A Message to Southern Africa Web Ring members.

Writing Systems

Last night I saw a program on TV about David, the statue. What a beautiful example of a writing system! Michaelangelo had one of the best handwritings ever. Picasso wasn't bad, either, and could write about painful things as about any feeling, really. Is art, paintings specifically, a writing system? My parents come from the southern district of Quthing, where Baroa rock paintings abound. Are they part of the Writing Systems of Southern Africa?

If, indeed, they are, are there any parallels to be drawn between Baroa rock paintings and Egyptian hieroglyphics? I think not. Egyptians painted a pharaoh or a pyramid or a bird in flight when they wanted to paint, and they scribbled hieroglyphics when they wanted to write. Why is southern African Baroa art being bundled off as a writing system? I do not think for a minute that those artists who decorated their homes with pictures of animals and people were trying to communicate some primitive, subliminal message, because that is what it boils down to: others can paint, Baroa wrote.
[ This link via Free Morpheme ]
Written language is a also [sic] a human invention, like spoken language, but it is not a universal invention. Few societies have invented a writing system for themselves - most have been borrowed and adapted from the original inventors. Civilisations as advanced as the Incas have had no writing. The civilisations of the written word were limited mainly to Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Writing systems in the New World, the Pacific, and much of Africa were usually primitive. Where no records remain, we do not know what vanished civilisations may have achieved, but into this century many hundreds of languages and societies have remained preliterate. Two thirds of the world's languages are still unwritten, and there are only several hundred different writing systems. Learning to read is not as natural as learning to talk, despite the hopeful notions that it ought to be. [ Source... ]


Worrying News

On 19 May 2004 a Radio Lesotho news editor was apparently threatened on the air by the minister of Home Affairs, ntate Tom Thabane. Her sin? Wanting to shorten the phone-in programme to which ntate Tom had been invited. This is troubling, indeed. I'm waiting for confirmation of the incident and of the circumstances surrounding it. But in whatever case, this is not the kind of behaviour we expect from this government, about which I've already spoken, and encouraged on the road I still think is the right one.
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Why in Lesotho

Michael Tyas from Shelburne, Ontario in Canada tells us why and when and how he went to South Africa for his post-secondary education, and ended up in a small hamlet in Lesotho.
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Basotho Culture

The Beaufort Gazette has this piece about our culture. Informative, is the word that immediately comes to mind. But like so many others, this article, too, dubs us The Switzerland of Africa, as if we liked being referred to that way or as if we should. If Switzerland is The Lesotho of Europe, then, fair enough, we'll be what they have been calling us for so long.


Richard's Back

I'll be doggone, but Richard is indeed back. "I think," he says. Let's hope it's for real. It'll sure as hell take all of us to keep moving forward.

SAWR: New Member

The Southern Africa Web Ring has a new member. A warm welcome. So when are you gonna join?
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How well do you know Lesotho? Go ahead, give it a shot.


Reporter Harassment

This is sufficiently important for me to quote it in its entirety. It is the first time I hear of independent press harassment in Lesotho, and it is saddening. I have no reason not to believe Reporters Sans Frontières, who are a prestigious group with laudable intent and who, moreover, stand to gain nil from badmouthing Lesotho. So they are most probably telling the truth. The press has always been important in Lesotho, and journalists have always been part of the vanguard of any struggle we've had thus far. Harassing them is a bad move that drives toward several, negative accomplishments. The positive image the country is enjoying is trashed, future business windfalls are blocked, We're sent back into a period we're trying to forget, compromising reconciliation and the advancement of democracy.
The authorities intermittently try to put pressure on the - economically very fragile - independent press. As the international community takes little interest in Lesotho, the press is only able to resist thanks to local demonstrations of support.

This tiny monarchy in southern Africa is not a haven of peace for the press. The government, which holds the real power, often targets the few independent news media. Because of concern about its image abroad, the government is more likely to resort to harassment and threats when events with an international impact take place in Lesotho. Censorship was imposed, for example, during a visit by a member of the British royal family in 2003, reminding local journalists that they do not enjoy full freedom in their work.

The MoAfrika press group, the chief opposition voice in the local news media, is the government's favourite target. The group's director was in 2003 again obliged to spend a considerable amount of effort to avoid a fine that would have left the group's financial survival in doubt. There were energetic public displays of support for MoAfrika's newspaper and radio station.

