A day in the of a young shepherd



QACHA’S NEK – The humble life of a solitary young shepherd might not be the envy of many, but this last born in a family of three children will definitely catch the eye of every passer-by while he herds his cattle. Born and bred in Mashai, Thaba-Tseka, Lehlohonolo Lucky lives in Leropong, Qacha’s Nek, with his grandfather while his parents remain in his home village.

While shepherding livestock, Lehlohonolo has lit a big fire nearby to roast maize; he also has two music speakers from which he daily blasts some local famo favourites. The biggest of his two speakers is on his side while playing music on the smaller one. The small speaker hangs on his shoulder and he is joyously dancing, tapping his gumboots to the tune of Rabotšo le Semanyane’s Morena nthomelle Lazaro.

Dancing around his fire as he ensures that it burns well, Lehlohonolo waves back at this reporter’s greeting and responds warmly to the question: Whether “this fire that you are dancing around must definitely be similar to the one in the pit in which Satan burned the rich man who pleaded with Lazarus to send him some water from God to quench his thirst as the song you are listening to says?”

He burst out with laughter. “I am very good at lighting fire,” he says. “I can actually get a part-time job from Satan to burn all these evil people on earth.” “Evil people, what do you mean?” the reporter asked, and he responded, “Yes, these people who rape, who murder, who rob us of our hard earned money after working long hours of the day, those people deserve to burn.”

“You look very young for your thoughts, how old are you?” I posed the question and Lehlohonolo continued laughing, “I am 18. I did not pass my Form 5 well…that is why I am here.” Lehlohonolo seemed to have quite a number of customers, including his fellow shepherds. An old man named Ramaili said he left his flock of sheep on the other end of town to come to buy Lucky’s maize.

Another customer, who is also a young shepherd on the queue asked, “ntate moholo Ramaili are you not scared to shepherd on that end?” to which Ramaili said, “The problem is going up the valley towards the hill; it is dangerous there because ‘Amamfengu’ (livestock thieves from neighbouring South African Matatiele region) are there waiting for our animals to go towards the valley.”

He then quickly picks up his maize and shouts, “Hee Lucky come take your money I need change and I need to rush before Amamfengu try to cross the valley,” he laughs. Lucky comes running and gives him his change. He then focuses on the maize, and gives the other shepherd his. Left alone with reporter he says “Madam, I am working with you today, I might as well teach you either to roast the maize or to shepherd,” he laughs and continues, “I am sure you’d burn these maize to ashes.”

The reporter retorts with another question and the conversation continues “besides being a shepherd, what do you want to do when you grow up?” “I want to continue being a shepherd and later on become a priest, Jesus was a priest himself,” he answers.

One customer passes and asks Lehlohonolo to start roasting her maize, which she will come pick up later. He puts the maize on the fire and continues: “I would like to be ordained a priest in any church except the Roman Catholic Church because I want to get married.”

“At your age you are already thinking of marriage?” asks the reporter, to which he calmly says “Madam, I will get married around 2030. But that is if the world will still exist that time because the rate at which we are dying is alarming. Then there is the Covid-19 pandemic that is killing us. The world is ending.” He goes to his speaker and plays a song whose lyrics he insists the reporter should listen to while he goes to check on his flock.

The lyrics goes something like: ‘re qetetoa ke Corona, ha pele e ne e le Ebola’ loosely translated, ‘Corona is killing us while at first it was Ebola’. He comes back to check on the maize, and the reporter asks what kind of music he likes and he says he enjoys a lot of genres but likes to listen to gospel music on Sundays and on rainy days. However, he adds, on Sundays he doesn’t sell maize, because “On Sundays we don’t make money…money is that which sold Jesus, it is wrong to make money on a Sunday.”

The response brought in some laughter to which he surprisingly interjects “I am very serious madam. It is wrong to make money on a Sunday; Sunday money has Corona.” Lehlohonolo says he enjoys being in Mashai during December holidays more than being Qacha’s Nek. “In Mashai we have football matches and we play for money and at the end of the day we go home to rest, but here in Qacha’s Nek it’s all about drinking alcohol, going from one bar to another.”

He says 2020 was his first year spending December and the Christmas holidays in Qacha’s Nek, which he dislikes because he doesn’t like beer. He promises never to spend the Christmas break in Qacha’s Nek, but will rather go to his home village Mashai.


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