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How I miss the social harmony of the past!

Matshediso Fologang

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I am sitting here and reminiscing about my youth. In my deep thoughts I just wonder if my children and those of their generation would ever understand how beautiful it was then. The society that brought me and my contemporaries was just wonderful. We were raised in the kibbutz, a society that lived collectively and shared everything including space. We were truly raised by the village.

We shared all and sundry.
We were what the people who have read the big books called a classless society. We had, within our villages and clans, people who were rich by all standards. We also had people who in today’s standards were poor and destitute. Yet the village that brought us up had social safety net and programmes that made it impossible for strangers to discern the rich from the poor. We had all that made us better than our children and the age mates.

Our society shared the happiness and sadness and joy and sorrow. We had a society constructed to provide for one another. A better endowed family openly shared with the family that was not. We never had the haves and the have-nots within our societal structures. Yes I know people might think this is an exaggeration of the past life. We were one big family. We had the grandparents, uncles, aunts and other communal siblings. We were never able to distinguish between our cousins (born of our paternal uncles and maternal aunts) and own siblings. We knew our cousins to be those born of our aunts (bo-rakgadi). We were brought up together. This meant we lived happily together.

We used to sit around the fireplace to listen to fairy tales and other stories about our past heroes and heroines, as related by our grandparents. We would never starve and the elderly would make sure all were fed from the same source. There was communal cooking. We shared and ate from one bowl (mogopo) and were had no modern fears of infecting one another. We had less sickness than we experience now. As growing up children, we slept together on traditional mats.

This type of communal upbringing made us grow to know that we are one family. This brought to the fore the spirit and culture of togetherness. We as people were there to know that “an injury to one is an injury to all.” We grew very closer to each. We were a selfless people. Our modern society is devoid of such social harmony. We have supposedly moved on and have made it in our individuality. Our children have no connection with our past. They don’t share plates like we used to. Our society has abandoned our letsema and other communal chores of sharing practices.

We have our distinctively rich relatives whose children don’t understand why Daddy should sit with strangers from within our villages. Our lifestyle has been modernized. We no longer share rooms, let alone beds. The spirit of brotherhood and love for one another is foreign to all of us. We have left our good old days behind…

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Now BPF calls Khama His Majesty!

Ernest Moloi

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My good friend Biggie Butale has upped the ante in the hazy maze of traditional leadership and politics.

I hear that he is now addressing the Patron of his party – Botswana Patriotic Front – Lt. Gen. Dr. Ian Khama Seretse Khama, as “His Majesty.” Nothing wrong with this if it’s meant as mere reverence for the traditional position that Khama holds as Chief of Bangwato. However, I sense a completely different motive! Biggie is appealing to the gullibility and sensibility of the hoi polloi; he knows that village folks revere traiditional leadership and trust it with their lives. It is much easier to sell Khama as a ‘King’ or ‘Emperor’ if you will than to introduce him as ‘Patron’ of BPF. Most ordinary folk would be confused – it’s best to appeal to their tribal sentiments.

In many parts of Central District Khama is loved as Kgosi, former Army Commander; former President and son of Foundiing President. These titles are etched in the minds of many. But as for Patron of a new party – a party that broke away from his father’s Botswan Democratic Party, that is unheard of; it is sacrilege! But being a smart man, Biggie is quite aware of all these hence his uncanny approach, if some would consider it so.

He must manage the delicate balance of pleasing the masses of the people and maintaining the enigmatic character of his Master! I tell you this requires special, in fact rare skills! But somehow, Biggie’s approach is also fitting like a glove to the hand, in the subtle narrative, that has long held Ian Khama as Paramount Chief of Botswana. Some people have told me that they always suspected that our founding president (MHSRIP) could’ve unknowingly encouraged this narrative when he installed Ian Khama as Kgosi of Bangwato on 8th May 1979 in Serowe, the capital of GammaNgwato! Unlike other Tswana magosi, Khama was draped with a lion’s skin and not the leopard skin as is customary. Magosi in Botswana are revered as ‘Maapara Nkwe’ but in many respects, Ian’s coronation was a departure from this norm.

Further, he was installed Kgosi whist still serving in the army and so on that day, he wore his military uniform! Although in his speech Sir Seretse Khama counselled his son with so much wisdom, telling him without mincing any words that in Botswana there is NO Paramount Chief; that he is Kgosi of BaNgwato only – it will appear that time has completely washed away that counsel. Otherwise how do you explain Ian Khama’s insistence to hold on to both traditional and political leadership roles? As President he derived so much pleasure in reminding some of his subjects in his Cabinet that he was their Chief.

