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Come let us amend the National Anthem

Ernest Moloi

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The words we use everyday end up defining our realities. Although a very small organ in the body, the tongue is the most powerful. It has the ability to build and to destroy. And it does both through the words that spew out of our mouths.

That is why it is important to exercise vigilance and restraint whenever we have to speak. We must learn to listen more and talk less, because being a motor-mouth can lend one in deep trouble. One English writer once acclaimed that there is a loquacity that says nothing and a silence that says more! So, where am I going with this supposed banter? I am this week making an appeal to all and sundry that we form a movement to Amend the National Anthem. It is my considered opinion that if well-constructed, the National Anthem can become a unifying factor. Make no mistake about it, I don’t fault the legendary musical genius of Kgalemang Tumediso Motsetse; I am merely saying my bit. In Setswana idiom we say, ‘Mmua lebe o bua la gagwe gore monalentle a le tswe’. This is the basis and foundational stone upon which our democracy is built.

We say ‘Ntwakgolo ke ya molomo’ or that the most decisive battles are fought through debating and not warring. This is very important for what I propose hereunder. Before you unleash your pointed arrows at me, kindly take a moment to reflect. Think of our Botswana before Independence.Do you remember there was absolutely nothing of the infrastructure developments and the roads; electricity and water networks we boast of today? Men and women tilled the land. In fact agriculture – both arable and livestock farming – was the cornerstone of our economy, the single highest contributor at the time to our gross domestic product.

Men defended their families valiantly; they fought the bitter wars against marauding armies of conquest, losing arm and leg in the process of safeguarding their children, women, livestock and property. And when contemporary political activity, as we know it today, finally reached our arid shores, it was once again the men who led the campaign for self-rule.
It was after his sojourn to Kwame Nkrumah’s pan Africanist Ghana, where he heard that inspirational ‘God bless our homeland, Ghana’ by Philip Gbeho – that Motsete was fired to compose our National Anthem, ‘Fatshe leno la rona”.

But in the course of time, I am afraid the second stanza, which also serves as the refrain, has lost its purpose, especially if interpreted in its literal meaning. It implies that men are sleeping and ought to wake up. Although the English translation says, ‘Awake, awake, O men, awake! And women close beside them stand’, the implied meaning is not lost to an impeccable observer, that men are sleeping and ought to wake up!

The Tswana version is ruthlessly blunt. It says, “Tsogang, tsogang banna,,tsogang! Emang basadi, emang!’ It is from these lyrics that the local women’s liberation movement derived its name – ‘Emang Basadi’. Whilst, there is every good in women fighting for equal rights and justice, which are their inalienable rights – I feel constrained by a national anthem which tends to be gendered.
This nation is made up by parents and children. And if you pay careful attention to those lyrics,, you may find that by removing the letter ‘N’ in banna (men) you have ‘bana’ (Children) and by inserting the letter ‘T’ in basadi (women) you get ‘Batsadi’ (Parents)! And there you have it, Children are implored to awake and stand beside their Parents to work together in service to their land. I am convinced that this is what KTM had in mind, after going through the original version of Ghana’s national anthem before Michael Kwame Gbordzoe’s changes were effected sometime in 1970 following Nkrumah’s coup.

In our case, we don’t need any change of government to make the changes. We only need the will. It is said that where there is a will there is a way. I am convinced that should we go this route we may even carve for ourselves an overarching economic model that recognises males and females – parents and children – as our baseline and not the current warped system in which males (men) are being marginalised in the name of youth and women empowerment!

Similarly, I wish to propose a change of name to our National Football Team from ‘Zebras’ to something more aggressive, strong and enduring – whether animal, bird, snake, tree or landscape! Perhaps we can settle for ‘Tshukudu’ or ‘Ntsu’ or ‘Phika’ or ‘Mowana’ or ‘Tsodilo!’ anything but the Zebras which seem to be easy pickings in a game where laws of the jungle reign supreme.

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Ag, shame Kgathi!

Ernest Moloi

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How the mighty have fallen! This past weekend’s Botswana Democratic Party’s Bulela Ditswe primary elections were a demonstration of democracy in action. We need to get accustomed to the painful truth that in life you win some, you lose some!

But somehow, we have built a culture that of anti-change, we equate change with collapse, destruction or maybe it’s because we fear the unknown. Like our good MELS president would say, you move from the known to the unknown, but somehow that statement rings hollow for him considering the length of time he’s been MELS’ president!
Domkrag has been in power for over 50 uninterrupted years. By now it should have built a critical mass, a pool of leaders from which to select in the wards, cells, branches and regions. Democracy is a work in progress, being perfected every time.

Like our late former Vice President the General, Mompati Merafhe would say, “No one has a monopoly of knowledge.” The BDP must take heed of this counsel if it is to survive post Bulela Ditswe. The Old Guard must remember, and take the cue from people like the Mother of the House, Mma Venson-Moitoi, who has served this country diligently but is wise to know when it is time to hand the baton to others in this relay called politics.

