photo of person from Lesotho the maluti mountains
Lesotho glossary










Ha Tsapane


November 1997



Even though she already has more than five children, ’M’e ’Malibuseng is a woman who is still of a young age because she is in her thirties. She was born here at Ha Tsapane and she was married at another place, even though she came back after some time and came and settled here in her home village.

Section 1
My home village is at Rothe there at chief Mohlalefi’s, in the lowlands there. As I have already explained to you the purpose and plan of this interview of ours, I will ask that you tell me your name.
My name, I said was ’Malibuseng.

’M’e ’Malibuseng, I would like to ask that we talk about you. Where were you born?
It is right here at Molika-liko, Ha Tsapane.

You were married where?
There at Sepokane’s, opposite to Marakabei’s.

Do you still live there?
I did not live [there] at all. I came here and built here. I stayed a little bit badly there (was not happy in the marital home?).

Your years could be how many right now?
They are three tens and two units.

Now, these years of yours that you have lived here, you were born here and even grew up here, can you tell me when you were growing up, you grew up in what way? In other words, what did you do in your growing up?
I was attending school there at Molika-liko.

You came out when you were in which class?
I was in class six, and it happened that when I was supposed to go to the seventh one I then eloped.

You now have how many children?
They are six.

Now, right now what are you doing for the purposes of living?
I plough in the fields, I hoe, I harvest.
Section 2
Who helps you in this work of the fields when it is such a heavy job?
I still have a partner.

What do you plant, the crops that you really plant here?
We plant maize, wheat, peas - even though as for them we do not plant them year in year out because they are difficult to get - barley, beans.

These plants that you sow, what do you do with them?
We eat, we sell them.

Which crops do you plant in order to sell?
Maize and wheat, and even the same barley. Well, as for peas and beans and so on, it would be just enough, we are not able to sell them.

Now let us talk about the issue of as women in the village here, is it the case that there are associations which you have?
The only one we have formed is this one of bury-me-shilling, where we keep paying money for one another. Like when there is a dead person at one place – like that – we keep paying for one another.

What task do you do as people of the village, here collectively?
Ach, there are in fact no things that we do. There are not many things that we actually do here.

Can you tell me now as a mother, the part that you take in the tasks of the family, which ones are they?
They are many tasks that I perform: I go and collect wood, I plaster the house [with mud], I cook, I cut the grass that forms the roofs of those houses.

The one who makes a decision when necessary in the household here, who is it?
It is the man.

The people of the Highlands Water Project came to you several times, and you held talks about what is happening among you here. Is it the case that, as mothers, there was a part that you took in those talks? In other words, were you a part of a group that was involved in the talks?
When they were coming, they used to go from house to house and talk to us and they would ask you and we would answer, and we would still be together with the men of the households. Or maybe it would be the man who would answer, and as for me I would just keep quiet. When he has answered, he has answered at a time when they might have asked him.

What is it that you really like about this place of yours?
I like it because I have fields, big ones where I plant a lot of food, which I am able to live on.

Is it the case that the harvest is good?
Yes, ntate.
Section 3
As you grow up, do you see a difference in agriculture from the years when you were still small up to now?
I see that, like now, I produce a lot more harvest than my parents, who were ploughing those same fields that I am now ploughing.

What could it be that causes that?
I do not know ntate. Now, whether they were not able to plough well in a satisfactory way, I do not know.

Is it the case that on the matter of agriculture, you have agricultural demonstrators?
No demonstrations are done for us; we do for ourselves. We do for ourselves, by ourselves; we are not given instructions by a person. We now know as to when it would happen that we harvest a lot, what we should do.

Are there things that you buy?
No, we do not even put these things that are put in down there [in the lowlands], where people are saying they are putting in fertiliser.

As for you what do you use?
We do not use anything, we just plough, we put in seed there, we weed and see that we have weeded well. When we hoe, we no longer hoe heavily.

Work in the fields is work that takes how long?
It does not take a long time because [in] three weeks I have ploughed and I have finished those fields of mine. When I hoe, I might hoe a field for two weeks if it has been well weeded.

And then after that, what work remains?
I now come and harvest tobacco which is in the midst of the maize.

It is what kind of tobacco?
This hlahla-se-maele (literally, a plant with tricks: cannabis).

Now, this hlahla-se-maele do you think that it brings in a lot of money?
Ach, they give us money that they can give ntate, and we would just take it.

But is there a place where you sell it?
No, ntate, we just stay with it here. They will arrive, people who are looking for it, they often come and buy it. We do not go around with it.

