The Five Constructs of Philosophy

By Zulumathabo Zulu © 2015

The Basotho system of philosophical thinking is comprised of five constructs (1) Koma, (2) Masene, (3) Sekaseko, (4) Nahanotsebo and (5) Kanamotwa as referenced in the Sesotho Dictionary of Mathematics. In the English language these are namely (1) truth, (2) wisdom, (3) analysis, (4) knowledge, and (5) ethics. Using set theory, we generate the following set and its elements:

Nahanosene {truth, wisdom, analysis, knowledge, ethics}

Looking at this set, one might ask where is logic? Logic exists as a subset of truth with respect to the epistemic system of the Basotho. The modern Basotho speakers might also wonder how come I used the word Koma instead of the word Nnete. This is because Koma is a more scholarly concept than Nnete in accordance with the Mophato and Bongaka systems of higher education, which preexisted the advent of colonization. In other words Nnete is a subset of Koma. It is noteworthy that knowledge is not a complete translation.

The Sesotho construct Nahanotsebo translates into “Theoretical knowledge” but for purposes of brevity, the theoretical part was left out. The important observation is that the Basotho distinguish between theoretical knowledge Nahanotsebo and concrete knowledge Tsebokato or Tsebo Ya Mokato something that will prove instrumental in our thought processing while developing a transcendental mind.

We now list the constructs and their definitions starting with the truth of Koma.

This exerpt from The Sacred Knowledge of the Desert: African Philosophical Transcendence. You must get the book to read more about the philosophical constructs of the Basotho.

The Crossing To The Other Side

By Zulumathabo Zulu © 2015

Zebras drill for the voyage
To cross to the other side
Assembled babies must drill
To ditch dry seasons that kill
She teaches them
To remain within view
To transcend the coming surge
If they obey they shall live
To inherit the other side
To venerate the land of the ancestors
Humans averse to risk taking
Because they fear the other side

To disembark a raging flow
Despite hit by waves like a blow
To embrace the unknown
To cross the finish line
Where sorcerers await
To spook the finish line
To impose an incline
The colossal crocodiles lie in ambush
To destroy those easy to fleece
Yet a diligent zebra’s kick is fierce
To crush ambushing jaws to fragments
Never more to be victimized by the ambush
Unperturbed by those bewitching the mind


The teachings of the African zebra exist forever. These teachings are held to be true in perpetuity. Her unconquerable spirit powers the imagination of many generations on a long and arduous road in the quest to reach their destination where the land is teeming with diversity of vibrant life. As a teacher and professor emeritus, the grandmother zebra has gathered the young to instruct them about the myths and legends of those who have gone before them.

The vicarious stallion and great protector who protects the clan with his life, provides assistance by offering his domain knowledge on the rudiments of tactical defense and survival. The zebra society uses cultural knowledge as a time-tested template on which their survival depends. This gives the young members of society a head start in exploring their natural environment while obeying the supreme law of self-preservation. The green pastures are inviting and the zebras who find them irresistible embark on a journey that requires tenacity to embrace the land that nurtures their way of life.

Nahanotsebo – African Theory of Knowledge – Part I

By Zulumathabo Zulu © 2015

Nahanotsebo – African Theory of Knowledge – Part II

I have always wondered about the value of knowledge. What makes you value knowledge? How far will you go to acquire knowledge? Are there certain kinds of personal reasons that would prevent you from acquiring knowledge? Do you only acquire knowledge from someone or some place you are well disposed towards or is your knowledge acquisition also extended to those you are not well disposed towards? What are your prerequisites for acquiring knowledge? What will it take to acquire knowledge?

The Sesotho word Nahanotsebo as defined in the Sesotho Dictionary of Mathematics refers to theoretical knowledge or the theory of knowledge. It is a powerful concept because it gives us a new paradigm in terms of thinking and reflecting about knowledge. Basotho philosophical constructs about knowledge also give us a new platform upon which to philosophize about knowledge.

