Lesotho Sports Blizz (LSB) had a chat with the renowned Mosotho man Simon Malefetsane Nkhabu (SMN). Nkhabu’s life journey seems to have come across immense skills and experiences.
LSB: Tell us briefly about your background
SMN: My name is Simon Malefetsane Nkhabu, I was born on Thursday 20th of January 1972. That says on the 20th of this January I turned 50. I started my primary school at the age of six at Mohokare primary school, my home place.
For some reason I was made to repeat standard one, I was told that I had passed the examinations but my teacher who was my aunty (may her soul rest in peace-she passed on) convinced my mother that I needed to repeat for a better foundation before proceeding to standard two, and it worked for me.
I passed with the first position and I maintained that position to standard seven where I was the only one who got a first-class pass in the final exams, and it was after eight years since the school had a first-class pass.
I started my secondary education at Moshoeshoe II High School at Matsieng in Maseru district, and got a first-class pass in the Junior Certificate examinations, then proceeded to form D and E respectively, where I obtained a third-class pass.
I grew up in a semi-rural area, but not far from the Maseru town Qeme Ha Ntsane, and in those years Form E was considered the destination for education. As such, I could not go any further; in fact, my parents told me that now that I have completed form E, I must give the chance to my younger brother and sister.
Conditions growing up
I grew up like any other boy, except that I was a very handsome little boy, who resembled my mother more, therefore, that was a challenge because people would stop me on the way and ask “u ngoanana kapa u moshanyana” (Are you a girl or a boy).
I used to wear a blanket, which covered my ankles at all times. That was a challenge that resulted in making me rebellious, always fighting, and sometimes unruly. I remember my first report at the secondary level, in the first year; the boarding master wrote that I needed therapy because I do extraordinary things, “I was a naughty boy, I tell you”.
I loved working with my mother in the field, full time, and fully helping her with household chores. I am a good cook because of her. Can you guise sometime before COVID – 19 I was selling food in former packs around the offices during lunchtime.
Background on my thinking
Positively, I would say. I come after a very tough boy; my elder brother Mandoza (nickname…may his soul rest in peace, he passed on in 2000). He used to beat us for no reason, and that made my brother and me tough.
I used to watch him closely especially around misbehaving and would see my parents very upset, as a result, that would send a message that I should do better than he would. As I said above, moreover I loved my mom, always wanted to make and keep her happy.
I grew up in a very spiritual family as an apostolic church; I assisted my parents during church services. I gathered and learned spiritual living, hence I love the gospel, preaching, and currently supporting clap and tap choirs of Lesotho.
I am currently paving my way in motivational speaking and counseling, some skills learned from the family, my mom, and my dad (may their souls rest in peace). My family life, especially my mom shaped me into what I am today.
I was not good in football which every boy grow playing, you know every village has a football ground. I quickly gave up on it when I was in secondary school. I knew I could run but hated it.
I played table tennis, I love chess and use to play it in high school, I know I am good at it. I enjoy watching football but have no time really.
LSB: What do you do in life?
SMN: I am in theatre and have been in the industry since 1987 while at Moshoeshoe II High School. I together with the very famous and up-growing theatre legend Silas Monyatsi, Dan Molefe, David Makhoba, Moeketsi Maema, Khatebe Molefi, and more others formed a theatre group at school in those years.
I was the producer and writer of the plays we performed. Actually, I think it is wise to tell you that I was exposed to the theatre together with others when we were doing our JC, and doing one book (I can’t remember it) by Ntate Zakes Mda. Our literature teacher directed us. Then we decided to form our own theater group.
I am continually writing plays and short stories. I had an opportunity and offer by FINITE Magazine to publish one of my short stories “When the time is ripe”. I have a collection of short stories and plays.
Around 1998/99, I was living at Ha Foso where I founded two theatre groups, which were very active, they comprised teenage boys and girls. The other one encompassed children aged seven to eight years and up to 12 years. The two theatre groups performed in the Morija Arts and Cultural festival by then.
The famous and ever-growing Lilaphalapha-Bofihla ‘Neko joined the theatre group back then where I believed I motivated him to find his feet to where he is now. He was very good, active, and innovative, informing the scripts very positively and humorously.
I wrote the radio script for Tšasa, contracted by Sila Monyatsi and his partners under their company namely Plot Points. I was also contracted by Mantsopa Communications and wrote a radio script for their film “Khetho ea Ka” (My choice).
I was also featured in a radio play produced by Ms. Rathabile Malibo on gender-based violence (GBV). There is also a film by Mantsopa Communications where I play the role of a doctor.
Challenges facing Lesotho in the Film Industry
There is no support from the government, especially the ministry related to this industry. Artists are scattered all over, it is critical that they are brought under one umbrella.
Due to the high rate of unemployment, theatre and film practitioners depend on opportunities coming to them. They use more so to benefit their income generation and in the process mess up relations with their crews (people involved-actors etc.).
The profession of the film industry is very open as it grows from talents, and everybody, even on a non-professional basis, where there are means. They become writers, producers, and actors with those indigenous talents and mess up the quality of the industry that is why it is even not attracting potential supporters and the government.
For overcoming problems of theatre and arts in general, we need to re-think and re-shape our approach as a whole. There has to be support from the government, unity among artists, forming their own strong umbrella organization, link it to potential and resourceful partners, and demand to be supported and considered. We are so far behind as a country compared to other countries.
