photo of person from Lesotho the maluti mountains
Lesotho glossary












October 1997



Section 1
Ntate Lipholo is old and walks lamely with knees covered by orange plastic knee caps. He says he contracted the problem with his legs while working in the South African Mines. I observed his problem a few years ago while on other studies. At that time he mostly used his knees to walk. The interview went as follows:

My name is Rabahlakoana Lehasa from Rothe under Chief Mohlalefi. Could you please tell me what your name is?
I am Lipholo Bosielo - here in Molikaliko and I was born right here in Molikaliko where I still stay.

Since you were born in this place and grew up as a Mosotho son, what things did you do while growing up?
While growing up I started herding calves at the age of nine and after that I herded cows. After a spell, I went to school but during school vacations, I stayed in the cattle post until school reopened until I finished and entered into marriage. I married a wife and went to work in the mines. We carried on with our life thus until I experienced problems with my legs. I came back home and got a job issuing permits for people who wanted to sell their animals. But still the sickness persisted. The life we led here was to transport cattle, using donkey and horse. We collected tokho (grocery parcels) from Ha Fako to Marakabei for a small payment. When you used a donkey, you would receive seven shillings - which in present terms is one rand forty (R1.40).

You have just talked about tokho, what do you actually mean?
By this I mean sales items from Marakabei shop. These were sweets, soap and maize. We transported these items on donkey, cattle and horse to Marakabei to be sold.

Where is this place Ha fako?
Ha Fako is in Sefikeng.

Letís now talk about your life during those days while you were a young man. Talking about agriculture, what was grown in this place during those days?
Actually in this place as is currently so, we live on agriculture. We do not grow sorghum because we cannot afford to guard produce against birds. There are too many birds in the valley and growing sorghum means keeping watch from when grain starts to form until you harvest and thresh. This has led to growing wheat, maize, lentils, peas, beans, rye and potatoes. These are crops we help ourselves with at present and it has been like this since I was born. The transport from the fields has been cattle, horse and donkey.
Section 2
Were the crops only grown for consumption?
In the old days, we sold maize, wheat, rye, peas, beans and potatoes at the retail store to get a few pounds according to how much they weighed. Above this, we sold wool to get money or cattle so as to help the family at the time when everything from the fields is finished. When everything from the fields is sold or eaten, this money would again be used to buy what would be eaten.

Were the harvests good during those days?
Harvests were very good especially wheat but peas yielded good harvests as well.

What do you attribute those harvests to?
The soil had good nutrients then. Even now, the soil still yields good harvests though not as good as in those years - with regard to what I have just mentioned. It is there if you work the soil better: do winter ploughing - because we do not use artificial fertilisers, and use seeds preferable to that soil.

Where do you get seeds?
If you have not kept your own, you go to the cooperative or to your neighbours.

Were there cooperatives in those early times?
There were no cooperatives but you could still get seeds from neighbours. You could exchange, buy with money or sheep and be able to plough.

Were current drought conditions still there in the old days?
Drought was still there but not this bad. There were pula ea litloebelele, pula ea likhomo le batho (sheets of rain; raining cattle and people ie good rains). You would not run short of water along the slopes; you would not go far before getting to a spring to quench your thirst.

What did you do when there was a drought?
When there was drought, we would wait for Godís help and nothing else. Those crops which would not stand drought would wither and die, those survived until it rained would still make up for those that perished.

What changes do you see in this area at present?
At present, there is so much soil erosion that in most places, you see bare rocks where nothing can grow. Where there is still some little soil left and there is drought as there is now, some crops die and some will survive with the little moisture left in the soil.

You told me you attended school, what standard did you do?
I passed the old standard six.

Where did you attend school?
I attended school at Matholoana, Bethany R.C.
Section 3
Does this mean there were no schools here?
There were schools because when I left the Montsi, I went to Marakabei - but this went up to standard four only. When I passed that standard, I went to Bethany which had standard six. After my standard six, I was attracted to girls and married. After marrying, I went to the mines to work.

Were there no traditional schools then?
There were many. I was never really attracted to them and my parents actually forced me into formal education Ė A, B, C, D. This ultimately made me less interested in traditional schools. I totally ended up with no interest at all.

Was there somebody or some people in whose footsteps you wanted to follow?
I wanted to learn to become a teacher or a pastor.

Did your parents attend school?
Not at all. They could not even spell A - but my father had that love to educate his children. He sent them to school and some went up to standard three and standard one. I was the only one that went further but failed to go beyond because I was attracted to girls.

Are there any of your children who you put through school to your satisfaction?
They only went to Sub A, Standard 1, 2 and 4 because they got married.

How was grazing managed in the old days?
To manage our grazing areas, small stock would be taken to the cattle posts in the mountains. Cows which did not have very young calves would also be taken. About six milking cows would be left at home and part of the range would be set aside for their grazing. After some time when those taken to the mountains were brought back, the range would have improved and all the livestock would graze together.

Who was responsible for decisions in this process?
The chief and his elders whom he chose to control grazing.

