“Bophelo lefats’eng ke ntoa”: a Sesotho adage which literally translates to “Life on earth is war”. This is especially true now as humanity is under siege by an invisible enemy, covid-19. It is a little over a year since the world was first introduced to this novel coronavirus.
Despite an unfortunately nonchalant approach to this pandemic locally, there is no doubt now as to what it is that has brought the world to its knees. We are in a state of war, with over two (2) million fatalities globally, and counting. This pandemic is showing a level of carnage as has not been seen for generations. However, unlike wars of yesteryear when the requisite action was for soldiers to take up arms in a use of brute strength and force, this war has necessitated that all pay their toll by playing their role in fighting this enemy, through behavioural change and a greater understanding that what affects one, really does affect all. Cradled high in our mountain top enclave, it was by an odd combination of nature or nurture (or perhaps neglect) that Lesotho was the last country on a continent of fifty-five (55) to declare its first covid-19 case. It appears that this nation’s forefathers settled their people in a land that would ensure that even during disasters of biblical proportions, we would be the last to go down.
For an underdeveloped Lesotho already battling challenges that are both man-made and natural, and still grappling the HIV/AIDS pandemic that has taken countless lives, the journey ahead becomes heavier. The loss of loved ones means that for many, grief and fear will be recurring companions. It is in our deepest darkness that we observe the brightest flicker of our light. Shrouded in these darkest of clouds, humanity’s spirit will shine through as we embrace the absolute truth; we must fight to live. We have it within us to persevere, like our ancestors before us. By planting the seeds that cultivated the cultures of our nation, they passed down unbeknownst wisdom in two items that would aid the men of this nation in braving even the meanest of colds – a balaclava and a blanket. Lesotho’s most basic form of personal protective equipment.
The world has been catapulted into a forced reform – a time for rehabilitation, the addressing of societal inequality, and evaluating the direction of humanity’s future. There are very few who can say they are the same now as before covid-19 hit the world. We have learnt, by force, more about ourselves and others than perhaps many of us could have imagined and in some cases, had any desire to. There is much still to understand of each other. Where we may diverge, let us push to exercise tolerance in search of common ground.
This new decade has thrown humanity into a condition in which we are reminded of what it is in life that truly matters – each other. Of being kind and thoughtful to those around us. And with our mental health being of utmost importance, to be kind and thoughtful with ourselves. The year 2020 also served to show in glaring clarity the chronic ailments that incessantly pervade communities, for instance gender based violence; corruption; and in the most blatant manner, racism.
On that fateful 25th day of May 2020, on Africa Day, when the energies of a month of commemoration culminated to a climax, across the world one of Africa’s own was being murdered in broad daylight. As a dying George Floyd gasped the words “I can’t breathe”(as Eric Garner had in 2014) in plea with an unrelenting oppressor, his cries reminded millions who saw the footage that, for those of African descent, the fight to breathe began centuries ago.
As 46 year old Floyd implored with his tormentor, a young African American woman bravely stood and recorded the dying moments of one she could see as her own. In posting the pain of his last moments to the world, she unknowingly reignited a flame to the then 7 year movement that was the brainchild of 3 women of African descent, known as ‘Black Lives Matter’. And we bore witness to an international revolution.
In 8minutes and 46seconds, the world was shook to its core. Calling out to she who gave him life, his cries were heard by mothers everywhere. The ancestors heard him. Mother Africa heard you. And when this matriarch of the continents stirs, the world is tilted on its axis. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. A poignant example of the strength of women in supporting our men.
We are because Africa is. We are of her and she is for us, her children. Regardless of where you are in this world, know that you are of her because her blood runs in your veins and her spirit is etched in your skin. It is for us to rise and give back that which we receive daily – life. In respecting this earth on which we dwell, and nurturing the growth of all her people. We must fight to live. In honour and remembrance of our fallen kin who have gone to join the ancestors. We say a silent prayer, paying homage and giving thanks to those whom, by shining their lightz into our lives, instilled the belief that a Black Panther lives in you.
