photo of person from Lesotho the maluti mountains
Lesotho glossary










Ha Tsapane


November 1997



Ntate Tlali is an elderly person and he does not like being asked questions especially about the Highlands Water Project because he says the Project has ill-treated them. He does not trust anybody, he says, because for a long time now they have been deceived. After exchanging greetings our interview went as follows.

Section 1
My name is Rabahlakoana Lehasa. My home is at Rothe there at chief Mohlalefi’s. What could be your name, ntate?
I am Tlali Mokhatla, Molika-liko in the Maseru district.

The place where you were born is where?
It is at Matelile there Ha Thamae. I was born there at my mother’s home, I grew up at Mpharane at father’s home and I came when I was this much [shows by hand] in the mountains here.

You could have been how many years [old] when you came to the mountains?
I could have been maybe ten years.

To come here you came in what way?
We came by foot going up the Makhaleng (river).

But the reason that moved you, just like you were born there in the lowlands, that you ended up at this place, is which one?
The matter of animals. My happened that when they started opening [this area] by the chief of Ha Tsapane here, he left there and came here where it was being opened anew.

This place, it means that it was for pasture only?
It was just an uninhabited area here. The village was there [points at Matebeleng]. They came and they built the house of the second wife (the village was founded by the second wife of the chief of Matebeleng).

The village you are pointing at is where?
You see that one at Matebeleng further down below that, there is a wall facing the church.

You mean that when he (the chief) married the second wife it was then this village was started?
There came first that heisi (derived from Afrikaans for ‘house’), the one on this side a little, and it became one for the second wife there, and it happened that when she died, she died there. The third one and the first, he left them in the houses there, the ones just below the church, the house that he built first.
Section 2
But would you remember as to where you were born, in which year?
When I am told... when I am being told a lie [this is supposed to be humorous; he is basically saying he is being lied to, because he cannot prove whether what he is being told is true or false]. I was born during Jeremane (Germany), and I was followed by the children of (who were born during) mokakallane (Spanish influenza of 1918). I do not know how many years I am. I was just being told. These writings (literacy) were still not there.

When people talk about Jeremane, what was happening at that time?
They say it was during the war of Jeremane.

Meaning that it could be the First World War?
Ach, where would one [war] of Seqiti (between Basotho and Free State Boers, between 1865 and 1867) be? The war of Seqiti is earlier. Jeremane could have appeared later.

But now because you mention that the main issue of coming here, your parents came and built here on those matters of following after pasture?
Yes, when he came and built here – he had built here [pointing with his finger]. The ruins are in there, which actually has some poplar [trees]. The remains of our grandmothers are still in there. They kept coming later, and arrived here [during] the years of the dust.1 That is when our grandmothers left from there and came here.

Meaning that before the dust, you were already on this side?
It was long since we had been here.

Now please tell, as to when you came up from there, did you have your relatives in this area?
Those [relatives] of my father’s...those who when my father sees them, he says, “uncle brother of my mother”. Matebele (the Ndebele) with whom my father belongs. My father came here, coming after his maternal uncles who came from down there.

Meaning that your father, it is his home perhaps this place?
His grand-home (usually home of maternal grandparents) is there. These ones, his maternal uncles, came up first from there at my father’s home Thabana-Morena. When they came up from Thabana-Morena, they arrived and built here, and they spread like that. My father came later.

Right now could it be you have how many children?
I have produced two children, a boy and a girl. One was born in 1940 and the other in 1943.
Section 3
They are where right now?
They are still alive right now. One is at his home; the other is at her home. This one of a girl is at her home, she is married. This one of a young man is at his home, he is married, but by work, he is still working right here.

What does he work?
His work, just like I do see like this. He is the one who sees [to] these animals and everything in agriculture; he is the one who works on them.

Ntate Tlali tell me as to during your growing up, when you were still a herdboy, those [things] that happened at that time of your herding were which ones?
Ach, they are many, and in fact I do not know some of them because, we as boys, we wore litsea (cloth worn by boys); we did not wear these trousers, we wore shoes of lifatla, (leather from the forehead of a bull). It was like we were bo-maphela ka thata (literally, those who live in a hard way), we wore makupana (small animal skin blanket), matatana (tanned hide) of goats (sewn into a blanket). We grew up like that, until re ba re tsoa phakoeng (literally, “until we were safe from the hawk”), and were able to wear trousers. We were bought a cotton blanket, we were bought shoes. By the years that are advanced, the old ones, it became apparent that they are getting [economic] strength - those times when people wore one blanket. If you had bought one blanket for a ten and seven units, you have bought a durable blanket which you will spend a long time with.

