photo of person from Lesotho the maluti mountains
Lesotho glossary








farmer/village headman




November 1997



We arrived at Maetsisa at approximately 10:00 a.m. It was a cloudy day and I met Mr Motseki outside a shebeen (drinking den) where they were having a drinking session of their home-brewed beer.

Section 1
Yes, ntate, could it be you were born here?
Quite ntate, I was born here.

Yes, could it be it was in what year?

Yes. From there I would like that you please tell me whether you were born here, and whether the family of Motseki was here and your forbears, from when?
They expired/ perished right here.

Has it been long time?
My father died in 1947.

Meaning that even before that you cannot remember as to when it was?
My father when he died?

Yes - no, that is when the others of your family, actually they have always been people of here?
Ache, the others I would not know.

Oo, ntate, it is clear truly. Yes ntate, could it be ntate has married?
I have married ntate.

How many children do you have?
I have three children. In the senior house, in the junior house the woman of there died a mistress. She was a mistress at Nqosa. She then died and I remained with one girl, yes, now I can say they are four. She is growing up at her grandhome (grandparents’ house).

But actually she is a child of yours?
Her, she is my child, because I produced eight cows in bohali (bride price).

Now ntate let us come to this matter: what are your children doing? They are at school or they are doing what? Please explain to me about them all.
They are married but one of them was still working. They came out [of school] reading [class] seven, the seventh class of all them. I took them out [of school] when they were reading the seventh class.
Section 2
They are all girls?
They are all girls.

Your wife she is a person who does what?
Her, she is ill at the moment, she is there at Ha Polane by the pass there; she went there since June.

It has been some time.
It has been some time; I am still staying alone.

Ntate, you are a person who lives how here at Ha Tsapane, that is everyday staying making sure what you eat and so on and so forth?
I am actually a person who lives in a little difficult way because we do not find as to what we eat. Our eating is when you find that we have planted these matekoane (cannabis) and then we harvest them during this very same month. Now they make money for us we sell them, and then it would happen that we find we are able to make ourselves live. But right now they stopped us and said we should not plant. We were not able to plant at all. Meaning that in easy words there is nothing, which we actually live by. Actually we live in a difficult manner in this same manner.

The people who buy are people who come from where? Across there (the national boundary), or they come from where?
Actually they come from the lowlands. They come from across there, the Free State there, places like Welkom, like Natal.

Let me ask you ntate, many of the people of here I often hear them say they live on agriculture. When they say they live on agriculture they would be meaning what?
That is this agriculture of theirs ntate when they say they live on agriculture it is a thing that I do not find, but I find it because I know that it is a thing that I live on too. It is not a thing that a person can boast that he lives on, because at that time you find [a way] to eat on the fifth month there. Other than this autumn harvest which you are able to eat on the third month.

Now in the middle of time here you eat what?
In the middle of time here you find us still living on this same matekoane, which we keep selling here to avoid the matter that a person you should go and break-in, do these senseless things of theft.

Yes, ntate, let us come to these services to the people. Could it be here ntate how do you usually work, perhaps on the point of going to hospital, like that, or do you go to a Sesotho doctor?
Ache, I see that these ones of the highland water have helped us because vehicles are now able to take us there. We were living in a very difficult manner. We actually loaded a person on a horse, a thing called lempara (handmade stretcher) having been made for them, and be taken to Likalaneng.
Section 3
Has Likalaneng always been here the nearest?
Actually it has always been Likalaneng here, which was nearest to us.

Now ntate do you use Sesotho doctors or European ones?
European ones ntate; actually we live by European doctors.

The Sesotho ones?
Sesotho ones we use them here and there.

Now ntate on the point where you say the highlands water has built a new road, on the point of using banks, are they actually things that you use?

Yes, ntate.
Ntate, banks we are not going to be able to use them because a person here, when you work, “you catch a grasshopper straight to the mouth” (you lead a hand-to-mouth existence). We do not have the means that you are able to have, money that you can put in a bank on account. When you find [some money] you are going to buy food, you clothe yourself from it, you clothe the children from it. We do not manage that we can take [money] to the bank, except when perhaps with these fields of ours which we hear they are going to reward (compensate) for, may be it is at that time a person can be able to take to the bank.