But now that it is being said that you are being made to emigrate, is it the case that you will ask for compensation for hlahla-se-maele as it used to bring you money?
Ach, I do not know because they sometimes ask us as to how much we sell it for and how and then we would explain. Now, we do not know well as to whether we shall find any compensation for it, or what will we do.
Section 4
In all other things where you shall be losing, as for there, have they indicated as to how they will compensate you?
They tell us that they will compensate us, but we do not know whether they are matters, those ones. They say that, on the matter of our fields, an acre will be so much. Now, an acre – we do not know it, is it not because we have not been shown it? Now they are not things that we can trust because we have not been shown how much an acre is, now that we are being told that we shall be given how much. Is it not the case that we ought to be asked because we are the owners of the fields? And then they should hear as to how much we want for that acre which is being talked about, and we should be shown how much it is.

In other words it means that you are not being asked as to how much you need for your field?
No, ntate, you are not asked.

Let us pass there a little, at the homestead, here at your place, do you have animals?
Yes, ntate.

Now what are you going to do with them now that you are going to emigrate?
Truly I am in difficulties; I feel like I do not know what I shall do with them.

Have you been to the place where you are going to emigrate to?
I have not gone.

But as for you, you had chosen to go where?
Nazaretha there.

But is it a place which you have seen?
I see it all the time because it is on the way when I go to Maseru and even when I am going where.

You are expecting that you will find what kind of welcome from people who live there?
That is, I do not know ntate. Actually I do not know because you hear that, that is not my choice altogether or even whether we liked that, we are having to go to other places, it is not our liking but we do not know as to what we can do. And to remain [here] would be to come and be strangled by water here!

Let us talk about houses. On the point of house, they have said they are going to do what for you?
We are not being told there. All they are saying is that we shall be compensated. But we are not being told as to how we shall be compensated.
Section 5
Let us look at this point of jobs. At the moment the presence of the project among you, has it made it that as people of here you are working?
No, they have taken some, just like they registered people with papers so that they should be called one at a time, just like they are registering. It is some who have found, while others have not found, and they are still sitting as I speak like this.

In earlier days, before the road was there like this, the ways of travelling, which ones were they in this area?
We were still travelling on foot, and go to Likalaneng there to go and board a vehicle, we still used to come with our big luggages, and we would hire people and they would go and take them, and they would carry them from Likalaneng to here.

The condition that is there now, what would you say about it?
This road has helped us; it is now near us. We now know how to go to Maseru and be back and come and get off here, and we would be able to get home [on time] even if we are carrying things. But it is an obstacle in one way.

What is it that thing?
It is that we are being removed from here. If these things happened while we are still here [without us having to go]. As for them they had done such a good thing for us. Truly we no longer go to Likalaneng there on feet, we now board vehicles.

When you travelled in the past days, you would travel to where mostly?
We were still visiting Maseru. We were still visiting Maseru on vehicles, which we used to go on foot to Likalaneng.

The reasons which were they, that made you go to Maseru that much?
Is it not now it is the place of shops, and even our relatives are there. Even other places like Mantonyane, we used to visit there like that, because they are places for hospitals. Services we find at far off places.

Is it the case that when you look at this village of yours, do you see it as a united village, one whose people are united? That is, they have held each other’s hand on many points?
Ach no ntate.

On the point of emigrating, is it the case that it was your choice as a village as to where you would like to emigrate to?
It defeated us, that thing. The project had said that we should arrange it with our chief. When we talk to one another and chose a place on which we are in agreement with our chief, he should come with us and we should go and be still ruled by him, but it was turned down by us as the people. One said: “As for us, we are going there”. Two said: “As for us, we are going there”. Now you hear that it was a thing that was confused, and we are no longer going together. Some are remaining in the mountains; others are going elsewhere, yet others are going somewhere else again.

Now, now that you have chosen to go separate ways, you see in the new life there, will be what kind of problems?
We are going to have problems because maybe one of my siblings I was still going to borrow some paraffin, and she would pour some for me, and even some salt she would spice for me. You hear that we will no longer be together with him, he has just gone to Mantonyane or where.
Section 6
Let us talk about the matters of marriage. You said as for you, you eloped, does it mean that when you eloped it was the first time you were seeing one another with that young man?
We used to see one another here where we walk.

But in Sesotho when people marry what is done before these matters of eloping?
I do not know as to what happens ntate. Some make it a point that they go and ask for that person at her home. Some do not do that; we just talk to one another and when we have agreed, we go.

Is it the case that there is a change in marriages of yesterday and those that happen right now?
Truly I do not know.

What diseases are most bothersome in this area of yours?
Mostly it is diphtheria, stomach-aches, headaches, those illnesses are the ones that are bothersome. Things like teeth, they are the things that bother us a little.

