho is currently struggling to deal with unemployment of up to 45%.
When you're hungry you steal. It's that simple. You might even go to the extent of murdering someone for their money, for example. Inexcusable but understandable. One of the cries that I keep repeating over and over is the fact that we need to train our guns on Poverty-Reduction, and many of the rest will follow."
"Whilst Britain fears losing its autonomy in the wake of closer monetary ties with Europe, the Basotho are less fearful of change. A tiny island of black Africa in richer waters, they know Lesotho can benefit from closer relations with its only neighbour. Like the British, they will resist any threat to their sovereignty, but their sense of national pride is unlikely to get in the way of the practicalities. One thing is clear: whatever the Basotho decide to do, they will carve out the future on their own terms."

Saturday

TV Special on RSA and Lesotho

Live anywhere near Boston in the U.S? If so, Rachel says there's a TV special on RSA and Lesotho. Ha! Maybe they picked up where Richard and I left off? The program is on 1 March 2004.

Friday

New Laws to Help Fight HIV/Aids

"Two new laws, one currently going through the legislative pipeline and another enacted last year, are key to addressing the confluence of social problems that are contributing to Lesotho's humanitarian crisis.
'Because HIV/AIDS is undermining our social institutions and economy, it is crucial that the Sexual Offences Act be utilised now that it is law,' Limakatso Chisepo, director of social welfare at the Ministry of Health, told IRIN.

'The act is important because it thoroughly defines sexual violations. It contains revised definitions of rape, including within the marital situation,' said Sakoane Sakoane, counsel for the Lesotho Law Reform Commission.
Before the act, women could not refuse sex with their husbands. They may do so today, and if the husband forces himself on his spouse, he is guilty of marital rape.
'Even if sex is consensual, if you withhold the information that you are HIV-positive from your sex partner, it is a crime - this was a grey area before. It is also a criminal offence now to deliberately infect another person with HIV,' Sakoane said."
I have been praying for some such action on the part of Lesotho authorities for a while. This is a victory for the Mosotho woman and, on a grander scale, the beginning of the end of the reign of HIV/AIDS. It is simply marvellous and encouraging. Keep it up!

Behind the Mask

Behind the Mask is a website on gay and lesbian matters in Africa. I discovered it through Farrago.

P.M. Pakalitha Mosisili in Libya

The Prime Minister of Lesotho is in Libya to discuss issues "relating to the use of water for agricultural purposes including irrigation in African countries." Another suggestion that will be studied is how African countries with water can construct supply pipes to those without water, and how African countries with oil can supply those without oil at more advantageous prices. Interesting.

Lesotho + South Africa Revisited

I'm going to be short-winded on this one, but I'll take advantage of the weekend to go on with the discussion beyond this post. Richard has said a word about what we'd been talking about. We'd of course been talking about the possible union of South-Africa and Lesotho. I still fail to see the venture without one or two other SADC countries tagging along. I also fail to see it, even with Lesotho and South Africa alone , on an unequal basis. That is to say I fail to see it as one country "acquiring" another. No matter how unequal the riches and the populations and the surface areas of the two countries, they're equal (before the law, for lack of a better expression) and sit on the same rung.

Now, I do clearly see where Richard and Andrew are coming from. I think that is probably how I would react if I were in their shoes.
Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of Germany on Monday assured Turkey of Germany's support to start membership negotiations with the European Union once Turkey implemented reforms and met the political criteria. Turkey hopes European leaders will, by the end of the year, set a date for the start of EU membership negotiations. It has enacted reforms to advance its chances, including abolishing the death penalty and granting greater rights to Turkey's Kurds.

But EU officials say some of the pledged reforms have yet to be implemented. "The reform process in Turkey is on a good path," Schröder said at a press conference with the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
What's wrong with that? Nothing at all. Turkey has to clean its act before it can join the EU. That happens everytime another European country wants to join, and yes, that's because the members and would-be-members are not the same. Some are bigger than others, others are richer than some, it stands to reason. What makes them the same is being faithful to a set of rules and abiding by the same laws. That's what I see for us. South Africa is more stable, richer, with a stronger economy and a low unemployment rate? Then it is Lesotho's duty to get cracking and catch up, if it wants to be an equal member in any such union. South Africa would not really be expected to foot any major bills.

(Richard) GDP: South Africa: $427.7 billion (2002 est.) Lesotho: $5.106 billion (2002 est.)
Population: South Africa:42,768,678 Lesotho: 1,861,959


Lesotho will never go up to a GDP of $427.7 billion, nor can/should it ever have a population of 42,768,678. That's not the point. The point, I think is to look at each potential union member proportionally, or percentage-wise, however you'd like to frame that, not in an absolute manner!


(Andrew) I suspect there are benefits for both sides.

I'm happy to see that I'm not alone. Among our contributions would be: One, no more demands for the return of the conquered territories ;-) Two, Snow. In Africa snow = money, if one knows how to exploit it; Three, water for irrigation and for drinking, plus the electricity it generates; Four, the Aloe polyphylla; Five, grey matter. Almost all Basotho of Lesotho who go abroad to study come back and settle in South Africa. It has been the established pattern for quite some time. You're educated, you buy a house in South Africa and you live there. That's part of why we're hurting.

Thursday

Did Britain Eavesdrop on Kofi Annan?

Claire Short, ex-secretary for international development in Blair's Labor government suggests Britain eavesdropped on Annan before the war started in Iraq. What would that suggest? What could the UK secret service learn from Annan that could help them defeat Saddam? Strange.