Ten and seven units of pounds?
Of shillings.

But where were they bought from these blankets?
[From] the shops of down there! These ones like Sefikeng, like Ha Makhale, like Thaba-Bosiu, like ‘Makhoroana there. Shops were not here. We used to journey to go to the shops.

At least it used to be a journey of how long to go to the shops?
We used to spend the night on the way.

You used to go by what?
On foot. We used to ride these calves of cows. These horses are things which have just arrived.

Did you ever attend school?
Ayikhona (No), I did not like it. I am only seeing that it is useful now.

You did not want it at that time?
Terribly! If it was said that I should go, when I got there I would come back along the way.
Section 4
And the parents never realised that you are not going to school?
They ended up beating me up; they ended up giving up on me, and saw that this person truly he does not like [school]. They said, “Leave and go to the animals”, (go and herd). Now I looked after these animals from that same time, until I grew up and became leqainyana (an uninitiated young man), and ended up ke bolla (being circumcised), and ended up knowing the place of gold - left without permission and left these animals.

You even ended up going to mophatong (place where circumcision takes place)?
Yes, when I came back from mophatong, I ended up leaving the animals and went across [to South Africa in the mines].

Many Basotho boys at that time, is it the case that they went to mophatong?
Terribly! If you stayed without ho bolla (circumcised), you could not even marry a woman. When you married you were asked whether you have been circumcised. These days you marry these ma-kereke (church ones), these ones of majakane (literally, those who have settled in a new place; a derogative term by which non-converts refer to converts).

You said that you did not like school, now the usefulness which you see with school these days are which ones?
I see it that when you are carrying this book, you are carrying money. I see it that it has a benefit, you make your children and your parents live. At that time I did not think of anything.

Now in those days, a person who had not been initiated, appeared how to all the people?
If you come from there and you have not been initiated, if we are just a small group it will happen that when you arrive here we would already be saying that you have not been initiated. You would even look at yourself as to when I do not belong among and I am like this? His lereli (appearance) was already wrong (gave him away).

That time when you were at mophatong, is it the case that there were jobs that you learnt, [so] that you come back from there, you should come and do in your lives?
They are not there. We learn jobs that do not come home.

When we compare with this time, you see your life at that time as having been how?
I see it as having been careless; it was bad. This one of today I see it as being good, in fact I am crying for myself.

You see it as having been careless, the one of that time?
It was just a sheep which was useless here, which just went about collecting tattered cloths from ash-heaps, which they even wiped themselves with (after relieving themselves). There was no use, you did not see what the benefit was, and as it turned out, I was throwing away this benefit. If I had stuck to the book, it would be that I knew the benefit of the help which was going to help me in all circumstances.
Section 5
Is it the case that in that time of earlier, you had [a way] of visiting one another, as people who live inside this place?
We still visit one another. Even right now we do not discriminate against one another; we still visit one another. You would go over to Ha Koporale there - people visited one another, we go to places like the lowlands and visit one another. When you arrive you would see that hele! You would see that we are still happy to see one another.

Let us talk about the games which were performed at that time, they were which ones?
We did not see them. These mekhibo (Basotho women’s dance) came later. There were no games. These mehobelo (Basotho men’s dance), we started them when we were at the place of gold, not here. At the place of gold there re ne re hobela (we used to perform mohobelo). These nowadays, it (performance of mohobelo) leaves from the place of gold there and it comes to Lesotho (performed by Basotho miners working in South Africa). You will hear it being said that, “They are people from such and such a compound, they come from such and such a place, they are going to such and such a place”.

