2014: The year of multiple deaths, mosuntubaki and a slap in the Mass Media Complex

December 18, 2014

I look back at 2014 as a dark year. It was a bad, bad year in all sorts of ways. It was the year of numerous deaths, the year of the BDP bulldog shouting mosuntubaki and sekadikadi in the north, and the Mummy returned in the Mass Media complex. This year we lost the leader of the BMD Gomolemo Motswaledi in a car accident, or an alleged car accident, as doubters would say. His lifeless body was found in an Audi A3 on the Phitshane Road. Shock and wonder, tears and fear. Utter disbelief! Unanswered questions. The nation wept for its finest son, he whole nation went through its blackest night, during its lowest and darkest hour. The knight was a broken man who declared in self and national consolation: “gatwe go swa motho, go sale motho”. The Harvard man on a podium declared poignantly: Ecce Homo… ‘behold [the] man’. On that night, on a historical Ngwato village of Khama III the people’s knight rested “his body to that pleasant country’s earth, And his pure soul unto his captain Christ, Under whose colours he had fought for so long”. He rested in the company of the heroes and heroines of the world and in the company of our nation’s departed. His father eloquently posed that rhetorical question: “La reng ka seo?” Over night a song crafted in French evangelism amongst the Basotho became a national hymn. Morena o ba etele, Bana bohle ba lefifi, Lesedi le ba chabele, Ka bophara ba lefatshe. 2014 was a very bad year indeed. It was the year that Brooks Monnaanoka died. Brooks had established himself as a radio legend, especially as one who had introduced, presented and sustained the Saturday rock and roll program. This year another national hero, Justice Julian Nganunu passed away after 13 years as Botswana’s Chief Justice and having served as a Judge of the High Court for five years. We lost a national hero who distinguished himself as one of Botswana’s great legal minds and visionary leader. 2014 was indeed a dark year. On Saturday November the 8th, we buried my friend and UB classmate, Laona Segaetsho, at Phomolong in Phakalane. We committed his body to the belly of the earth. Eleven years ago when I married Shinie Lekoko, he stood beside me as my best man. Laona Segaetsho married his wife on the 27th March 2014 and seven months later lost his life in a tragic boat accident in Lake Ngami. Seven months later there was an uneaten wedding cake that had to together with the coffin be committed to the belly of the earth with the departed journalist. Laona  Segaetsho is gone too soon. He leaves behind a distraught pregnant wife with a young son. She is now left to grapple with complex existential questions of life.

This year the dark cloud also landed in Maun. The BDP’s 32-year-old Alec Seametso – a Mongwaketse man from Ntsweng crashed into prominence first 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”. Second, he delivered a speech in which he attacked and lampooned, Kgosi Tawana Moremi of the Batawana. Not only was Kgosi Tawana attacked, Kentse Rammidi was dismissed contemptuously as sekadikadi and mosuntubaki, Duma Boko was called mothwana while Seametso accused the late Kgosi Bathoen II of the Bangwaketse of go latlhega and go gogela batho mo lefifing. He didn’t stop there. He called the dignified morafe of the Batawana, a most demeaning label: Matawana. For all these reproachable acts he has now been rewarded with a Specially Elected council seat in the Southern District Council and further elevated to the Deputy Chair seat of the Southern District Council. He is now the Honourable Councillor.

2014 was a nasty year. It was the year Edgar Tsimane, the 43-year-old Senior Reporter at the Sunday Standard and The Telegraph newspapers fled from his own country seeking asylum in neighbouring South Africa. From the other side of the border he declared: “I love my family; I love my country; I love my job, but I fear my government.”  The dark cloud then shifted to the Editor of Sunday Standard, Outsa Mokone, and he was slapped with sedition charges. He was charged with sedition under Sections 50 and 51 of the Penal Code. The charges were in connection with a story in which the Sunday Standard newspaper claimed the president was involved in a road traffic accident. It isn’t clear now if the government is pursuing the matter against Mokone.