Swazi Nurses' Strike Leads to Deaths

Swaziland Nurses have been on strike for the past three days to claim overtime arrears in pay dating back as far as 2001, says Mail and Guardian Online. At least six patients have already died due to the nurses' strike

Risks to Food Security

The UN World Food Program lists risks to food security in Lesotho as being: periodic droughts, erratic rainfall, poor harvests, soil erosion and decreased soil fertility, extreme poverty characterized by unemployment, inflation, HIV/AIDS. In a country like Lesotho, that amounts to at least six mountains to move, almost literally.
  1. Periodic droughts: Can't do much about that, except perhaps to stock enough water for lean years and promote a humongous tree-planting campaign.
  2. Erratic rainfall: ditto
  3. Poor harvets: We will have stored enough irrigation water to offset periodic droughts and erratic rainfall (Hmmm). But we also need to stave off soil erosion because it is in fact the humus that is carried off to the ocean.
  4. Soil erosion and decreased soil fertility: ditto. See what the Head Heeb thinks about this.
  5. Extreme poverty: What can I say? We have a team in place, and the main job of that team is to make sure that Basotho stop suffering from poverty. It is possible, believe it or not.
  6. Unemployment, HIV/AIDS, inflation: For unemployment, see above; for HIV/AIDS, we need to stop having unprotected sex. STOP HAVING UNPROTECTED SEX!

I have said before that it is hard for a poor person to buy a condom. I take that back. It is hard to buy a condom for a poor person, but why buy it? There's a lot floating around. All you have to do is ask. If you are a regular screwer, ask for a carton of condoms and stick it under your bed. But for Christ's sake clothe your tool before you use it. It's important. There are at least three forces at work here.

One, condoms are safe, and were not devised by racists to wipe out the sable race. That's a load of crap. Excuse my French. Condoms are unsafe if they have a hole, otherwise they're safe. Two, you don't become less of a man by wearing a condom. You become MORE of a man, because then you assume responsibility and you protect your partner, traits of a man. Three, condoms do not reduce sexual excitement, they may even prolong it! What is sexual excitement? It is not slam-bam-thank you ma'am. It is a shared experience between two people in love, and the longer the better. And of course the more you know you're doing something safe and protected, the more relaxed you become, and the more perfomant you are. Condoms prevent unwanted pregnancies and protect users from HIV/AIDS and VD, they increase masculinity, and they increase and prolong sexual excitement. Stop having unprotected sex. It's stupid.
Inflation? See our team.

Wednesday

Tjotjo (Bribery)

A third international firm has been fined for bribery in Lesotho. French giant Schneider was fined R10-million by the Lesotho High Court after admitting to bribery. Ten million Rands is 10 000 000 Maloti, 1 210 730.03 Euros, 1 529 691.20 Bermuda dollars, 87 569 929.35 Pakistan rupees and 390 437 039.73 Sudan dinars. In other words, a lot of dosh. And there, you have it. Lesotho's money woes are over. All we need to do is bust a few more rich companies and we'll be home safe.

Interesting read

Always out to make Lesotho known to the world at large, I am happy to post this link, which will take you not to information coming from someone who's read about Lesotho, but rather from someone who's been there in the flesh.

Sweatshops or Faster Growth?

"The mountainous kingdom surrounded completely by South Africa is often cited as one of AGOA's success stories, selling trendy clothes to US stores like Gap, Kmart and JC Penney. In 2002 it exported $318 million in clothes and textiles to the United States under AGOA, out of the $803.3 million earned from such exports by AGOA-eligible states. During that year, east African powerhouse Kenya earned only $129.2 million from textiles and apparel exports to America. [...] 'We expect to make further, faster progress still,' Malie added. Malie said Taiwan firm Nien Shein was investing $135 million in a new denim and fabric mill, which would further expand growth in the sector and deliver more jobs - key to social and political stability in the kingdom. Manufacturing has become the leading employer in Lesotho, replacing the government. It is a boon for the kingdom where drought has forced donor agencies to provide food handouts to thousands of people over the past two years."
"Further, faster progress" and sweatshops. Sweatshops and "further, faster progress." Can we ever get rid of sweatshops and still have "further, faster progress?" A Mosotho Gap factory worker was stabbed in the neck with a pair of scissors by the plant manager. She was participating in protests against harsh and unfair conditions when it happened. She claims it was an intentional stabbing by the manager, whereas the manager claims it was all an unfortunate accident. Watch the video.

Does Sweatshops and further, faster progress still look like a good tandem, assuming it did? Yes and no, in my case. Yes, because if it was my call, right here and right now, just like it is the government of Lesotho's, I don't know how I would put food into the mouths of that lady's children. So I'd advise her to continue working. And no, because that fellow should pay for stabbing that woman in the neck with a damn pair of scissors. Tough call, isn't it? Perhaps if the scissors-happy manager was kicked out of Lesotho the remaining ones would be afraid enough not to attempt the same....

I just don't know. But, of course, the important thing is that the government has to know, and I hope they kicked his bum out of the country, which I doubt very much because the grapevine says conditions haven't changed for the better at all!

Missionaries

What is it that makes a missionary tick, that gets him or her out from under the quilt and onto a potentially dangerous venture? Faith, you will probably say. I've often spoken about those first missionaries that arrived in Lesotho in 1833, namely Casalis, Arbousset and Gosselin.
"After we had looked an instant on each other in silence, he rose and said, 'Lumela lekhoa!1 Welcome, white man!' And I replied by holding out my hand to him, which he took without hesitation."

