Motlatsi Thabane I National University of Lesotho
In the early 1960s, individual diggers from various parts of Lesotho and South Africa descended on a diamond deposit at Kao in northeast Lesotho, hoping to make a living from diamond mining. However, the deposit was leased to a foreign mining company and therefore closed to them. Having been denied hospitality by the local community on government orders, these people lived in nearby caves and hills from where each night they came down to the mine to steal the company’s unprocessed ore, processing it by day. In the mid-1960s, they chased out the foreign company and took over the deposit. From this time, they were periodically harassed by the police. Because of their way of life – living in caves, chased by the police – they named themselves Liphokojoe (foxes or jackals). Early in 1970, Liphokojoe rose up against the government. This rising marked the end of a period during which Liphokojoe had refused to co-operate with the local people, had harassed and killed policemen and the staff of foreign companies prospecting in the area, and had burnt a government clinic and police station. This article attempts to understand this group, using in particular E. J. Hobsbawm’s model of ‘banditry’. It concludes that perhaps a better way of understanding Liphokojoe is through the notion of ‘livelihood conjecture’ as proposed by S. Pearse.
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