And to this day, although immersed in the murky ‘dirty’ partisan politics he continues to remind everyone that cares to listen that he is Kgosikgolo! And this nomenclature is also problematic, as his father had indicated back then, because it implies supremacy over other tribes. A kgosikgolo is in the true sense of the word, an emperor, one who lords over the whole nation. But problem with Botswana is that we are not homogenous but groups of diverse cultures and languages! Each and every tribe as Sir Seretse Khama counselled, has its own Kgosi! That is why to this day we have Ntlo Ya DiKgosi as an advisory body to the Legislature.

But of-course we understand that Magosi have cried foul that politicians have usurped their powers, but that is a debate for another day – and anyway as a collective in that august house, Magosi have the perfect opportunity to bargain for better conditions of service just like all other public servants! I say this because Kgosi is a Kgosi because of the people he leads (Kgosi ke kgosi ka batho)!
So, we must understand BPF’s interim president Biggie’s newfound title for Kgosi Khama in this light. This thinking was further reinforced in my mind on that day in 2008 when Khama installed Kgafela II as Kgosi of BaKgatla. In his speech I remember him telling Kgafela that as ‘Kgosi of Bangwato ke go roma mo morafeng yo’ – I was stunned that one Kgosi was sending another into another’s tribe.

The question that remained unanswered in my mind then was, to do whose bidding? But there was a twist at that ceremony which was characterised by pomp and pageantry. Kgafela sat regally on his throne as Khama draped him with the leopard’s skin, yet a closer observation would have revealed that he used the lion’s skin as his footstool! When we remember that it was during Khama’s presidency that Kgafela was ‘derecognised’, imprisoned and ultimately fled into exile just because he had dared challenge the Constitutuion of the country – we can now see clearly why Khama wants to remain both Kgosi and politician.

But we don’t know what will become of President Masisi’s overtures – as he has promised to do everything in his means to return Kgafela to Botswana. As for me, I have my doubts that it is meant in good faith, but that it is a ploy to use BaKgatla Kgosi to lure votes for his younger brother, Mmusi, who is a parliamentary candidate for BDP! Whatever happens surely this year promises to be the best, as Khama has told us!

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Of Bundle of Joy and Sisiboy’s broken bromance

Keletso Thobega

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I studied European history in secondary school and Hitler was my favourite subject. I especially enjoyed learning about the Policy of Appeasement.

I recall that one of the textbooks we used had a cartoon that depicted Stalin and Hitler seemingly chatting to each other in a friendly embrace. However, both of them were holding shotguns at the back. This cartoon summed up my views on politics and life in general – never let your guard down because there are no permanent friends in life and politics. Those who have read influential books such as Art of War and The 48 Laws of Power would know that most scholars of philosophy attest that as much as it is good to live at peace with your fellow human beings it is also equally good to be “aware” because it is better to be safe than sorry. Let’s just say that dynamics of human relations can be complex.

This thought came to mind when a picture of our current and former Presidents looking cosy recently surfaced on social media and set tongues wagging. It is a beautiful picture of happy people but it is also loaded when you consider that the two apparently don’t get along. Some people claimed that they are fooling us and actually best friends. So, should they size each other up, hump chests and avoid greeting and touching each other prove that they don’t see eye to eye? And then what?

We all have people we have had fall-outs with or don’t see eye to eye with. But as an adult, you learn to “contain” issues. Ee, botshelo ga bo ratanelwe. Go na le batho ba ba sa re emang sentle. Mme ga o ka ke wa raya motho o re ‘ngaka ya me ya re wa ntowa’ kana ‘ke a itse gore o ne o reng, o dira eng’ jalo jalo. O dididmala fela. Le fa motho a kile a go direla bosula, o mo golola mo moweng, fa o mmona o a ikoba, ga o simolole o sinalla e ka re o hupile santlhoko!

Disagreeing with someone, not sharing their ideology or having a fall-out does not mean that you hate them and you should take the matter publicly even on platforms where it is not necessary to parade your “issues.”

Mind you, despite the said betrayal and deception that prevailed between the two, once upon a time they were in a strong bromance. They worked and spent a lot of time together. As to who is the right or wrong between is a topic you can discuss with your friends over beers or wine.

Despite the highly documented hostility between the two, it would be diabolic and psychotic to expect them to always be at each other’s throats at every turn to the extent of snubbing each other publicly.

Pardon my analogy, but it is like expecting ex-lovers to hate each other because they are not together anymore or former friends to not speak to each because the relationship ended. Relationships start and deteriorate daily; it is no train smash – it is part of life. But civilised people know that you don’t suddenly refuse to speak to the next person; sometimes you just pretend, o ichinamisanyana hela.

At the end of the day you have history with that person and were at some point close to them. Tota motho fa o kile wa tshela le ene ga gona gore o ka mo itebatsa kana wa mo itatola, le fa lo sa tlhole le utlwana. Sisiboy and Ruta’s bundle of joy probably missed each other. They are human after all!

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