Nahanotsebo is further defined in the Sesotho Dictionary of Mathematics as follows:

“Nahanotsebo ke tshimo e hlabosang ya fuputso e sebetsanang le tsebo hoya ka boleng kapa sakana le midiso ya teng le hore ntho efetoha jwang tsebo le mokgwa wa qapollo ya nahanosene ya tsebo le mefuta ya tsebo.”

Translated into the English language, this says “Nahanotsebo is an epistemic system that is concerned with knowledge according to its value, subset, type or production and how something becomes knowledge and the methods of analysis of the philosophy of knowledge”. The Sesotho word Nahanosene refers to philosophical thinking.

From the Sesotho worldview of knowledge, we observe interesting concepts like Midiso (production), Boleng (value), Sakana (subset), Mofuta (type), and Nahanosene (philosophy) with respect to knowledge. Another implicit concept here is Phahamasaka (superset) which refers to a higher level of knowledge. Armed with these African constructs of knowledge we are in a better position to understand the African origin of knowledge and contribute new ideas to the scientific body of knowledge.

We utilize these African constructs to analyze the value of knowledge as the sons and daughters of the African soil in terms of how this can enhance our survival experience in these trying times. It is a sacred honour to be able to tap into the ancient wisdom and the intellectual achievements of those African ancestors who have gone before us. Moreover, we walk on the knowledge bridges built by them.

According to Nahanotsebo, we have to think of knowledge differently from the way we are used to. We have to think about knowledge at a higher level using the philosophy of the triangle as defined in the book The Sacred Knowledge of the Desert: African Philosophical Transcendence. This means we have to be able to know about knowing which invokes meta-analysis of African ways of knowing. In this article we analytically consider knowledge using the three principles of acquiring, preserving and reviewing of knowledge.


Acquiring Knowledge

The ancient African societies have regarded knowledge as the building blocks of a human character. The Sesotho axiom “Haele siyo mading, haeyo” meaning if knowledge is not part of the chromosomes, it is none-existent. The function of knowledge was to connect the individual to the society and make the person a productive member of that society.

Knowledge was supposed to be acquired early in the development of the human being. In fact it was believed that knowledge began when the child was still in the stomach of the mother. Expressions like “Hautlwa medumo o ya kunyakunya” meaning the embryonic child gets animated when he or she hears the sounds from the external environment of the mother. In this way, the child is already acquiring knowledge from the environment while embedded in the amniotic fluid.

The environment is an extremely important segway because the environment refers to the land. You need land in order to practice and preserve your cultural knowledge. If you take away the land, you are also taking away the means of the knowledge and the language to persist. The dispossession of the African natives by the British colonial empire dealt a tragic blow to the indigenous knowledge systems of the African natives. The Africans practiced metallurgy whereby they mined ore, transformed ore into metal and produced steel that was sold to the European courts long before the advent of Euro-Christian colonization in Africa. The Africans practiced agro-processing and built enterprises that thrived long before colonization.

A case in point is a technological artifact known as Lekuka. Lekuka was used by the Basotho of South Africa (before the advent of Euro-Christian colonization) to manufacture and produce yoghurt, buttermilk and butter. This was a simple yet sophisticated piece of traditional technology. By violently driving the African natives from their ancestral lands meant that the African natives were also driven away from their traditional knowledge.

Today, if you ask a Mosotho child about Lekuka, they don’t know what you are talking about. Even some grey haired Mosotho may not know what is Lekuka. If you tell them that their ancestors used to produce their own butter with this device, it’s like you are telling them a fictitious story because the only place where they get butter is the store. This is the power of land dispossession. This is the power of colonial conquest which has stripped the African of self-confidence in the efficacy of African enterprising. Along with the destruction of self-confidence, there is a concomitant erosion of self-knowledge which is critical in becoming a master of one’s destiny.