Two journalists physically attacked:
Two journalists were attacked in Maseru on 2 July 2003 during a demonstration by street vendors protesting against their eviction from the city centre a few days before the start of an international conference and a visit by a member of the British royal family. Street vendors hit Tsepiso Mncina and Thabo Thakalekoala of the weekly Mopheme, mistaking them for members of the police. Mncina was taken to hospital for treatment.

Harassment and obstruction:
The MoAfrika press group (consisting of a newspaper and radio station) was threatened with closure in June 2003 because of its inability to pay a fine of 170.000 maloti (20,000 euros) immediately and in full. The fine was imposed in 2002 for defamation, and the group had begun to pay in installments. However, three Lesotho high court bailiffs went to the premises of MoAfrika on 16 June with an order authorising them to seize the radio station's equipment as well as the personal belongings of its director Candi Ratabane Ramainoane.
The bailiffs returned on 26 June and put the station's computers and other equipment under seal. Dozens of listeners came out in support for the station the next day and began raising donations to rescue MoAfrika, eventually collecting 10,000 euros. Ramainoane was summoned to the office of the Maseru police chief on 30 June. The outstanding amount demanded by the court was finally paid in full in mid-July and MoAfrika was able to resume operating freely.
Unlike the South African news media, Lesotho's independent press was not allowed to cover the 15-16 July visit by Princess Anne of the United Kingdom. Journalists with the local independent news media were denied all access to the event by security officials.
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Papali tsa Bolo tsa 2010 (World Cup in 2010)

And South Africa's distance could boost the whole regional economy, as fans may decide to visit other countries after having travelled all that way. South Africa's neighbours, such as Swaziland, Lesotho and Botswana, could also be used as team bases - raising the profiles of those nations. [ Source... ]

So be it.


Qomatsi (State of Emergency)

Bongoana, or childhood, is indeed sweet. The innocence is astonishingly ..... well, innocent. Attachment to things is real and fast, but breaking it is equally real and quick. It is years later, perhaps in a strange, far away place, just when you think yourself sheltered, "over it" and more comfortable than ever, that it smacks you, hard. And there you miss bongoana, or the free and independent spirit immediately following it.

When my father and his pals had done political time in Jonathan's prisons, it was time for my older brother and I to go to high school. He went a year earlier to the "mythical" Peka High School. We had heard stories about it, alright. Everybody had. The good and the bad. But, especially, the ill-treatment of what was widely known as newcomers. But there's a prior experience that I remember vividly, and must now refer to. The day the Lesotho Police and/or Mobile Unit came to our home to arrest my father.

I remember it vividly, although I couldn't tell you the details if you asked. They came in Land-Rovers with red Mokorotlo-X number-plates. Or rather, BX number-plates. The plates had evolved from BX to LX to Mokorotlo, the B and L standing for Basutoland and Lesotho respectively. There were therefore four or five BX Land Rovers strewn around our house and in the street immediately in front. It was late in the afternoon and it was a smoky or foggy day, Saturday or Sunday or a bank holiday, since ntate and 'mè were home.

There were no fights, no arguments, nothing of the sort. I don't even remember anyone crying, although 'mè might have, right after the jailers' departure. I was in fact proud that they had hauled ntate away, because it meant our family was important, too. Kids. Little did I know what was in store for us. We continued to play and live as if nothing had happened. Our bongoana, or childhood, was somehow not visibly interrupted. But it would be, gradually, when things began to run out and the bills started piling up. We gradually became unsure of what the next meal was going to be, or whether at Christmas we'd have new clothes like everybody else. We gradually came to the realisation that something was wrong, and that things weren't like they used to be.

We lived near Temong, the Agric Project in Moshoeshoe II, right near the Caledon River border with South Africa's Orange Free State. I remember going to Temong a lot, because there was always some sort of entertainment there. American Peace Corps Volunteers stationed there were fond of riding bulls, for example. We had named one of them ntate T'soene, or Mr. Monkey, although at present I can't remember why. I wish I could talk to ntate T'soene now, to get an "outsider's" viewpoint on the whole sordid business of screwing up a nation. What did these foreigners think? Were they afraid for their own safety? Did they pack up and go home or did they stick it out? Did they actually do something, or were they passive observers?

A state of emergency had recently been declared in Lesotho.