Yes, now ntate let us hear, I hear that a lot of people here live on agriculture. Now is it men’s or women’s work is separate? Are there tasks that women do or for the men, what happens?
The women, the task that they do here could be weaving some little brooms. She would then take them down, and take them to the lowlands, that is her way of livelihood. Other than that, there is no other form of livelihood.

Meaning that at the fields it is people of men only?
At the fields we come together on the matter of hoeing only. You would sometimes go and help her and help her hoe and finish. That is their work, which I think they do that same one.

Now ntate, when you tell me that women are people who sell brooms at places like the lowlands, in the earlier times before this road was built, in what manner did people travel to go to the lowlands?
It was still loaded on cows. We load on oxen, we load on small donkeys, those who do not have them, oxen, we load on small donkeys like that. We would be able to go down with these mesea (grass used for weaving brooms, mats etc), and go and sell it in the lowlands. A person would be able to find some food, and you go [back] taking something for the children.

It was how much time to go down there?
To go to the lowlands?
Section 4
Yes, in Maseru there?
Maseru! Maseru ntate is too way down. We go as far as places like, Sefieng here we go as far as places like TY there, not Maseru. We go as far as places like Ha Motloheloa, that is all. We do not pass to go down there. Well ever there maybe some person, who know her and ask for a lift for her on vehicles, so she could board.

But now that the vehicles are there. How do you operate?
These women are already going down, they take the brooms and they reach down in the lowlands.

On points of things like beer, not this beer of Sesotho, could it be they get here how, or a little earlier how did they come?
No, actually they have just arrived (they are new). They have a year, I think, or two. After these vehicles arrived.

Meaning that before now altogether...
No, it was Sesotho one only. Do you not see even now we have still not stopped that much.

Now, on the matter of school could it be there is a school, not this one of custom, but these ones which are now modern... could it be the children of here in the village attend school or is it the case that it is there?
No, the one for lambs (i.e. kindergarten) is not there.

The one, which is a little bit above that one?
No, ntate, it is not there; it is that one only, ntate, that one.

Of what kind is that one?
It is Fora (Lesotho Evangelical Church).

It is attended by children, who have how many years?
Indeed it is attended [by those who] begin grade A, right there up to further classes, up to when they reach the end. It stops with standard seven.

Yes, now these schools of Sesotho custom, meaning the same ones of lebollo (circumcision), could it be they are there?
Yes they are still there.

Yes, that is when I say they are there, I mean they are there in these villages which are here or those close by?
This one up there.
Section 5
Are they for young women or for young men?
They are for young men. Even in here those for young women is there, further on there at Ha Mokhathi.

Now ntate let us come to another matter, that the issues of customs of Sesotho, of entertaining oneself, meaning mehobelo (men’s dance) and so on and so on, and mekhibo (women’s dance), things like that. Could it be they are things which sometimes take place here?
Yes, ntate, they sometimes take place.

At what times?
At times like those of Christmas. Calls a person each, women call one another like that.

Meaning during the course of the year?
We do not have a means because to keep covering yourself and collecting wood, and you see as to what is happening. It will happen that after some time when you see that you have collected it, it would be then that you would see how you call your friend.

Meaning that we leave these ones of mehobelo, which are the matters of entertaining oneself, which are the other ones besides including things like football, netball like that others like that?
Even football boys sometimes come and play right here - it is a playground here.

The other ones could be which ones?
Those like ndlamo (men’s dance) never take place. Actually, you know the purpose is that we should know the life of here, because it is a thing which is going to disappear completely. Now, ntate here things like witchcraft are they things which are there? How can they not afford to be there, things of witchcraft? They are many. In fact I am saying that we are separating well (it is good that we are going to different villages).

They are things which you see or...?
The ones that you see are the bewitching of a person being maimed, because others are those for lightning. The others are for the bewitching of daylight, they would put something there for you and when you try to walk there, when you pass there, you get maimed, you are disabled.

Meaning that there are people that you might know that, hela, there it is like this and this?
Well, you would not be able to describe a person; there ntate, them they are well-known but now, but it is difficult that you can describe things like that.