How did you like this arrangement?
This arrangement was good because there was good grass but there was this arrangement which we did not like. This arrangement was that the chiefís livestock would still roam in the closed up areas and he would only send a few to the cattle posts. This nearly changed the issue.

How is this issue of range treated these days?
There has been a lot of mismanagement because there is this thing that certain mountains are closed to grazing and there are some opened. This means all livestock would use one area even those from as far as Lesotho (the lowlands). This resulted in erosion and even here at home livestock are allowed to graze in small areas. When those in the mountains are brought back, they are also allowed into small areas which are used up in no time. When the rain falls these areas are eroded. This is the change I see these days and it is not to be called improvement, but soil erosion.
Section 4
Who are responsible in the current arrangements?
There are village level communities elected to manage the development and control of illegal grazing.

Are there any plants of improvement found in this area?
They are numerous. To name but a few though I forget some, there are medicinal plants like sesepa-sa-linoha, poho-tsehla, manolo, telonina, seoele-oetta moelela, lesokoana, tskitlana and many others like peo ea basalií (restores woman fertility), morarana, ou mangope and monokotsoai. For fuel we have kolitsana, lengana, taraputsoe, motantsi and nyofane. There are also types of grasses we use. There is rooro, thita-poho and mosea which we use for making liroto (baskets). My father used them and I also learned and I still make baskets and lisiu (large grain storage baskets). I make a living out of this. There are many other plants to make good use of.

What do you do with thita-poho and lerohoroho?
As I have said, they use thita-poho for making brooms while I make baskets. I use rohoroho (variety of grass) for roofing just like many things you can use mosea (grass used to weave brooms/mats) for.

What comparison can you make between a tin-roofed and a thatched roof house?
The difference is that tin-roof is lasting while our grass like rohoroho also lasts but straw does not.

Where do you sell your baskets?
I sell to my neighbours.

What important services do you have in this area?
I donít understand. Please clarify.

Where do you get medical services?
There is a clinic but because we are on an island, we cross the Jordan river to Likalaneng where there is a clinic. Even when we go shopping we cross to Likalaneng - and when the river is in flood, it is difficult walking across the mountains to Makhoroana. This is our problem because there are no roads which we thought we would have but now The Highlands Project is chasing us out. Apart from Likalaneng, we go to either Marakabei or Mantroyane for our medical needs. There are times when we get services of private doctors who visit our area.

Are there no traditional doctors here?
There are quite a lot. There are some right in this village.

How is their service as compared to the Western doctors?
Their services are different from the Western one because their charges are high and they do not actually cure the disease but talk of thokolosi (evil spirit possession). The traditional doctors always talk of thokolosi to whoever seek their help without necessarily curing the real sickness while the Western doctors actually cure it without talking about thokolosi.
Section 5
Do these traditional doctors actually cure thokolosi?
I am not sure - because I have only heard that in so and soís household the thokolosi was cured. To me, these are fables because up to now, I have not seen or experienced it first-hand. Occasionally I do have bad dreams which some people attribute to thokolosi. At times they would say a certain white-complexioned woman who went to your house is responsible for bewitching you Ė or a certain old man. Now the way it is, they say the problem with my legs is witchcraft, whereas I have always thought it has been due to working in the mine just as the Western doctors said. I contracted the problem working in damp conditions underground. Traditional doctors say I once ran across somebodyís field chasing cattle Ė but, in fact, while herding cattle I used to guard my cattle from venturing into peopleís fields Ė and they say the owners took some soil from my foot prints. It is unlike the thought I have always had that this is has been due to mine working.
It happened in 1947 that I developed something on my ear which when about to heal, I had knee cramps. I was writing my examinations then but this also healed. While I had this problem with the ear, I dreamt about a cat sitting on me but this was said to be thokolosi. I went to school in Ha Matholoana after this problem and there continued with my studies and played football without any problem until I left for the mines. After some time in the mines, I developed things they call litsere (fungal infection of the foot). When it is like this, I feel so much pain that I have to put off my shoes. These days, the condition of my feet is such that they cannot stand the rain, heat or cold. I have to be where conditions are mild.

Letís go back a little. How old are you at present?
I am 67 years at present.

How many children do you have?
Of those who are still alive, five are married and there are still seven in the household. The seven are by my present wife because my first wife died.

Is hunting still done in this area?
Yes, quite a lot. Rabbits, squirrels, polecats are still hunted and killed. What is no longer seen here are antelopes, which are now further in the mountains.

Are animals hunted for their meat or for other reasons?
The main reason is for consumption.

Is the polecatís meat eaten?
There are those people who eat a polecat - but others kill for medicinal use. With the polecat there is what is called thatho (?) practised by different clans.

What do you attribute the disappearance of the antelopes to?
This is attributed to too much hunting and a lot of people moving around. They are rarely seen - because they are found further in the mountains.
Section 6
In the past, did people not move around a lot?
I have heard that when this village was first settled, they were quite a lot and even in my time, they were still seen grazing around. I do not know, maybe the people chased them around with dogs too much. It was better for them to run to the mountains where they could live in peace.

