Wednesday

Let's Dam Lesotho

"It is one of the largest construction projects in the world, in the heart of one of the smallest and poorest countries in Africa. The premise at the heart of the Lesotho Highland Water Project was simple from its inception in 1986. The tiny mountainous Kingdom was blessed with plentiful supplies of water. It's [sic] giant neighbour, South Africa, which completely surrounds it, needed water. And so the project was born."
[ Read on... ]

Tuesday

Hilton Tours and Safaris

On our mountain safari we ascend spectacular mountain passes, traverse hairpin bends, rolling green hills and dramatic and awe-inspiring sandstone cliffs. The Roof of Africa trail allows one to travel for days without seeing a solitary soul allowing one to feel that you are the first explorer of this ruggedly beautiful country.

We ascend the awesome Sani Pass, summiting at 2 874 metres. This is the Roof of Africa Highway, the highest road on the African continent. This trail is for those with a sense of adventure and the soul of an explorer! We journey along the Roof of Africa Highway, over Black Mountain and through the Nesting place of the rare and endangered Lammergeyer - the Bearded Vulture - in the Sehonghong River Valley.


True, Hilton Tours and Safaris are trying to sell you a trip. But believe me none of their blurb is false. They just haven't told you about the AIDS-stricken, hungry villagers and the soil-eroded countryside. But why should they? Their job is to show you the most beautiful parts of Lesotho. It is my firm belief that tourism is going to be one of our saviours, and that belief is based on several factors. I think we need to bend over backwards in order to attract tourists; it can't be that hard, since they're already flocking to South Africa and Botswana. But what are we doing instead? We're not doing anything much, in fact, apart from almost literally chasing them away. It's sad.

Lauren's Adventures in Lesotho

We don't have a shower. We have a tub with a sprayer thing to wash our hair. It was a bit difficult at first, and I definitely got a little out of control with the sprayer thing, but by the end of the bath, I think I figured out a system that works pretty well, and best of all, we have HOT WATER!

Today we met with Dr. Mphu Ramatlapang who is an extremely intelligent and kind, mover-and-shaker kind of woman. Dr. Ramatlapang actually runs a private hospital about one hour south of here, and Bill says that it is the best hospital in the country. On Monday, Ramatlapang is taking us to the hospital and also to visit a school there with a good disabilities program (since Shelley is an occupational therapist). It was a wonderful meeting!
Ramatlapeng. That's how her name is spelt. Nevertheless, what an interesting read! Full of pictures, too. If you're a Mosotho out of Lesotho reading Lauren's adventures might help you come to terms with that fact. If you're not a Mosotho, you'll learn a lot about how it is like being a Mosotho. Lauren, please say hello to Ausi Mphu, whom I know well.

Thokolosi

What is a thokolosi? The spelling may vary from thokolosi to tikoloshi, depending on which southern African language you're used to speaking. The thokolosi has already made the headlines and been falsely considered an international star. But what is it?

Monday

What The Hell Is This?

This is not at all what a government website for the promotion of a nation's tourism should look like. In the beginning, and that was a few months ago, I thought it was all temporary, and that the real site was under construction. Well, no. Anybody who might be interested in going to Lesotho, after hearing about Lesotho from some of us who live abroad or reading about it somewhere, any such potential visitor comes across these non-professional pages that do not offer one nano-morsel of information about tourism in Lesotho. There's a poll that asks,
What do you think about this site?
Ummmm, not bad
Cool
Terrific
The best one!
what the hell is this?
That small "w" on "what" is on the webpage, ladies and gentlemen, and these are pages that use the address of the Lesotho Tourist Board. Now, who's supposed to be running that show? Because there isn't a show to speak of. Some people that I've talked to about Lesotho get back to me and wonder if I've given them the wrong address. There's nothing wrong with using pre-fabricated websites (PHP-Nuke in this case), but the webmaster and the project manager have to take care of the site on a daily basis. If not, people will go once, maybe go back a second time, and that's it--lost visitor, lost potential tourist. Hell, it's like somebody, somewhere doesn't want Lesotho to have tourists. Why would that be? Got enough bread on the table? Well, some folks don't, and tourism might mean improved livelihoods for thousands of people. I'm going to seriously consider writing an open letter to the ministry in charge of this. It is inacceptable, moreso due to the difficulties we're going through in terms of drought and famine.

What is the use of having the horoscope on a government's tourism website? I wonder. When you click hopefully on "Web Links" you get: There are 0 Links and 0 Categories in our database. Unpertubed, you might try "Topics." You end up with dead links to Adelfang Computing, Linux, Microsoft, Computer Hardware, Computer Software and others. Who the hell is Adelfang Computing and what the hell are they doing on these pages? What the hell are the rest of those companies doing on these pages? Put yourself in a potential tourist's shoes. What do you do? Wouldn't you pop a blood vessel? I'm not a potential tourist and I have popped one, big time. I mean, what the hell is this? And what does it mean?