Here at home, it has rained nearly every day in 2021 as we continue to experience changing weather patterns. I believe our most potent blessings come in the rain. The heavens have opened up and sent their droplets to offer catharsis as they alleviate the sting left from yesterday’s transgressions, giving promise for fresh opportunities with the dawning of a new day. Indicative of the slippery road ahead, we will struggle to find balance and at times, we will fall. It is then we must draw from the strength within to stand and push on, in servitude of those we love. The heavy rains were telling of the many tears that are being shed as the heartache felt in other countries now floods the mountain kingdom. But the rains pass, and so too shall this pain. As our founding fathers did before us, we must persevere and find means to survive.
We are brethren existing under the same sun. Each walking their unique path. United by our humanity. We are living in a global community and must draw lessons from the experiences of other peoples’ as reference points for the interactions of our own. This pandemic has displayed the detrimental results that can erupt in societies when led by unfocused leadership. The world over, from the least developed countries to those previously considered global superpowers, we see people suffering because of ill-considered strategies that are too often based in political ambition and supported through political allegiance. The time for blind loyalty is gone and people cannot be silenced when actions are taken that weaken our fight. Corruption has once again revealed itself as a curse that cripples governments and by extension the people they govern. Corruption continues to paralyze Africa where it appears self-interest trumps service to the public, even in the face of this pandemic’s devastation. Political correctness becomes moot with such individuals and thus dictates that even in diplomacy, one’s words must carry a severity that is able to pierce the shell of an unwilling receiver.
To err is human. However, making the same mistake time and again becomes irresponsible and contra to the pursuit of holistic health. We can draw lessons from events in the aftermath of the US elections that highlight the need for democratic bodies that can stand against the dangers caused by rogue leaders, and having political officials in place with enough integrity to act even when the rogue leadership is their own.
We are beholding a new world emerging around us and Lesotho cannot remain stagnant. Global best practices adopted in mitigation of the spread of covid-19 need to be used within the realms of Lesotho’s context to empower Basotho against this virus. It is crucial that we all adhere to the stipulated guidelines for preventing transmission and/or contraction of covid-19:
Wear a mask – it is compulsory for people to wear masks in public.
Frequent washing of hands – hands should be washed regularly with soap and running water for 20 seconds.
Use a sanitiser – it is greatly advised that people use a sanitiser with an alcohol base of at least 60%. Carrying a personal sanitiser is highly advisable.
Physical distancing – In public maintain a personal space from others, especially if not wearing a mask. The phrase keeping one at arm’s length is truly personified by this pandemic. High-fives and hugs become the privilege of a select few with whom the value of these gestures is well worth the risk.
Social distancing – stay at home as much as possible. Avoid social gatherings. When attending a gathering, one must wear a mask, wash hands and/or sanitise and physically distance from others.
Frontline workers will inevitably be hardest hit by the onslaught of covid-19. To our healthcare workers, security services (the police and military forces), petrol attendants, shop workers, all those who continue to be of service in the face of this foe, we pray for your continued strength. Words become hollow in expressing gratitude. Know that your sacrifices are not in vain as we stand with you in prayer and solidarity.
Our story is far from complete. This chapter of humanity will sculpt us, through perilous circumstance and uncertain footing, to becoming wiser and more conscious beings. Let us hold steadfast to the belief that come what may, we will survive. A survival through evolution, taking steps towards reform and that which is the birth right of all – happiness.
We must fight to live. As all deserve to live; a quality of life supported by an environment that provides access to basic services and education. To live a life that breeds and cultivates harmony with others and within ourselves. A life grounded in the principles of our forefathers – of Peace, Rain and Prosperity: Khotso, Pula, Nala. Aligned with the heavens and respectful of this land from which we are borne and to which we will return, once our last breath is done. Because this nation was built by men of power and peace, who persevered through the challenges of their time as we must now do in our own. As a nation of blanket men.
Blanket men. An amusing yet apt description of the Basotho nation. The Seanamarena is a traditional blanket that is an emblem for our people to the world. A tapestry that expresses Lesotho’s heritage and sovereignty, signifying our nation on this earth. An artefact passed down from this nation’s predecessors, it is symbolic of the journey travelled, the peaks and mountains overcome to settle this nation in the mountain ranges of Africa’s southern tip. Faith is the blanket the world must now don. Faith that we have courage enough to do as needs to be done.
And I, am a blanket woman.