This was also a dark year for the BDP. First to fall were its old guard during its primaries. In the South Peter Siele and Moeng Pheto were defeated while in the north Skelemani and Pono Moatlhodi bit the dust. More were to fall in the general elections. The legendary Daniel Kwelagobe, who first went into parliament before Gomolemo Motswaledi was born, lost to the UB academic Dr. Mmatli, while Matlhabaphiri was defeated by Mahommed Khan. For the first time since independence, the BDP formed government with a popular vote of less than 50%. Then there was Madam Speaker Sir whose publication irked some leading to the defeat of Margaret Nasha in her campaign for the position of Speaker of the National Assembly. In the Mass Media complex the mummy returned. Before long the mummy had been slapped and repeatedly floored in a catfight. This is the year that De Beers Botswana Chief Executive Officer and former Minister of Trade and Industry, Neo Moroka  Moroka allegedly shot and killed a Tsabong man on April 22, 2014 at his farm, after he allegedly mistook the man for a dog. Then there was The hands up case in the High Court! Dear reader, this was a dark, dark year! Shall it get any darker?!


December 17, 2014

“Golo kwa Kgwakgwe kwa go na le monnamogolo…fa o bona dijarata tsa Mmamokhasi di tswenatswena metsi jaana ke gore gone fela fa go agilweng lokotswana lwa tamo ya Mmamokhasi teng, ke gone fa a neng a anega disheet tse ditshweu teng motshegare…. mosadi o kile a rwala nkgwana a ya masimo a raletse Kgwakgwe ka fa botlhaba. Ya re a palamelela a fitlhela digwapa mo setlhareng. A di meletsa mathe a sa itse gore ke monnamogolo wa Kgwakgwe. A di folosa a di subatela ka nkgwana a tlhaba a tshikhinya. Fa a tsena kwa masimo nkgwana ele a e baya kwa motsheo mo tlung; a tshekama ka fa tlase ga setlhare. Ya re a le foo… a bona go tswa montsana o o kana ka jeke e mo tlung, o eteletse monnamogolo wa Kgwakgwe pele. Noga e ne ya tswa e eteletswe ke montsana pele ya tsamaya e boela kwa Kgwakgwe… Mosadi yoo a ya go kgwesiwa ke dingaka…o lesego o tshedile. Monnamogolo wa Kgwakgwe o maswe! Bathoen o ne a ba reile a re ba seka ba epa moepo mo lejweng lele. Ba nyatsa. Fa ba tla kamoso ba fitlhela ditshipi tsa bone di gasagasegile…ba epa gape; kamoso ba fitlhela phelehu e e dinaka di matshophe e botologile, ba epa gape, ba fitlhela bramane jo bontle gone mo letlapeng lele… e rile a tenega monnamogolo wa Kgwakgwe letsatsi le lengwe ba fitlhela a kwadile lokwalo a re “Ke beile botsetsi lo a ntlhodia”. Ba a kgwa ba thelela ba itshwara khubu. Ba baka. Go a twe monnamogolo wa Kgwakgwe go twe tuu!” Tales from a lovely old man.

Should it be “Omang” or “Ke Motswana”?

December 15, 2014
OMANG is now a Setswana “word” that means “identity card”. So, if someone asks: “Do you have your Omang?” that translates to “Do you have your identity card”. The word is fairly new since Botswana only introduced identity cards in the late 1980s. This means that before the late 80s, the word “Omang” did not exist. The “word” Omang is actually technically an interrogative sentence, i.e. a sentence that asks a question.  Omang is a sentence made of a subject “O” (you) and the interrogative form “mang” (who). As a sentence it translates to: “Who are you?” The two words have now been joined together to form a single word “Omang” which now has a unique meaning: “identity card”.
It must be said however that the question “O mang?” is itself confrontational and hostile. Contextually it is the kind of question that you pose to an unknown and uninvited person knocking on your door at night. It is much more hostile than the English expression: “Who is it?” which lacks the hostile connotations.  Inbuilt in it is a sense of fear and suspicion and not just pure inquisitiveness. It is impolite and aggressive to pose the question directly to an individual. You might have to rephrase the question to “Leina la gago ke mang?” “What is your name?” in face to face discourse.
Officially Omang “is a document that is used to show that one is a citizen of the Republic of Botswana.” It is principally about identity and belonging. It separates those who belong to the Botswana society from those who don’t. Those who lack Omang are “those who come from elsewhere” “batswakwa” (literally: “those who come from there”). Therefore if one is confronted by the police or government officials with that confrontational and hostile question: “O mang?” it is this document which will assert one’s identity. I am therefore convinced that the name “Omang” referring to an ID was not well thought of carefully because “Omang” is a question when the ID document is an answer. The ID document answers the question “O mang?” It doesn’t ask it. It answers by declaring one a Motswana. The document should have been called: “Ke Motswana” since it asserts one’s status as a Motswana; or even more accurately as a Botswana citizen.
** thinking allowed/aloud with my friend Ann Gollifer…