Let us go back a little. After being circumcised/initiated you went to the place of gold, you were working where at the place of gold?
I start to be angry, Randfontein Number One - maybe it could be you are asking me to give me money for pension (?). In that case it would be that you have got me right. So that I can recite for you the compounds that I once worked in. You should write them [down], so that I can know whether I shall get a reward (the pension that he refers to above). I worked in Randfontein Mohlakeng, way way down! These ones (mines) of the Free State were not yet there. At the end here in the Free State it was Salisi. That is the one that started during the war of Hitler. [During] Hitler [‘s war], I was at the place of gold, [at] these compounds of Benoni. Is it the case that the war of Hitler... you know it? Salisi started in the Free State. I continued to work going back to these compounds of Benoni. I was now changing them like that because of being after my work until when I ended up changing when I saw people getting fat because [of working] here in the Free State and then I came to the Free State. Now, right now I became tired like this while I was working in the Free State.

You stopped, when working in the mines?
It could be in 1960 [he asked his daughter to verify]. Yes, it was the time when the elections for freedom (independence) were beginning of a Prime Minister called Mokhehle. Is it the case that you know that Mokhesi once governed?

What are they that you came with, having seen them there (in South Africa), and you came and used them here as useful things?
Ach, there was nothing that I came with which I had worked for. I just came with a machine, which I had thought I was going to help and sew for the people and getting some money.
Section 6
There are no things which you may have come across there, and they have been able to change your life in certain ways?
In there it was just money. In there, when we are in there, I was playing, struggling with work, getting some money, satisfying myself, making my family live, I did not get hungry. I was making it live with my money.

You are saying your family did not get hungry, it is to mean that you were not ploughing because you were working?
I was ploughing. When you plough you will buy a blanket for that, [for] some pounds. You will buy a blanket with a pound; you will buy food if emptiness is there (in the stomach). My wife did not get unclothed because clothes were cheap. When you are working there, you are getting these many [raises three fingers] pounds. Now I buy a blanket for the wife, I would buy a blanket, the other [blanket] is mine. I would find that I have still been able to cope with my life, having moulded it well.

Let us talk about diseases that used to bother [people] in the earlier times, could it be they were of what kind?
Diseases that afflicted people here I actually do not know them.

There were no diseases that afflicted people altogether?
They have just come, some of them kill, some heal. What use is it, you are suffering from a cold, you would hear it being said that you are suffering from pthisis (type of lung disease from mines) at the place of gold. From way up, to go way down, some are paying; they are getting money (compensation from mining companies).

But the people of that time when they were ill, where did you go?
Maseru. Roma. Roma when it was being said that you had pthisis, they used to run to Roma. They said it (Roma Hospital) is a little able to defeat that sickness. Places like Maseru, places like Mapoteng, we used to go there. This side we did not come. Them they are just arriving the ones in the mountains here, which we keep seeing. We used to go down and take a journey; we would load a sick person here on a horse.

But you see that conditions of that time having changed, how?
It has changed because we no longer load people on horses. We now take them by the hands and put them on a vehicle. That taking of tying people with ropes to go down from here has been cancelled.

[While] we are still on the matter of being ill, were there no Sesotho doctors?
They are many. Some of the diseases, they (Sesotho doctors) were beaten, some they were curing.

But it is which diseases that Sesotho doctors were able to cure?
They are many diseases which Basotho doctors were able to cure. Even now diseases like feberu (fever) and these ones which are said to be of leprosy they usually defeat Basotho. But [those] like sejeso (food poisoning by a person wishing to do harm to the victim), the Europeans are defeated also. The people of sejeso, if you take them to Europeans, you are just going to finish them off. Before they finish them off, you should rather return them to Basotho.
Section 7
Let us talk about food. During the time of your growing up, the food that was eaten was which one?
I grew up eating bread of wheat, of maize, or sorghum. [With] peas ke kofella (to eat and drink alternately), beans ke kofella, lentils ke kofella... this food (wheat, maize or sorghum bread).

When you compare the manner of agriculture in those days and now, is it the case there is change?
Change is not there. It is there because when we are being removed from where we are going, agriculture we are not going to find. That is where now we see that we are being killed, we are being butchered.

Before we go to those points, is it the case that agriculture was very good in those days compared to these times?
In one year it was a little bit loose but not too bad. Sometimes it was still fat, and now last year we had harvested harvest. These two consecutive years, the people from Mantonyane, from Lesotho (the lowlands), in here at Ha Seoehlana, they were buying food here. When you see this house being like this, [bags of] food were pressing each other in there.