What exactly is knowledge? How do the African natives define knowledge? The Sesotho infinitive Hotseba (to know) comes from the root Tseba which essentially means to know by listening. An axiomatic expression like “Rekadima ditsebe tsa lona” means “We borrow your ears”. After delivering a speech they will then say “Releboha ka ditsebe tsa lona” meaning “We thank you for your ears”. In this case, the passage or acquisition of knowledge is associated with listening. Thus the infinitive Hotseba means “to know by listening” or “to know by sensing”. In this way, the Basotho regard listening as the mechanism of knowledge acquisition.

This epistemic concept is historically different from the English concept of knowledge. In fact the word know or knowledge in old English meant having sex with someone. This is also where the idea of familiarity breeds contempt comes from because once you have sex with someone they no longer take you seriously. You have just lost your cloaking device. This means that sex was the source of knowledge for the English. That’s why expressions like “intimate knowledge” have sexual connotations.

Anatomically, genitalia was the primal tool of knowledge acquisition for the English as opposed to the African natives where a sensory organ became a primordial source of knowledge. From a brain architecture perspective, sex is linked to the reptilian brain (low level brain) whereas sensory organs are linked to the cortical brain (high level brain) via the thalamus. The prerequisite for intellectual development is to be linked to the high level brain and not the reptilian brain. The reason for this is that the reptilian brain turns off the strategic thinking of the frontal lobes as confirmed in the case of a very brilliant President Bill Clinton who experienced the short-circuiting power of the reptilian brain when he put everything on the line for the sake of his affair with Monica Lewinsky something that he shall forever regret.

Acquiring knowledge by listening is more productive. Knowledge by listening means you are acquiring and building a relevant knowledge system. This is in contrast to modern schools where some of the compulsory courses you take you will never use in real life because it is not the relevance that drives the knowledge but rather the profit.

If you take the time to listen to another point of view, you become a better communicator. This also enhances your peacemaking skills because you speak from a position of another person’s point of view. You are in the shoes of another guy. If you are in a state of listening you are in a better position to acquire knowledge.

This concept agrees with the theory of Basotho pedagogy whereby a person who is receiving an education is referred to as “Oya ruteha” meaning he or she is becoming teachable. When the person has become learned they then say “Orutehile” meaning the person has become teachable. In a Western society you become learned when you graduate from a knowledge discipline and are now referred to as learned on account of having finished your program of studies. In the Basotho pedagogical system, the highest form of academic achievement is when you are more teachable. The more teachable you are, the greater education you have acquired. So we can say that in the Basotho knowledge system, you never cease to be a student. You are a lifelong student. The Sesotho axiom “Ya kgaotsang hoba morutehi, o kgaotsa hobamosuwe” meaning the one who ceases to be a student, ceases to be a teacher.

It is evident from this African philosophy of knowledge that humility is part of knowing. In the ancient institution of Lekgotla, as documented in the book The Sacred Knowledge of the Desert, the participants were not allowed to all speak at the same time because this would violate the concept of knowledge by listening. An artifact known as Lechoba was used to sequence the proceedings. In order to speak at Lekgotla, you needed to have a Lechoba in your hand and while you held this artifact in your hand, no one could interrupt you. Your moment of speaking was a sacred moment. If another person needed to respond to your speech, they awaited their turn of Lechoba. This tradition of Lechoba is still being practiced today by the traditional healers. A medicine woman does not speak unless she has Lechoba in her hand because it is the Lechoba that gives her the authority and power to speak.

Preserving Knowledge

Once knowledge has been acquired, it must be preserved. If knowledge is not preserved it gets lost. How does one go about preserving knowledge? Two things about knowledge must be preserved namely (1) the source of knowledge and (2) the rehearsal of knowledge.

The Source

The source is where knowledge is coming from or is accessible from. It is this access that needs to be preserved. The mechanisms of knowledge preservation can be realized through writing, oral tradition, storytelling or artifacts.

Writing Tradition

When the English colonizers landed in South Africa, they say that the Africans did not know how to read and write. They taught the Africans to read and write. What they were referring to here was the alphabet a, b, c …z. The interesting fact is that the Africans in South Africa had their own writing system known as Ditema which is comprised of visual glyphs as shown here.