Does it mean that there are actually people, who have been voted into or placed in positions of power, who don't give a rat's ass what happens to this website, as well as to well-meaning folks who might visit it? Again, why would that be? Is it because those people are full and won't work unless they're hungry? That's the way we used to conduct politics and business. Once on a respectable rung on the political ladder, people used to sit and do diddley, let things rot, indulge in serious nepotism so that nobody says anything about nothing. I know, we're supposed to be past that stage. Today we have an elected, democratic government. But that is precisely why I'm ticked off that this website has gone unnoticed or has been ignored until now. It even figures on the government site's links page. Will somebody please remove this from the eyes of the world and put up respectable pages that contain
What Lesotho is...
Where it is...
Why it should be visited...
How much it costs to visit it...
When it should be visited...
Who the Basotho and southern Africans are...
Just that. The site might be improved afterwards by adding information about visas and currency and DOs and DONTs lists and so on. But the five WH-questions and the H-question are more than enough to provide the basic information that will certainly not tick people off and drive potential tourists to click on tourist websites of other countries. That's all I'm asking, now.

Alternative sites:
_Lesotho Parks
_Go2Africa
_Government Website: Tourism
_Lonely Planet
_See Lesotho
_Columbus Guides
_Malealea [pony trekking]
_Afri-Ski [skiing]
_Cheap Hotels and Motels
_Club Maluti [skiing]
_Amohela [fly fishing]
_Africa Guide
_Aloe Tours [aloe safari]
_Morija Fest [culture]

If we don't or can't fix those pages, why not remove that useless information and make an index list of all websites in relation with tourism in Lesotho? I've just compiled one with 14 interesting and useful sites. And if I can, while it's not my job but duty, then the person whose job and duty it is should be able to compile a more extensive one. An annotated one would be nice.

UPDATE:
The Embassy of The Kingdom of Lesotho in Washington has a very informative tourism page that does the job better than all of the pages of the Tourism Board website put together.

Bunkum

These guys have a conspicuous, blue, circular, "Did-you-know" space that proclaims: Did you know. Formerly known as Basutoland, Lesotho gained independence from South Africa in 1966.

Canada's Globeandmail.com

In their international news section, the Globe and Mail dot com classify international news into United States, Europe, Middle East and South Asia, and Asia-Pacific. Darn! We've been left aside once again.

UPDATE: Africa's now in as Africa-Mideast. Go figure. On 2 June 2004 when I clicked on Africa-Mideast, here's what I saw:
Allah and al-Sadr inspire a cult of insurgents

By GEOFFREY YORK
BAGHDAD - The Islamic warrior limps across the mosque courtyard, recovering from a gunshot wound he suffered as he fought U.S. tanks with rocket-propelled grenades in the holy city of Najaf last week. FULL STORY

Minister has stilettos and an iron will

By ORLY HALPERN
BAGHDAD - If the amount of gold she wears around her neck and arms were an indication of her position in the Iraqi government, she would probably be president. That idea isn't far from the truth. FULL STORY

Terrorists put Saudi stability in peril

By PATRICK BRETHOUR
CALGARY - The militants attacking Westerners in Saudi Arabia have so far lost every one of their battles, with each attempt to disrupt crude exports ending in bloodshed and abject failure.But their short... FULL STORY


U.S. troops prepare to leave Haiti

By ESTANISLAO OZIEWICZ
- With Haitians still struggling to recover from the floods that have ravaged parts of their country, U.S. troops prepared yesterday to pull out and turn over command to a new United Nations force... FULL STORY

Hunt continues for escaped hostage takers in Saudi Arabia

By DONN ABU-NASR
KHOBAR, SAUDI ARABIA - Saudi authorities hunted yesterday for three suspected al-Qaeda militants who used hostages as human shields to escape after a weekend assault on a residential complex that killed 22 people,... FULL STORY

Coalition, council deadlocked over Iraq president

By HAMZA HENDAWI
BAGHDAD - Iraqi Governing Council members accused U.S. officials yesterday of pressuring them to accept Washington's choice for Iraq's new president, prompting a delay in the announcement of a government... FULL STORY

Turkish trial for suspected al-Qaeda members delayed
Istanbul - The trial of 69 suspected members of a Turkish al-Qaeda cell accused in a string of November suicide bombings in Istanbul was postponed yesterday after the court ruled that it did not have the... FULL STORY

Saudi man given lashes, jail time for beating wife
Riyadh - A Saudi man who severely battered his wife, a popular television host, has been sentenced to six months in jail and 300 lashes, Saudi media reported yesterday.Muhammad Bakar Yunus Al-Fallatta... FULL STORY

Court rules Liberia's Taylor not immune from charges
Freetown - A UN-backed court for Sierra Leone ruled yesterday that ousted Liberian leader Charles Taylor is not immune from prosecution for alleged war crimes. Mr. Taylor, who lives in exile in Nigeria... FULL STORY [ Source... ]


Sunday

Lesotho Newspaper Sued

"Mololi," the Sesotho newspaper and the voice of the ruling Lesotho Congress for democracy (LCD), has been sued for defamation by a ruling party MP. "Mololi" is said to have published alleged misbehaviour by the MP in question.
[ Read more... ]

Friday

African Peer Review Mechanism

The African Peer Review Mechanism is "aimed at promoting good governance among African leaders." It is the brain-child of the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad). It basically involves member countries surveying each other's economic and social policies, and also intends to thwart mis-rule in Africa by undoing the tacit post-colonial agreement among African countries not to criticise one another.
The goal of the mechanism is to get African leaders to subject their governments to ongoing examination by other Africans in such priority areas as peace and security, democracy and political governance, and economic and corporate management. The UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has been given primary responsibility for working out objective indicators that can be used to actually measure governments' adherence to such standards.
Yeah. But wait...it's a nice idea, won't it be hard to implement, given our continental record for pulling things off? No country is under any obligation to join, so our dictating fat-cats will just keep their regimes out, won't they? And then, what's in it for the general population? I mean, the fat-cats must remain convinced that negative Peer Review results will be negative for their political careers. Of course. The carrot is embodied by more international aid for joining and having everything scrutinised, and the stick by a national stigma for not joining and for getting negative reviews. We're tottering along, but hey, as the Amharic proverb says, "Little by little, an egg will walk."