Now ntate Tlali, which changes do you see in the condition of the heavens?
The sun has changed. I do not know if it is an act of God; but it has changed against us.

Is it the case that in the past there were still droughts of this kind?
The sun if it stood until the ninth month, on the tenth month there ought to be just mud.

But if it happened that there be drought, what did you do?
We were helped by God only. We used to amend with prayer. The priest would make a prayer for us and take us to the top of Thaba Chitja there [pointing with a finger]. We would make prayers, mehobelo there and just as we came down we come down it already going hoa!

Is it the case that it was at that same time of old, or these are of later?
They are for these times of later.

Let us talk about jobs that were done by people during those times of earlier. They are which jobs?
These jobs to my mind, as for in Lesotho here they are there. It is not the same as when I am at the place of gold there. At the place of gold I knew that I would work for a certain thing which would help me, my friend would work for a certain which would help [him], or we would work together. In Lesotho here I do not see it.
Section 8
Let me put my question this way: in the family what is the work of the father? What about the mother? And the children?
The father works with looking after animals, and to plough; the mother works with cooking food for the father when he has gone to plough, and also to plaster these houses, they should not be untidy, and to go [and collect] wood. Children go [to collect wild] vegetables if they are girls when the come from school, and also to collect [wood]. The boys ones look after animals, they help the father when [they] come back from school.

On this point of cooking the fuel, you were using which one?
Animal dung, dug from the [livestock enclosures]. These ones that you see, these ones, it is where I say a European, if he were to agree, I should load these piles of animals dung and go and use them.

Is it the case that in this place of yours there is a lot of theft of animals?
Quite right. Here at the homesteads, here they are afraid of coming. If you were to dart and go there at the [animal] post there - right now we hear it being said that they have invaded, they stand at the door, they shoot; they stand at the door and the others are already driving them (animals) away. Animals are many which have gone. I think you also hear about that matter. We hear it being said that many of the Bathepu have had their animals taken from them. They take horses, and when they finish and realise that there is nothing they will come with [means of transport] now. [The thieves think], “We should start [by stealing] the horses so that they will not be able to pursue [us]”. They abandon them (horses) at some place. They leave him (the owner) with three after they would have chosen and gone off with them.

This problem which it looks like it will be there with these animals of yours, is it the case that you have looked at it with the Project that is making you emigrate?
Yes, on several occasions. We made the Project look and said: “Project, this road that you have made, you have made for our animals. They stop vehicles here, they turn their backs; these animals get there and they are loaded there; they are gone”. The project has made this road; it was better at that time when it was still far. Where the thieves had to drive them and maybe you could find the animals along the way. One person’s [animals] in here, they once drove them, and it happened that when they crossed and already passed the place of dipping, one person who knew them and said, “These sheep are ours, where are they going?” A person (thief) said, “They are going to the [animal] doctor”. [The person replied], “The [animal] doctor is right here, they are passing they are going where?” That thief was arrested . You see that the highland’s water, they are going to kill us with these animals (by making it easy for thieves to steal), completely! You [people of the lowlands] are going to hire us; we are going to cut wood for you.

You see the project as having which benefits that it is bringing to the people in the area?
They are not there. Even just a small one it is not there. You see I am speaking alone, everybody in this village when you take all of it, it does not have even a piece which it (the project) has said, “Just lick your fingers there”. We are being lied to, and being told that we will get amazing wealth of bags and bags of money. I am saying there is not even one who has got a cent!
Section 9
A dam has been built at Ha Katse. Is it the case that they are happenings which you have heard of which already put you in fear?
At Ha Katse it is like this ntate: at that time when there started this little trouble that we should emigrate [from] here, we asked for permission and said, “Put us on a vehicle here, so that we can see these people of Ha Katse, as to what kind of life they are living”. We were saying, even if the project does not have money, we will feed ourselves [for the trip]. Khele, we got it wrong! There went hippies (term used for those who can read and write) like you who are known, who are carrying books like you. [When the vehicle came] it was just: “So and so, go into the vehicle’”. Me, a person like me, they pushed him back: “Go away! You might go there and see secrets”. Those ones, when they come back from there, they will tell you things which are lies, which do not have truth and keep saying, “They did this and this; let us agree like this and this”. Akh’u!