On this point of illnesses, is it the case that the presence of the project among you has brought any change?
Ach, it is not there. It is just the same. It not the case that we are not being given anything, which they might say to take when you are ill. We still struggle and we take ourselves to the doctors, those ones who are far away like before.

That is to mean that there are no Sesotho doctors among you here?
Sesotho ones are there, who dig medicines.

As for them they are not able to help you?
Sometimes I will see that I come from him, but I do not see any help.

You end up doing what?
I pass on to those ones of European [ways], and go and hear as to for them, will they help me.

Is it the case that the ones of European [ways] succeed?
Yes, ntate, sometimes they are able to help you, because even these teeth they will take them out.

As for you, you are still a young mother, what could be the part that others, who are now old, play among you? That is, what the relations?
I always see them performing some duties. They help one another and they go to the fields. When we have made some matsema (communal labour), they also help us to hoe.
Section 7
I had asked you what jobs you do collectively, does this mean that you still do matsema?
Yes, we do matsema, we come [and] unite. We make some beer, we go and gather together and work there.

Which ones are they that you are happy with, and those that you are not happy with, about town life?
They are many things that I can be happy with in town when I have already lived there. Jobs are many, my children would not manage to be killed by hunger as long as I have hands. I will just take something and sell and bring them something that they can eat.

What special skills would you be able to provide a livelihood for yourself with?
I would buy things and just come and sell them.

What Sesotho games do you sometimes do?
We sometimes do mekhibo (women’s dance), mehobelonyana (men’s dance), they are the things that we sometimes do.

Is it the case that there are songs which you have composed about this project which is making you emigrate?
No, they are not there.

The feasts that you sometimes [have] at your place here, which are they?
It is just cooking food which we make for balimo (ancestors), thanking balimo, that is all.

As for you do you believe that balimo are there?
I believe that they are there because I do not know. It is the case that sometimes when you are ill, it happens that those people you dream of them seeing them. But when you do those things for them, it would happen that the sickness passes.

Can you tell me as to being a woman, according to your understanding, what does it mean?
I feel that it is difficult. It is a hard life, much harder than when I was a child. When I was a child, I did not have many problems that I am thinking about.

The many problems that a person thinks of, which are they?
They are many I agonise over. If there are no matches they ask me for them, if there is no soap they asked me for it, when the children are hungry they want food from me. You hear that it is a lot of difficulties.

Has it always been like that, from the past up to today?
Yes, ntate, there is nowhere where the children can ask for it, from whomsoever.

I do not know a child [who] even if you were to say he should go to his father he does not go, even when an exercise [book] is finished.
Section 8
What is it that you like about this place that you live in?
I like this agriculture because I live by it more than all these other things. I live by this agriculture which is in the fields. I buy a blanket, I buy what [I need] with it. There is nothing else, and in fact it is not many times that I sell an animal, as long as I plant those things in there.

You have animals?
Yes, ntate, cows are there.

Now that you have animals, what do you see will happen when you go to the new place?
Indeed I am saying that I am in difficulties, my head has stopped. I am in problems on this matter.

Is it the case that there is a lot of crime in this area?
They do them, of theft, of what.

When you say “of what”, explain.
Even those of causing families to quarrel, a lot of other things which makes one fed up.

To make families quarrel in what way?
Easily, you would find that, that man stays at that person’s (another woman’s place) and there is a lot of fighting in the family.

When there are quarrels, how are they resolved?
They are reprimanded because we would even have to go to the chief’s place after having fought, and the chief would come and decide these issues and [see how] he does it.

Ways of finding news in this place, which ones are they?
I do not know as to how I can say we find it.

That is to mean that there are no radios?
Radios some of us have them. We would hear when we have turned them, that it is like this and this.

Your relations with other villages in this area, how are they?
We live well together, with them, we still help one another. They always come to help us with hoeing. A person would leave her home area and come and help me hoe like that. Well, when I harvest I would also see as to what I can give her.

Those good relations, is it the case that they are the ones that you expect in this place where you are going to go?
I am still expecting that these things will happen, but now I no longer have [complete] trust that they will happen.

Why do you not have trust?
I am going to people whom I do not know, whom I am not used to. Now I do not know how we shall [behave] towards one another. Even the means of ploughing, as to whether it will be obtainable, it is no longer a thing that I know.
Section 9
Is it the case that in the condition of the sky/heavens, do you see like there is any change these years?
Ache, I do not see.

In these years which are three tens and two units which you have, do you see like this land looks the way it looked earlier?
I see that even these grasses do not look like earlier. Grasses were many, even this lesuoane (variety of grass) used to grow but now it is no longer like that.