Thursday

Lesotho Politics

About two million people is how many we are. About how many political parties would you guess we had in Lesotho? Is it better to have fewer political parties than more political parties? Is America better off with their three or four, or is Lesotho better off with its nineteen (yes, 19)? It seems to me that for a country of any size, nineteen political parties is sheer folly. How many schools of thought can one, single country have? Five is reasonable, ten is dangerous, nineteen is madness. All it does is prove our divisiveness. We are a divided people, and we're not ready to see eye to eye. Many of those parties probably share ideologies and believe in the same basic approaches to governance, but they will not pull together. And there's that old, African desire to be king. Everybody wants a bigger chunk of the pie, so what does everybody do? Form a party.

We've seen it all over the place, and we know that the one who eats good is the one who runs the country. And the leader's village and friends eat good, too. So we vote people, not ideas, people, not country, people, not reason. In order for Lesotho to move forward and in order for our democracy to take hold, sprout roots and grow, we must re-think the way we do politics and we cannot afford to have this many parties. It's senseless and self-defeating. It is possible for all of us to eat good.

No 3

The keywords for this particular search were: sexy-woman & man; On Lesotho was No 3 on the list! That ain't bad at all.

Lesotho From a2z

There is a new link. It leads to pages that are part of an older project that fell through. I've decided to adapt them and incorporate them into On Lesotho and On Sesotho so as to provide a more complete experience. The link is under "My Blogs" and is entitled Lesotho From a2z. You will notice that the bottom menu links within these pages are still being updated.

Wednesday

Anthem verse 5, Stanza 1

1. Lesotho, fat'se la bo-ntat'a rona,
2. Har'a mafat'se le letle ke lona
3. Ke moo re hlahileng,
4. Ke moo re holileng,
5. Rea le rata.

Verse 5, Rea le rata, is not yet true. It translates into We love her, or She is dear to us.
1. Lesotho, land of our fathers,
2. Among worlds you are the most beautiful,
3. You are where we were born,
4. You are where we grew up,
5. You are dear to us.
No! Anything that man loves becomes an object of obsession. His car, his shoes, the woman he's in love with, himself. The latter are pampered and taken care of in unimaginable ways, but Lesotho isn't on that list and Lesotho isn't pampered in any way by any man, woman, girl or boy that I know. If you pamper Lesotho the way you do things you love, let me know. I'll be thrilled.

But what do I mean, pamper Lesotho? Glad you asked. Vote! Register to vote and do it. Don't vote blindly, though, but go ahead and listen to what the candidates say they will do. Vote for the most entreprising and convincing one, and--this is important--hold them accountable. Remind them that they lied to you, if they lied, and demand action. Bang your pots! Nothing will come of anything without your active involvement.

Voting is a right, and voting ensures that you are respected. There are many other ways of pampering Lesotho (One, Two), and I'm sure you can come up with one or two. How about planting a tree per year? Otherwise Rea le rata, as part of our national anthem, remains little more than moot.

Terrorist, Who Are You?

I was quite young when I realised that a terrorist to one is a freedom fighter to another. Is Ariel Sharon a terrorist? How about Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, was he a terrorist? You probably said 'Yes' for one and 'No' for the other. But what criteria did you base yourself on, if anything more than mere acquired conviction? People that were deemed freedom fighters by some were routinely referred to as terrorists by the Lesotho regime of Leabua Jonathan. But the dilemma goes even beyond such ideologically tainted identification, into the very linguistic realm of the terrible word, terrosist. Terrorist, who are you?

Redistribution of Land in South-Africa

I would be happy to hear what my counterparts across the border think about this news.

Monday

GWB Campaign Garb Made in Burma

Thanks to Honan for this interesting bit of information, where we're told that
The official merchandise Web site for President George W. Bush's re-election campaign has sold clothing made in Burma, whose goods were banned by Bush from the U.S. last year to punish its military dictatorship. The merchandise sold on www.georgewbushstore.com includes a $49.95 fleece pullover, embroidered with the Bush-Cheney '04 logo and bearing a label stating it was made in Burma, now Myanmar. The jacket was sent to Newsday as part of an order that included a shirt made in Mexico and a hat not bearing a country-of-origin label.
49.95 USD is 332.667 Maloti or 27.3398 British Pounds. I wonder what kind of factories they run down in Burma. I wonder if they (still) have sweatshops, too, just like we do in Lesotho. I wonder what that lady, what was her name -- Aung San Suu Kyi -- I wonder what she thinks about this. I wonder where she is now.

