The day Kgosi Tawana Moremi was insulted

October 27, 2014

Forget about McD. Peloetletse, he is a cuddly puppy compared to the BDP man whose speech is characterized by a sudden gush of fury and vitriol. The ANC had its attack pit-bull in the pernicious Malema. The BCP has the vicious Phagenyana Phage. The BDP has the 32-year-old Alec Seametso – a Mongwaketse man from Ntsweng who is its national campaign manager. He came into prominence lately when his pictures taken on a BDF plane during a trip to a BDP politically rally in Ghanzi flooded social media. His most unflattering image showed him with his right hand on his bulging belly and in the words of one Wynter Mmolotsi “e ka re o a sellega”. Below I transcribe the speech delivered by Seametso. The speech has been discussed extensively both on private radio stations and on social media. It would be too limiting to see it as a speech that attacks Tawana Moremi, the politician. The speech attacks and lampoons, Kgosi Tawana Moremi of the Batawana. Not only is Kgosi Tawana attacked, Hon. Rammidi is dismissed contemptuously as sekadikadi and mosuntubaki, Duma Boko is called mothwana while Kgosi Bathoen II of the Bangwaketse is accused of go latlhega and go gogela batho mo lefifing. This is the all time low to which the country has descended before the October elections. Here is the speech:

“Bagaetsho, bogosi ga se jone; gore motho ke kgosi; mme e le kgosi e e senyegileng e e sa kgalemelweng; e le kgosi e e senang botho; e le kgosi e e lonyatso. Rona ka Setswana re itse gore kgosi ke kgosi ka batho; mme e bile gape e anyang e leletse e ruta e le mo maleng (sic). Tawana fa e ne e le kgosi o ko a tlotla Kgosi Khama, a sa tsamaye a mo roga ka fa tlase ga ditlhare; le rona re ne re se na go tla go mo roga. O ko a tlotla Kgosi Khama; a sa tsamaye a rwele bo Duma Boko; ba bathwana fela ba Modimo; a ba lere mono gore batle go roga Kgosikgolo ya Bangwato. Jaanong le ene, se monate se ingwaelwa, ke tlile go mo ngwaa gompieno. Ba tsamaya mo; motho o roga batho, fa ba ya go ikuela; nyena lo rwala mabogo mo tlhogong: “Mapodisi itshwareleng kgosi”. O diga ngwana mo loring: fa ngwana a ya go ikuela; nyena lo rwala mabogo mo tlhogong: “Mapodisi, kgalemelang kgosi.” O tsaya CEDA, o ya go nwa majalwa ka madi a teng a tlhagela mo stadium, a sa duele rente gore le rona re e tsenye. Fa go tsewa diteraka ga twe lwa re “Itshwareleng kgosi.” Re tlaa itshwarela kgosi go ya go fitlhelela leng? Tlogelang go senya kgosi e ya nyena e. Kgosi e ya nyena ga e a senyega e bolosokane, o senyegetse matlakaleng ka ntata ya nyena; lo a go bodiwa dipotso kwa legodimong, gore nyena tlhogo ya ngwana yo, rraetsho kgosikgolo a robale ka kagiso, o a go lo bona ka leitlho le le maswe Matawana. Lo mo senyeditse ngwana; lo paletswe ke go kgalemela ngwana. Ngwana o tebelegane; jaanong e bile gompieno o senyegela matlakaleng. Go itse go na le nyena; mme lo ka ikopa maitshwarelo mo nakong e. Le ene kgosikgolo Letsholathebe o ka lo sokololela dirope, a se ka a lo sokela dirope fa lo ka tima Tawana tlhopho gore a ikgakologelwe; sedidi le letimona la sepolotiki le le mo go ene, di ele a simolole kwa VDC, re tlaa mo dira Headman of Arbitration ka gore Boatile o ya go tsaya setilo. Kgosikgolo ya Batawana MC e bidiwa go twe Boatile; O atile morafe wa Batawana. Mmaagwe ke ole o fale ole. Ga a fale ka phoso. O fale ka gore o a itlotla. O tlotla serite sa gagwe. O tlotla serite sa Batawana. Ga a ka ke a re motho a senyegile, a tsewa ke letimona; a gorogetse mo Tomokoraga; mo phathing e e nang le…a bo a tlho a tabogile, a lelekile mogatla wa lesie, e le molwetse wa letimona. Tsholetsa Domkrag! O a bona gore ke itse ditso monna! Jaanong, lo tshwanetse lona madomkrag lwa tlogela go tshosediwa. Ke fa ke le sekao. Ke tshotswe kwa Kgosing kwa Ntsweng. Mme e rile go goleng ga me ka tsaya tshwetso ya gore kgosi o latlhegile o re gogela mo lefifing ka Puo Phaa. Kgosi ya rona e ne e re fa go tla ditlhopho a bo a tsaya mmu jaana, Kgosi Bathoen, a bo a o tsholetsa jaana a bo a re botsa gore “Bangwaketse mmu o ke wa ga mang?” E be go twe ke wa ga Kgosi Bathoen. A be a re le itse gore le a go tlhopha jang kwa ditlhophong. Re ne ra mmakisa ra tsenya Rammidi, ene yo wa mosuntubaki, le ene ka na ke tshaba le go mo umakwa o tshwana le Tawana, ke sekadikadi fela le ene jaana.”