That is how Eugene Casalis described his first meeting with Basuto's King Mashoeshoe [sic] I in 1833. The contact came at the invitation of Mashoeshoe. Mashoeshoe had already shown himself a man of great wisdom, who had built his power by the careful choice of a defensive position, by extending friendship to conquered enemies, and by offering shelter to the refugees of South Africa's many wars.
Why did those people leave France and tramp all the way to Moshoeshoe's young nation? And why are missionaries still doing the same thing today? I've been reading the Nystrom's informative and likable website. Apart from faith, I couldn't come up with much else, to account for such behaviour. And so faith it is. And so faith bestows them with all the other survival tools that one simply has to have out there. Patience, understanding, determination, resolve, love, if you will. Makes one want to convert (I am a practising Christian).

But when you look at it further, you realise that it's not only faith, is it? It's also guts. And no, not everyone who professes to have faith has got those. Some do, some don't. Those who do go in at the deep end. Those who don't stay home, amass riches, and don't do diddley. Not even for the neighbourhood hobo. I know both sorts of Christians, or believers, I should perhaps say. What's more, the gutsy group even boasts some non-believers, which buttresses the point I made earlier about there being a need for guts, on top of faith. Too many folks use the church to pull a fast one. Such people always look too good on Sunday at the service. Too good to stain their clothes by giving a hand to the none-too-well-dressed lot. I knew such people in Lesotho, as much as I knew the dough-punching, free-lunch-giving ones. When the guns were turned on my family in Lesotho by the Jonathan regime, a lot of the former were silent as the grave--not a cough. A lot of the latter came to our aid in innumerable ways. For example, they clearly showed their disgust at what had happened, sat with us through vigils, took care of the graves after we'd fled, estate sat after we'd fled. In short, we got help from half of the faith wielders and then some, and no help from the other half of the faith wielders and then some. My conclusion then is that it's not only faith that drives missionaries and others to "go out of their way" to help others. There's something else.

Missionaries come in all shapes and colours. You've got aloof ones and integrating ones. Mother-tongue speaking ones and local language speaking ones. Stern ones and clowning ones. Rich ones and relatively poor ones. But the one thing that links them, as I see it, is their faith and their guts. And by the way, if anybody knows why it's called the missionary position, I'm all ears.

I like missionaries, because real missionaries do tons of good for poor countries like my own. They usually integrate easily and strive to learn the language and--and this is super duper important--they also consider the locals as equals, on the same rung, no different apart from being unlucky, and they desist from patronising them or attaching pity with everything they do. What is it that makes missionaries tick? The same thing that would have made them tick even if they hadn't been missionaries.

1 Lekhooa is a Sesotho word for white person.

Tuesday

Lesotho + South Africa

Murray says:
I've read Andrew's post at Southern Cross, and I don't think that he's saying that Lesotho should become part of South Africa (although Richard is). His argument is instead that donor countries should be able to request institutional changes in exchange for aid, so as to ensure that disasters such as famines don't recur. That might compromise sovereignty, but it doesn't amount to joining another country.

Personally, I see no reason why Lesotho should merge with South Africa. In Europe small countries such as Luxemburg and Lithuania manage fine on their own, provided that appropriate trade agreements and so on are in place. One has to ask: how would it benefit Lesotho to join South Africa?
Andrew had initially said that two things struck him, in relation with famine and the call for international aid.
Those two things are: 1 - The famines that often stalk with droughts are almost invariably avoidable. South Africa is experiencing the same drought as Lesotho but possesses the resources and institutional capacity to deal with it. I mention this because it seems likely that once the inevitable aid mission has been mounted and catastrophe averted, very little will be done to address the underlying causes. Rather than donor states periodically mounting rescues it would make more sense to help build up organisational capacity in the recipient nations themselves. Which brings me to my second point.
2 - Before the process of building up institutional capacity can begin there has to be an admission on the part of recipient nations that changes are needed and a willingness to accept outside assistance. This may seem an obvious point, but it is not always clear that African leaders see such acknowledgment as in their own interests. I recently found the SADC annual report for 2002/2003 in which Zimbabwe's food crisis is blamed on, you guessed it, the ongoing drought. To give another example, this Reuters report suggests that Swaziland's failure to declare a state of emergency as a result of it's drought is largely attributable to King Mswati's fear of close scrutiny of royal expenditure.
Before then Richard had said,
Not being sure how to broach the subject, Ill just step right into it. Do you think Lesotho is a viable political entity? Wouldnt Lesotho fare much better as the tenth South African province?

South Africa is already a strong multicultural Society in which the Basotho is [sic] heavily integrated. Also, given the fact that South Africa has shown it will send in the troops if Lesotho misbehaves, dont you think that the Basotho also deserve a say in the running of South Africa?
While I do believe that in the best interests of Basotho and of the entire region, Lesotho and South Africa should move closer, much closer to each other, I am convinced that such a venture would never get off the ground unless certain conditions were respected.

i/. One country must unite with another on an equal footing. There must not be any talk of one party joining another or becoming part of another (I might have sinned in the past on this point);
ii/. The rapprochement must be gradual, spanning at least two generations. Everything must be debated and debated and planned and planned. Parallels must be drawn with Europe and with other examples (the US, if a federal system is to be employed);
iii/. After the debating and the planning, the setting-up must be an inch-by-inch affair, ie Currency first, then a Common Constitution, etc;
iv/. The advantages must be made plain to both the high-level executive and the veld herdboy. Every head must be made to feel part of the whole (easier said than done, I know);
v/. I've never really sat down to consider how this could practically be done, but I'm sure there a few other points that would have to be respected.