The Africans used images as forms of recording their thoughts, stories, laws, traditions and other events of importance. The incredible fact is that unlike the Africans who had their own writing systems, the English did not and still do not have their own writing system. The English do not have their own writing system because they never invented one. The alphabetic writing system that they were referring to is the Latin alphabet which was brought to the English by the Romans during an imperial invasion of England. Thus, the colonizing English bragged about something that did not belong to them. In fact, the Roman Emperor who invaded England was Emperor Septimius Severus an African born in Africa. Thus the English came under an African Roman rule.

The African natives boast more than 20 writing systems, by far the largest inventory of writing scripts in any continent. The African continent also boasts the oldest writing systems. That means the writing tradition in Africa predates any writing tradition on the planet. It is also noteworthy that African writing systems are works of art in their own right.

It is noteworthy that writing was a sacred profession. This means that the scribes were sacred people in a priestly profession. In a case of Basotho, the scribes were women who were considered to more sacred and closer to the gods. The Basotho women were the masters of the Ditema writing system. Unfortunately, that Ditema writing tradition has been lost and today most of Ditema works are now regarded as works of mural art. What remains today about Ditema is that it is associated with sacred texts in the churches. You will hear a priest says “Kajeno rebala ditema tse pedi” meaning today we are reading two written texts.

The writing tradition was used as a form of knowledge preservation. The Egyptians used a logophabetic system of writing which consisted of two systems namely (1) a logographic system and (2) an alphabetic system. This writing tradition allowed them to preserve their knowledge.

In a country like Liberia they use the Vai writing system which is a syllabric writing system. In Cameroon they use the Bamoun writing system which is a logosyllabric system. The interesting fact about Cameroon is that when the German colonizers and missionaries landed there, they were shocked to find a printing press, books and a writing system. The Germans were traumatized by this fact because they are credited with inventing a printing press. Now here they found that they were not the only ones who had invented a printing press. The Africans of Cameroon had also invented a printing press of their own without any help from them.

The Germans then attacked and destroyed this printing press. They also burnt the books from this printing press. Fortunately for us, not all the books were destroyed. It’s estimated that more than 7,000 book manuscripts survived and are currently being digitized. These manuscripts are written using a native African script.

A written text is not merely a static text. For the Africans, it is a dynamic text. Writing is a sacred profession of the gods. The Africans regard written knowledge is a way of immortalizing their spirit. They consult the sacred text in order to keep their knowledge alive. They write on tapestry, rock, papyrus, slate, metal, bone, or some other artifact to preserve knowledge for the next generation. The written text provides access to the original source of knowledge and in this way the knowledge is preserved and kept very much alive.

To be continued …

The Great Legend Mbilini

By Zulumathabo Zulu © 2015

To arise like a small fry
Royal chromosomes semidry
A resource constraints theorist
A disruptive strategist!
To prevail at Zululand
Despite a rough patch
The exile school of strategy
To rephrase pages of history
The great legend Mbilini
A tribute to Dlamini

Despite Mbilini ancestor
Self-interest a new arrestor
The 1994 Freedom attained
More than a century passed
Yet the land they still colonize
To arrest birth of new sunrise
Mbilini energizes the cosmos
To honour Idlozi le Langa
To take a page from Mbilini
Unblemished by self-interest
Despite harsh scars of history
A pinnacle sanctuary awaits us
To subdue cravings brutally
To master our destiny totally

Contextual Commentary

Directed by the sacred sun in the cosmos and instructed by the glorious appearing of the bright star Tosamasiu of the Basotho traditions in the beautiful African night sky, General Mbilini Dlamini ka Mswati strategized about the Northern Column regiments of the highly experienced Field Marshall Evelyn Wood who served under the English General Lord Chelmsford. The Field Marshall Wood was an imperialist who stopped at nothing to bring about the demise of Abaqulusi, Ntombela and Kubheka regiments along with their celebrated General Mbilini and their respective leaders Manyonyoba, Mabamba and Ndabankulu. The formidable leaders had been drilled in the flawless execution of meticulous guerrilla warfare by the great teacher General Mbilini.