What changes do you see in your present life as you compare to the past?
Changes I presently see are the resettlement issues by the project and I see this quickening the pace to my early death. My fields which I am working myself with, although difficult, yet we do not so much see these as problems because we were used to them. I also see compensation as being very little because if you use 20 cents out of 2 rands, that money is gone. With this state of affairs, you are left confused as to what to feed your children. These are the problems I see being brought by the project. These problems will go on for the next coming years.

Did you have choice as to where you want to be resettled?
Yes, we have already made our choice as the project asked us to. We are going in different directions and each one hopes that wherever he would go, he would get relatives to help him in times of need. For instance, he would be able to sharecrop because he would not own any fields. It is a sad state to leave behind fields, our fathersí fields, because we also had hoped that our children would also use them. We are very concerned about how our children will live without access to the fields.

Do you see being resettled in different locations as a good thing?
I think it would have been better for the project to have demarcated a single area for resettling this village. In this way, only people who had a different view could be allowed to go elsewhere. The project only told us as individuals to make our individual choices.

What problems do you foresee - by being resettled in different places?
In this village, we have always been helping one another - but resettling in different locations, one would when things go bad, think of those people we used to share problems with. The host people would also not receive us kindly, saying we are big-headed because we have much money the project gave us. They would also say we bring in our large herds to trouble them in their land. We appeal to the project to help us make our life comfortable in our new homes. This is essential because as individuals we would be foreigners in a foreign land.

In the past what did we actually mean when we talked about the Basotho feasts?
These were initiation ceremonies, ancestral and tafole (killing an ox - long after the deceasedís burial). There is a way of praying to the ancestors by preparing food for them. Ancestors come to a person in dreams. These were customary activities which were done in those days and though not common these days, they are still practised.

What did Basotho do when they were happy in the past?
Women would do mokhibo (womenís dance) and men would do mohobelo (menís dance). During the performance of these dances and singing, women would molilietsane (applaud with shrieking voices). The applause is common with girl initiates celebrations, and boys graduating. As for tafole, hymns are sung. During matsema (communal labour), people would also sing and dance after eating and drinking.
Section 7
What happened when they were sad?
They would either fight or look very sad and never talked.

What cultural activities do you think should be carried out over the future?
Ancestral praying, mohobelo, mokhibo and taking your ancestors with you to the place of your new settlement. I think we need help to develop our mode of life in our new homes and be allowed to bring enough animals in that area to sustain life.

You talked about taking with you, your next of kin, who do you actually refer to?
I mean my ancestors.

How do you intend doing this?
I would take soil from the grave rather than exhume the bodies as this would affect me and my children spiritually. One other way would be to take the sticks, measure them on the graves then take them with me to the places of resettlement.

Going back a little on agriculture, what cash crops do you grow?
We do not normally grow crops specifically for sale, but we do sell whatever we grow should need arise. There are people who eat and sell rye but others use it as fodder. Vegetables are grown for consumption but are still sold. Because in this area winters are harsh, vegetables are normally dried for future use. This is also done with wild vegetables. All dried vegetables are sold and cannabis is the only crop grown for cash.

Where do you sell your cannabis?
There is actually no formal market except to sell to smugglers who visit this area.

As for maize, vegetables and other crops, where do you sell them?
We sell amongst ourselves.

What did your diet comprise of in the past?
Diet comprised of papa (maize porridge, staple food), maqebekoane (?), mochahlama (light beer), porridge and beer. We still follow the same pattern though with a slight difference.

Does your current occupation generate enough income to enable you to buy food for your family?
It does when need arises. I can still send my wife to places like Likalaneng to buy maize meal or buy grain in the neighbourhood. One retailer, Pule, sells an 80kg bag at 120 and this is very expensive.
Section 8
Is there a difference in the way you eat as was in the past?
There is a big difference. The money given by the project would not last long because there would be nothing to supplement its use. I would not grow anything in my new area nor get employment because of incapacitation.

Will you still pursue your trade in your new settlement?
Yes, I will still make baskets and mend shoes.

Where will you get the raw materials?
They are not available in that area and I will therefore have to travel to the mountains on a horse to fetch them. In this way, I will be able to continue trading.

Is your wife working?
She does not. She only makes grass brooms or brews beer to sell. She sometimes sells bread to passers by and neighbours. There is no market here and she therefore travels to the lowlands to sell brooms.

Do you see compensation from the project from your losses being able to last a lifetime?
The money is very little and within a year there will be nothing of the money. Money can only be saved when there is something to grow.

Do you make any savings out of your trade?
Not at all. I did save something while issuing permits to people who wanted to sell animals but what remains in the account is the minimum amount required. I cannot do any withdrawal from the account. They told me it still generates some interest.

Is there anything you would want to add to all that you have just told me?
If there is anything I happen to forget, my friends will tell me. But really we have problems, mainly transport. Taking patients to and from medical points has always been our concern. We at one time started a road without payment to alleviate our problems. We were tired of carrying people on wooden stretches over long distances. We need help from anywhere because we never thought that someday, we would move out of this place - but because we are nothing, the planners planned and we are not part of the planning.