But the project has promised to compensate you how on these losses that you are obviously going to have?
Even though I forgot that weight (magnitude?), we are [going to be] compensated. These same houses that you see, but I forget. These same gardens are being taped (measured) just the day before yesterday; they keep saying that we shall be compensated. We are going to be compensated you hear. These trees we have even planted trees they are many I have long built here. “You will be compensated old man here”. I do not know how I shall be compensated for the big trees that I am already using. The trees which are still young shoots, they say it is three rands, the big ones they say they have not been told the price. As for promising us, they are promising us but now we no longer know where we are standing, we are now rubbish.

Let us go back a little and talk about this place of yours. They are which things which make you like this place?
What actually binds me to this place, I see that my animals thrive well. They sometimes experience diseases and die and there would remain things that are this many [raises fingers to show just a few], but on the second year I hit a hundred. In cattle I go like that. In fact it is only this [year?] that I have not got sour milk. That is the first one (reason); the second one, I have this soil that we have sown crops on, it helps to make me successful. The things that I like are two: it is soil, it is animals.

Let us talk about animals and pasture. Pastures in your areas here how are they managed?
It is a thing that is done by the chief. Chiefs reserve [grazing areas for] people- he will say, “I have cut here, go round that side, do not come this side; at a certain time you will come this side and I will reserve this side”.

Is it the case that even in earlier times it was still being done like that?
Ayikhona! If it was said that the area around crop fields is reserved, they would be respecting our fields; there in the [open] plateaus there was nothing that stopped [people from grazing their animals anywhere]. But nowadays in the plateaus there we are now stopped. They now say, “Follow this mountain side; during a certain month you follow it”. We are now living like that; but during the past days it was not there this thing. We see that they (chiefs) are now turning in the direction of the highlands water [project] and the government down there, that we should not have animals. “These animals are too many, they finish the grass”. These same ones from your home place at Ha Mosuoe, they say if you are going to build in here you should come with cows this many [raises five fingers], it should four oxen for ploughing, and then you should have one that you milk, and that should be all.
Section 10
This Mosuoe that you are talking about, who is he?
Right in here at Ha Theko. We were saying that we would like to go to his place. He stopped us by [saying] this thing [that we should bring only five cows]. When I think of these many cattle of mine, what I shall do with them, I give them to who? And then take [only] five.

Now, you have chosen to go where?
Down there by the river at Ha Makotoko.

These [issues] said by chief Mosuoe, chief Makotoko is not saying them?
Chief Makotoko him he says: “The grass is here but it is not enough. We have gone nearer the water because the river is nearer the one (river) of Phuthiatsana. The field is not there. You will get a small garden of up to there [in size]. They have already been cut; you should remain knowing that the place is just that one. These kraals of ours are not yet kraals we still have to get them right”. Every day - even you when you arrive there they will say they still have to get it right.

They say they will make for you kraals of what kind?
They keep saying they will get things right. Others are saying even if it were one of wire this one for sheep. We shall build it as a wire one like that, and join it with a flat (more like wire) of steel, it would be that we have got it right. This kraal for cattle, this one this side [points with a finger], and they say they still have arrange. Now, we are saying that we have not yet known.

Now these things of agriculture, is it the case that you use these fertilisers which are bought?
Here we out-compete these ones who keep buying European fertilisers with pounds and pounds, there in Lesotho (the lowlands). Us if we want to fertilise a lot, just like this field of the chief, they fertilise with this animal dung, which when the rain falls, goes down to the field there, and it would happen that the harvest that they harvest, there is one which has bewildered us.

But [what about] where there is no wash-down of animal dung which goes down [to the field]?
No bo (to emphasise the ‘no’), we harvest a lot. If you want it to be fertilised so that the maize from there should be big, you can load it (animal dung) on donkeys because we do not have scotch carts. The one with a sledge can haul with a sledge, and broadcast this animal dung on his field. Even the people from Lesotho sulk (become angry) that ao (how) can you ignore this animal, [and let it] just lie there outside of the kraals.
Section 11
Is it the case that you have associations in the village here?
Associations are few. They are the ones of bury-me-shilling, of burying one another. Other than that there are no associations.

