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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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Bureaucracy impedes youth empowerment – Tshekedi

Keikantse Lesemela

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Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Tshekedi Khama said government’s bureaucracy hinders youth participation in economic development.

Speaking during the Youth Awards on Saturday, Khama explained that the society has adopted the word bureaucracy and they live with it. “This word has contradicting terms with the way the youth think, this confirms the space between the youth and how we deliver. The honour is on us to deliver an enabling environment, we talk so much, we have had discussions in pitsos,”

He pointed out that, financial institutions have difficult regulations that hinder youth to access funding for their respective businesses. “When a youth approaches a financial institution, the first question would be where is your pay slip?, secondly, what security do you have? And they will say it’s bank regulations. We live in the bureaucracies of these regulations and it has become our DNA,” said Khama.

Over the years, government has introduced programmes that promote youth entrepreneurship, which include financing, capacity building, market access and marketing an outreach. Currently, the ministry is reviewing the Youth Development Fund to improve training of beneficiaries and encourage consortia and cooperatives.

Recently, when presenting the budget for the Ministry, Khama highlighted that the youth cohort constitutes the majority of the population and this is supposed to present the country with an opportunity to harness the demographic dividend. “Their energy, educational level and technology skills should be exploited to propel our country forward,” he said.

He also indicated that the youth is faced with socio-economic challenges including unemployment, poverty, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS. “Therefore we must intervene to give them the best possible opportunities to achieve their dreams and help our country realize the ideals of vision 2036.”

Meanwhile, government disburses P120 million yearly as funding to youth enterprises and about 919 businesses have been funded in the last financial year. The youth have raised a lot of challenges in doing business, including high rentals for operating space, low market access owing to tight competition and limited production capacities.

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Have a clear succession plan for peaceful transition

Matshediso Fologang

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How have we as a people treated succession? Though in our society succession has always been determined along patriarchal lineage, traditional leadership succession has not always been smooth.

There are known stories where families broke up in a battle for succession. Immediately in my mind comes the last split of the Ba-ga-Malete in 1892. The succession was based on the bravery and not on the strength being the first born child. Throughout Botswana many merafe have a history of succession that didn’t follow the rigidity of patriarchy.

Batswana as a people believe that talk is far better than war. Ntwakgolo ke ya molomo. We are a people who would spend a whole lot of time openly discussing a matter before a decision could be reached. Discussions on any matter put before a gathering of family, clan and morafe was never finalised without thorough discussion. All present regardless of their economic strength participated fully without hindrance. Decisions thereat were reached through consensus. Traditional leaders would skilfully announce the collective decision arrived at.

The good thing about this method of allowing all to participate – Mafoko a kgotla mantle otlhe and the Mmualebe bua gore monalentle a tswe lagwe – was basically premised on the principle of what our current crop of men and women who have read big books would call “participatory democracy.” Democracy therefore has never been an imported phenomenon amongst Batswana. Democracy has always been in our DNA. Regarding succession therefore it has always been based on the consensus of the majority.

The leader though selected among the royal family, his character also played an important role in determining his suitability. As we embraced western type democracy we have in our different political homes defined our succession plans. As a nation we have defined our processes of succession. In the age and era where, unlike in our tradition, we have written these, we do not therefore rely on memories. Our forebears relied on memories and nothing was ever in black and white.

However, our forebears knew succession if not properly handled could bring strife and instability amongst morafe. We were then not part of a collective of nations and therefore what transpired in our little morafe did not necessarily impact our relations with other merafe that much. If not handled well it could create a loophole for other merafe to wage a war against the morafe .

If any such person who had been overlooked for whatever reason felt strongly about such decision, he would either remain part of the morafe as a junior leader or migrate with his supporters. Peace would prevail. Even those who had held fort for their younger siblings would want to hand over a united morafe to his successor.

In modern society, a predecessor takes pride in the performance of his choice of successor. Travelling through history one envies the succession of Kgosi Ketshwerebothata Ikaneng and Mokgosi III and that of Kgosi Mmusi and Linchwe II. Such were Batswana leaders who worked together for the better interest of the merafe they led. What now and whither peace and love for the downtrodden?

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