Convicted Briber Hassles Lesotho

Remember Acres International? The Canadian multinational that was successfully tried and convicted for bribery in Lesotho? Well, they're back in the headlines. They want to pay the M13 million in installments. On the other hand, Lesotho has already spent M28 million on this case and two others, also with positive outcomes for Lesotho. From left and right and probably centre, there have been promises of assistance in these prosecutions, but such aid has yet to arrive. "The Lesotho government has been receiving much praise for proceeding with the extensive trials and investigations across international borders"

Friday

Bishop Tutu's CV

Desmond Tutu -- Curriculum Vitae
Born: 7th October 1931, Klerksdorp, Transvaal.
Parents: Father was a school teacher. Mother relatively uneducated.
Married: 2nd July 1955.
Wife: Leah Nomalizo Tutu.
Children: Trevor Thamsanqa, Theresa Thandeka, Naomi Nontombi, Mpho Andrea.

1945 - 1950 High School Education - Johannesburg Bantu High School, Western Native Township up to Matric.
1951 - 1953 Teachers Diploma at Pretoria Bantu Normal College.
1954 - BA (UNISA)
1954 - Teacher at Johannesburg Bantu High School.
1955 - 1958 Teacher at Munsieville High School, Krugersdorp.
1958 - 1960 St. Peters Theological College, Rosettenville, Johannesburg for Ordination Training. Licentiate in Theology
1960 - Ordained as Deacon, Johannesburg, served title in Benoni Location.
1961 - Ordained Priest.
1962 - 1965 Part-time curate, St Alban's (lived with family at Golder's Green, London).
1965 - B.D. Hon. (London).
1966 - M.Th (London) lived in Blechingley, Surrey, part-time curate St Mary's.
1967 - 1969 Joined Staff of Federal Theological Seminary, Alice, Cape. Chaplain - University of Fort Hare.
1970 - 1972 Lecturer, Department of Theology, U.B.L.S. Roma, Lesotho.
1972 - 1975 Associate Director, Theological Education Fund of the World Council of Churches based in Bromley, Kent. Lived in Grove Park, London and was Honorary curate of St Augustine's.
1975 - 1976 Dean of Johannesburg.
1976 - 1978 Bishop of Lesotho.
1978-1985 General Secretary, South African Council of Churches.
1985- date Bishop of Johannesburg.

Conferences
"Salvation Today" Conference in Bangkok, Thailand.
All Africa Conference of Churches General Assembly, Lusaka
Anglican Consultative Council - Port of Spain
Lambeth Conference, Canterbury.
WCC 5th Assembly in 1975, Nairobi
WCC 6th Assembly in 1983, Vancouver.

Awards/Writings
Elected Fellow of King's College, London (1978).
Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from General Theological Seminary, USA (May, 1978).
Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law from Kent University, England (July 1978).
Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Harvard, USA (June 1979).
Prix d'Athene (Onassis Foundation) (1980).
Honorary Doctorate of Theology from Ruhr University, Bochum (November 1981).
Honorary Doctorate of Sacred Theology - Columbia University (Aug 1982).
Author of "Hope and Suffering" (Sept 1983).
Author of several articles and reviews. Author of "Crying in the Wilderness".
Designated member of International Social Prospects Academy (1983 Nov).
The Family of Man Gold Medal Award (1983 December).
Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters - St Paul's College, Lawrenceville (1984 January).
Honorary Doctorate of Law from Claremont Graduate School (1984 May).
Honorary Doctorate of Sacred Theology from Dickinson College (1984 May).
Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award of Annual Black American Heroes and Heroines Day - U.S.A. (1984 May).
Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Aberdeen University, Scotland (July,1984).
Doctor of Human Letters, Howard University - U.S.A. (1984).
Nobel Peace Prize - Oslo, Norway (1984).
In 1976-77 I met him when he came to Peka High School to give a speech. I can't remember the details of his talk, but that it was "calming" and friendly, whatever I mean by that. It was of course a politico-religious talk about the events in South Africa. And then he was gone, right to the centre of the turmoil to go and calm and befriend everyone involved. Listen to him speak about different concerns, and get one of his books, if you're interested.

There have been several "firsts" along Ntate Tutu's path. He was the first black Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town (1). In 1984 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (2 [first South African?]). He is the first black person to lead the Anglican Church in South Africa (3). He sure is both an interesting and a no-nonsense person. He says that the treatment of Palestinians by Israel is a form of apartheid, and has unceasingly asked the Israeli government to respect the dignity and the rights of the Palestinian people. And he has openly criticised Mugabe's human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, as well as the South African government's policy of hush-hush diplomacy towards that calamity. Ntate Tutu does not see what "all the fuss" in relation with gay clergy is all about.

Fun Read

Many Basotho, at some stage in their lives, believe in the existence of thokolosi, or poltergeist in English, and that the thokolosi is controlled by some village woman who has supernatural powers or who can converse with the spirits. It's always a woman, and never a man. So it was quite natural, under the circumstances, for Basotho to take a meteor shower for ghost activity, and proceed with the sprinkling of holy water and other protective measures.

Thursday

Twisting History

Mzansi Afrika speaks about apartheid's history books. Those books did not only affect South Africans but many southern Africans as well. They affected me. I remember reading about Mr Moyo and Benny and Betty in Town. The understanding was that Benny and Betty were from out of town. Quite convenient for cementing the nasty Homeland business.