Obviously the story of Bathoen is either a product of Seametso’s fertile imagination or perhaps it is a tale he heard from his elders in Kanye because when Bathoen II died in October 1990, Seametso was only 8 years of age. Additionally, Bathoen II retired from politics in 1985 when Seametso was only 3 years of age. Bathoen then served as President of the Customary court until his death in 1990. Second, Seametso falsely suggests that Kentse Rammidi took over from Kgosi Bathoen II. This is inaccurate since Rammidi beat BNF’s Calvin Batsile at the elections. It is important to observe that Seametso is a loquacious specially elected councilor, who came into council at the recommendation of Nchi Rammidi, the very one he insults and calls sekadikadi and mosuntubaki. There is a Setswana proverb which captures this: ka tlhagolela lookana, ya re lo gola lwa ntlhaba. My only problem with the speech is that dikgosi are attacked and not politicians. I believe dikgosi who become politicians, should be attacked in their political capacities and not as dikgosi. The problem is that when you attack a kgosi you are indirectly attacking the morafe that he leads. It is therefore no wonder that the Batawana are angry with not only Alec Seametso, but with the BDP.

Kgosi e ya nyena ga e a senyega e bolosokane!

October 27, 2014

Today we take lessons in semantics and then apply them to a political speech shared on this column last week. We shall keep matters light and make complex concepts accessible to the reader. I use the term semantics in a linguistics sense to mean a linguistics study of meaning. I don’t use it to mean, meaning dependent on the speaker, as when lay people say: It is a matter of semantics. We start here: You can refer to many entities: people and things, using a single term in the singular form without contradiction and impropriety. For instance you can use the word student to refer to any one person who qualifies to be identified as a student. If for instance I say: “If you are a student please stand up”. It won’t be surprising if fifty students stood up, though I had requested for a student to stand up. This is the case since each one of the fifty students that stood up identifies himself/herself as a student. We shall pursue this matter no further here, save to emphasis that a single referring expression can be used to identify multiple objects.
Let us explore a different route. It is possible to refer to a single entity: a person or a thing, using different terms/referring expressions without any contradiction or problem. For instance, a man may be a father, a son, a husband, a manager, a bishop all at the same time. Example number two: I here use the name and the identity of my good friend Tebogo Sebego. I abuse his friendship and kind heart to make a semantics problem clearer to the reader. Tebogo Sebego is (1) my friend (2) a University of Botswana alumni (3) a lawyer (4) the President of the BFA (5) the husband to Tebogo Lebotse-Sebego and (6) a father to his kids. Now all the six (6), we shall call them characteristics, identify one physical person. This single physical person called Tebogo Sebego attracts different labels: my friend, a University of Botswana alumni, a lawyer, the President of the BFA, the husband to Tebogo Lebotse-Sebego and a father to his kids. Let’s confuse things a bit. Just because Tebogo Sebego is my friend, it doesn’t mean that my friend is Tebogo Sebego. It could be, but it doesn’t have to be. What I mean by this is just because you have found my friend it doesn’t mean you have found Tebogo Sebego, you may have found one of my friends who isn’t Tebogo Sebego. Importantly, this means that my friend and Tebogo Sebego may refer to one person, but they do not mean the same thing. Just because the name Tebogo Sebego and the expression the BFA President refer to the same individual, it