I recently had an interesting discussion with a few acquitances about whether denying our children a taste of traditional Setswana life is unfair.
I argued that some of us are products of urban migration and so are “victims” of circumstances beyond our control. I have often been referred to as a ‘coconut’ but I think it is mere perception. Most of us millennials are urbane.
Many people argue that being detached from rural life – cattle posts, lands and so forth – signifies us being “lost.” I find the assumption that being ‘black enough’ should be identified with an understanding and experience of rural life quite archaic. I think it does if you were ever exposed to that life. I cannot yearn for something I never experienced. I have always been a town girl, raised in the “hood” and I’m proud of it.
Growing up as a little girl, I disliked the village. I still do. I recall as a little girl during school holidays, my mother would tell me that we were visiting my grandmother for the day. But in the evening she would disappear on me and I sulked until I went to bed. There was no electricity and television.
We had few “luxuries” such as a standpipe in the yard and a telephone line. We listened to an Omega 3 radio. The nights were always dark and long. My grandmother had lived alone since my grandfather died and she was comfortable with her life.
The poor old woman tried to make me enjoy my stay but I just did not like the damn place. I preferred it when she visited us in town, and many years later, I was happy when she moved in with us because I could not stand the village.
It wasn’t necessarily the slow place and the environment that I disliked but also the duties. In town, we had a helper and there was convenience. In the village, there was a lot of work to do and some of the tasks were no walk in the park. Firstly, I was expected to bring water into the house from the standpipe daily. I would wobble and shake that by the time I got to the house, the bucket was half empty. The other task was feeding the chickens, which was easier.
The nightmare was collecting the eggs. On some days it was simple. But on other days, like on this one particular occasion when I had a stroke of bad luck, there was nothing to smile about. My grandmother told me to collect eggs from the chicken coop. I saw two hens and chicks idling about. I tip-toed towards the coop and there were four eggs.
Little did I know that there was a hen near the outside toilet adjacent to the coop. As soon as I stretched out my hand to take the first egg, I had a loud cuckling. I looked up and there was a hen charging at me. I turned on my heels but it chased me down the stoned pathway to the house.
I was a chubby child and could not outrun the chicken. By the time I wobbled into the kitchen, it had given me four sharp pecks. On another occasion, cows entered the yard. My grandmother asked me to chase them out. I was scared of them (I still am) so I stood at the front stoep, picked up stones and threw them towards the cows shouting: “Shoo cow, shoo!” They did not budge. My grandmother stormed out of the house and berated me: ‘Wa re shoo, gatwe tlhaa!’
Rre Masire, your BDP has gone to the dogs!
Dear Sir Ketumile Joni Masire
Greetings to you Quett. It’s been a long time since you and I last confabulated. I remember the last time we did was when we were at Alec Campbell’s residence in the Lion Park enclave, where you gave me invaluable insights into the life of this larger than life historian.
I still remember how you made fun of me for being too slow and shallow in my comprehension of the Setswana idioms you threw into our verbal intercourse. How I miss you now that I am thinking of that day! But I find solace in knowing that all is well with you up there with the heavenly angels. And oh, I must share that I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with your ever so jolly brothers, Basimanyana and Bontlogile on the backdrop of your grand relocation. Everything about them reminded me of you, and I must say there is a lot I also learnt about you from them – even the fascination of knowing for the first time that they each use Joni as their middle name – just like you.
Anyway, I just thought you would appreciate an update of what has been happening here since you left us, and I regret to tell you that what I will share is not anything pleasant. Sir, your country has gone to the dogs; and so has your dear party, the BDP. The peace-loving nation you oversaw is crumbling under the weight of fanaticism, tribalism and factionalism. There is no longer any peace and neither is there Democracy in the form that you envisaged.
I am not sure if this is true but on the whole, popular opinion suggests that all this evolving mess in the country is a result of Ian; that son of Sir Seretse Khama whom people feel he has not yet accepted that he is no longer President of Botswana.
In case they never told you, he did move out of State House in March this year when his presidential term elapsed. But it is a general feeling of the citizens that he has in truth not relinquished power in the quiet and smooth manner you and your successor Festus Mogae did when your time to retire had arrived. Remember Setlhomo’s son Mokgweetsi? That younger brother to Tshelang who was Ian’s deputy at the time of your relocation to Heaven? He is the one who in the peaceful tradition of your party and country’s constitution eventually took over as President of Botswana, but I tell you, he has never known peace as Head of State the way you let Mogae be, and also the way Mogae let Ian himself be.
It is different now. Ian does not seem to want to retire quietly as did yourself and Rre Mogae. He still remains as politically active as he was and recently he even said ene he has never resigned as BDP President.
As I speak, there is a court case by some bitter loser in the Bulela Ditswe elections in Lobatse, who is in cahoots with Ian, challenging the legitimacy of Masisi’s position as BDP President.
According to court papers, Ian is a witness intended to attest that indeed Masisi is not the legitimate president of the BDP. You can see how ugly the situation has become, and your people are on the edge.
In fact, in the recent past, Masisi was compelled to suspend from the BDP, some small boy reported to have been bosom buddies with Ian at the army barracks – I am not sure if you ever knew him, gatwe keene Mabaila – because he allegedly acted on instruction from Ian, to incite both BDP and UDC MPs to table a motion of no confidence against Masisi.
This motion was eventually tabled by Opposition Leader Duma although the motion would end up unsuccessful. While it was difficult for many of your people to believe that Ian could have played a part in that motion, they were irked by the bromance between the opposition leader and Ian when further reports revealed the two were meeting regularly and that Ian even sponsored some BNF congress to the tune of P2 million. Ian even went public to declare his admiration for Boko.