I went to Peka High School in Lesotho. PK, as we called it, was a political hotbed. Some of Lesotho's most stalwart leaders went there. While I was there I learned volumes about life and about politics, both national and international. In 1976 Soweto happened, and South African boys and girls spilled across the border into Lesotho, politicising us even more. Many of them were admitted to Peka High school.

At PK I met and became inseparable friends with Xola, Zeb-Zeb, Pazo, Tebo, and other South-Africans who ended up going to high school there. I was always amazed at how they were not bitter. How could they not be? We had just read and heard about Hector Peterson and about many other atrocities. And these guys were just adamant and determined in saying that "South Africa belongs to all who live in it, Black and White, and no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people." I have quoted that from memory, so please forgive any liberties in it. They are not intentional. Most of those guys could also do unimaginable things to a foot ball. That was right up my alley--How could I resist?

I bring up my friends, whom I haven't heard from in 18 years, because they used to tell us how the apartheid authorities had tried and were trying to twist black history out of shape. They would sometimes tell us what their grandparents or parents had told them, and we would tell them of what we knew of our own history. That's when I firmly decided that white people weren't bad. Only certain white people. A little later I had to concede that there were some bad black people, too. These boys (there weren't any South African refugee girls during my days at PK) knew that they would someday leave Lesotho to go elsewhere to train. They also knew that their Basotho friends would stay behind. So that although we were enflamed by the events across the border, they kept reminding us to think about our own country and to study. And to study. Xola used to drag me to a secluded spot, with a biology book in his hands, to revise and prepare for the exams. A very short while after that he was gone. And I passed my biology comfortably.

I met up with Tebo in America. Very briefly. Then he was gone, too. I would love to hear from them, see how they've made out, try to pick up where we left off, and thank them. Thank them for instilling in me (Mum had already done the ground work) the fact that people are people, and hate has no business in our heads, and that no, the first thing you do is not to kill your enemy but to find out why you differ then try to win them over if you think they're dead wrong, or meet them halfway if you're not sure. Today that's one of the basic tenets of my life. And it is fuelled by my personal experience (having my brother and my nephew taken away by violent political death), my mother's teachings (which have never been teachings, really, but observations, what I learned from studying her), and my own beliefs (my faith in God, in Jesus Christ and in the goodness of humans). Mzansi Afrika says
Ten years into democracy, South African teachers are still battling the legacy of apartheid, whose history primers painted black people as "primitive" and even "barbaric". Before white rule ended in 1994, pupils were taught history along colour lines: white children were told that apartheid represented the ruling Afrikaners' right to self-determination, while for black students, history lessons ended with 1948, the year the white nationalists came to power.
The point I really wanna make, apart from just being carried away as I have let myself be, is to black people who feel they have been painted "primitives." Just like in good writing, show, don't tell that you're in fact more civilised. Smile most things away, go out of your way to accomodate and teach bigots, share with your fellow folks (share yourself that is, and not necessarily your money), learn and learn and learn, and remain yourselves no matter what.

This had to end on that corny note, I'm afraid. I didn't find any other words but those to end it with. If any of my long lost pals read this, I'm at retjoun .at. lycos .dot. com.

Toying With a Right

According to a fifth generation TNS-Sofres poll conducted on behalf of Le Monde, RTL and LCI, as much as 70% potential voters consider Sunday's coming elections in France the opportunity to show they are not satisfied. That translates into voting for Monsieur Le Pen's ultra-right party.
L'extrême droite, qui continue de monter, recueille 16,5 % des intentions de vote. [...] L'envie d'un vote-sanction progresse, le [Front National] menace.
Wait just a minute! Are these people so blasé with voting that they can afford to vote for one party just to spite or punish another? That's insane. The vote is supposed to be a calculated, well-thought out, almost sacred undertaking. The future of the voter, of the voter's children, and indeed of all of the voter's country depends on it. Voting for Jean-Marie Le Pen and his daughter is tantamount to throwing away a valuable voice and encouraging the rightist party into thinking it has a chance. I wish votes, and the right to vote, could be given as hand-me-downs to countries that could use them.

Eszter's Blog Entry

It seems we're one of four countries that haven't got paid parental leave
"The United States joins just four other countries across the globe with no universal paid parental leave policy: Australia (they are working on it now), Lesotho, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland. In contrast, Canada recently passed a law which grants mothers 12 months' leave. In Sweden, families get 12 months' leave but only if the father takes at least one of those months for leave."

Wednesday

Images of Prince Harry in Lesotho

I have had word from folks in Lesotho that the majority of Basotho haven't got a thing against Harry. He seems to be genuinely helping. Here is a slide show of our prince in action.

I apologise for ever having doubted his good intentions.

1st Phase of Dam Done!

It's been years since we began work on the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, and it's going to take even more years before the project's done, but phase one has been completed. The road was rocky at times but we hung on, and I'm glad we did. Congratulations to Lesotho, to Basotho, and to our team for their sacrifice, their resolve and their vision.

We've only just begun, I should add, and the hardest tasks remain ahead. They are, in the short term, poverty reduction and elimination of AIDS. So let's all re-roll up those sleeves and get back to work.

New Kid on the Blog

NjaloNjalo (Thoughts on South Africa and the world in general) has just joined the blogosphere. The southern African presence on the Net is growing, and it is all the better. We want more, we want more!