Ntate you have always been a person of agriculture, who lives on agriculture, or you have once worked somewhere?
I once worked at the place of gold a lot.
Section 6
The place of gold meaning where and doing work of which kind?
I worked from 1951 to 1952. I was in Free State North, at ’Maletsoai - there in at Odendaal. I worked there for [the number of] months that “break one finger” (nine months). I was working there, it was a shaft there. I came back, I came home. I then went back and came to be there at Harmony. I spent two years as a driver of a ’makalanyane (underground train in a mine) this one of kese (electricity), of seteke (electricity?). From there, I then went back to the Free State again and arrived there, and became a foreman – that’s what I did.
I arrived there and became a foreman, for the number of months that could be one ten and four units (14). It happened that on the fifteenth ticket (monthly contract), I [filed for] a discharge at the end of it.

The reasons were which ones?
No, I was just filing for a discharge, feeling that I wanted to come home.

Now, how did it happen that you joined agriculture?
I came again; I was once again at Beisa Khatoloto. I took six months. When these monies began to appear that is when I left there and came home, I came to stay and it was that I stayed.

And then you were faced with what?
And then I became faced with this agriculture and herding now it was found out that- because even animals were there by that time; it happened that I became faced with the things at that time.

Ntate could it be these jobs that you have worked in the mines, how was it? On matters of accommodation like that?
Ache, me I saw that we were well housed truly.

Wages were how?
What was not there were wages; they were not there altogether.

Matters of discrimination?
He! It was colour discrimination, that thing. In fact the Boers used to beat up people at that time. Europeans used to beat up people.

Meaning that right now it is better?
Right now it is much better, much, much better. Even now if you were to see these children, they get money in an astonishing manner. I sometimes regret and say “banna! (Man!) I wish I was working in the mines now”. Now they have [stopped recruiting] here in Maseru, when a person wants to cross [the border] and go and look for work of that nature. Because the Boers know me I believe they can be very pleased [to have me back at work] – the ones in the Free State; but now I do not have the opportunity to go there because right now they are refusing us in Maseru here.

Let us come to this matter just like you are saying that you are going to move from the village here; it is a thing which you take how? It is a thing which sits how with you?
Ntate, in simple words, I will put it briefly. That is, this thing it happened that, when we were striking against it in the earlier days, a lot not slightly, but it happened that morena oa Thaba (literally, ‘the chief of the Mountain’ meaning Chief Khoaabane Theko), he came and talked to us and showed us that these people (from Highlands Water project) are going to do certain benefits for us. Now truly that is the reason, which made the people of here relax.
Section 7
Now you explain to us as to what is happening? And also the benefits are which ones, which you are going to get? Did you feel satisfied?
That is according to the way he mentioned, truly these people of here became satisfied.

Now ntate on the point that many people live on agriculture, there where they said they are going to pass you to, could it be you are going to live how?
Ntate, there, we are no longer expecting agriculture, it may just be lihalefote (share cropping). If as a person you have a means, because he (Chief Khoaabane) had said those who want should go there, so that he can give them fields. Now others, including me, we were opposed. I felt that I did not want to live near him because he knows me very well. We would again have friction with his people there.

Could be ntate you pass to where? When you emigrate you have chosen for yourself where?
Oo, me I have chosen for myself here at Ha Seoehlana, ntate.

There they have promised you that you shall get fields?
They have promised us that we shall find them fields ntate, in the way that they say it according to the way the chieftainess of there was mentioning.

And what else of benefit? Which you will feel that well, you are happy with?
The way it is, we heard that it was a matter that they will install [a] water [system] and it will be near us, we should not struggle.

Meaning that the fields they are not there?
Them, they showed that they are to give them to us when we are already there and they see us being present. The council (possibly the local Village Development Committee) of there said so.

Yes, here ntate could it be theft is a thing, which is there?
Yes, ntate here when a dog barks we no longer sleep.

It is theft of what kind?
They do not break into the houses. They take these animals of ours.
Section 8
What do you normally do, so that you protect yourselves?
Ntate, self-protection here is very difficult because we do not have melami (ornamental and fighting sticks carried by men). They arrive, they arrive with AK47 guns. This thing which [when] they provoke you, you would hear it going hoa! hoa! hoa! hoa!, roaring, lighting this house ntate. Ntate we live in a very difficult manner.

Now you do not have the chance that the men of the village, you should unite, and what you can do?
That is, we try to unite but even our uniting that is even with just melangoana (diminutive of melami) which are of no use. They come with dangerous things and we run away from them when they appear. They arrive and take [the animals], and you will not see them because it is at night.

Now, now that you have explained that you once worked in the mines, are there other men who have worked in the mines?
They are many.

When they came back, could it be for what reasons in their case?
Truly I would not know their reasons I never ask them.