doesn’t mean that they mean the same thing. Tebogo Sebego is a father to his kids as himself and not as the BFA President. Does that make sense? When Tebogo Sebego appears in court, he can appear as a lawyer on behalf of his client or he can appear as the BFA president to give evidence on behalf of the Association he leads. He can attract praise or reproach solely as the BFA president, separate from him as a husband or him as a dad. This distinction is important for the kind of commentary I proceed to make on the speech by one Alec Seametso (the BDP campaign manager) that attacks Kgosi Tawana II.
Following on the logic above, there is a distinction between Kgosi Tawana II and the UDC politician Tawana Moremi. The two identities refer to one individual but they are different and must be kept separate. As Kgosi Tawana II of the Batawana, he is an embodiment of the culture of his morafe. An attack on him is an attack on the morafe that he leads. An attack on Tawana Moremi, the UDC politician, is legitimate if he is attacked politically by his political opponents. It would obviously offend the UDC politicians and supporters, but that is understandable. Let us move to Alec Seametso’s attack. Was it an attack on Tawana the kgosi or the politician? Let us inspect what he says: “gore motho ke kgosi; mme e le kgosi e e senyegileng e e sa kgalemelweng; e le kgosi e e senang botho; e le kgosi e e lonyatso. Rona ka Setswana re itse gore kgosi ke kgosi ka batho… Tawana fa e ne e le kgosi o ko a tlotla Kgosi Khama, a sa tsamaye a mo roga ka fa tlase ga ditlhare; le rona re ne re se na go tla go mo roga.” There is sufficient evidence from this quotation that Seametso is attacking Tawana in his capacity as a kgosi, not just as a politician. This we see in his repetitive reference to Tawana as kgosi. Not only that, Seametso is very well aware that he, together with other speakers, is insulting Kgosi Tawana. He actually confesses to it in a veiled justification: “le rona re ne re se na go tla go mo roga.” We also know that Seametso was not mainly directing his words at the BDP faithful, but to the Batawana as a morafe. He says: “Kgosi e ya nyena ga e a senyega e bolosokane, o senyegetse matlakaleng ka ntata ya nyena… lo paletswe ke go kgalemela ngwana. Ngwana o tebelegane; jaanong e bile gompieno o senyegela matlakaleng.” We know Kgosi Tawana II is kgosi of the Batawana and that it is most appropriate in Sengwaketse dialect to refer to his subjects as “Kgosi e ya nyena…” He uses the term bolosokane, a term synonymous with sugakane, to characterize Kgosi Tawana II. Not only that, he sees Tawana as ngwana yo o tebeleganeng. The word tebelegana means to rent apart as in a cloth. It is a Sengwaketse expression reserved for a disrespectful child with a rotten character. The final insult that Seametso delivers to the Batawana is to call them Matawana, worse to their faces. He says: “…lo a go bodiwa dipotso kwa legodimong … rraetsho kgosikgolo a robale ka kagiso, o a go lo bona ka leitlho le le maswe Matawana.” Alec Seametso is a Mongwaketse man from Kgosing in Ntsweng. Since he identified himself as from Kgosing many have mistaken this to mean that he is from the Kanye royal house when in fact Kgosing in Kanye is understood to mean a plethora of makgotla in the vicinity of the main Bangwaketse royal kgotla. The obvious danger here is that one might think that a man from the Ngwaketse royal house has insulted the Batawana kgosi. A more appropriate approach to deal with this matter is the one proposed by the Bangwaketse themselves. They ought to reprimand their child and send the message to all in active politics to show respect to all dikgosi. A distinction must be sustained between individuals as dikgosi and their functional capacities as politicians. Dikgosi must be given the respect that is due their traditional status and office.