A ngaka is not a doctor

November 21, 2014

In our haste to translate a word from one language to another, we make translation blunders that usually stay with us for a rather long time until they are disputed or challenged. Today I consider how we have over time translated the word “ngaka” into English and how we have translated the English word “doctor” into Setswana as “ngaka”. It is important to observe that words gain meaning from specific cultural contexts. Outside such contexts such words lose their meanings and become empty shells. There is nothing like “meaning without context”. Meaning is always contextual – contexts are either assumed or clearly stated. Meaning is therefore a cultural construct. Let’s consider the two words that are a subject of our discussion. The word “doctor” in English has fairly two main meanings: First: someone whose job is to treat people who are ill or injured and second, someone who has the highest degree given by a university. It is the first meaning of “doctor” that will concern us in this column though the second meaning has been poorly translated into Setswana as “ngaka” as well. We must however admit that the term doctor is a general term that is used to identify different types of medical practitioners. There is a specific type of doctor for almost every major system located in the human body. For instance we can use the term doctor for any of the following: audiologist, allergist, anesthesiologist, cardiologist, dentist, dermatologist, oncologist, gynecologist, immunologist, neurologist, obstetrician, pediatrician and many others. The listed doctors specialize in medicine that deals with the different parts of the body. The key matter here is that “doctors” deal with “the human body”. Let’s pause here and look at what the word “ngaka” in Setswana means.

For us to understand what a “ngaka” is, we need to understand the Tswana belief in witchcraft. In Tswana traditional culture, illness, death and misfortune generally have a grim source. They are believed to be a consequence of witchcraft. Witches (for indeed the evildoers were believed to be old women and not male) were said to be behind all evil acts that befell individuals and families. The old witch was said to walk bent by day looking sickly, and to surprisingly gain extraordinary agility by night. She walked the night covered in ashes and the blood of the dead. Her mode of transport was an open basket or a wild animal such as a hyena. The Tswana believed that witchcraft was a consequence of malice, jealousy, envy and a heart full of debauchery. The witch could attack any part of human life. The “ngaka” was therefore needed to neutralize the evil works of witchcraft.

The Batswana have for a long time depended on the services of a “ngaka” in the various elements of their lives. A “ngaka” is central to the following: the coronation of a “kgosi”, a wedding celebration, funeral and burial, confinement, farms, livestock, the establishment of a new homestead and in the treatment of physical and spiritual illness. Traditionally “dingaka” are specialists. There were “dingaka” that treated sexual infections, children’s diseases, established a homestead and those who strengthened a new marriage.

There are two types of “dingaka: dingaka tse di dinaka” and “dingaka tse di tšhotšwa”. “Dingaka tse di dinaka” are those that use divination bones to determine the source of a problem. These “dingaka” include the “dingaka” of the royal house, the “dingaka” of the whole “morafe” as well as “baroka”, who are rainmakers. “Dingaka tse di tšhotšwa” don’t use divination bones. They are de facto traditional pharmacists. They have a deep knowledge of medicines and diseases. Usually they are not as famous as “dingaka tse di dinaka”. They can treat a disease successfully without using divination bones. Usually, they are trained by “dingaka tse di dinaka” and would have been under their instruction for some time.