The legendary Mbilini simulated the tactical sequences of the battle and theorized about the permutations of the bottleneck opening opportunities that allowed him to exact a fatal blow to the English army while ensuring the survival of his war materials and his men. He trusted and adhered to the rules of CFD (computational fluid dynamics) that it was possible to increase the rate of change with respect to the fluid flow without changing the design architecture of the restricted access. The analogical reasoning of the restricted access pertained to the resource constraints he experienced as an inventive guerrilla war strategist. He sought to generate a vortex-like flow that facilitated a dynamic interchange with the natural environment while reducing the inefficiencies of vacuum space and increasing the rate of output.

The reverse engineering team of General Mbilini and his regiments of the African natives had already identified a technological resource constraint in the new Martini-Henry superguns of the well equipped colonial army of England. During a battery of stringent simulated tests by the African natives directed by their fearsome General, the Martini-Henry overheated after firing for a certain duration of time and then began to jam or misfire. The rifle also emitted excessive smoke in front of a shooter and specifically relied on black gunpowder. From a relativistic point of view, the Martini-Henry rifle was very much affected by the African curvature of spacetime. The brilliant Mbilini used this serendipity as a vortex-like opportunity to punch through the cover of the English army under the watch of the celebrated Field Marshall Evelyn Wood. Field Marshall Wood would later document this fact in his journal.

After staging a brazen pre-dawn attack on the English army on March 28, 1879 in accordance with the cosmos, General Mbilini and his men returned to the inaccessible sacred mountains of Zululand directed by the heavens of their sacred ancestors. They took with them the loot of war leaving behind the traumatizing trails of destruction. Thus, General Mbilini and his men resisted the chains of colonial subjugation in order to become masters of their own destiny by defeating the most trusted and well resourced imperialist army of Queen Victoria and Benjamin Disraeli. Bayede Mtungwa! Dlamini! Ngwane! Ludonga! Ngubeni! Mlangeni! Nkosi! Dlangamandla!

About the Author

I am a software engineer with an experience of more than 20 years in North America, a published author of more than eight books and scholarly articles and creator of technological innovations. Moreover, I have a trove of hundreds of unpublished manuscripts written over a period of 30 years which includes a manuscript about Mbilini inspired by this contextual poetry. I was motivated to write about this African legend and inventor of guerilla war strategy because of the congruence of my childhood experience with his; namely two things (1) my underdog experience and (2) the underdog experience of Mbilini.

My Underdog Experience

In my family history, I grew up as an underdog and a black sheep. While many of my brothers and sisters enjoyed presumptive innocence, I was always the one who took the flag for what went wrong and the only one at whom the rule book was thrown. Others were treated with kid gloves as far as the rule book was concerned. This turns out to have been an instructive experience that produced an egalitarian, positivist, truth-seeker and knowledge producer.

Some of the great projects I worked on as a software engineer included designing and reverse engineering of graphics engines and malicious software. This included reversing an engine of an encrypted malware. Reverse engineering was definitely the most exhilarating intellectual challenge. When you are endowed with a wealth of an underdog experience you develop this amazing numerical logic and superior analytical skill of reversal which turns out to be a critical prerequisite for an inventive engineering mind. If you are like me and you were also treated as an underdog and a black sheep, count yourself lucky because you have a golden opportunity to reinvent yourself and develop the undying determination for success in life and the sensitivity to contribute to the well-being of others. The underdog experience is not an end by itself but rather a stepping stone towards a retrofit mindset that allows you to transmute the raw materials of adversity into a positive energy. In my book The Sacred Knowledge of the Desert: African Philosophical Transcendence I expand on this philosophy of transcending adversity so that you are not defined by it. Through a positive mindset you become the master of your own destiny. In my other books Sesotho Dictionary of Mathematics and The African Origin of Mathematics I provide specific examples of numerical logic. Numerical logic is very important in the African paradigm case of strategic thinking.