The Tswana’s method of killing is stabbing

September 21, 2014

The basic style of warfare, well, let’s say fighting, amongst the Batswana is stabbing. In traditional battles this was done through a spear and probably through the use of other sharp objects. The verb for such an act in the language is tlhaba. The verb is used also to mean to puncture a hole as well as to slaughter (as in “to slaughter a cow” go tlhaba kgomo). We also use the word to mean “to inject” or to pierce with a needle go tlhaba ka lomao. This meaning is related to that of stabbing. The meaning of slaughtering a cow is easy to understand since for a long time the Batswana have slaughtered their animals (chicken, sheep, goats and cattle) by “stabbing” and cutting a vein in the neck, bleeding an animal to death. So strictly speaking go tlhaba kgomo is to slaughter it with a sharp object. Go tlhabega is to feel uncomfortable; to be pricked in your hurt. We know that the Batswana’s method of choice for killing is stabbing because of the linguistic remnants of tlhaba that litter the Setswana linguistic terrain. The very act of fighting or battling in Setswana between individuals we call it go tlhabana (which literally means to reciprocally stab each other). The linguistic evidence therefore suggests that historically to battle involved stabbing as an integral part of battle. Now the element of stabbing is no longer central to Setswana battles, as battles or fights take a variety of styles. Nevertheless, even with no stabbing involved, to fight is still called go tlhabana. The verb has gone through some semantic extension to include all varieties of competitions between individuals and groups. For instance dikhwaere di a tlhabana captures a competition between choirs. From the verb tlhaba we get a noun form referring to a battle. A fight or a battle is tlhabano (a reciprocal stabbing). To fight someone is also known as go tlhabantsha which is also used mean to meet or to cut through. The word for a battle ground in Setswana is also derived from the verb tlhaba. It is known as matlhabanelo; lefelo le go tlhabanelwang teng. Even now in Kanye there is still a place called Matlhabanelo, where previously heated battles had ensued. While the word has changed meaning, tlhaba still means to stab. One way of showing this is to consider what Batswana use to stab or what can stab somebody. As it is common practice amongst corpus linguists, the best and unbiased way to do this is to study a corpus (a language database) which comprises a representative collection of Setswana texts which show how language is used in context by its speakers. So what is used to stab? The answers include: di/segai (spears), ma/lerumo (spear), lonaka (a horn), mhinyana wa lerumo (spear handle), mitlwa (thorns), sengwe se se bogale (a sharp object), terata, (a piece of wire), and thipa (knife). The word tlhaba is used in a variety of fighting/battling situations which involve hitting or violent attacks for instance: go tlhaba ka setlhako (to kick somebody), go tlhaba ka tlelapa/mpama (to slap somebody). However more than the physical reference to fighting, the word is used in an idiomatic sense with other terms to show an array of meanings. The word appears in the following idiomatic expressions: go tlhabiwa ke ditlhong (to be embarrassed/humiliated/ashamed), go tlhaba kgobe ka mutlwa (to relax/to be at ease). When the sun rises we say letsatsi le a tlhaba (the sun stabs). The expression comes from the sharp sun rays which cut through the sky. This is very similar in meaning to the stabbing of a sharp leading voice in a choir or a musical rendition. In Setswana someone who leads a song we say o a tlhabeletsa, the verb tlhabeletsa has been derived from the verb tlhaba. This use is related to the idiomatic expression go tlhaba mokgosi (to scream/to shout out for help or attention). Go tlhaba motho ka dipotso (hit someone with questions), tlhaba ka dipuo/mafoko (stab someone with words), tlhaba ka lengole (kneel down), tlhaba ka leitlho/matlho (too look at somebody, especially intensely), tlhaba ka samotlhana (fall on your back), tlhaba ka sejabana/sekgono (to rest your elbow on something), tlhaba ka setlankana (to give someone a certificate), tlhaba ka tladimolomo (to kiss), tlhabiwa ke phefo (to have fresh air), go tlhabela pele (to leave/to go/to move on), tlhabiwa ke setlhabi (to have a sharp pain). The very noun setlhabi (a sharp pain) is derived from the verb tlhaba. It literally means the thing that stabs. There are numerous words which are related to the verb tlhaba in the Setswana language. Amongst these is tlhabolola which means to develop. Tlhabolola has a similar meaning as lemolola to till the soil. Tlhabolola literally means to stab the soil with a sharp object and turn the it upside down in preparation for ploughing. From this verb we get the noun ditlhabololo “developments” as well as tlhabologo “a state of being developed/civilised” which all have their roots in the verb tlhaba. Go tlhabela lekatane on the other hand, means to slice a melon into several thin slices. The historical study of certain Setswana fighting practices and patterns reveals that principally Batswana used stabbing as a way of fighting. This practice has since become reflected in the linguistic patterns of the Batswana. Fighting patterns have changed significantly over the last 200 years, resulting with significant semantic shift in the language with the word tlhaba and its collocates taking on a more idiomatic slant.