Liketso tsa Moshoeshoe (Moshoeshoe's Actions)

Moshoeshoe and the Basotho

It belongs not to me, as you know yourself very well that every country in the world does not belong to the people which dwells in it. If I remove the Basutos, I have nowhere else where I can establish them.
-- Moshoeshoe

Mma-Ntatisi drove Moshoeshoe from his fortress near the Caledon River to safety on Thaba Bosiu (in Lesotho). While Moshoeshoe lead his people to their new home, cannibals among Mma-Ntatisi's army ate some of the lagging Basotho. To keep the Tlokoa at bay, Moshoeshoe convinced the Zulu to attack Sikonyela's army. While the Zulu and Tlokoa fought, Moshoeshoe increased his territory. Afterwards, Moshoeshoe persuaded the British to establish his kingdom as a Crown Colony, to deter encroachment from other Europeans and Afrikaners.

Moshoeshoe could teach Gabrielle how to use power constructively. One way to gather strength is by promoting peace. By welcoming refugees, he raised the Basotho from a small clan to a nation. Calling 'Peace' his sister, Moshoeshoe pardoned the cannibals who ate his grandfather. The cannibals reformed their ways and joined the Basotho. Moshoeshoe formed a friendship with Eugene Casalis, a French missionary, who provided a means for the survival of his people. Casalis enabled him to convince Queen Victoria to make Basutoland a Crown Colony. To keep the Basotho intact, Moshoeshoe required all men attend court debates to discuss government policies. Like Gabrielle, he highly valued the art of persuasive argument. His efforts for his people were rewarded in 1966 when Basutoland became independent Lesotho."

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We had a king who had Peace for a sister. A born negotiator who forgave the folks who had eaten his grand-daddy, then convinced them to join his nation in the making. A guy who immediately saw how three Froggies wandering around southern Africa could be helpful. And boy, were they! Moshoeshoe did everything possible to preserve the sovereignty of Basutoland, later Lesotho, and he won--against all odds he won. Today there's a speck of a country called Lesotho, within but not part the mightier South Africa, because of Moshoeshoe's actions and wisdom. What happened after independence in 1966? How did we screw up? That's one hell of a question whose reply eludes me. The guy had cultivated the food, harvested the food, cooked the food and chewed it for us--and we weren't able to swallow it.


Lithothokiso (Praise Poems)

Katiba ea Puo, or Language hat, has a nice rundown on Jack Mapanje, a Malawian poet who was thrown in jail because of his thorny poetry. Didn't know the fella, but I feel like an oaf as a result. Where was I? Kamuzu Banda, Malawi's dictator, was a pal of Lesotho's dictator, Leabua Jonathan. Within the turbulent atmosphere of post-1970 Lesotho we hated both Banda and Jonathan. The latter, on the other hand, targetted journalists more than he did creative artists. He killed Edgar Motuba.
En lien avec la maison d'édition de la LEC à Morija, les MPW impriment aussi le journal de l'Eglise, "Leselinyana" ("Petite lumière du Lesotho"). Combatif et courageux, ce journal a su être la voix des plus pauvres, pour plus de justice et de vérité. En 1981, son directeur, Edgar Motuba a été assassiné. En 1987 les envoyés du DM-échange et mission ont été obligés de quitter le pays après avoir été menacés et agressés dans leur maison. Mais "Leselinyana" continue de paraêtre et à être aussi distribué aux mineurs basotho qui travaillent en Afrique du Sud. [ Source... ]
One of the biggest writers in Lesotho was and still is Makalo Khaketla, who wrote the well-documented and osé "Lesotho, 1970: an African Coup Under the Microscope". He has written oodles of other books, mainly poetry in Sesotho. But from what I remember of those works, there was little political suggestion. Under the circumstances, I feel I should have at least heard of Jack Mapanje, from the discussions we sometimes held or from some newspaper article talking about Banda's debaucheries in Malawi.

Puns and riddles exist in Sesotho, but I can't say they do more than in English or in French. It is also a question I've never studied. In Sesotho we have Lithothokiso, or Praise Poems, which serve to ..... praise some public figure. Lithothokiso are a performance. The Serêti (Praise Poet) will sometimes go on, non-stop, and roll out imagery after metaphor after simile. Such poems last quite a long time and thus require that level of variation to maintain interest. Sometimes the same royal exploit is recited many times within the same poem, and each time a different poetic tool may be used. That, then, could be "the layers of meaning" mentioned by a contributor in Language Hat's comment section.