Mbilini’s Underdog Experience

Mbilini was the son of King Mswati II and a rightful heir to the throne. However, he was not the favourite member of the royal house and as a result he grew up as an underdog and a black sheep. The harsh rule book was always thrown at him while his brothers and sisters were treated with kid gloves. When his father King Mswati II (a brilliant military strategist in his own right) died in 1868, Mbilini was denied the kingship an experience that spelt a death knell to his dreams of kingship. As if that was not bad enough, Mbili survived many assassination attempts which eventually forced him into exile in Zululand. Nonetheless, it is this underdog experience that caused him to reinvent himself and thus emerge as one of the most brilliant military commanders in the Zulu army under the great King Cetshwayo ka Mpande. It is my view that had the Zulu monarchy adopted the strategy of Mbilini, the English army would never have reached Ulundi and Zululand would have preserved its autonomy just like the Kingdom of Lesotho under the brilliant strategy of King Moshoeshoe.

I invite your comments and feel free to share your views and sentiments.


The New Blog of Zulumathabo on the Internet

By Zulumathabo Zulu © 2014

Dear Friends of Mother Earth,

This is to announce my new blog Zulumathabo on the Internet 2.0 right here on WordPress. It has been too long since blogging. Please bookmark these pages as I will be updating them from time to time. As I bounce back and overcome setback, I am excited to rejoin the cyberspace where I can share with you the authentic, original and fresh African perspective.

Since departing the great land of Canada where internet connectivity is ubiquitous and universally accessible, here in the humble land of the ancestors the internet connectivity does not command that ubiquity and universality. However, one thing that is amazing is that South Africa is the land of endless sunshine something that Canada does not have. For example, as I write these lines, we are in the middle of winter and yet the sunshine is most brilliant as if we are in the midst of summer. Which country can give you a T-shirt weather in the middle of winter? Only South Africa can give you that.

This version 2.0 blog will provide more insight into my activities particularly the writing of the sacred pages of the ancestors. Besides numerous other books written, the most engaging and exciting project is the new book The Sacred Knowledge of the Desert – African Philosophical Transcendence.

The Sacred Knowledge of the Desert

I will update you on this current work at opportune time. Briefly, this is an innovative writing about transcendence using the African origin of philosophical thought. The premise of the book is to enable every human being to transcend any kind of adverse experience by leveraging the African wisdom of the desert. This new book was inspired by a contextual poem Venturesome Kisses from the books A Goodbye To My Little Troubles and A Woman in the Bush. The contextual commentary from Venturesome Kisses reads as follows:

“Forbidden grounds of love cast their spell. The naivety of love sweetens the love that exists like a desert flower. Deprived of water, the flower waits underground until, when the rains fall, it springs to life knowing that the rain will soon be gone.”

When the desert flower is battered by persistence of water shortage, the drought conditions and the killer sun rays, she rises from the dehydrated ground to embrace the glorious appearing of the falling rain. It is like she has this supernatural power to transcend adversity as if refusing to be defined by it.  Normally, a human becomes fixated on a bad experience to an extent of being defined by it. Even when you interact with a human, you will find that they rehash the same thing over and over as if life now revolves around it. In the The Sacred Knowledge of the Desert – African Philosophical Transcendence a human gets equipped with new intellectual fighting sticks that enable humanity to rise above life’s challenges and thus gain distance away from the things that negate the innermost. Stay tuned and watch this space.

I will also be updating you on my massive book project Sesotho Dictionary of Mathematics – Tlhalosetso Ya Dipalo Tsa Sesotho. This is a project that debunks a popular myth that the African natives had no mathematical knowledge until the advent of the European colonizers. This book was inspired by a small village of Matamong in the Eastern Free State where the African natives commanded an impressive lexicon of numerical knowledge before the advent of colonization. The book boasts more than 500 pages of mathematics text.

Sesotho Dictionary of Mathematics

Thank you for visiting.