The day the crocodiles came to play, Dithubaruba wee!

September 12, 2014


The voice of a young man reverberates across the Bakwena southern hills. Dithubaruba wee! There is a response from the massive crowds that have come to this hallowed spot of the Bakwena. Today the crocodiles have come out of the water to play. Their call is clear and solid. The historians inform us that Dithubaruba is the Bakwena moshate! It was a capital of the Bakwena between 1853 and 1863, before they moved to Molepolole. What remains of this capital is the well-preserved stone ruins that can be reached by climbing the southern side of a hill, a short drive from the main kgotla of Molepolole. As a Mongwaketse man I lay claim to this piece of land too since gallant Bangwaketse have been here before – many many years ago. It all started in 1824 with an offensive from the Bakololo under the leadership of one sinful Sebetoane who attacked the Bakwena of Moruakgomo. The Bakwena fled their moshate, Dithubaruba, into the Kgalagadi desert. Having defiled this hallowed ground, the Bakololo made it their own village – a post from which other neighbouring Tswana kingdoms were raided repeatedly and cattle, women as well as small stock were plundered. However, the tables turned in 1826 when the marauding group of my people, the militant Bangwaketse arrived to restore dignity to this violated terrain. Under motswarelela bogosi, Kgosi Sebego, the Bangwaketse “with cowhide shields, spears and battle-axes surrounded the village,” and at dawn, their battle cries disturbed the peace of these still hills as they charged into the village with resulting chaos. So as a Mongwaketse man as I sit here in the company of the Bakwena ba ga Sechele I feel at home knowing that my ancestors, those fearless warriors, have at some historical point delivered this space from the blood stained hands of the Bakololo back into the hands of the Bakwena whom in the words of Ramsay like all Sotho-Tswana groups are “ultimately the people of this ground, the children of Modimo once protected by the very son of the earth – Tintibane.” I must be careful not to give too much credit to the Bangwaketse since Dithubaruba has been defended against the Boers incursion before by Sechele (Ramokonopi) at that epic battle of Dimawe after which he brought together the various merafe at Dithubaruba, amongst them being the Balete, Bakgatla, Bahurutshe, Bakaa and many others.

Today however we gathered to remember that lefatshe le a lwelwa, le sirelediwa ke beng. I am in the company of politicians: Patrick Masimolole, Vincent Seretse, Leach Tlhomelang, Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri, Boometswe Mokgothu, Shima Monageng and others. What brings us together is a celebration of Sekwena culture. The old Mokwena poet Rabojalwa Keetile is here. I have heard him before together with Moroka Moreri. I am delighted because I am confident that today there is going to be a festival of poetry. I get more than I bargained for – more old poets come to the podium and set the stage alight as they deliver dikgafela to Kgosi Kgari and Mohumagadi MmaTumagole. Rabojwala doesn’t disappoint. His poetry is long and historical, laced with cutting humour. “Ke bona ba bangwe ba ntse ba edimola phetelela; a le fa e le metsi a tee le one ga ba a ba siela.” Young poets take to the stage one after another and demonstrate that Sekwena poetry is in safe hands. Truth be told: Kweneng has the greatest concentration of absolutely outstanding poets. Kgosi Kgari Sechele can afford to smile; his poets are amongst the finest in all Botswana. And the poetry is not just by men; women too deliver some electrifying verses. Arguably, the best poem of the day was delivered by a woman, Gaadirelwe Boipuso Leatso, who brought tears to my eyes. As I watch and absorb the Sekwena culture, they feed me kabu which I am in no doubt that many believe it is indigenous to the Batswana, not knowing that it came to the Tswana through the Portuguese traders while the word kabu is itself of Afrikaans etymology having been adapted from the Afrikaans word: kaboemielies. I was later to be blown away by Dipela tsa ga Kobokwe – they are arguable Botswana’s finest traditional dance troupe. They are many. They take to the stage like a band of Sechele’s fearless warriors. Their dance is authentic and speaks to the Setswana soul. If there is an image that one can conjure of Sechele’s warriors, the closest picture is that of Dipela tsa ga Kobokwe. I have never seen a group that is as forceful and as precise in its performance as this one. Their performance belongs to the ages and the world. They should be performing the stages of Germany, USA and England bringing glory to this country. To keep them within the Botswana borders is to steal fresh air from God’s universe.