The borders between Lesotho and South Africa are quite porous. From the Lesotho banks of the Mohokare river we used to swim across to the South African side, steal peaches by the branch and swim back. At the border gates Basotho practically just walk through, much as South Africans do when they come over to Lesotho. In Lesotho the South African Rand is used side by side with the Lesotho Loti. No sweat. We're already living together, but we've accepted the disadvantages (border gates) without the advantages (Let's share some of that technical know-how you have, and some of this water I have. While we're at it, use my mountains and my snow to make some nice ski resorts so we can make us some serious dosh). The Orange Free State is Basotho country. There are Basotho all over the place. Last time I went home from Europe my brother-in-law picked me up in Johannesburg and we drove down to Maseru. Once we reached the OFS he addressed everybody in Sesotho and everybody replied in perfect Sesotho. The original names of many OFS towns are in Sesotho, notably Bloemfontein, which is Mangaung (place of leopards) in Sesotho.

This is just a little of my conviction, but, I mean, we are the same people and we really could do better sharing than not. Couldn't we?

Monday

Interactive Map of Lesotho

Go2Africa have this interactive map that is based on flash technology. Right click on a link (town, national park, etc.) to open the contextual menu from which you can undertake several different activities like zooming or looping. The only regret is that zooming, for example, does not actually provide more detail. Left clicking on a link brings up a description of the link. Have fun.

Other maps of Lesotho:
1/. Lonely Planet
2/. Yahoo Travel
3/. About's Blank Outline Map of Lesotho
4/. Expedia
5/. Maptown, if you want to buy a map.

Sunday

Lesotho + South Africa = One Country?

Richard wanted to know if in Lesotho there were any proponents of a Lesotho / South Africa union. I don't know. I don't know of any such official group or personality. I think, however, that if there were such a group it would not make that conviction public. You see, Lesotho has historically been proud to have successfully repelled South African attempts to conquer her, and from the very beginning Lesotho has been claiming "the conquered territories", taken from Basotho by the Voortrekkers in 1865. Hardly the right atmosphere to stand up and say, "Hey, perhaps we could join these guys!"

My own thoughts on the matter are clear. I think it would be in the interests of both countries to unite, although any steps toward a union must be studied, meticulously planned and implemented gradually. That's what I think.

A BBC chronology of Lesotho key events

The BBC has a brief Lesotho Timeline, whose main purpose in my view is to paint a quick picture of what Lesotho is and what Basotho have been doing since the early 1800's.

Friday

Solutions to a Humanitarian Calamity.

FUNDAMENTAL SOLUTIONS FOR UNDERLYING CAUSES

Some government planners anticipate a policy that encourages people to vacate marginal or unproductive land, with the possible end of food assistance as one inducement to relocation.
If I understand well, they wanna block the food pipe so that the people concerned will have to move to more fertile land that can actually grow something. In short, they wanna starve some sense into them. But aren’t there other, less apocalyptic methods of getting people to relocate? When the Katse dam was being built, people were encouraged to move through a system of incentives and bonuses. Many were dissatisfied with the compensation that was dispensed, but compensation there was and whipping there was not. I think it is rather easy for some to be hoighty-toighty in giving advice about the fate of shepherds and mountain people, but I pray that it is not what is happening here.


"Before the drought, five years ago, most of the country didn’t need food aid, and we concentrated on the mountainous north. If weather patterns normalise, the lowlands will continue raising food. But in the mountains, chronic food shortages will continue," said WFP’s Moshoi.
"The [Maluti] mountains are beautiful, but every winter it freezes, and there is a food crisis," said Chisepo. "I ask, 'Why don’t they come down?' Just because they have a few animals, and there is some grazing, they are endangering their lives."

They are not going to come down easily. These are ancestral lands, and many of these folks wouldn’t know what to do if they ever moved from there. They need training, in order for them to work afterwards, and they need compensation in other forms, such as land elsewhere, housing, and the like. We’re talking about mountain people, and we’re trying to transform them overnight into city-slickers.


Lesotho’s profitable participation in the US trade initiative, the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA), has brought tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs, a rapid expansion of Maseru’s industrial area, and new industrial parks in Mafeteng (west), Quthing (southeast) and other districts.
Well and good. Those jobs have partially made up for revenue that used to come from digging for gold and diamonds in South Africa, but that has since stopped coming because of layoffs. I suppose the situation would have been worse than it is, had there been no AGOA. I have put myself in the government’s shoes and I understand where they’re coming from. That does not mean, however, that AGOA is all milk and honey and we should shut up. Quite the contrary. Now is the opportunity for us to cry out louder and complain about deplorable working conditions and abnormally low wages and about any ill-treatment our saviours might be tempted to mete out. We have the right to do so and I’m sure the Lesotho government will be behind us on this one. So, people, let it all hang out, with both the good and the bad. Hey, the spotlight’s on us!
I have been thinking about what is happening in Lesotho, and wondering about possible solutions to the famine, to the AIDS scourge, and to the drought. I remain convinced that a comeback is within our means as Basotho, albeit with a lot of internatonal help. I think we're on the right track, because even before the present humanitarian disaster the government had already embarked on a poverty reducing campaign. Poverty is Lesotho's biggest enemy. Poor people don't buy condoms, and poor people tend to have lots of children for other reasons, such as old-age pension. Many children are a guarantee that aged parents will have someone to take care of them. And poor people tend to drink a lot in a bid to drown out their sorrows. And poor people tend to slow down development because many programs are oriented toward helping them while they themselves do not contribute to filling the coffers of such programs. And poor people will not spend time fighting soil erosion; they will spend time looking for food. And poor people do not protect trees, they burn them for fuel, and they burn the veldt because they want it to turn green asap so they can graze their livestock. Say what you will, poverty is our number one super-duper enemy. And all roads to a long-term solution will have to start there.

Did you know?

