employment and income
OTHER LOCAL THEMES
culture and customs
justice and crime
introducing the area
quotes about economics
key testimonies featuring economics
Most narrators have limited experience of the money economy. The community is largely self-sufficient in food and prides itself on its independence and on never asking for government assistance. As one resident puts it, "We never take [our] problems anywhere. We just live here nicely". Much local trading consists of barter. There is a thriving grain-for-grain exchange market in which the Molika-liko community barters maize for sorghum from nearby villagers; maize is also exchanged for animals.
This does not mean that residents have no sense of the value of cash. One narrator, for example, describes how by working in the South African mines he was able to acquire livestock far more quickly than if he herded for his father and inherited one animal a year. And cannabis is an extremely important source of cash income, which, together with income raised by selling surplus produce, covers the cost of necessities such as clothes and school fees. Buyers come from South Africa, but those wishing to obtain higher prices take the risk of transporting their merchandise through border posts and bribe their way through police searches to places like the Eastern Cape.
Nevertheless, land and livestock are valued more than cash. Moreover, it is the land that ensures subsistence and a good measure of independence, as well as the generation of a modest cash income. Ultimately, land is viewed as a sustainable resource, an asset to be handed down from generation to generation in perpetuity, whereas money is a finite resource, something spent as soon as it is earned: it "comes in and goes out". And people fear that in the lowlands money goes even more quickly, since things they get for free in the mountains (fuelwood, for example) have to be purchased regularly. In fact, one narrator concludes that people in the towns are poor compared to those in the highlands, where expenses are very low.
Thus most residents are unfamiliar with banks or savings accounts, or large sums of money, having led a hand-to-mouth existence. Any cash they have had has been spent on essentials straightaway. Managing compensation money will be something totally new. They have tried to understand the arithmetic involved in compensating them for their property, especially fields, and many have failed, concluding that the compensation scheme is nothing but a complicated morass of numbers or, in the words of one, "Only that we were told in a morabaraba (a game, the word is used here to mean 'tricky', 'confusing') fashion that 'It is like this. It is like this, your field is like this. It is like this, it has yielded these many acres. It has yielded these many hectares'" (Lesotho 14b); in the words of another, "... you know, [the compensation scheme] has made our heads stop ... as to [how it works]" (Lesotho 17b). For many it may take more exposure to the monetary economy to see cash as a potentially productive resource, capable of generating a secure future, the way they viewed land.
quotes about economics
"People always come here to buy cannabis from us, and it helps us a lot because with it we are able to pay our children's school fees and maintain our families. Cannabis is really important to us. Even during Christmas our children are able to have new clothes, such that outsiders may even think we are working. Maize and other crops cannot match the amount of money we get from cannabis."
Thabang, M/57, Lesotho 2
"Banks ? .... a person here, when you work - you catch a grasshopper straight to the mouth - (you lead a hand-to-mouth existence). We do not have the means that you are able to have money ... to put in a bank on account. When you find [some money] you are going to buy food, you clothe yourself from it, you clothe the children from it. . perhaps, with these fields of ours - which we hear they are going to reward (compensate) us for - maybe it is at that time a person can be able to take [money] to the bank."
Mohlominyane, M/61, Lesotho 14
"Here we still.plant in the fields, we do not buy food in tin containers or in those packets."
Motseki, M/40s, Lesotho 20
"Yes, but being people we shall also look for something for ourselves; and see what we eat on the side. We cannot expect money; money is a thing that gets finished in a day."
Tanki, M/Lesotho 27