PALI LEHOHLA | The Flight of the Flamingos has grounded SA economically

This approach, which promised slow but inclusive growth, slowed the latter and delivered nothing on inclusivity

04 September 2022 - 18:28 By PALI LEHOHLA

Tono — an accepted notion among Basotho men that there should be a pecking order in governance. In economic governance, such a notion is etched in policy. A colonial magistrate in what was referred to as Basutholand was frustrated by assault cases that streamed into court after work parties that followed wheat mowing in summer, sorghum thrashing in winter or festivities where tjontjobina (Sesotho sorghum beer) was imbibed, often in extravagant measure. Out of anguish, the magistrate counselled the Basotho men, saying: “It looks to me that there is a simple solution to your problem — why don’t you start by drinking tono and then take the rest of your sorghum beer.” The folly of this is that tono, like a complex economic phenomenon, does not have a simple solution. The problem, of course, was that the white magistrate did not know that tono is the remnant at the bottom of the clay pot containing sorghum brew, so it will always be drunk last. Tono’s significance is that it defines the pecking order by age. Where age may not be known, as would be the case in societies without writing, and where it is determined by succession rather than birth dates, tono renders this order complex and challenging. This numerical feature remained heavily contested and resulted in blood spilling and death for those who usurped the pecking order. All these fights had to be adjudicated by the white magistrate, who hardly related to the culture...

There’s never been a more important time to support independent media.

From World War 1 to present-day cosmopolitan South Africa and beyond, the Sunday Times has been a pillar in covering the stories that matter to you.

For just R80 you can become a premium member (digital access) and support a publication that has played an important political and social role in South Africa for over a century of Sundays. You can cancel anytime.

Already subscribed? Sign in below.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00.

Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.