So I left the Dithubaruba celebrations a proud Motswana. The last few years have seen a resurgence of cultural resuscitation initiatives. Examples of these are bogwera and bojale of the Bakgatla ba ga Kgafela, the Domboshaba celebrations of the Bakalanga, as well as the Bathoen II celebrations of the Bangwaketse. There has also been an increased interest in Setswana cuisine, Tswana names and indigenous music. All of these collectively in a small way contribute to our self-discovery as a people. So until next year when we gather at the meeting of the warriors, where Kgosi Sechele once ruled supreme, I will have in my mind the battle cry of a Mokwena young man: Dithubaruba wee!

Kgama III

September 9, 2014

king-khama III

Kgama III (1837?-1923), the husband of the famous Mmabesi a Kgama who died in what is now known as Old Palapye on the verge of the village of Malaka just east of modern Palapye.

What is the difference between leba, lebelela & bona

August 28, 2014

That famous & overweight English lexicographer, Samuel Johnson, has defined a lexicographer as “a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge, that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words.” I must admit that detailing the signification of words is a most rewarding enterprise. Much has been done in this regard in the English language through a long impressive history of English lexicography and lexicology. A lot is however, yet to be done in Setswana, which is why in the last twenty years or so, there has been increased interest in the development and documentation of the Setswana language. As part of the larger interest in the development of the Setswana language, I wish to look at the seemingly similar Setswana verbs: leba, lebelela & bona. What is common about these verbs is that they refer to doing something with eyes. They are therefore what is known as perception verbs. Let’s start with a basic definition of what they mean. Leba is look in English. It suggests that you perceive something intentionally or for a specific reason. There is a sense that the perception happened for an unspecified length of time – that isn’t short though. Bona on the other hand is see in English. This verb suggests that what we perceive came into our range of vision without us intentionally seeking it. This explains why for instance we can ask somebody O ntibileng? and not O mponelang? This is because in the semantics of leba is embedded an intentional looking. One who raises the question O ntibileng? seeks the intentions or the purpose for which an act of perception is happening. Because of this, we better understand why a religious plea is made: Morena leba kwano! “Lord turn your face to us!”

The verb lebelela is watch in English. It suggests that you perceive something for a period of time, especially something that is moving. So someone o lebelela motshameko, because there is movement, o lebelela diphologolo, because there is movement. It is therefore most unusual to find someone a lebeletse an immovable object such as a stone, unless in the case where lebelela means something slightly different as in the case where it means to guard, care for or look after. Even in the case where someone o lebeletse tv, this is because there is activity on television. Lebelela is also used to idiomatically mean to leave something happen without your intervention – actually with you letting it happen.