As of now could it be there are others who are still in the mines?
Yes, they are still at work, some of them.

Could it be here you are ruled how, by who? Could it be there is an elected committee to run the matter of the village or what do you do?
Indeed it is there; [as for it] it is there truly.

The chief here works how with the people?
She still works the chief here ntate, the chief here still works because we see her still executing here and there.

She is still the chief of here at Ha Tsapane, she is also responsible for here?
She is still responsible for right here.

Meaning that here?
Meaning that here I am just a “whistle” of right here at Ha Tsapane here.

Meaning that here ntate when problems have cropped up you normally discuss them how?
Ache, we discuss them with her problems when they have cropped up, because when they have cropped we usually show one another reasons there and there, as to how we can defeat problems.

The committee of here which has been elected by men of the village, what is its work?
The committee of here is the same of discussing matters and also to see those same things of theft.
Section 9
Could it be the people of here, that is, a person who is not on the committee who just works for themselves at their house, do they sometimes have an opportunity that they might suggest?
Yes, they have a right that they can suggest ntate.

Other villages ntate, you hear it being said that so-and-so has classed with so-and-so because of politics, these matters are in what kind?
No, here, matters of politics we do not mix with them. We just talk about matters of life, here and there.

When you say you have animals, your animals help you in what way?
With these few pastures.

In agriculture, you never use them?
We use them, we plough.

The animals, which are common here, are which ones? How many animals do you have?
They are cattle. The short ones (goats and sheep) got finished.

Meaning that they do what especially?
The short ones are used in wool; to shear wool, and to give children some meat, and to be sold at butcheries.

Now ntate, when you have told me that theft is bad, could it be the police are people who are how far?
The police are very dangerous. Even when you go to a police person there, whether you have gone to Ha Marakabei...we had lost to us two oxen here during the third month. There is not one police person who came. In fact, they had been written to by Monyane (a parliamentarian for the constituency) he had said they should torture that person.

This ntate Monyane is who?
Monyane Moleleki.

Ntate, now when you have explained to me that you are a person of here at Ha Maetsisa here.
I lived there first, at the place of the chief there, being the chairman of the village of the chief there. Three tens of years.

That place is called what?
That is really the village of the chief, at Ha ’Maseoli. At the place of the deceased, Mapheelle. Before I was placed here at my place here I married the daughter of her rakhali (literally ‘aunt’, the chief’s father’s sister). The woman that I live with is the daughter of her rakhali. We are related by cow (by marriage which was consummated by cows), but I see others licking their fingers, I have taken there, even this cent I have not got it [for the work I do], but I talk cases (reside over and decide). They (cases and all matters of the village) are answerable to me all of them as a village headman.
Section 10
Now ntate, please tell me, what would see as a thing which has changed a lot being a good thing or a bad one?
Here it has changed a lot because I see changes being very many.

Of what kind?
That is, even things of breaking the law I do not see them going in a manner which, is quite correct. They are not able to go to court.

Now here ntate, ever since you lived here, since you arrived here at Maetsisa, this village has always been this size or it grew as the years went?
It grew over the years.

People who are coming from outside or they are people of here?
They are children of boys of right here.

How do you live with one another, with the people of these other villages? They are people with whom you understand one another, or not?
We understand one another with them, fights and frictions now they have not been there.

On another matter, it is whether when drought has hit what do you normally do on the point of harvest?
Just like now. Look at the fields, they are black. That is fields which normally carry maize in an astonishing way (successfully, in high yields) but in the name that they said there should be no planting, the owners [of the fields] are going to plant later.

Yes, ntate, I wanted to know as to here, how do you get news as to what is happening in the lowlands, or things like that? Could it be radios catch?
Yes, them they catch, ntate. Each and everything we still know it as long as you have a good battery.

Could it be the disease of koatsi (a Sesotho word normally used to refer to anthrax but now used to refer to AIDS). Is it already here ntate?
It is not yet here.

Altogether it is not yet here?
We keep hearing of it in the lowlands there.

Now, ntate, are you happy with the little compensation that you will get when you are removed from here?
We might be satisfied ntate, because we have not seen how much a thing it is. We have yet to see. If you could give me a chance to meet them so that I can be able to say whether I am satisfied or I do not get satisfied.

Ache, ntate Mohlomi, I am very thankful of talking to you. Ache we shall visit you in future.