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.
Times a changeling’
Botswana is gradually reclaiming herself – not necessarily her innocence; we know she has been battered, raped, abused and dumped! Perhaps in her reawakening, she will learn to cherish the hard won values of national cohesion, which for a fleeting moment, were at risk of slipping right through her fingers.
Batswana are better off – they have the best and worst experiences of the peoples of the world to learn from. For example, we know pretty well that the atrocities, carnage, calamity and mayhem of 1994 in Rwanda in which Hutus and Tutsis tore at each other were not a spontaneous mass action.
Neither were the Holocaust in which Jews were slaughtered not the Nakba, which continues to this day with the every day dispossession of the Palestinian Arabs by the Israeli occupation.
In fact we can deduce a clear pattern from all these heinous experiences that they were borne of wilful actions of men and women – despots of the first order who think nothing about nation building but are puffed up with arrogance and self-aggrandisement.
If we profess love for our country, which is often referred to as ‘Patriotism’, we must jealously guard the founding principles bequeathed us by our patriarchs, the same with which they laid the foundations of this republic – and if need be, we must be prepared to die for these principles. True independence is a hard fought battle – independence is not served on a silver platter; it is earned by a people with a fighting spirit, a people ready to become martyrs if only to safeguard posterity and the future of their children!
This nation has for a very long time been deeply divided – the healing process will be gradual, just as the systemic oppression has been. We were divided into pockets of tribes; and through an inherent desire to belong; to have an identity, we clasped on to these tribal fixations to the extent of subverting our new found republicanism with monarchical demagoguery. And every time real politics challenges our moral foundation we find refuge in these fixations in our search for answers. We must however, thank God, for He has never forsaken us – He has always provided a guidepost when it was required, and this He will continue doing until we come unto a common understanding of His purpose for mankind.
In Setswana, there is the maxim; ‘Go kgoberega ga metsi ke go itsheka ga one’ meaning that conflicts are not permanent features but passing phenomena in human existence. There is a time for everything and indeed there is nothing new under the sun! The greatest lesson we can ever learn is that the human race must love one another and live together. It does not matter what skin pigmentation you or I bear – we are all human/ homo sapiens; that is why we are able to breed across the colour divide.
Therefore this imagined barrier that separates one against the other on the basis of skin pigmentation is a farce for the worst ignoramus. Likewise, we are none the wiser if we allow material wealth to define our human relationships. We must transcend these worldly possessions because they cannot satiate the hunger that the soul yearns for companionship and fellowship with a kindred spirit.
Therefore, we can only hope that Mma V will find it in her motherly heart to let bygones be bygones, to bury the hatchet with her nemesis, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and let sleeping dogs lie in the best interest of the country at this critical juncture. She has it within her power to end this fight. It’s really flabbergasting and incomprehensible that delegates can attend a regional congress; make nominations for presidential candidates and later claim they did not know about the election that followed and in which they were active participants.
This is a classical joke. It gets out of hand when tribal elders then call a political meeting outside the sanction of their party to try and undo the electoral process of a political party. In one word, such meeting is tribal and has nothing whatsoever with political affiliation.
In any case when a ward, cell or branch of a party feels aggrieved it does not seek recourse from the village elders, but instead uses the laid down party structures to resolve the differences. What we witnessed this past weekend was the worst form of tribal politics; a last ditch effort by a vanquished faction that risks becoming irrelevant, to seek public sympathy. Mma V; Ian Khama, Moyo Guma and all the other BaNgwato tribesmen must pick up the pieces and throw their weight behind the leader of the BDP and the nation for both their own good and the good of the country at large.
On public displays of affection and kissing babies
I was listening to Kim’s show on DumaFM a few weeks ago when she was discussing public displays of affection, commonly referred to as PDA.
I found her views and those of her guest and listeners quite interesting. It is one of those topics that people won’t always agree on. In traditional Botswana, public displays of affection such as kissing and hugging are not common. A handshake or slight touch is as far as it goes. Although things are changing in modern times, Batswana are still not the most affectionate or romantic people, and often refer to certain practices, public affection included as “dilo tsa makgoa.”
I personally don’t mind occasional affection but I am not the ‘touchy huggy’ type. I’m conscious of people getting too close to me because I relish my “space”. I prefer to be affectionate with my loved ones, a few close family and friends. Affection is OK and even research indicates that it is good for one’s mental and psychological well-being. But while a simple hug, pat on the back, slight touch or holding hands is fine; some people take it to different levels and their affection borders on intimacy.
There are people with silly tendencies who seemingly use affection as an opportunity to flirt and entice others sexually. You know those people who are a bit too affectionate, and even if they don’t know someone they’ll be all over them like a rash, motho wa teng a batla go go tlamuka o ipotsa gore o ire jang tota! Motho wa teng o tla bo a susumela, a gagamatsa mmele a nnetse go shenama e ka re o tla re: “A ga re potele ka kwa?”
These random “hugs” are controversial. When the person steps in for a hug, the crotch comes before the body and they hold on tightly, sometimes with their eyes closed and you wonder, is this a hug or foreplay? Hugging or touching people in a civilised manner is fine if they have no problem with it but there are boundaries. This brings me to the point that we have a social habit of picking up, playing with and kissing babies.
There are ways to amuse or play with a child without kissing them. If the child is not yours… e se wa ko ga lona, please, don’t kiss them. No offence but we don’t know where your lips have been. Children have weaker immune systems so a touch of germs and bacteria can spur illness. I recall this one time I was travelling on a bus and one young lady next to me was seated with her daughter, who was probably two-years old or so. The energetic tot kept the passengers amused with her antics and baby talk. She later got restless and started crying.
Her mother struggled to calm her down. Then this one middle-aged man seated on the opposite seat reached out for the child and started hugging her. He then exclaimed: “Suna papa!” and proceeded to put his dark nicotine-stained mouth to the child’s lips!
He lifted the child and made her wiggle before planting yet another wet kiss on her lips and coddling her. I was horrified! All I could see was a paedophile. The mother was also clearly uncomfortable as she grabbed the child from the man. Look, maybe he meant well… or not.
But his behaviour was the modus operandi of a paedophile – he was too affectionate. Kana these people start off kissing people’s children and then next they start touching them inappropriately ba itekanya a mmitsa mosadi wa gagwe. A re, Suna papa…Heedu, tlerere!
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