I wish to consider these verbs in some detail. I begin with bona. Bona is a highly polysemous word. By that I mean it has multiple related meanings associated with it. It can mean to perceive using eyes. It can also refer to receive, make or earn something: O bona madi a mantsi ka go rekisa phane “He makes lots of money from selling mophane worm”. The word can also mean to understand something as in Jaanong ke a bona gore ga o nthate “Now I understand that you don’t like me”. We use bona to mean to meet somebody such as in Ke a go bona Kagiso kgantele “I am going to meet Kagiso later”. Finally bona is also used to mean to experience something as in O bone kotsi ya koloi “He has had a car accident”. Bona also collocates (co-occurs) with numerous words to generate multiple idiomatic expressions. For instance: bôna bontsho “fail to understand/have problems”, bona kgwedi “have a period” which is similar to “bôna setswalô. We say bona koo! as a warning to someone to flee from danger. Bôna kotsi “have an accident”, bôna kwa mmu wa sekara o tlaa wêlang teng “see where things will end”, bona molato “find guilty”, bôna molomo “get to speak”, bona motho ka legofi “to slap somebody”, bona motho molato “convict somebody”, bona nako “find time”, bôna pelo “understand what somebody is thinking”, bôna phatlha “get an opportunity”, bona phoso “find fault with”, bona sebaka “get a chance/opportunity”, bona tlhabo ya letsatsi “wake up”, bona tsela “depart”. There is more that we can say concerning bona especially when considering its various conjugations. For instance ipona is reflexive. It literally means see one’s self as when someone sees themselves on a mirror. However ipona can be used to mean to be proud, to be full of yourself or to be conceited.

We have observed that leba is an intentional perception verb. We however also use leba to refer to the verb face. To face somewhere (of an individual or an inanimate entity such as a car or house) is described using the verb leba. This is because an intention is assumed in its use. A person intentionally faces somewhere or makes something face a certain direction. Leba is also used to mean the verb go. Fa ke tswa fa ke leba Ramotswa this sentence doesn’t mean that one faces in the direction of Ramotswa. It instead means that one goes to Ramotswa.

Leba also collocates with multiple words to generate idiomatic expressions. These include: leba ka leitlhô le le mosoka “consider something suspiciously” leba ka leitlhô le le nchocho “to look at something in detail/intensely”, leba ka nyelolô “to despise somebody”, leba tsela “to depart/go”.

Looking at the meanings of words and how they function in context is a very ancient preoccupation which has recently benefitted much from advances in computational work in the areas of corpus and natural language processing (NLP) in general.