King Moshoeshoe I, the founder of the Basotho nation, for example, was famous for shaving his enemies, which was in fact rustling their cattle. I'm sure you can see the image there. It went as far as having his name changed by Praise Poets from Lepoqo to Moshoeshoe, in a bid to reproduce the shushing sound of shaving. Onomatopoeia! Thank you, Language Hat, for the post.


Bongoana (Childhood)

Bongoana is usually, well, lovely, no matter what the circumstances. It seems to me that we almost always remember it with fondness and a certain longing. But a longing for what? I remember driving from Maseru to Moyeni along the dusty, southbound and bumpy road. Lesotho can be so dry! Along the way we'd actually stop here and there while my parents visited with friends or family. By the time we got to Moyeni we would be stuffed silly with food. Everybody just wanted to feed us, pinch our cheeks, and exclaim on how much we'd grown since the previous year.

Sometimes, after school, we'd concoct games or organise a fast football match. We usually played football barefooted, so as not to destroy our shoes, and we often played with a tennis ball. Tennis balls were white at the time. Immense ball-control skills come from playing football with a tennis ball, or a squished tin-can, or a stuffed stocking, or even an imaginary ball that one juggles from one point to another, weaving around pedestrians and lamp-posts.

Any breeze or gust almost always lifted the sandy, powdery ground top and turned it into a twister. A small twister, to be sure, but one that we could run around and after, peals of laughter filling the veldt and anybody, I'm sure, old enough to have understood. And shortly afterwards the skies would often gather and it would suddenly pour.

As city kids we didn't know half of what village kids knew and endured. We were driven to school when they drove cattle toward distant pastures. I had a taste of that kind of life when my father was thrown in jail in 1970. Our existence changed and we lost most priviledges we had come to take for granted. In order to survive, under an openly hostile government, 'mè struck deals with people who had fields. She provided the seed and the fertilizer, I think, and they provided the land. We shared the harvest. I can remember winter dinners of papa (corn bread) and canned peaches. Of course 'mè canned them herself. She also ran a grocery store which hardly made any profit, since it was also the family food-stock and we, the children, pillaged it mercilessly.

We had by that time left the city, which is how I was able to go with other boys to look after cattle and other animals. I learnt a lot more than I had bargained for. There's an awful lot of edible roots, and edible leaves and flowers, that botanists may not know about. I suppose I must postpone the rest of this until I can post again about my experiences as a molisana, or a herdboy. But are these the things that we invariably long for once we're adults? They're definitely part of what I long for in bongoana in a big way.


Mololi o Qositsoe? (Mololi is Sued?)

"The weekly Sesotho tabloid, Mololi, a publication of the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) political party, has been served with a court summons by Mr. Lehlohonolo T'sehlana Member of Parliament (MP) for Mokhotlong constituency No. 79, demanding maloti 350 000 (approximately 54 000 US dollars), for defamation.

The civil litigation is in relation to an article that appeared in the Mololi edition: Volume 7, No. & of February 19, 2004, under the heading: 'Tlhase e nyenyane e chesa hlaha', which roughly translates to: 'a small spark causes fire-outbreak'.

The article alleged that the MP had, on two occasions, showed disrespect to the Speaker of Parliament, disregarded and acted against the constitution of the LCD and that he had no respect whatsoever for the elderly and other members of the ruling party. In his legal submissions to Mololi, the MP has categorically denied all the allegations featured in the publication which he deems defamatory. As a result he is suing the publication and its editor and author of the article in question.

MP T'sehlana is currently involved in squabbles with the ruling party, of which he was a member until his dismissal from the party ranks in mid February 2004 following appearance before the party's disciplinary committee, on charges of, inter alia, defaming the party leadership and non adherence to the party constitution. According to the MP he has resorted to civil litigation following Mololi's refusal to publish a retraction of its statements in the edition in question."
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Khethollo Paris? (Du Racisme à Paris?)

Eh, oui. This morning I went down to get croissants, pains au chocolat and a job advert magazine. I walked into the newspaper shop and asked for job advert magazines.

--J'ai Le Marché du Travail, the fellow said.

--Je cherche plutôt quelque chose comme Courrier Cadres, I said.

