With everything that has been happening recently in the beautiful Kingdom in the Sky—motions of no confidence, abrupt closure of parliament, heads of trusted individuals rolling, and innuendoes about the military leadership—I have been rather worried.
And why wouldn’t I, with our uncomfortable history of instability? Personally, I hear there is much ado… I pray it better be about nothing, and if it is about something, it better be about the welfare of Basotho and not about protecting interests of individuals. I also pray that should anything happen Basotho will have the wisdom to stand together in unity like Teyateyaneng (TY) folks when the city went up in flames; theirs was a remarkable story at so many levels that include the fact that this is where ‘Black Jesus’ hailed from.
Black Jesus was a real living human being—political, complex and controversial. He is worth at least a chapter in a book that chronicles the instabilities in Lesotho post military rule.
As a citizen of this era, I would start the book deliberately with BBC’s transcript of an interview with ntate Qhobela, Minister of Foreign Affairs when His Majesty plunged Lesotho into the first of the many crises that awaited her post the military rule.
Ntate Qhobela was asked a question along the lines: “So, Honourable Minister, what can you tell us about what’s happening in Lesotho?”
“The young boy woke up one fine morning and walked to the wireless station to topple a democratically elected government”, was pretty much his response.
Shell-shocked, the reporter asked, “Honourable Minister, are you really referring to His Majesty as a young boy? ”
Ntate Qhobela sounding ever so defiant responded as follows: “I say… this young boy walked to the wireless station to topple a democratically elected government”!
The reporter attempted again to get ntate Qhobela to withdraw his words, but failed and moved on with the interview.
Sadly, I can’t recall what came next, in part, because that bit didn’t make the cut in creating a ‘sound bite’ that was to be repeated over and over again— when giving a report on the latest happenings in the small Kingdom, surrounded by its single neighbour, South Africa, which had but just had its first elections.
The ‘sound bite’ served its purpose. It stirred very interesting debates around the question: what really …really was ntate Qhobela saying?
This is a question that opened my eyes to the intercourse that exists between language and politics—both with a capital and small ‘p’.
His Majesty at that time was unmarried. Culturally speaking he was a young boy, if at all he was not born into the royal family.
In my opinion, it is the ignoring of the conditional that proved problematic. But to a level of causing anyone to be shell-shocked and left totally exasperated…? This, I am uncertain of.
There is infantilising language but there is also context. In ntate Qhobela’s response, there was an embedded ‘we are from a different generation’ message. He made it perfectly clear he was part of thee generation … the last standing generation taught by teachers who learnt Latin extensively. Or if you like, the purist generation that cannot bring itself to utter words like radio and fridge. But most importantly, this is a generation that in the purist spirit defines the concept of respect differently.
So, while indeed it might not have been proper to call His Majesty a young boy, I would argue the reference was made at a level of merely getting us to engage with a question of what it means to be born a royal in a country founded by a minor chief, who was far from the apex of aristocracy. Basically, how do we make sense of the privilege that is so profoundly linked to democracy?
In all probability, I would leave the question unanswered. Rather, I would ease myself to the 1998 moment, where Basotho went to their father, the king, Rabasotho, for refuge. In narrating this moment, I would attempt to make visible yet again the intercourse between language and politics. Explore at some length what caused a respected leader, Thabo Mbeki, to assert that the truth was being prostituted with gay abandon. What was the truth? And why the need to use words laced with sexuality?
Anchored in the idea of the truth, I would fast forward to this current moment of uncertainty in search for the truth. Any truth that goes beyond the fact that there are no permanent enemies in politics!
For me, as it stands right now, there is the truth, and the truth behind the truth. And the only way to disambiguate is to read between the lines or wait patiently for the real truth— for apparently in the end there is but one truth, hence the saying “nnete e mokoka”! Hmmm…but really?!