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.