Mount Moorosi is named after Moorosi, a local chief who, in 1879, rebelled against the harsh laws applied by the Cape colony, and held on against the might of the British army for eight months from the summit of the mountain. It is a worthwhile climb to the top, with the remains of the defences still visible, and superb views of the Senqu valley.

Thursday

Tlala, Komello, Aids (Famine, Drought, Aids)

Richard, Murray and Andrew bring up the question of famine, and of whether it wouldn't be better for Lesotho to go ahead and become part of South Africa. Kianoush had already asked me the question. It is a question whose time has come, and I hope as many Basotho as possible will help me answer it. Ignoring it will not make it go away. We must look at it squarely in the eye and say what we think would be best for the Basotho of Lesotho and for the survival of the region as a whole. In order to do so we must first shelve our pride. That is essential. So go ahead, right now, and put it on the shelf. Then click on the links above and say your mind.

Wednesday

Matekoane Lesotho (Cannabis in Lesotho)

Although marijuana is smoked on a large scale in Lesotho, alcohol is, by far, the source of most substance abuse with the direct consequences as regards public health. Imported alcoholic beverage (beer, whisky, etc.) is [sic] drunk by the wealthy, while the most widespread substance of abuse is the often-laced 'homebrews' [sic] made in 'shebeens' (informal and illegal bars), which sometimes also sell diverted psychotropic medicine such as diazepam, occasionally with tragic results.

Monday

Kate Fagalde

The little ex British Protectorate of Basutoland gained independence in 1966 and was renamed Lesotho and I arrived at the beginning of 1969. My older brother David had spent time there during his Voluntary Service Overseas stint and I leapt at the chance of being able to see the country that had fascinated him. At first my contract was for a mere three months, but during this time, I was to meet my future husband Neville Cretchley. Neville's family had originally gone out to Lesotho from Cheltenham in England in the late 1800's and his father had been born in Maseru in 1906.

Nikki Giovanni's "Possum Crossing"

Possum Crossing

Backing out the driveway
the car lights cast an eerie glow
in the morning fog centering
on movement in the rain slick street

Hitting brakes I anticipate a squirrel or a cat or sometimes
a little raccoon
I once braked for a blind little mole who try though he did
could not escape the cat toying with his life
Mother-to-be possum occasionally lopes home . . . being
naturally . . . slow her condition makes her even more ginger

We need a sign POSSUM CROSSING to warn coffee-gurgling neighbors:
we share the streets with more than trucks and vans and
railroad crossings

All birds being the living kin of dinosaurs
think themselves invincible and pay no heed
to the rolling wheels while they dine
on an unlucky rabbit

I hit brakes for the flutter of the lights hoping it's not a deer
or a skunk or a groundhog
coffee splashes over the cup which I quickly put away from me
and into the empty passenger seat
I look . . .
relieved and exasperated ...
to discover I have just missed a big wet leaf
struggling . . . to lift itself into the wind
and live

© Nikki Giovanni, from Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea

Sunday

Qomatsi Lesotho (State of Emergency in Lesotho)

Lesotho declared a state of emergency on 11 February 2004 due to drought, the shortage of food and the unavoidable human catastrophe.

Friday

Reparations Conference

"Should reparations be given to indigenous peoples, descendents of slaves, subjects of colonialism and civilian victims of wars? This is a question whose time has come. From assertions of treaty rights in Australia or Canada, to lawsuits against corporations in the US, to UN findings on colonialism, to war claims brought before the World Court in the Hague, people around the world are demanding reparations for the injustices done to them. Should their demands be heeded?"
That's what they talked about at the conference attended by Brandon. It is an idea whose time is overdue. I don't want reparations. I don't know what other people may have gone through, but I, today, within the context of present day Lesotho, would not accept reparations even if they were rammed down my throat. I tend to think of each case as being particular. In my case, who would they come from? What would the amount be based on? Wouldn't they tarnish other demands and tend to quieten them down? Like I say, this should be case by case. Brandon has a lot more to say about this so don't hesitate to pay him a visit.

Wednesday

Support for Botswana's Baroa

A petition has gone round in support of Botswana's Baroa / Basarwa and their land rights. It is interesting to compare the developments in Botswana with those in Uganda, via the Head Heeb's article about the Bunyoro and Buganda land squabble.

Travel Photography Lesotho

Author of this Lesotho travel photography photo gallery with Lesotho travel pictures is Hans Hendriksen, Dutch travel photographer who prefers to record daily-life scenes. See more ? Visit his homepage http://www.hanshendriksen.net which encloses 18 other country galleries and all information about the author and how to order or publish his work.
He has collected a bevy of nice pictures that do give one a good idea of what daily life in Lesotho is like. A positive comment that needs to be made about the snaps is that Hendriksen has seemingly not asked people wearing their Sunday best to pose; the snaps seem to leap out at you from real, unprepared life situations.

Salam Kianoush, man khoobam. Shoma khoobi?

"On Lesotho" got this friendly mention from Kianoush, who runs two blogs, one in straight English, the other one in Farsi and English. It's amazing how the web can bring people together and provide otherwise obscure, although valuable, information. If you have never done it, I urge you to find an Iranian restaurant and order ghormeh sabzi. You'll thank me later.

Anthem Verse 3, Stanza 1: Ke moo re hlahileng

Lesotho, fat'se la bo-ntat'a rona,
Har'a mafat'se le letle ke lona
Ke moo re hlahileng.

Verse 3 is pretty straightforward. Oh, if you've just joined us, we were having a thoughtful chat on the National Anthem of Lesotho, verse by verse. We've already talked about verse 1, Lesotho, fat'se la bo-ntat'a rona, and verse 2, Har'a mafat'se le letle ke lona. This is therefore verse 3, Ke moo re hlahileng, or It is the place of our birth.