Monday

Economic Commission for Africa

I like what K.Y. Amoako, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa has to say. And the more I listen, the more I become interested. In speaking about Africa's main development challenges, he wants first to target good governance (touché!), and secondly, poverty reduction (touché once more!) That's what I have been harping on in relation with Lesotho. It seems to me that Lesotho at last has good governance, which is why my number one enemy has for some time now been poverty.

Check Amoako out. Either at the ECA link above or at his blog. Now, you wouldn't be sweet-talking us in some awful manner, would you, Mr Amoako?

Gobineau

Did you know that the human body is 2/3 water? It is, trust me. I'm a biologist, ain't I? That's what I studied, before I got involved in linguistics and poetry writing. Moreover,
When you were born, your skeleton had around 350 bones. By the time you become an adult, you will only have around 206 bones. This is because, as you grow, some of the bones join together to form one bone.
_ Skull and upper jaw 21 bones
_ 3 tiny bones in each ear
_ Lower jaw (mandible)
_ Front neck bone (hyoid)
_ Backbone or spine (26 separate bones or vertebrae)
_ Ribs (12 pairs - same number for men and women)
_ Breastbone
_ Each upper limb has 32 bones: 2 in shoulder, 3 in arm, 8 in wrist, 19 in hand and fingers.
_ Each lower limb has 31 bones: 1 in hip (one side of pelvis), 4 in leg, 7 in ankle, 19 in foot and toes.
Total = 206 bones. (From About.com)
That's the folks in China, the West Indies, Swaziland and Norway. I have often heard the "we're different" argument. Utter kaka. I do not want you to get me wrong. I'm a Mosotho from Lesotho from Africa. And I'm infinitely happy with that. Don't go getting ideas. The fact remains, however, that we're all the same and the "we're different" argument is utter kaka. You and I and the next person are homo sapiens.

The species to which you and all other living human beings on this planet belong is Homo sapiens. Anatomically, modern humans can generally be characterized by the lighter build of their skeletons compared to earlier humans. Modern humans also have very large brains, which vary in size from population to population and between males and females, but the average is around 1300 cc. Housing this enlarged brain has involved the reorganization of the skull into what is thought of as the "modern" appearance -- a high vaulted cranium with a flat and near vertical forehead. The supraorbital torus is lost in most modern humans, and ridging above the orbits in general is very reduced. The widest part of the skull is high on the skull, as opposed to earlier Homo erectus and H. ergaster. The back of the skull lacks the transverse torus of H. erectus and the occipital bun of H. neanderthalensis (From mnh.si.edu)
Neanderthals, now those guys were different, and the "we're different" argument would have been perfectly appropriate as far as they were concerned. We were so different from those guys that we could not reproduce with them. In other words, we were incompatible at the genetic level! And when you know that horses and donkeys, which are so clearly different from one another, are able to mate and produce offspring, and therefore aren't as dissimilar as they seem, then you really start wondering about that good, old, stale argument: "We're different." But why would anybody want us to be different, and insist on our being different? Let's just pretend it were true that you and I were inherently different. The question still remains: so? I can't find the link to this, but I once heard Quincy Jones saying that Marlon Brando said if we were all the same colour and had the same religion and wore the same clothes, then right handed people would start butchering left handed people.

Gobineau is one of the earlier thinkers who started the mess we're in, because
The foundation of modern "scientific" racism was Gobineau's (1853-5) Essay on the Inequality of Human Races. Arthur de Gobineau (1816-1882) was a one-time diplomat who held that humanity is divided into three races, white, yellow and black. He considered that his reasoning established that the black race had an "animal character, that appears in the shape of the pelvis"; has a crude yet powerful energy; and dull mental faculties but has an "intensity of desire". The yellow race has little physical energy; feeble desires; mediocrity; a respect for order; and "does not dream or theorise". The whites have an energetic intelligence, perseverance, instinct for order, love of liberty, and sense of honour; they can be cruel, but when they are "they are conscious of their cruelty; it is very, doubtful whether such a consciousness exists in the negro". (From austarnet.com)
Way to go, Gobby! Before the publication of Frenchman Joseph Arthur de Gobineau's "The Inequality of Human Races," in 1915, nobody had, I bet, ever put the words "utter" and "bunkum" together in the same expression with as much unfathomable intensity as I'm doing as I type these words.

Thursday

Female Clergy

I am a Mokhatla. Bakhatla (or Bakgatla, as it is spelt in Botswana) essentially come from Mochudi. The following takes place in Mochudi, which is why I feel I can butt in. The Bakgatla chief over there, Linchwe II, refuses to recognise Mmonie Kgosiemang as a Priest of the Dutch Reformed Church, although she was ordained as such in Mochudi.
She was ordained at the weekend amid controversy, which saw the church break into two factions. Linchwe did not attend the ceremony even though he had been invited. The ordination is already a subject of a court case.
[...]
He said at present the church constitution prohibits ordination of women. Linchwe said he will welcome the women priests only after the church constitution had been amended.

Missionaries!

Basotho and missionaries. I've often wondered how that first encounter went. Two beings from completely different worlds face to face with one another and not knowing what the dickens to say! It is the stuff of nightmares. Especially that, "When the first group of PEMS missionaries arrived at the Sotho capital, Thaba Bosiu, in June 1833, the Basotho had had very little contact with Europeans."