In the same vein, the Young Turks, in their brash and radical ways must learn that there’s absolutely nothing new under the sun! They must learn to bide their time and do their bit when their turn comes. They should never think they are reinventing the wheel. Like we’ve said, democracy, like any other political system, is a work in progress.
But the vainglorious and big-headed don’t see this. They are self-centred, conceited and arrogant. They despise the mass of their people. They neglect their constituencies, only visiting them when elections are due and thereafter go on with their lives without a care in the world!

Worse still, their political parties also influence this attitude in that in some instances candidates are selected in Gaborone and dispatched to go and represent their respective native villages. This is not good enough and can never be a solution. We need home-bred leaders, we cannot be importing leaders from Gaborone! My best wishes go to all the runners-up in the past weekend’s primary elections. These men and women showed character. Certainly I feel very sorry for Shaw Kgathi because he was de-campaigned by BaNgwato Kgosi, Ian Khama. I am afraid this is a clear indication that BaNgwato hegemony in some parts of Central District remains entrenched even in the 21st Century.

But, the victor must tread carefully. I think it’s too early to raise Champagne glasses! A fractured BDP may become easy picking for Botswana Congress Party in 2019 in this constituency especially if UDC comes to the party! My sympathies also go to Biggie Butale and Tirelo ‘Scania’ Mukokomani in Tati West who I understand were floored by a Young Turk, the president of the BDP Youth Wing, Simon Mavange! I think both gentlemen can still be useful in other enterprises outside politics!

There was also my good friend Itumeleng Moipisi in Kgalagadi North losing to transport magnate, Talita Monnakgotla. I am not sure why Talita would want to go into politics, all I know is that she’s a savvy businesswoman, but as for Moipisi, I think we have lost a wise man in government. I won’t say anything about Nonofho Molefi. We all know the mastermind behind his demise. He dug the pit that would swallow him up the day he dared to challenge then Vice President, now President Mokgweetsi Masisi for the chairmanship of the ruling party.

When all is said and done, I am very happy with the outcome. I know some are worried that too many loyalists of former president Ian Khama have won and that this could somehow resuscitate his hopes of gaining influence in his father’s party and ultimately government if BDP wins in 2019.As for me, I say the sun has set on Khama’s political career. He must just continue with his charitable and altruistic cause. It fits him perfectly especially that he’s also a Kgosi. He must steer clear of dirty politics and do all within his power to dignify the seat of tribal power!

After all is he not the one that taught us this dictum? BaKgatla will be celebrating KgosiKgolo Kgafela’s 10th Anniversary this September in Moruleng and I suppose in Mochudi. It would be an honour to have Kgosi Khama grace this occasion; after all he is the one that installed Kgafela back in 2008 and draped him in a leopard’s skin!

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Of today’s men sharing beer with women and children

Matshediso Fologang

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The world in which I grew up is no more. This weekend I met with my boys – most of whom are now senior citizens – at the usual Motswere tree. I am not known to imbibe in alcoholic beverages of any kind, but every time I find myself with these boys, each will have brought himself a bottle.

Where we are all very broke, we contribute towards the drinks using the motshelo model. We make contributions to be used to purchase a few litres of traditional beer commonly known as maswe a dinala in Ramotswa, or mukuru as in Serowe. These meetings with the boys have become regular and because I am always there, a lot of people who are not my close friends have always wrongly assumed I also take the stuff.

As we have always done without fail, we were at the Motswere tree again recently. The mood this time was triggered by an activity at Tashy’s Gardens near Boatle. The Speaker of the National Assembly was host to the CPA Africa Region Conference in Gaborone. As part of the activities they were treated for a culture day at the gardens. Our culture has this thing of bringing us together through music and dance. Also in our tradition, there is always a lot of eating. Actually we like our Basotho cousins who believe that “mokete yo o senang nama ga se mokete,” literally meaning that a feast without meat is no feast at all.

Eating at this CPA outing was in typical African fashion. The diverse nature of our society through food, music and dance was on display to the excitement of the guests. Groups from across the length and breadth of this wonderful country were there to display their talents and styles. Truly the CPA Africa Region delegates went back mesmerized. This is however what was in our minds this weekend at Motswere tree. It was just a coincidence that we the boys from that area were part of the traditional groups specifically asked to entertain the guests. In our group we always have to end the day with lots of bojalwa, which was in oversupply on the day.

On the day, quite interestingly, my guys waived a lot of ‘protocol observed’ in the consumption of the holy fawn stuff. In the days of our growing up, young maidens could not sit amongst men to freely drink. We have as a group agreed that we should accommodate modern things. Some young ladies joined us and asked that we fill their bottles with the bojalwa. It was just wonderful that there was no single objection to this. Women and mostly from our neighbours South Africa, wanted to taste the local traditional beer. The stuff was frothing which is always considered good. All and sundry praised the stuff as the best.

As the day ended, we the Motswere boys asked for an extra provision of 60 litres of the bojalwa. We then ferried it to our secluded Motswere place, where we would later spend the evening freely singing our traditional festive music. Despite having allowed women earlier to freely drink during the day at our fort, we resorted to our practice of not sharing bojalwa with children and women. It will take us long to understand gender neutrality at Motswere tree.

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