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Christmas cheer for herd boys



Harvest FM Managing Director ‘Malichaba Lekhoaba hands over presents to Qeme herdboys

Pascalinah Kabi

HERDING livestock is a profession that is probably as old as humanity itself and although shepherds and herd boys are generally looked down upon as illiterate and rustic folk, the Bible shows that they have a special relationship with the Christian saviour, Jesus Christ.

“That night, some shepherds were in the fields near Bethlehem, keeping watch over their flock of sheep. An angel appeared to them and gave them the good news that a Saviour, the Messiah, had been born,” the Bible records.

And as the Bible further states, the shepherds went on to spread the good news of Jesus’ birth.

Sadly though, that glorious Biblical responsibility and the fact that so many of the best known verses such as those in the book of Psalms as well as parables are associated with them, has not done much for the status of modern day shepherds and herders who are regarded with a great degree of contempt in this country.

Risking their lives to look after their employers’ flocks in the cattle posts around the country even in time of snow, mostly with dogs and fighting sticks as their only weapons in time of trouble, herd boys work in one of the most unregulated and underpaid sectors.

With Christmas just around the corner, it is highly unlikely that the bulk of them will receive any gifts despite their legendary Biblical association with the auspicious day.

But one woman, ‘Malichaba Lekhoaba has set out to change all that and give them something to cheer in the spirit of their predecessors who were visited by an angel to announce the birth of Jesus, more than 2000 years ago.

Influenced by the role of herd boys in spreading the news of Jesus’ birth, the Harvest FM Managing Director recently embarked on a gruelling eight hours “hiking for a purpose” to hand-over gifts to herd boys in Qeme.

Given that walking was the only way to reach the Qeme cattle posts, Ms Lekhoaba collaborated with Earth Lovers Hiking Club to climb the mountain and hand over gifts to 17 herd boys atop the Qeme Mountain.

Each gift bag contained a pair of gumboots, pocket solar radio, face-towel, toothpaste and toothbrush, bath and washing soap, Vaseline, a story book and goodies like peanuts and biscuits.

“I have never gone hiking but this one is different as it is hiking with a purpose,” the seemingly exhausted Ms Lekhoaba told this publication after her exertions.

She added: “I chose to come here for one reason only, herd boys. They are very close to my heart.”

Although Ms Lekhoaba and the club members could have asked the herd boys to descend to the foot of the mountain to receive their presents, she said to climbing up to reach them was the right thing to do instead.

As a Christian, Ms Lekhoaba said she always had a strong bond with herd boys and she would use her public status to change the negative perceptions around them.

“My relationship with herd boys started a few years ago when we celebrated Christmas with around 300 Katse herd boys in Thaba-Tseka. This year I celebrated my birthday with Thaba-Bosiu herd boys where we handed out gift bags similar to those we are handing over in Qeme.

“Herd boys are the most neglected yet they are very important to our lives,” Ms Lekhoaba said.

The Thaba-Bosiu-born media manager urged Basotho to break the culture of depending on foreign hand outs and give to the needy, regardless of how small their gifts might be perceived.

She said it was only by giving that an individual could be blessed.

One of the beneficiaries, 27-year-old Thuso Lemphane said he was overjoyed at the gesture, saying he had never received a Christmas present all his life.

“I have never received any Christmas presents and I am overjoyed by this gesture. I have peace in my heart,” Mr Lemphane said, adding, he had been a herd boy from the age of 17.

“My boss occasionally buys me bath soap and when it is finished, I go for days without bathing.

“Knowing that I have a bad odour negatively affects me to an extent that I don’t socialise and I get lonely and miserable during that period,” he said.

Another herd boy, Lefa Ntsoha concurred with Mr Lemphane, adding he had to walk barefoot on account of the fact that his boots and become too small and hurt his feet.

The 19 year-old Mr Ntsoha said he did not “always have basic cosmetics and I normally crush the rough salt meant for livestock and use it for brushing my teeth”.

“My bad odour has greatly contributed to my negative attitude towards other people.

I do not like people near me because I do not want them smelling my odour,” he said.

He said poverty had forced him into herding livestock and he would gladly jump at any opportunity to get out of looking after 50 sheep and 25 goats which he said was no easy task.

“This is not work. Most of us come here because of desperation and it feels as if we don’t exist to many who do not think of us as human beings,” Mr Ntsoha said.

Another 19-year-old, Malefetsane Moqheche was forced to take up herding after dropping out of school during the last year of his Junior Certificate (JC) due to lack of funds.

Mr Moqheche, who passed his Primary School Leaving Certificate (PSLC) with a Second Class, said his unemployed mother was unable to pay for his fees when he dropped out of school.

“I love school with all of my heart and I would do anything to go back. I am now using my earnings to help take care of my mother and my siblings.

“But I don’t want to be a herd boy all my life and I know that the only way I can be something in this life, is to go back to school,” Mr Moqheche said.

Clearly, it will take more to give back the human dignity to the herd boys.

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