This change, what causes it?
I feel I do not know.

The grandmothers, when they tell you litsomo (legends, stories), how do they say it was like during their days?
They often say that poverty has afflicted them; there was only wealth here.

They say this poverty has afflicted them in what way?
They say things got finished on them, even their husbands died, they left and they remained without having husbands.

The people who have aged and also [who] do not have husbands, how do [you] see that their lives will be like when they leave here?
It will be hard because now I do not know how they will do for themselves there, where they do not even find as to now that we are no longer ploughing and harvesting. I feel like they are going to live in hard way as to how food will come, when they no longer have strength.

How are you preparing yourself the condition of living in the new place?
I am not preparing myself, I am just sitting.

Is it the case that as for the project, there [are] steps that are being taken to train people [about] these conditions of going to live in a new place?
Truly I do not know because we are being registered a lot of things every now and then, now we do not know truly whether [in doing so] that is how they are already preparing us or what is happening.

Now that you have lost soil, you are hoping to be given what kind of compensation?
It should be to receive money.

Why are you choosing that you should be made to receive money?
I do not know [whether] they are not going to give me soil - that soil for soil - if I ask them to give me fields, just like I am leaving my fields.
Section 10
You have planned to use the money that you will get how?
I will see about making businesses on which I will be able to live. The other, I will save.

Businesses you would be happy to do of what kind?
Of making even a small shop.

Which nice things do you look back to?
I do not understand how you are asking me with remembrances.

As for you, you do not remember nice ones which make you happy, or those which make feel pain?
I do not remember.

In your life, who helped you to be what you are?
It is God only. I was not attracted to the life of a person.

Is it the case that your husband has worked outside this place his home area?
He worked in the mines for long years.

When did he stop?
I am just forgetting.

At the time when he was working, how was your life?
It was still alright.

It was the same as that of now?
Well, it was better; you hear that we used to get money. There was never a time when you could say we are so short that you could sleep with hunger with the children.

Does it ever happen that you sleep with hunger?
We sometimes run short of even a bag in the house.

What do you normally do when you meet that difficulty?
We would see how we borrow.

Now, when you are going to a new place and the father (husband) is no longer working in the mines and mostly even the job he used to do of the fields he is no longer doing...
As for him he is still struggling even now. Even though he has left this job of the mines, he still fetches horses from across there, and makes them cross and come and sell them.

He started that work when?
He is long years, I think immediately after he left that work (of the mines).

But do you see it as work that goes well?
Yes, as long as he can be allowed to go to the chiefs that he goes to.
Section 11
There is a place where the project has started in there at Katse, what could it be that you have heard that is happening in there?
We always hear that people have been given problems there.

They are given problems on what points?
On the same points that when they have been removed from their fields, they are going to be given food for so many years, but it looks like it is no longer like that. As for maize, they are now being given spoiled maize as food which [is] no longer satisfactory.

Now that you have these, what could be your feelings when you look at that situation?
It is that we no longer know as to what we can do for ourselves.

Is it the case that there is a way in which you can talk to the project, so that does not happen to you?
Yes, we can have a way of talk to one another because we are staying with some of them here, but well we have talked to one another.

Do you think it is a thing that can happen that you talk to them?
Yes, we are obliged that when they have collected us together we should talk to one another with them.

These people of the project, were they still able to talk to ladies’ heads of families, in just a similar manner that they talked to the men?
Yes, the one that they find, they still talk to her just like if they were to find that it is the man at home and the lady is not there.

Do you have your brothers and sisters that you were born with, in the village here?
As for us, actually we were born as two and my brother died in the [mine] compounds there. He was knocked down by the table (rock falling from overhead underground), and I have remained alone.

The parents are where?
The parents have died.

Do you have schools here?

The Sesotho ones, as for them, are they there?
The ones of mabollo (circumcisions) have not come to an end. Even now people have already gone for lebollo in that village up there.

They do lebollo for boys or, well, even for girls?
They do lebollo for boys. In fact most lebollo is for boys. One year there was a lady who practised scarification on girls (in preparation for lebollo) in the village here, a long time ago. Right now at Mokhathi’s, an Indian called abuti (term used to refer to older males) Pule has incised girl-initiates.
Section 12
Now that it is like this, what Sesotho things should be continued when you go to the new life, the new area?
Customs, rituals, traditions will be performed by those who do them, like even those of mabollo. As for me, I do not like them. As for me, I see that if I can teach children school subjects, that is enough.

Could it be you see lebollo as having no use where?
I do not like it. I do not know what use it is, what it can give me back. I do not see its return.