‘With­out hope the peo­ple per­ish’

Lesotho Times - - Big Interview -

LE­SOTHO is cel­e­brat­ing 50 years of in­de­pen­dence this year. The coun­try gained self-rule from Bri­tain on 4 Oc­to­ber 1966. In this wide-rang­ing in­ter­view, Stephen Gill — the cu­ra­tor of Morija Mu­seum and Ar­chives since 1989 — speaks with Le­sotho Times ( LT) re­porter, Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane, about the role of the mu­seum in pre­serv­ing Ba­sotho his­tory and how Le­sotho has trans­formed over the past 50 years.

LT: Could you start by telling us how and why Morija Mu­seum and Ar­chives was es­tab­lished?

Gill: When the first mis­sion­ar­ies came to Morija, they were com­ing to in­tro­duce new teach­ings, and you might even say a cul­ture, or a process of cul­tural in­ter­ac­tion which would lead into some­thing new. But noth­ing can ever be com­pletely new; it has to build upon the foun­da­tion which is al­ready there. And so you will find that this legacy which grows out of Morija, be­comes a process of pre­serv­ing, creat­ing and to a cer­tain ex­tent, trans­form­ing. So that, for ex­am­ple, you have peo­ple like Thomas Mo­folo, who takes what we might call older forms of sto­ry­telling, for ex­am­ple Litšomo (fairy­tales), and trans­form them into nov­els. I am writ­ing a bi­og­ra­phy of him now and you will find that his fa­ther, Ramo­folo who was born in the late 1840s, was him­self a mas­ter sto­ry­teller. So Mo­folo comes from a fam­ily of sto­ry­tellers who were strong Chris­tians. In a sense, he was per­fectly bal­anced in a sense that his fa­ther would tell him all the tra­di­tional sto­ries re­lat­ing to the Li­faqane (Ba­sotho wars against the Bo­ers).

Mo­folo grew up against this rich at­mos­phere of Se­sotho sto­ry­telling, at the same time the par­ents were from Chris­tian tra­di­tion. So he was able to cre­ate new lit­er­ary forms in Se­sotho, which no one had done. And yet it built upon the older tra­di­tions. This, in a sense, is what Morija is about. We don’t just have a mu­seum, which is a place for col­lect­ing ma­te­rial ar­ti­facts, but side by side with it is an archive, which records his­tory, tra­di­tions,ions, sto­ries on pa­per or pho­to­graphs s or maps. It’s a very mul­ti­fac­eted col­lec­tion. llection. In some coun­tries, a mu­se­umm may be largely based upon ma­te­rial ob­jects, cul­tural ar­ti­facts. In other places, it also has a sig­nif­i­cant archivee or li­brary with it. We are very lucky to have both in Morija be­cause the two wo are com­ple­men­tary. They show us the he his­tory of our peo­ple for at least 200 years, if not longer. You can then see thathat the mu­seum and the ar­chives are a repos­i­tory of dif­fer­ent cul­tural and his­tor­i­calal ma­te­ri­als which help us un­der­stand who o we are and how we have evolved over time. me.

LT: Le­sotho is cel­e­brat­ing 50 years of in­de­pen­dence nde­pen­dence from Bri­tish rule this year. What is the role of the Morija a Mu­seum and Ar­chives rchives in re­la­tion to o this com­mem­o­ra­tion?ion?

Gill: Our peo­ple eo­ple will per­haps say we used to have cer­tain tra­di­tions ions of peace­mak­ingg or de­ci­sion- mak­ing ing which we needeed to rein­cor­po­ratete into our deemoc­racy today.y. Some­times deemoc­racy is in­ter­erpreted as the rule ule of the ma­jor­ity.rity But we know that in Se­sotho, the greater or stronger tra­di­tion was to try to cre­ate a con­sen­sus, which means we tried to lis­ten care­fully even to the mi­nor­ity. So I think the value of in­sti­tu­tions like Morija is they might help us to re­think. Where we are now, we have cer­tain prob- lems which are fac­ing the coun­try. Per­haps we need to re-eval­u­ate how we got to where we are now. Is it pos­si­ble that within our own tra­di­tions, there are mech­a­nisms which we need to bring back into ei­ther our democ­racy, fam­i­lies or or­gan­i­sa­tions in or­der to find a bet­ter way for­ward be­cause clearly over the last 50 years, we can see that some things have worked and oth­ers have not worked. If things don’t work, like the Chi­nese say, a cri­sis is an op­por­tu­nity.

It’s not a prob­lem but an op­por­tu­nity. So when we have a cri­sis, learn from your cri­sis. Try to find a way for­ward, which will help you and the so­ci­ety. For me mu­se­ums and ar­chives are re­source in­sti­tu­tions. They can help pol­i­cy­mak­ers, lead­ers and even the av­er­age per­sons to look at them­selves dif­fer­ently. We also find in Le­sotho that be­cause of colo­nial­ism and other forces, we some­times don’t even re­spect our own in­her­i­tance. I think Le­sotho has not, un­til very re­cently, in­vested in things like art, cre­ativ­ity and in­no­va­tion. But the more they in­vest in those ar­eas, the more they will find that Ba­sotho are quite ex­cel­lent, it’s just that they never had the op­por­tu­nity.

LT: Af­ter 50 years of in­de­pen­dence, do you think Le­sotho is head­ing in the right di­rec­tion?