Politicians have their inspirations and agendas to push. Hence, that does not include growing theatre and other forms of art. However, another contributing factor may be linked to lack or orientation on the use of theatre. The changes it may bring even to their political platforms as a medium and communication tool to advance them, from campaigns to other related issues that need to be delivered as messages to their communities of supporters and followers.
Theatre and tourism
It is common knowledge and a fact that most of the very best adverts on both radio and television are produced with the engagement of well-trained and skilled artists. The conceptualization and messaging of tourism can best be driven through arts and theatre; thus through performance and television.
To improve theatre in Lesotho we need to first think of including it in the National Curriculum so that education starts as earlier as pre-school. The Ministry responsible for artists needs to re-event the wheel, go out there, collect data on available artists and their forms of art, categorize them, bring them together, conduct needs assessment, draw strategies to grow the industry, make plans, implement those plans, monitor and evaluate processes and progress. There has to be an appointment of an artist within such a ministry representing their interest and aspirations.
The artists themselves need to re-organize themselves, get together, build their capacity, and seize open opportunities that may attract and capture the interests of all potential resources.
As I mentioned before, theatre needs to start at school, be taught in classes as part of the curricula, by trained teachers. Acting can contribute a lot to the earning of pupils in schools as it stimulates message receiving and storage, it’s fun, entertaining, educating and practical.
The future of theatre in this country is blare, I tell you. Unless someone involved gets on board, we may not see it growing.
If we could change one rule in Lesotho: I would encourage the inclusion of arts in the national development plan and national operational plan; with clear strategies, plans implementation approaches, and framework of results.
There are times when tenders are advertised for artists to write for the local television, the likes of Mantsopa and other individual local writers, for example, would submit their technical and financial proposals to the responsible ministry, but those never sees the light of the days, and no feedback whatsoever is given to them.
LSB: Apart from scriptwriting and theater, what else do you do?
SMN: Apart from being a scriptwriter, I do many things. I am paving my way into motivational and inspirational speaking and counselling. Fortunately, I am already engage in showcasing myself and have featured in a number of radio programmes locally. The engagement was based on being invited or from me initiating the programme.
The radio stations included Harvest FM, Tšenolo FM, Bokamoso FM, PC FM, MXXL FM, Radio Lesotho, KEL Radio, Moeling FM-Botha-Bothe, 357 FM, and recently Thato ea Rona FM in Maputsoe-Leribe.
I am an employee of the Ministry of Local Government and hold a position of Information Officer. I joined the Ministry in 2003 and was assigned to the health desk of the Ministry being a focal person and coordinating linking councils to line-Ministries, the key being the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation and other stakeholders providing services to the communities. I am also a focal person on Gender issues, representing the Ministry on contributing towards the elimination of Gender-Based Violence and related issues.
Most of my work on HIV and AIDS is implemented under the coordination of the National AIDS Commission.
As for GBV, the whole world is rocked by the alarming rate of cases of abuse on women and girls, our grandmothers, mothers, aunties, sisters, and daughters. As a focal person, I am determined to contribute to the elimination of GBV, and from where I stand with my position at work, I have a higher comparative advantage of influencing change, hence working hard to link the Ministry to relevant stakeholders to join hands for consorted efforts and interventions.
We have dealt with HIV and AIDS for a long time, now it is time for fast-tracking prevention and it is everybody’s responsibility, and with my experience, I am welcoming all to come on board. We can share ideas, plan and vastly move forward.
Training on health issues
I have been trained in various work-related capacity building through my position in the Ministry of Local Government, hence I do a lot of training for the local authorities and staff in the Local Government Sector. The training includes decentralization, HIV and wellness, M&E for essential services on HIV and AIDS, HIV and AIDS and Local Governance, HIV Monitoring and Evaluation for Performance Excellence in HIV and AIDS Response, and AIDS Psycho-social Counselling. HIV and AIDS Planning, Content Management Systems for web site maintenance, Community Development, Group Situation Leadership, and I am also very competent in Documentation and Report Writing
I obtained a certificate in Palliative Care for Children-trained by the Ministry of Health and International Children’s Palliative Care Network (ICPCN) in collaboration with Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) and completed practical in Bloemfontein National Hospital. I want to pursue public health with higher educational qualifications.
I have also acquired skills and knowledge as a recognized motivational speaker, upcoming counselor, competent community mobilized, and trainer (developmental: socio-economic issues).
I possess experiences in string networking with a number of personnel in the government of Lesotho ministries and a number of Non-governmental Organizations (NGO’s).
On top of the above, I do freelancing consultancy: I have done consultancy work successfully on my own engagements and engaged by others.
Sechaba Consultancy once engaged me on translation and voice-overs of Learners teaching textbooks (lower grades). Also once engaged by LENEPWHA and UNESCO on Documentation of Experiences of Teachers and Learners Infected and Affected by HIV and AIDS. LENEPWHA organized a one-day exhibition of the photo-voice Images. My work was broadcasted on one of the radio stations in Paris as well as displayed on the international event of the activity and locally.
Moreover; I sing and I have two tracks on demo, just waiting for the right time to release them and move on.
I am lucky because I am strongly supported at work and given opportunities to explore and experience my talents. Sometimes I pilot my initiatives in the workplace with appreciation and appraisal of my bosses.
Moreover, I receive support from my family, including my wife, my brother, and sister. My family members were mostly encouraged by my guardian (whom my mother left us with a day before she passed away).
I have a strong base of friends, whom we relate positively.
I am an easy person to be with, always giving on to others, and capturing them with my sense of humour “as they always say” (hantle ke motho ea stoutu, ea ka tšehisang batho). I am a comedian though very reluctant to do stand-alone comedy.