Southern Africa Web Ring

The Southern Africa Web Ring has seen the light of day. The blurb says
Welcome to SAWR, a group whose main objectives are to promote and give exposure to the southern African web presence. Site, blog, personal page, you name it. Make it southern African. Sites with African content may join, if they speak about southern Africa now and then. A webring or a blogring is a series of linked sites or blogs about the same subject. Our obligatory links are "members", "random" and "join".
There are five members already, and we'd be happy to hear from potential members. If you'd like to join, it's over here. If you wanna know a little more about SAWR, the come this way. The SAWR is run by Rethabile Masilo of On Lesotho.

Mike's Account of his Stay in Lesotho

Mike Young is serving in the Peace Corps in Mokhotlong, Lesotho. Mike's regular letters are an informative read for anyone interested in Lesotho, moreso because he provides a different view (from the one I've gotten you used to). As you know, Prince Harry is spending some royal time in Lesotho. What do you know, Mike bumped into him and they shared a royal beer and a royal laugh. Mike has a good account of life in the mountains of Lesotho and posts some pictures, too.

Tuesday

Another RSA Blog on the Scene

Darkie's Place is another South-African blog that I've just recently known about. It says that it is
The online home for Xhosa speakers (and those who understand the language!). A place where the world can be seen from a different set of eyes ... a place where we can laugh at ourselves, learn from ourselves and love ourselves ... a place where we can embrace our 'loxion culture' ... a place to inspire ... a place where we can be black, loud and proud!
Have a look-see. There are small bits of posts in English, but it is essentially in isiXhosa. It is good to see the southern African section of the blogosphere growing. I personally advise Darkie's Place to visit BlogAfrica, in order to be seen by the rest of us. And I want Darkie's Place to know that aggressive comments like the one posted here are not constructive at all, and plainly serve no purpose. The idea is to pull together, not to push each other.

Monday

Psychology of Blogging

Why do we do it? What drives the blogger to wake up and blog, day in and day out? I think that the answer may be different for each one of us out there. And I think that each of those blogging reasons, unique to each blogger, probably has its own raison d'être. John M. Grohol has some thoughts on why we blog. He says, among other things, that
Most weblogs are drivel, banal shit written by angst-ridden teenagers and adults sharing feelings, thoughts, and mind-numbing details about their daily lives that provide little insight into anything or anyone. But the gems can be found amongst the long-since abandoned or forgotten sites. These gems are personality- driven. That is, the person or persons writing for them are genuinely interesting. They are storytellers. They understand the need for a beginning, a middle, and an ending. They draw together like-minded links into themes for the day, for the week, for a lifetime. The authors of such weblogs and online journals have an inner drive for their work. They don't look for adoration or attention from other folks online. It comes to them naturally by the power of their work, by the originality of their stories, or by the genuine nature of their words.
I thought it amusing that the bottom of Dr. Grohol's blog page has this link. Perhaps it is meant for people who run bad blogs?

Lesotho PM Takes HIV Blood Test

The Lesotho Prime-Minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, has taken a blood test in a bid to encourage his country folks, as well as other leaders of SADC nations, to do the same. What good can possibly come from such an action? As he says himself, we must lift the stigma off the blasted illness in order to better fight it. I couldn't agree more. Although I could add the need for freely distributed condoms. Moreover, the more far-reaching our statistics, the better we can know where to hit (treatment), where to block (prevention), and so on.

Zimbabwe grabs United States aircraft

Zimbabwe is reported to have seized a US aircraft with several people, described as mercenaries, on board. Military material was found on the aircraft. The plane has been moved to a military base but we are not told where the "mercenaries" have been taken. The concerned authorities on both sides have not made any comments.

Lesotho's Orphans

An AIDS orphan. I saw this term for the first time upon reading Sarah Crowe's account of her meeting with children whose parents have been taken away by the dreaded illness.
Thaba Tseka is one of the worst hit districts in Lesotho and the locals blame the the [sic] Katse Dam, which is part of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project which attracted migrant labourers from far and wide. Now they fear the HIV/Aids prevalence will be even higher once the pending Maluti highway project reaches their village.
The good (dam) and the ugly (AIDS). Lesotho must have that water project up and running and finished soon. It is going to be the livelihood of many-a-Basotho. As a result Lesotho needs to develop the backroads so that this project can be operational. But that very development of backroads means diseases like AIDS reach the mountain populations faster. And getting treatment for HIV up there is probably next to impossible. The good and the ugly.

Saturday

Mzansi Afrika

A warm welcome to Jo'burger Mzansi Afrika, who has recently joined the blogosphere. The more of us southern Africans there are out here the better.

Friday

Plate Numbers of Lesotho

Plate numbers of Lesotho, or license plates of Lesotho if you'd rather, had the Basotho Hat and a letter that represented one of the eleven provinces, and then the identifying number. Government vehicles were X, Y or Z, and the plate numbers were red. Our car was Hat G 0038. The hat for Lesotho, the G for Quthing, and 38 because my parents were the 38th to buy a car in the southern district of Quthing. Number plates are for life in Lesotho, so that you can sell your car, buy another one, and stick the same plate numbers on it. I've never known any other number than Hat G 0038!

How we used to dread the red X, Y or Z number plates!