--Ah, oui, je l'ai. Mais je le propose rarement parce que, vous savez, c'est pour les cadres!*
Son of a bitch. The first magazine he mentions usually has manual and other blue-collar job offers. But how does one react, in general, to such behaviour? My usual reaction is no reaction at all...go on as if nothing had happened...and hope that perhaps that in itself suffices to sow some doubt in the racist's mind. Like, What? He didn't whip out a razor blade and slit my throat? I also get regular comments in supermarkets, whereby I'm asked where the potatoes or the onions are. The speaker has already concluded that, one, I work at the supermarket, but also that, two, I'm in the produce section.

--I've got Le Marché du Travail, the fellow said.
--I'm looking for something more like Courrier Cadres, I said.
--Ah, yeah, I got that. But I rarely talk about it because, you know, it's for management level jobs!


The Millennium Challenge Account

President Bush called for "a new compact for global development, defined by new accountability for both rich and poor nations alike. Greater contributions from developed nations must be linked to greater responsibility from developing nations." The President pledged that the United States would lead by example and increase its core development assistance by 50 percent over the next three years, resulting in an annual increase of $5 billion by FY 2006.
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The Board of Directors of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) voted Thursday to make 16 countries "eligible" for Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) assistance this year. The eight that are in Africa include Benin, Cape Verde, Ghana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique and Senegal.


A total of 16 indicators was used to select the 16 countries invited to apply for assistance. The indicators are grouped in three categories - 'ruling justly', 'investing in people' and 'economic freedom'. In addition, to receive MCA assistance this year, countries must have less than US$1,415 in average per capita income, which eliminates several countries on the continent, including Botswana, Namibia and South Africa
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Phekolo ka ARV (ARV Treatment)

Anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs often have the capacity to improve the health of HIV/AIDS patients. But ARV drugs come with a high cost that most poor countries cannot afford. Lesotho cannot afford to subsidise the purchase and use of ARV drugs. There are no ARV drugs in Lesotho, not today, and not tomorrow. Apparently,
The policy of providing ARV drugs policy guarantees a longer survival for HIV+ individuals, minimising the impact of the epidemic on the population groups infected, particularly those in productive age ones. Moreover, the universal access program, together with other initiatives, such as the more widespread use of chemoprophylaxis for the main opportunistic infections and the different types of care available (Day Hospital and Home Care), has allowed a decrease in the need for hospital admissions, with a consequent reduction of costs, as well as a fall in the frequency of opportunistic infections. As for the decrease in deaths, a marked reduction in AIDS-related mortality has been observed in recent years. In 1995, the AIDS death rate was 12.2 per 100,000 population; in 1999, it had dropped to 6.3/100,000 population, a reduction of approximately 50%. In large urban centres such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro (which account for more than 31% of the known AIDS cases in [Brazil]), the decrease in mortality has been even more marked, of approximately 70% (SP - 54%, Rio - 73%) in the period 1995-2000 (data up to August 2000).
Yeah, a pipe dream. How can a hungry person spend sparse earnings on medicine that may help? In walks $100 million donated by Bristol Myers. Thanks, folks. Some of that money was used to launch Senkatana Center, one of five HIV/AIDS treatment support programs in the southern African region. Bristol-Myers Squibb has made a $100 million commitment to go to war against HIV/AIDS in this region that is often referred to as the hardest-hit in the world. Well, what does one say, apart from a heartfelt Rea leboha!
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Rachel o re... (Rachel Says...)

Rachel speaks of her
article about SW Radio Africa. Shockwaves of Freedom SW (Short Wave) Radio Africa is a radio station based here in London and reporting on life in Zimbabwe.
As many of you will know, Robert Mugabe's government, among many other cruel acts, has severely repressed the free press, and this group of exiles (for they have been banned from returning because of their work) are using the short waves to report honestly on what's happening on the ground. Please have a look at South West Radio Africa's web site while you're at it. These people are doing what journalism is really all about, and they deserve all respect for it.
She doesn't know it, but I sometimes sneak over to her site to grab an article for one or another of my English language courses. Rachel's article, Shockwaves of Freedom, appears in the latest issue of IPI Global Journalist. The article concludes by saying that
in 1980, it was, ironically, shortwave radio that helped Robert Mugabe and the Zanu party win their first election; now shortwave radio is being used to rally his opposition. "It may seem ironic, but it's not only that," Mundawarara says. "I was speaking to a man on the show the other day who said that these are the things we use to organize people we're using tried and true methods against persecution. We don't need to reinvent the wheel.