photo of person from Lesotho the maluti mountains
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October 1997


An articulate and thoughtful man who has been greatly handicapped by leg injuries as a result of working in South African mines. The narrator’s attitudes to traditional medicine and to its explanation for his knee problems – evil spirit possession – are interesting. While there is a sense that he isn’t totally dismissive of such ideas in the certain contexts, he is well aware when they are inappropriate and/or stem from ignorance. He is clear about the causes of his disability – poor working conditions – and that modern medicine could help (the sadness is that he seems to have so little access to treatment).

Asked about changes to the natural environment, the narrator attributes soil erosion to changes in grazing practice. And on the issue of resettlement, he fears the consequences of insufficient compensation. It seems as though he sees the cash as a finite resource – once spent, nothing is left – whereas land is productive: it goes on giving back if it is looked after. Money is not seen as something that can provide for you in the same way (suggesting the importance of providing support for money management when people take cash compensation). In particular, he fears the problems of leaving a community of supportive neighbours to move to hostile “foreign lands” and the ramifications of relocating ancestors/graves. The interview ends with the powerful statement: “we are nothing, the planners planned and we are not part of the planning process.”

detailed breakdown

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Section 1  Brief personal history: herding cows, school, marriage. Was a miner in South Africa until experiencing problems with his legs were injured, then worked transporting cattle.
Section Section 1-2  Agricultural background: range of crops grown for consumption and sale. Land very fertile in the past. Nowadays, problems of increasing drought and soil erosion
Section 2-3  Schooling: narrator’s parents “could not even spell A – but my father had that love to educate his children”.
Section 3  Range management: more carelessness now than in the past; certain areas overgrazed and soil eroded. “This is the change I see these days and it is not to be called improvement, but soil erosion.”
Section 4  Lists many plants in the area, including different types of grasses used for basket-making, or for thatching. Narrator earns his living from making and selling baskets.
Section 4-5  Modern medical services: need to cross the Jordan river to get to a clinic – hard when there is flooding. Traditional doctors: “they do not actually cure the disease but talk of thokolosi (evil spirit possession)”. Interesting insight into how traditional medicine blames witchcraft for the cause of his disability. Narrator himself is clear that it is a fungal infection caused by working in the mines.
Section 5  Has five married children and seven by second wife, who are still at home. Types of animals hunted; antelopes now rare because of hunting and population movement.
Section 5-6  Problems of resettlement: “It is a sad state to leave behind our father’s fields because we also had hoped that our children would also use them.” Worried about leaving supportive neighbours, and that they may not fit in with their host villages. They will “be foreigners in a foreign land.” Interesting description of Basotho feasts, and important cultural traditions.
Section 7  Relocating the ancestors: he will take soil rather than exhume bodies. Cash crops, and how he supports his family.
Section 8  Continuing his trade in new location. Thinks compensation money will be spent in a year: “Money can only be saved when there is something to grow.” Problems of transport in the village are a major concern. Despair at resettlement: “We need help from anywhere because we never thought that someday, we would move out of this place