Quett Masire’s speech was about his dream of a perfect republic

August 17, 2014

In this column I consider Sir Ketumile Masire’s speech delivered at the Gomolemo Motswaledi’s funeral in Serowe. The speech has been a subject of much discussion, with some arguing that it was Quett Masire’s endorsement of the UDC. In this column I argue that Quett Masire’s principal message was about rediscovering the national ideals of democracy, unity and nation building. I argue that once he had made a strong case for Botswana-first, he did endorse Duma Boko of the UDC. Masire is a statesman. He is one of the few remaining founding fathers of Botswana. When he went to the funeral, he went there to bury his friend and a son he raised in the BDP. He says: “Motswaledi e ne e le tsala ya me…mo e bileng batho bagaetsho ba party ya gaetsho ba neng ba belaela gore e sere gongwe Quett le ene o setse a tsene kwa; A e seng gore Quett le ene o tsene mo bathong ba bangwe ba!” There had been concern from some in the BDP that Sir Masire was disgruntled with the leadership of the party he formed, to the extent that he was perceived as having gravitated more towards the UDC or more specifically towards the BMD. That was a gross mistake. Masire had not shifted, even a bit. His views have always remained core BDP values of democracy and a tolerance of divergent views. Instead, the BDP seems to have been the one that heeled away from where Masire and Seretse left it; a matter that has made Masire and many in the BDP frustrated and alienated from their party. Whether to his praise or criticism, Masire never shifted in his ideals. We must remember that Sir Masire was most impressed by Motswaledi who flourished under his presidency to the level that in his mid twenties, Motswaledi received the Presidential Meritorious Award for outstanding service to Botswana. So, when Masire went to Serowe, he went there to principally achieve one thing: go isa matshediso and not to make a political point. In his words “Ke ha, ke tsile jaaka chaba ya Botswana, re tsile go lo gomotsa Rre RaMotswaledi; re tsile go gomotsa beno; bagaeno, le chaba ya Botswana ka bophara” However, because Motswaledi was a political figure, it was inevitable that Masire would reflect on the political landscape of Botswana. Masire therefore as a statesman reminded Batswana some core values, in particular, the issue of democracy – not just the mere word, but the practice – which in real life plays out, in the Masire words, in the following manner: “Mme ha re re we are democratic re itse gore ha lo le goromente, lo itse gore lo goromente e e tlaa reng kamoso e bo e le opposition; ebile ha lo le opposition, lo itse gore you are a government in waiting.” It is these words which sadly were misconstrued as an endorsement of opposition parties. I don’t think that is what Sir Masire was doing here. I believe he was reaffirming and reasserting a national ideal of democracy. He was speaking in the best interest of Botswana. Batswana must live and practice democracy and not attempt to win elections by all means possible. Instead, democracy must be given, not just a chance, but the ultimate priority in the interest of the nation. What Masire was doing was putting Botswana first, ahead of anything else. He was neither being BDP, nor was he being pro-opposition. He was non-partisan, expressing a very important national ideal that must be protected. This explains why Masire acknowledges political brilliance from both the rulling and opposition ranks: “Mme go a re itumedisa ha re bona mo maphateng oo-mabedi – a a mo pusong le a a seng mo pusong – ba na le batho ba ba nonohileng ba ekareng kamoso ha re latlha ba bangwe, ra bo re itse gore re ba latlhela mo go ba bangwe” Again, Masire wasn’t saying: “Ke eletsa gore bangwe ba latlhwe”. Instead he spoke as a statesman acknowledging the pool of political talent that exists across the political divide such that in the event that there was a change of government, the country will still be in good hands. This presence of outstanding leaders across the political divide is most gratifying for Masire because the absence of a viable alternative party can lead to a revolution. He observes this when he says: “Ha go sa nne jalo – ra nna le kgotsohalo le tsholohelo mo baneng ba rona – e tlaa re kamoso ha e le gore ga re na tsone di party tseo, tse e leng gore di na le botho; dina le kelelelo… e tlaa re kamoso re bo re nna le direvolution ka go re go tlhobogwa batho mme ga gona sepe se sengwe se se ka dirwang.”
Masire also tried to demonstrate that Motswaledi’s dream of a better Botswana was not unique to him. The dream for a better Botswana was to be found in Motswaledi and his team of political partners. This is why Masire says: “gatwe ga a swa motho, go sale motho – a a tlogele bomonnawe, a a tlogele matlhogela.” He develops this point further when he says “..o ntse a se nosi, o na le ba gagabo. Ga go na se a se dirileng kana se a neng a ka se dira, se a neng a sa se amusanye nabo. Megopolo, ha a ne a na le mengwe ya go tsweledisa bokamoso ja sechaba se, o e amoganye le bakaulengwe ba gagwe. Mme re a ba rotloetsa le bone gore, borra le bomma, e tla re kamoso ha lo re latlha, re itse gore lo ne lo sa sekegela se Motswaledi a neng a lekile go se amusanya le lona.”
I am therefore convinced that Masire’s speech was principally about national sacrifice; about putting Botswana first. He says: “Re tlhoka batho… Re tlhoka batho ba ba nang le tebelopele ya bokamoso ja lehatshe…Re tlhoka batho ba ba sa batleng go itirela leina ka bo bone, ba lebile leina ja lehatshe la Botswana.” In his speech Masire also expresses the need for opposition unity. He says: “mathata a lehatshe la Botswana a tlhoka badiredi – se iphatlalatseng, ya tla ya re re re re a lo bua ra hitlhela motho a le mongwe hela hela, ele party ya motho le bana ba gagwe.”
I believe that having made the national case, Masire made an argument for Duma Boko, and indirectly endorsed the UDC. I believe that his speech was not principally about the UDC but about national ideals. I however believe Sir Masire did endorse the UDC president Duma Boko and by extension the UDC party. Masire says: “Jaaka Rre Boko a rile “Motho ke yo”, le nna ka re mme go na le motho mo, mo bathong ba ba ha ba!” I believe what Masire was saying was Ecce homo back at Duma Boko. Motho ke yo! If my analysis is right, I agree with Masire that where we are as a nation there is no better political party leader to take Botswana forward than Mr Duma Boko.


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