Why shouldn't it be? I was personally born there, at Scott Hospital in Morija. My parents were born there, in the Quthing district. It is, it seems, the place of our birth. But we came from up north, if you recall. We came from Ntsoana-Tsatsi, to be exact, and found Baroa (Bushmen) inhabiting the area that is present-day Lesotho. In Sesotho, "boroa" means south, so that Afrika-Boroa is South Africa. Baroa means People of the South. They were there when we arrived!

We were born there but one of the previous generations must have got naturalised. Oh, it happens all the time. New-comers integrate their new societies frequently, and usually even become more nationalist than the folks that were already there. When the new-comers butcher the already established people, though, and grab their land, naturalisation it is not. I am told we lived and inter-married with the Bushmen so that we became one: Basotho. Ke moo re hlahileng. Hmmm.

Monday

On Lesotho

So, here we are. At this point I feel it would be right to recap and postpare (my own word, don't worry about it too much). I started this weblog because I felt a compelling need to tell the world about Lesotho and about how things can go wrong, as they indeed went wrong in Lesotho. When teenagers and toddlers are killed with Uzis and AK47s by their own people you can be safe in assuming that things have gone wrong. Until now that has been my main reason for blogging: tell 'em, let 'em know. Do it. Now.

I did.

But there's lots more to tell. We started with Lesotho's ills: the killing of other Basotho by Basotho, going hungry, catching disease and dying off, squandering resources. Then we talked some about how to fix those ills. The vote, we said, is the weapon of choice against incompetent administrations, in Lesotho and in any other democratic country. Then we talked some about the land, and saw how we got to it and how we own it, for lack of a better word. We've recently been trying to find ways of selling Lesotho to potential visitors, because it is no secret that we could have a steady tourist trade in Lesotho. And boy, would that do us good! There are no clear topic demarcations into which I blog. I just feel my way along, or base myself on the way something turns out in Lesotho or southern Africa.

This activity, which does take a lot of time, has otherwise given me a megaphone to the world. But it is not a megaphone for SHOUTING OUT MY THOUGHTS. It is rather a megaphone that lets me get heard along with the other megaphones, because the one who doesn't have one is sunk. There shouldn't be any shouting about any aspect of blogging. I try to be firm and truthful, even where I'm clearly not being objective. I think there's a difference between fibbing and being subjective, and I think I can remain subjective but truthful. "I hate the son of a bitch; he broke my leg" could be truthful, although it's clearly not very objective. I obviously dislike the political party under which an attempt was made on my father's life, my brother and my nephew were killed, my father was thrown in jail, many Basotho were tortured, some killed, the country's scant resources were squandered or left to rot, and my family was later forced to flee Lesotho. Wouldn't you? Blogging has helped me, together with poetry and my family, to remain cool and to get rid of the damned demons that just kept nagging and nagging and tugging at my soul. I was able to remain sane. I can't forget. I can forgive.

We have also seen how Lesotho is unique on the continent, and how it can attract visitors. The beauty of the land and the promise of a different experience. I think we've been making a mistake by competing with Kenya and Tanzania for "Africa." That designation belongs to them much more than it belongs to us. Ask anybody, Africa means forests (untrue but widely believed) and lions and jaguars and safaris and gnus and the tze-tze fly. We don't have any of those things but the other guys do. As a result we must stop trying to sell Africa, and sell us: skiing and mountain-climbing and pony-trekking and fly-fishing and camping and no tze-tze bites in Africa! Otherwise we're losers even before the contest begins.

We delved awhile into music and other arts as practised by Basotho, and inti why they sing so much! Basotho sing all the time. And so do all southern Africans; a fact which, I believe, helped us tolerate the grave apartheid injustices we went through. Of course, like everybody else, we also sing for the sheer fun of singing, or to help our young ones fall asleep more quickly.

I would like to be able to keep informing you of developments in Lesotho, but more than anything, of how you can help Lesotho and Basotho, and how, in my view, Basotho can help themselves. Every little bit helps. It's been nice being aboard. But it's been nicer having your attention. My fingers and my toes are crossed as I say to you this day, "We've only just begun."

(Thutiso ea Pele) My First Quiz

Crossword Puzzle on Lesotho. How much do you know?

Sunday

Mosotho Holima Pere (Mosotho Horseman)

This is a typical Mosotho horseman, from the garb to the raised hand. Opened and raised thus in greeting, it shows the non-bellicose intentions of the man. Basotho and peace go back a long way.

Saturday

Lipere (Horses)

What's with the horses? It's a long story
Ponies were introduced to Lesotho from the Cape in the nineteenth century, with one of the first given as a present to King Moshoeshoe I by chief Moorosi in 1829. Moshoeshoe learnt to ride that year, and rapidly acquired further steeds, which he distributed to his family and followers. By the time of Moshoeshoe's death in 1870, ponies were widespread throughout the kingdom and the Sotho had become expert riders.
We still are. We ride like crazy. In the Occident they hop in car to go to the convenience store--guess what we do to go anywhere, really. Like, as if we had a choice, right? Cars? Cars are quite limited in Lesotho. The vast majority of motor-cars in Lesotho is in the lowlands, which comprise a mere 15% of the territory. Horses and mules and donkeys are a more common means of transport and rule the remaining 85% of Lesotho. And they don't pollute. They provide us instead with dung which we dry and stock to burn in winter, or moisten, beat into a pulp, and use to make litema or just to "repaint" a wall. And when they die we eat them. Usually we make "lihoapa", a.k.a. "Biltong". Those same horses, introduced to ntate Moshoeshoe I in the nineteenth century, are known today as "The Basotho Pony". Lesotho is a land of stark contrasts. Ponies are ubiquitous and carry people and goods everywhere. Those same people also take a Cessna plane regularly when the distance is too much for the pony.