One of the major roles of a “ngaka” like a “doctor” is to treat an individual’s body. A “ngaka” usually gives a patient medicine made from roots, bark of a tree or animal fat or snake. These were smeared on the body or someone had to bath in a concoction of traditional medicine: “a tlhapisiwe! A itewe ka seditse – seditse ke lofeelo”. To a poisoned individual, a “ngaka” gave medication that caused one to vomit ingested poison. The “ngaka” also ensured that an individual was protected at the most critical stages of life: at birth, “bogwera/bojale” and wedding. The “ngaka” that doctors a wedding is called “setimamolelo” (one who quenches fire). The “ngaka” protects the wedding and strengthens the marriage so that it doesn’t encounter misfortune. “Setimamolelo” is usually brought by the groom and not by the bride’s family. He would doctor the marrying couple, the kitchen, the pots and the beast that killed for the festivities. “O duelwa ka letsogo la kgomo!”

In general, the “ngaka” used strong medicine to protect individuals. He did this by cutting a patient’s joints such as at the knees and elbows and smearing charms on the cuts to put medicine directly into the bloodstream, which protected one against the works of witchcraft. Charms were also used on men before they departed for battle. These charms made them strong in battle and protected them against death. Women were also occasionally given charms to help them with fertility.

The second major role of a “ngaka” was to protect the livestock. The livestock was doctored so that it increased in number, was safe from theft and from being mauled by wild animals. When the kraal was doctored, all male sons were supposed to be doctored together with the livestock. If this wasn’t done, it was believed that they would lose their minds.

Traditionally a new homestead could not be established without the aid of a “ngaka”. All the corners and the centre of a homestead were doctored. This was done at night. A “ngaka” was paid by a cow after securing the homestead.

The “ngaka” was also used in the protection of farmlands from jealous individuals who would bewitch the farm so that it bore no crops. The “ngaka” also doctored the farm against excessive pests.

Batswana also had “baroka” or rainmakers who were responsible for making rain for the morafe. The “baroka” however have always been rare amongst the Tswana.

I have tried to demonstrate that the word “ngaka” in traditional Tswana society has a wide application than doctor. It is not as restricted as the word “doctor”. Only a very narrow sense of the word “ngaka” is synonymous with that of the English word “doctor”. “Ngaka” doesn’t just heal the body as a “doctor” does, he uses his charms to protect men going into battle, he protects a newly wedded couple, he multiplies one’s livestock and protects it from wild animals. With his charms he sets a king on the throne and protects his kingdom from challenge. Certainly a “ngaka” is more than just a “doctor”; he is much more than that. I am therefore left with only one conclusion to make: there is no English word which is a direct translation of the Setswana word “ngaka”.

Coke, why isn’t my name on your can?

November 11, 2014

As one of its campaigns for individuals to have an emotional attachment to their drink, Coke has introduced a promotional strategy that involves personal names printed on a Coca-Cola can. This strategy seems to be working with a certain quarter of the society who feel a sense of pride with having their personal names on a Coca-Cola can. However, there have been some who have felt that KBL wasn’t fair in their determination of the choice of name to include on a Coke can. Some of those individuals whose names have been left out feel aggrieved and want this injustice to be rectified as soon as possible. They are in particular aggrieved that some undeserving names have made it to the Coke can while the deserving ones have been left out. As one who isn’t interested in their name appearing I thought I should volunteer my services to provide an answer to the top 100 names which should appear on the Coke can. My selection is based on some statistical work on names that I have done in the past.

For this study a database of names was compiled. The names were collected from diverse sources amongst these being: graduation name lists, school class lists, examination result lists for both primary and secondary (junior and secondary school) downloaded from the Botswana Ministry of Education and others scanned and transcribed from the Botswana’s Examination Unit. The database has 955,219 names. By names we are making no distinction between first names, middle names and surnames. All of these are counted as names. In our qualitative analysis of Setswana names there appears to be no compelling argument to treat first names differently from surnames since surnames are actually someone’s first name. Nevertheless, distinguishing the function of names could yield different results. The processing of data is conducted using Wordsmith Tools software which is an integrated suite of three main programs: Word list, Concord and Keywords. The Word list, tool can be used to produce word lists or word-cluster lists from a text and render the results alphabetically or by frequency order. It can also calculate word spread across a variety of texts, that is, render results on the basis of their spread in different texts. In this column we use the frequency analysis of the entire database. Our analysis borrows analytical techniques from corpus linguistics and analyses the names through frequency counts. Frequency counts record the number of times each name occurs in a text. Frequency analysis – performed intensively over the past 90 years – has been popularised by studies in corpus and lexicographic studies. A crucial point about a name is how frequent it is. Frequent names a) typify the naming practices of a community. b) unearth whether communities still use large numbers of colonial names or whether they have heeled away from such names. c) reveal if names with a certain semantic bend are favoured by a community of speakers. d) in a diachronic study reveal changing name practices within a community. e) frequency analysis of names offer a more reliable measure of spelling variation of the same name (For instance, Tshepo and Tshepho; Lorato and Lerato). Frequency lists are therefore interesting tools of studying names since they reveal which names are commonly used. We start this analysis by giving a panoramic overview of the data. The data has 955,219 tokens (individual counts of names including repetitions) and 49,385 types (unique counts of each name). We start this analysis by giving discussing the most frequent 100 Botswana names & only list the most frequent 25. The most frequent 25 names extracted on the basis of frequency in the entire corpus are:

(1) Thato: 1,735 (2) Mpho: 1,716 (3) Tebogo: 1,678 (4) Kabelo: 1,392 (5) Lesego: 1,369 (6) Kagiso: 1,257 (7) Neo: 1,232 (8) Gaone: 1,221 (9) Kelebogile: 1,188 (10) Boitumelo: 1,182 (11) Lebogang: 1,166 (12) Kabo: 1,141 (13) Kefilwe: 1,116 (14) Malebogo: 1,085 (15) Onalenna: 1,017 (16) Tshepo: 1,009 (17) Masego: 1,008 (18) Gofaone: 999 (19) Tshepiso: 929 (20) Lorato: 909 (21) Goitseone: 874 (22) Thapelo: 868 (23) Keneilwe: 849 (24) Tumelo: 834 (25) Kealeboga: 817

The top 100 names reveal some intriguing naming patterns amongst the Batswana. First, the names suggest that Batswana consider children as gifts. The following names together with their ranks reveal this phenomenon: Mpho (a gift), Kabelo (that which has been given me), Neo (what is given) Kabo (that which is given), Kefilwe (I have been given), Gofaone (It is him (God) who gives), Keneilwe (I have been given), Omphile (He (God) has given me), Tshegofatso (a blessing), Refilwe (We have been given), Keabetswe (I have been given), Kamogelo (receiving), Dineo (gifts), 62. Onkabetse (He (God) has given to me), Onneile (He (God) has given me), Goabaone (It is him (God) who gives), Keamogetse (I have received). Second, many names express gratitude for the child who has been born. Amongst these names are Tebogo (gratitude), Kelebogile (I am thankful), Lebogang (give thanks), Malebogo (thanks), Kealeboga (I am thankful), Keitumetse (I am thankful/I am happy), Olebogeng (thank him (God)). There is also a cluster of names of virtuous qualities espoused by the community, either because of its religion or culture. Amongst these are: Kagiso (peace), Boitumelo (happiness), Tshepo/Tshepho (trust), Lorato (love), Tumelo (faith), Kgomotso (comfort), Thabo (joy), Tsholofelo (hope), Katlego (success), Tshiamo(righteousness), Khumo (wealth), Bonolo (gentleness), Kitso (knowledge/wisdom), and Phenyo (victory). Other names celebrate the coming of a new born. Amongst these are Keitumetse (I am thankful/I am happy), Itumeleng (rejoice/celebrate), Obakeng (praise him (God)), Thabang (be glad), Maipelo (one’s source of pride and joy), Pako (a song of praise), and Bakang (praise). Other names are clearly religious, revealing the Batswana’s belief in the supernatural that children are a gift from God. Amongst these are; Gaone (his (God)), Onalenna (he (God) is with me), Gofaone (it is him (God) who gives), Goitseone (it is him (God) who knows), Thapelo (prayer), Tumelo (faith), Thatayaone (his (God) will), Oarabile (He (God) has answered), Mmoloki (a saviour), Goitsemodimo (God knows), Goabaone (it is him (God) who gives), Onalethata (he (God) has strength), Othusitse (he (God) has helped) and Olebile (he (God) is watching). What the analysis above illustrates is that on the basis of frequency some of the critical typical names amongst the Batswana can be unearthed and they can be clustered thematically as attempted here. Batswana can now complain to KBL based on the results discussed here!

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.


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