photo of person from Lesotho the maluti mountains
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Ha Ralifate


December 1997


A fairly long interview, some of which is confusing. Overall the narrator talks a lot about the past and how much better life was, predominately in relation to law and order and gender issues; women used to obey their husbands, chiefs issued beatings to people, which kept everybody in order. Today, modern beer drinking causes people to fight, children to disobey their parents, and wives to challenge their husbands. Feels there are no boundaries any more between men and women and disapproves of this. It seems his religion is quite important to him and it would be interesting to know how much it affects his life. He says he does not see the point in circumcision and that only the initiation teacher benefits.

Although he seems to adhere to old values he did elope with his wife, but still had to pay cattle as “damage” for taking her. He feels that the chiefs of today are easily bribed and punishment is too soft.

He has worked for other people in construction and also in the mines but does not talk much about this. Finds town life harder and more expensive than village life. In town you can only survive with a job; in the country you can dig soil, grow crops, labour for someone etc. Feels let down by the project staff, who have made promises and not fulfilled them. Has been promised compensation, but so far has received nothing. Feels vulnerable in the face of change and uncertainty: “Now, now that they are making us emigrate from here…we cannot have an easy life, and find the easy life that is the same as the one of here where we still are. No, never. I have chickens here, right now outside here – if you were to look at these chickens of mine, you would find that they are having an easy life, because I have planted trees there, they have gone into the forest. Even the hawk does not find the small chicks of theirs, no.”

detailed breakdown

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Section 1  Family details.
Section 2  Worked locally – building a road? Used to work in the mines.
Section 3-4  Visiting other villages and impressions of town life: “The life of town is heavy . . . if you do not have money you have no means of eating”. More expenses in city, such as rent and paraffin, which don’t arise in the village: “I will collect wood and make a fire, the pot will boil.” High degree of self-sufficiency in the highlands. European vs. Sesotho doctors: “Now the European doctor, when you arrive there, they will inject you with a needle…. you just keep being given a pill, and on and on. And a pill does not cure you.” More personal care from Sesotho doctors: “If you are unable to feed yourself he will feed you with his own hand.” Animal husbandry (unclear), similar distrust of modern methods of farming.
Section 5  European medicine declining because supply of drugs drying up; Sesotho doctors more important again because use wild medicinal plants. Long account of elopement, providing in-laws with compensation (cows) Types of maize cultivated – a new variety has no taste.
Section 6-7  Disappearance of wild vegetables. Differences between the old sorghum beer, which made people happy and fat, and modern commercial beer, which makes people drunk and quarrelsome. Effect on the family: husbands have lost authority over wives: “I see that the love that had no boundary in it, because now this woman, when I say that I love her, I now say ‘This is your house, here you shall do each and everything (that you like)’.” Parents have lost authority over children: “I find that the fathers have failed to rule.”
Section 8  Boys and girls now do what they want, but girls still get reprimanded for their behaviour. In the past discipline was applied communally, but now if you reprimanded a boy, his mother would do the same to you. He was a herdboy, but thinks an education would have been better: knowledge stays with you whilst cattle wealth has disappeared. “If I knew that I was educated, education would still be here. Now the wealth there it is gone.” Importance of education in securing a good job. Christian churches.
Section 9  Only the old people go to church now. Decline of communal work (matsema); now people want to be paid Circumcision: “I did not see its usefulness”. Thinks it is better to spend the money on food and livestock than making the initiation teacher rich.
Section 10  Mentions the importance of education again with reference to a young inspector (?) whom even the Europeans were afraid of. Once you are educated, no one can take that away from you: “Now when you have reared animals, or many things, we come there and steal them. Education is not stolen.” Theft – police used to beat up suspects.
Section 11-13  Games played as a child – riding calves, stick-fighting. Hunting. Slightly confusing account of adventures of his paternal uncle while hunting. Wild animals that are still hunted. Transport: formerly on horseback; benefits of new roads and vehicles.
Section 13  Lax morals of young people; discipline stricter in the past.
Section 14  Thinks the chiefs of today are corruptible and take you to court where you are fined rather than beaten. Sources of income - selling wool and wood. Today have to make a living by getting waged labour, such as construction work. Feelings of vulnerability about moving.
Section Section 15-16  Describes how the terms of conditions of the move have been changed since they originally accepted them.