Friday

Sweatshops

Are sweatshops helpful to the economy of poor countries? The sweatshop worker brings home the bacon--well, the mealie-meal. Is that not enough to warrant their presence in poorer countries? I have already said what I feel about sweatshops in Lesotho. Here is another opinion (Look under "Economy"). Don and Donna say
There is scant manufacturing in Lesotho. There are two major areas in Lesotho where there are expatriate factories that would be called 'sweat shops' in the United States. These factories provide employment in Lesotho and this employment is considered choice by the people. You will always see a number of people outside the factories waiting just in case someone quits, is fired or dies so they they would have a shot at getting the job. These factories are creating manufacturing infrastructure in the country and should be encouraged. The workers have already formed a union and they will someday share in the wealth that they are creating.
Who's creating wealth? Will the workers share in it? Are the workers happy working in those factories, under appalling conditions that are allegedly the order of the day? Is the government of Lesotho doing enough to protect the factory--sweatshop--employees? Or is the reduction in the number of unemployed, street-roaming Basotho good enough? I've traded a few emails with Don and Donna, because I was thrilled at their project for Lesotho schools (Please visit their site!), and I believe that they are genuinely happy for those Basotho that can take mealie-meal home at night. And hell, so am I. But where does that leave us? What about human rights, and neo-slavery?

More information:
. Escalavage textile au Lesotho (in French)
. Who Makes it?
. Abolish Sweatshops

Komiti ea Motse oa Maseru (Maseru City Council)

The Lesotho government website says the following
The Maseru City Council is to review city bylaws, introducing stricter adherence and heavier fines for offenders. Acting Town Clerk, Mr. Teboho Mohlomi said the bylaws were aimed at regulating noise pollution, general cleanliness and the establishment of burial sites in residential areas. The bylaws would also assist in the control of the illegal slaughtering of animals in residential areas instead of at abattoirs as well as the reintroduction of a tax on pets. The bylaws are still in draft form and the public would be given opportunity for inputs and additions before the final draft is sent to the Minister of Local Government for endorsement. Once approved, the Maseru City Council would announce their coming into operation through a Council gazette, Mr. Mohlomi said. The absence of bylaws has hindered the Council's work as it was unable to control a lot of wrongdoing, including cars' noises in town and loitering of domestic animals due to lack of clear regulations, he said.
04 February 2004
Well and good. If we want our towns to look nice and pretty we have to make sure they are clean and that they are not noisy. I understand and I'm rooting for Ntate Mohlomi. I don't understand much about "the establishment of burial sites in residential areas," however. What about them? Are we trying to get burial sites removed or are we trying to make room for them in residential areas? Or do we just wanna control those that are already there?

Thursday

Mokorotlo (Basotho Hat) Revisited

Spot the differences between these two pictures: ONE and TWO. Remember that these images, copyrighted to their respective owners, are used here for educational purposes only. What educational purposes? Well, I would like the person or people who burned down Mokorotlo to learn that his/her/their action was counterproductive and not at all good for Lesotho. If things are not good for Lesotho, they are worse for the common person in the street. That's the educational purpose I'm shooting for.

Wednesday

GWB and Compassion

On the Bush and Cheney 2004 Campaign website there's a navigation tab for Economy, one for Compassion, one for Health care, and others. I clicked on the one for compassion. I don't know why, but perhaps because it seemed to be more out of place than the others, many of which seem out place, too. I clicked.

Scroll down and look right. There's a link called Compassion photos. I clicked.

Click!

It's just a bunch of Bush snaps, but wait a minute, who's he with....kids, and sometimes adults. Black, and one or two oriental looking. But essentially black. He's carrying a black kid now, and over there he's standing near something that has AFRICA emblazoned across it. I didn't know what to make of this subtle message. Doesn't America, by sheer numbers and not per cent, have more starving white folks than black? Of course, all things being equal, there's no comparison. More blacks go dinner-less and mattress-less. But, does this mean what I think it means or am I being touchy?

Tuesday

Thuto (Education)

We can go ahead and boast to the world that we have pretty good education, because we do, thanks to ntate Moshoeshoe I. What did he do? He welcomed Casalis and his pals and told them to go ahead and teach his people "the ways of the white man". They translated the Bible into Sesotho, taught us how to scribble on slate to represent our language, printed books, and so on. Later, other missionaries came over to help the original ones, and Lesotho was off as one of the busiest southern African educational hubs. The protestant ones worked out of Morija, the catholic ones out of Roma.