Gill: Life is never pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive. It’s al­ways a mix. Much as we may see progress in one di­rec­tion, in an­other di­rec­tion we see the op­po­site. I think what we must ask our­selves at this junc­ture of 50 years is what are our strengths? What are the qual­i­ties, virtues and char­ac­ter­is­tics that we have as in­di­vid­u­als, fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties, which have proven to be use­ful in na­tion-build­ing? And then we also have to take stock of our­selves and say what qual­i­ties and ten­den­cies do we have, which have hurt us. We then have to in­tro­spect and say why are we do­ing those kind of things? Is it some­thing we can cor­rect?

How would we cor­rect it? Some­times when peo­ple get frus­trated, they want to throw the whole thing out and start all over again. But it’s very dif­fi­cult to do that. It’s a bit like the Prasad (Dr Ra­jen Prasad) re­port. When peo­ple came back from New Zealand, there was a great deal of hope. Not that we were just go­ing to take the re­port and im­ple­ment it wholly with­out think­ing, but the peo­ple thought there was a good deal of sense and that some of those rec­om­men­da­tions would be use­ful to us.

What I find hurt­ful is that was in July 2014, it’s now about 20 months later. We need to re­cap­ture that sense of one­ness where gov­ern­ment and the op­po­si­tion are say­ing to­gether ‘this is some­thing so im­por­tant that we need to do it to­gether’. I think as we look for­ward to the next few weeks, we need to re­cap­ture the op­posit op­po­si­tion and rul­ing coali­tion which are pre­pare pre­pared to ac­com­mo­date one an­other and work t to­gether for the good of the na­tion. This is not to say they will not have dif­fer­ences.

Ob­vi­ously they will have dif­fer­ences.di Even within the rul­ing coali­tion, th there are dif­fer­ences. Be­ing dif­fer­ent is not a prob­lem. The ques­tion is how do we han­dle our dif­fer­ences. Ul­ti­mately, the rul­ing coa coali­tion has to be a good lis­tener and the op­pos op­po­si­tion has to be con­struc­tive. It works both ways. No­body is go­ing to rule for­ever. We must put our­selves in the other man’s sho shoes. If at all we can some­how come to­gether, t then I think we have a great fu­ture. That, pe per­haps, could be the big­gest les­son we learnt from our first 50 years.

But I think what would be frus­trat­ing is if we don’t learn. If we don’t learn we will con­tin­u­ously have these confl con­flicts and we will be­gin to feel like we don’t ha have a vi­able fu­ture. With­out hope the peop peo­ple per­ish. Peo­ple now need hope.

LT: What should happe hap­pen in the next 50 years?

Gill: Build­ing part­ner­ships, w whether it’s with in­ter­nal or­gan­i­sa­tions anda as­so­ci­a­tions, or the pri­vate sec­tor and re­gional a and in­ter­na­tion­alti or­gan­i­sa­tions,tion is the key we should con­cen­trate on. This should not only be the is­sue of the gov­ern­ment. I think the for­mer Min­is­ter of Devel­op­ment Plan­ning, Ntate Ma­joro (Dr Moeketsi Ma­joro), was very good in that po­si­tion be­cause he was look­ing at key fac­tors that can trans­form our econ­omy. It’s like what peo­ple said about King Moshoeshoe I. He was think­ing ahead and peo­ple were not able to grasp what he was driv­ing at. I think it’s the same way today. Some lead­ers, who are quite ahead of us, and other peo­ple, can­not quite grasp what they are try­ing to achieve.

They might even op­pose them, not un­der­stand­ing where we need to go. Or they agree with them but then try to use the ini­tia­tive only for their own ad­van­tage. I think the gov­ern­ment should be a fa­cil­i­ta­tor. It doesn’t al­ways need to do things. Some­times it needs to stop do­ing things. Some­times it needs to cre­ate a frame­work so that oth­ers can be­come more ac­tive, so that theirs is just to del­e­gate. Be­cause the gov­ern­ment is so large, it is so easy for gov­ern­ment to some­times think that it is the most im­por­tant thing.

But some­times the im­por­tance of the gov­ern­ment is ac­tu­ally to step aside and al­low other peo­ple to drive pro­cesses. It will cre­ate laws, reg­u­la­tions and frame­works, but then it should then ca­pac­i­tate and em­power oth­ers so that they can drive pro­cesses for­ward; so that the pub­lic and the pri­vate sec­tors are bal­anced. This does not di­min­ish the gov­ern­ment, but rather bal­ances so­ci­ety and the econ­omy. Over the next 50 years, the gov­ern­ment will have to be­come more ef­fi­cient. The pri­vate sec­tor and pri­vate ini­tia­tives will have to grow and be­come much stronger if we are go­ing to have a health­ier so­ci­ety.

LT: Of late, there has been talk of re­forms for our na­tion. What can you ex­pect the au­thor­i­ties to change?

Gill: I’m not a con­sti­tu­tional ex­pert, but I would say we need to study the past 50 years and say, are our demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions achiev­ing what we in­tended them to achieve? I think in some re­spects there are some im­bal­ances. Prob­a­bly, the power of the prime min­is­ter is per­haps too great. Or rather I could say the checks and bal­ances on the power of the prime min­is­ter have per­haps been re­duced. And per­haps that was a mis­take.

There were more checks and bal­ances in 1966 than there are now. I think per­haps we could look care­fully at the pow­ers of the monarch and say are there cer­tain roles or func­tions which he (the King) can per­form which he doesn’t presently do, which could be of ben­e­fit to the na­tion? I think par­lia­ment is go­ing to have to be far more dy­namic in fu­ture be­cause par­lia­ment is sup­posed to be not only the fo­cus of leg­is­la­tion but also the fo­cus of over­sight of the ex­ec­u­tive.

Morija Mu­seum and ar­chives Cu­ra­tor Stephen Gill

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