Wednesday

Prince Harry in Lesotho

More than 50 journalists have arrived in Lesotho's capital, Maseru for a photo opportunity offered by Britain's Prince Harry- his first during his eight-week stay in Lesotho.

The prince arrived there 17 days ago. Paddy Harverson, his spokesperson, says Harry has taken a hands-on share already been involved in a variety of projects. These include helping build a new clinic and a bridge, planting trees with local school children to aid land conservation, and digging trenches to divert water away from crop fields.

The media have been invited to see - and snap -Prince Harry working at an orphanage near Mohale's Hoek, in the south of Lesotho.
Fifty? How did he pull that off? I don't think we've seen that many journalists grouped together since the disturbances in 1998. And even then.... Has the Prince used this amount of clout in any way for the betterment of the local population, which is starving and AIDS-infested? Surprise me by pointing me in the direction of one--one--such statement. I'll gladly apologise to the goodly Prince. Working at an orphanage? Really? Doing what? Is that working at the orphanage for an hour or for a day?

If I'm right, this isn't really what Lesotho needs. We need maize and sorghum, not photo-hunting journalists. Unless, of course, the celebrity concerned is smart enough to seize the opportunity to tell the world about the misery and the hunger and the disease. What this tends to do, instead is take our team's time and use resources on heightened security. Food, not photo ops. That, I'm sure, would be the reaction of many of the people involved in poverty reduction and AIDS combat.

UPDATE: So far, so good. The Prince seems to be doing what he should be doing.

UPDATE 2: Pondblogger has a post on our young prince's adventures in Lesotho. Have a look-see.

UPDATE 3: The two updates above have links that are no longer "good".

Lesotho Artist Simon Ralitsebe and others

Simon Malitse Ralitsebe is a truly committed young artist. Trained by Shona master stone carvers of Zimbabwe he has adapted his skill to shape the sandstones of his native Lesotho. His inspiration for much of his work comes to him in Dreams and from the people and landscape which surrounds him. Due to their weight Simon's sculptures are generally only available to those who live in the Southern African region, although arrangements could be made to ship them further afield.

Simon has a thirst for artistic knowledge which is admirable. In addition to stone he works competently in clay and wood and produces drawing in pen and ink which show a rare vitality.
Masianoke Gallery has many more images and many more bios of many more Basotho artists. It's more than worth a look-see if you're into art. There is also a list of student artists from Machabeng College.

Monday

Anthem Verse 4, Stanza 1: Ke moo re holileng

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

Verse 4 is in a way a continuation of verse 3. "Ke moo re holileng": It is where we grew up. I personally grew up and became a responsible and conscious human being outside Lesotho. But I don't suppose that's what the lyrics relate to, since they are more figurative than cartesian. I believe that a good number of Basotho teenagers either left of their own desire or were driven out1. Either way they, just like me, grew up outside Lesotho. So what does the verse mean, then?

As far as I'm concerned, it is true that the most visible part of my growing up happened in exile, which means my voice deepened, I grew a beard, I almost doubled the size of my shoes, I got sloshed for the first time, and I became a hopeless fan of woman. But almost every seed was planted, and the seed-bed itself was, in Lesotho. That's where I first met hope, felt the joy of belonging, faced desperation, knew fear, and touched compassion. Seeds.

Perhaps things like these happen in other places, too. But my own seed-bed was no doubt Lesotho, so in essence that's where I grew up2.
Mum and I were driving north up Kingsway, toward home, having packed the blue Datsun pickup van with stock for the family shop. I glanced at the clock. Maseru was unusually deserted for six p.m. Perhaps there was a curfew that we hadn't heard about. Or perhaps it was due to the unfriendly looking clouds, stationed across the skyline as far as I could see.

--"It's going to rain...," I must have thought aloud.
--"What?"
--"Ah, it looks like it's going to rain," I said.
--"Don't worry. We will have long finished unloading when the first drops come."
--"I sure hope so."

We drove past the bakery on the left and the new shopping centre on the right. There was hardly anybody even there! We zoomed past the hardware store where a woman was sitted in front on the pavement with small mounds of potatoes for sale, and headed for Mafafa and the Cathedral Roundabout. And Mum jumped on the brakes and brought the Datsun to a noisy stop, and me out my dreamy stupor. She was looking at me, or rather through me at something I could not comprehend. It was my turn to say what.

--"What?"

She stopped looking at whatever it was in me or behind me, dipped her hand into her purse and gave me a zoka, a five-cent coin.

--"Get me some potatoes with this."

For some reason I just took the money and got the potatoes, two mounds, without bringing it to her attention that we had several sacks of the stuff in the van. I did ask her a day or two later, because I was genuinely intrigued. And her answer placed me a step further on my way to becoming a responsible and conscious adult, without actually growing an inch3.
So, yes, in my case, and I suspect in many other cases, I did grow in Lesotho, although I physically grew up elsewhere. And I suspect this of any place that has such a mixture of seed-bed and seed. If the English language does not already have a proverb or adage about suffering and suddenly becoming a model earthling, then I'll just have to invent one.

1 There is no more driving out of Basotho. That nasty bit of our history petered out with the first democratically elected government.
2 I'm not suggesting any correlation between this verse and how Basotho children are brought up or grow up. I just happen to believe that I actually grew up in Lesotho, although puberty came afterwards.
3 It is a true story, if you were wondering.