Our government tells us that it, the government, is continuing and will continue that tradition. I hope they're not forcing our children to hate their mother tongue! The result of doing so can be beneficial in many ways, but, hey, I write poetry in English and am conspicuously unable to do so in Sesotho. I don't like that a whole lot and I think it's a shame. There must be some sort of compromise between the two languages. I also hope that children are not forced to say the Lord's Prayer every morning. I'm a Christian who believes in God and in Jesus Christ. But I respect those who believe in their own God and in the teachings of another figure, Buddha, the prophet Mohamed, Bahá'u'lláh, or another. I imagine myself, a Christian, having to say another faith's prayer every morning. The effect of that upon me would be to be wary of the religion whose rites I'm being forced to observe, but also to hate school. School is for education, the church is for religion, the home is for both those things and more. Full stop. If children are still being forced to say the Lord's Prayer, then the government must seriously consider stopping the practice immediately. Lesotho is not a theocracy. It is a democracy. And all, all of its citizens must be made to feel at home and free to be who they are and to worship in their own way. The government of Lesotho says,
Through the provision of quality primary education, Lesotho is intent on improving the low level of skills of persons entering the workforce each year. The current primary school curriculum is being revised and reviewed and practical orientation in the teaching of core subjects is encouraged. Education is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 13, with fee elimination to be implemented in phases, starting with Standard One at the beginning of school terms in 2000. The government also intends to pilot a scholarship programme for children from needy families.
How well is that being adhered to? What phase have we reached? I think it was a marvellous thing to undertake in the first place. It will in the long run eliminate the fiduciary advantage some Basotho had over others from birth to death. It will tend to give us a semblance of an equal footing, so that the best person moves forward in life, instead of it being only the rich one. So, how well is that being adhered to?

I can't sign off without saying, in very clear terms, that I love my people, my country and my language, and that I'm a firm believer in the teachings of Jesus Christ. What we must not forget is that a Mosotho or Indian Muslim citizen, or a citizen of another religion, probably has the same convictions about his or her religious beliefs. And what are we to do, then? Disregard that fact, just because we are in the majority? No. No way. Not today. Lesotho is a democracy, not a theocracy. And we're all pulling this load together toward a common, national goal: No hunger, no poverty, no AIDS, no discrimination.

Index on Africa

The Norwegian Council for Africa has put together an index aimed at collecting African URLs and grouping them by subject and by region. Have a look-see. If you have a site or a weblog, go ahead and submit it. There aren't enough of us out there anyway.

Monday

Turning junk into funk

Lesotho shepherds turn junk into funk

Where we come from (Moo re tsoang teng)

The ancestors of the Sotho people entered the area south of the Limpopo River in several migrations. In time, they became dispersed over the vast interior plateau between the eastern escarpment and the arid western regions and formed four subgroups, the Tswana, North Sotho, South Sotho and East Sotho.
Read on

Dennis Brutus

Dennis Brutus was an apartheid fighter. He quasi-singlehandedly got apartheid South Africa barred from participating in the Olympic Games. Mr Brutus was born in Zimbabwe to South African parents, and has been a prisoner on Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and other fighters were also imprisoned. Dennis Brutus says,

"Train Journey

Along the miles of steel
that span my land
threadbare children stand
knees ostrich bulbous on their reedy legs,
their empty hungry hands
lifted as if in a prayer."

© Dennis Brutus

Anthem Verse 2, Stanza 1: Hara Mafat'se le letle ke lona

What does one say about one's country but that it is the most gorgeous of all? I certainly am not going to say that it is the ugliest. Yet, looking at that second verse of the national anthem's first stanza:
Lesotho, fat'se la bo ntat'a rona
Hara mafat'se le letle ke lona
I have often wondered what we mean to say. You and I have agreed that yes, we can lay claim to the land and call it Land of our fathers, the first verse. Which gives us the right to make another claim: It is the most beautiful of worlds, the second verse. We're lying through our teeth. We're lying to ourselves and we're lying to the world, because we do not believe what we're singing. How do I know? If we believed what we were singing and really thought our country was the most beautiful in the world, then
We'd do a lot towards keeping it that way.
We would be selfless, and go out of our way to help unfortunate Basotho.
We would plant trees all over the place, instead of uprooting them.
We would not have burned down Maseru, the capital city, because we'd lost an election.
We would not be running away and draining Lesotho of its grey-matter.
We would not suffer from IPS, Inverted Pyramid Syndrome, but back and support everything local.
We would not have killed other Basotho for political gain.
We would not throw paper and other rubbish in the street but in the rubbish bin.
That's how I know. And I hereby ask you, when you hear yourself chanting that second verse of the first stanza, to wonder what it is you are doing for Lesotho that gives you a right to proclaim its beauty before the world. As much as we have agreed that we can safely say the land is ours, I disagree as to its absolute beauty. Beauty, like love, must be maintained through deliberate action.

"I'm washing my car because I want it to look beautiful." When you're done washing it, then you drive it to town to boast, because at that instant you do believe it is beautiful, because you've done something to gain the right to believe that it is beautiful. Why should it be different when it concerns Lesotho? You shine your shoes regularly, you whiten your "liteki" (sneakers) and iron your shirt to a crease. When you go out at night wearing those clothes you feel handsome, you feel that you can conquer love, you try to conquer love. Why should it be different when it concerns Lesotho?

We're lying to ourselves and to the world. This must cease, if we're to "raise ourselves up and wipe off the dust." One of our common goals must be to ensure that Lesotho remains or becomes the most beautiful we can make it. How? Look at the list above and start making that 2nd verse of the 1st national anthem stanza true.

Sunday

Vegan Blog: The (Eco) Logical Weblog

Vegan Blog: The (Eco) Logical Weblog

Poverty in Lesotho (Bofutsana Lesotho)

1./ Poverty in Lesotho: a case study and policy options

2./ Poverty (Bofutsana)

Unblocking the blood system's network

"Heart researchers may be closing in at last on a long-fantasized goal _ treatments that flush out the nasty globs of gunk that clog the heart's plumbing.
This idea goes beyond merely preventing new coronary artery disease. The intention is to actually clear away what's already there, to clean up the source of heart attacks before they happen."
In Lesotho we've known how to clear artery gunk without pills for years! In fact, it is an old African secret. Fortunately, too, because, well, we just don't have resources for pills and other medical solutions. We eat lots of fruits, little or no meat, tons of fish and leafy greens, walk a lot, and while away the time by playing. That's it.