It is which tasks that you come together for, and do together as a village?
I can wander around alone here, and you can wander alone. You cannot say, “Let us mould just a little talk (come together and discuss issues), or help one another on certain tasks, or one of digging some dung from kraal, or to shear my sheep”.

Do you not see like when you are going to [new) places and are going separately, that there might be problems that you will encounter?
When we arrive there we come together; we will still hate each other just like we hate each other here. We are being reprimanded together and we are not pulling in a similar direction. Maybe we shall regret [and change our ways] when we are now in other villages, come together and work together, I do not know there [whether that will happen]. As for our leaving here, it is not good.

Is it the case that of the crops that you plant here, there are some which are planted for selling only?
Matekoane (cannabis). Matekoane, we do not eat them we plant them for sale.

Is it the case that you have a place where you sell them?
Yes. They come and arrive and buy here. Whether they will go and get arrested along the way we do not know.

Is it the case that when you go to a new place you continue to plant them?
They have already turned us down. They are saying, even these ones, if they help us and load [the cannabis as part of our luggage], when we get there we will struggle on our own as to what we do with them. Whether we sell them, they are not going to touch them and sell them for us.

Now do you see like that will affect your ways of generating money in what way?
We tell that... but the thing that we had planted, food we have grown for the children, and as for matekoane, them we have planted them for the life of buying clothes. Now that is all (we shall no longer be able to grow cannabis to buy clothes).

When we look at this country that we live in now, is it the case that you see there being a change when you compare with the past days?
It was once said that a lot of fields should not be ploughed. The letter came later [when] most of us had already ploughed; now I said, “Let us go ahead and finish those [fields] which have remained [unploughed].”
Section 12
But when you we look at the fertility of the soil, do you see there being a change? That is, when you look at the place...
Indeed, they have changed. All these years, this ten and one unit (eleventh) month, it would be that we are going to finish hoeing; those who would not have finished, would be those who have many fields or because of their laziness.

Is it the case that, that means that you sowed late in time?
It does not say so. It is the change in the year (or seasons).

But is it the case that the expectation is that those [crops] that you have sowed will make it?
Always (the normal practice) is that on the ninth month we broadcast; the planter is running. On the tenth month, the weeder runs. The ten and one unit (eleventh) month we are going towards the end, [and] cattle are going to the posts [because] we have finished.

But what kind of disasters bother you on these points of agriculture?
On the point of agriculture, the thing that bothers us, is the highlands water [project]; other than that...

They bother you with what?
They affect us by taking our lives away from us. Fields are our lives. They are taking them away so that we cannot plant them.

Now there is this thing that compensation will come as money or... you, you have chosen what kind of compensation?
Me I chose for myself that I want money for those fields, those ones which it has even been measured as to how many years it is.

That thing will take a time, which is how long?
Five tens of years.

Now you, you are hoping to do what with that money?
I will then eat from it, because there will be no longer a place where I would be going (it would be the end); I would not ploughing, I would not be doing anything. I would just be sending a child to bring me paper (flour wrapped in paper) so that I can come and eat. It would be that I have to have that kind of money and the matter of school...

Now you are already preparing yourself in what manner, as to how you are going to live when you are there?
I am already preparing myself if I will find it. If I do not get it I am already lost as to what I shall do. If I get it I will already put it aside for purposes.

If people live in a place, there are places which are sacred to them; in other words, a place which when you are in it you feel you have strength. To you, those [places] which are special in this place are which ones?
It is the graves which I see that we are going to be separated from and leave [behind]. Even they (the dead) are going to rise against us and say, “You leave us here, so we could be smothered by water”.
Section 13
You have planned in what way about these graves?
They should follow me.

In what way?
In a way that them (highland water project people) they would know. They (dead ones) can strangle me because they would be saying I left them to be strangled by water.

Is it the case that there is a lot of lawlessness in this place?
Yes, it is theft.

End notes
. This is the phrase Basotho use to describe the time of the 1930s depression; the period is described as the time of the ‘dust’ because on the eve of the drought of that year and the famine that followed there was a dark dust which was so thick that it obliterated the sunlight and people had to light candles.