This I tell you has divided your party and the opposition guys are revelling in this slow death of the BDP you so painstakingly built. It is amazing how everything seems to point to Ian in this mess – the son of the man with whom you built the party. There are just too many stories that revolve around him seeking to have a say in what Masisi does and Masisi on the other hand wanting to prove he is a man with a mind of his own.
Kana e bile wena Rra Gaone, this feud has even reached bo CNN, Fox, BBC le bo France24. International media has even poured scorn on that ‘shining example of democracy’ label, with one South African media outlet even remarking that Ian and Masisi’s reported tiff is proof that African leaders are all the same – that they are all selfish people who always put themselves first and want to cling on to power. Actually it is so bad that we now have a divided nation where some feel that Ian is being unfairly treated while others want him to let Masisi take charge of the country’s affairs without interference.
Those who back Ian argue that it was unfair for Masisi to sack that DIS guy Isaac, from the spy agency, saying Masisi only did it because Ian is a close ally ofthe spy guy. After firing Isaac as the spy agency boss, Ian then demanded that Isaac be employed back into the civil service as his Private Secretary. Masisi refused, almost saying Ian can go hang! Ian also wanted to fly the aeroplane meant for use by the State President, and again Masisi refused, saying he should use one of the three official vehicles given to him by state.
Seretse’s son has not taken this kindly. Akere he is not used to being told No? So it was a bitter pill for him to swallow that his wishes were disregarded by a man he supported to be the next President after him. It would seem Ian does not like traveling on our roads, he just wants to fly; to the extent that he is reported to have placed an order for his own aeroplane. So Ian’s supporters say Masisi should accede to the demands of the former president, while others ask why it is so important to Ian that the spy guy continues to be on government payroll. They also wonder what it is that’s so important about Isaac to even make Ian this angry when Masisi refuses to hire him.
It is as if removing Isaac from government affairs will cripple Ian, which makes people wonder what it is the two are doing together that should allow them to be working together on the peripheries of government using state resources. So the nation is divided Rra Gaone. You can see le wena gore this does not come any close to the democratic ideals you preached on smooth transition. While you left the presidency and quickly slipped into the background, just as did Festus after you, Ian has held on, and refuses to be forgotten. And I wonder, since you have worked closely with his father, would you say this is what Seretse would have wanted?
Kana this ugly tiff has put the nation on the edge. Akere you know gore gape Ian is a Kgosikgolo? He has now taken to using the bogosi hat when it suits him, to go around the country addressing his subjects on a plethora of issues, some of which are literally political. I mean, not long after he had retired, he went to Shaw Kgathi’s constituency where he literally decampaigned him and instead endorsed some overzealous chap named Kgoboko.
He practically implored the constituents to disregard Shaw whom he labelled many unpleasant things, saying the people should go for the Kgoboko guy who eventually won in a re-run of the party’s BulelaDitswe elections. This has not only upset Shaw, a number of your party’s people were also not impressed, saying Ian wants to rule from the grave by putting into parliament people who will feel indebted to him and therefore would give him everything he wants.
Of course there are those Khama fanatics who enjoyed every moment of Kgathi’s humiliation. I hear the bone of contention, between Ian and Kgathi, is that the latter openly pledged his allegiance to Masisi when Ian had sought his support on matters of security, where Kgathi is minister; and that Shaw supported the move to remove spy man Isaac from his position as Director of DIS.
I hear this stance
This festive period often comes with poor service
Power has always been associated with leadership. In the traditional Setswana setup, royalty wielded a lot of power within the society.
It is quite interesting that despite the powerful nature of master-servant relationship that defined interactions between the magosi and their people, there was never a time when respect for leadership was forcefully demanded. The general understanding was that “kgosi ke kgosi ka batho” meaning that kgosi derives his role from the will of the people he led. This was despite the fact that succession in bogosi was hereditary.
Batswana in their nature were respecting and always worked together for the common good of the society. The general understanding amongst Batswana was that whatever was done for the common good of the community had to be done diligently and jointly. It was expected of every citizen to be part of any work/duty/activity done for either the kgosi or morafe. It was always done through the spirit of volunteerism. If any payment was ever made it could have been in the form of provision for feeding those willingly engaged in such duty.
There was never a time a kgosi would mete out punishment to those who were truant. Society had in-built mechanisms of control. These were times when traditional mephato were used to promote discipline and unity among age mates, who would bring into line their peers who were seen to be wayward. As each mophato had a leader before the matter could be taken to bogosi, such regimental leader had the obligation to bring order amongst his mophato.
This system was beneficial in that all public works were run through this system. Each man and woman knew he/she had to participate in the tribal duties and activities. The kgosi or kgosana rarely imposed orders. This was generally an oiled machine, which carried out the development works within the community. It should however never be assumed that there were no dissidents. Such deviant behavior was minimized by the mophato system, which we do not see in this modernized and money economy that we live in.
Unfortunately in the modern Botswana we have moved on. We no longer live a communal life like our forefathers. We have a well established civil service that is governed by modern rule, laws of employment and conditions of service. These instruments define rules of engagement. We are a people with workers’ rights which are also human rights. Unlike in our traditional setup where labour was provided for no reward, our civil servants are paid for the service they provide. I have no problem with these relations. It is a worldwide practice.
However in this modern society I have heard and experienced the wrath of bad service. I wonder if the public service as it is lately is conscious of the society’s expectations. On a number of occasions those that are supposed to be served are not receiving such. As we prepare for the festive or any holiday, these servants become more of masters than servants. Lately I have heard that even the management cadre of government departments has adopted an attitude whereby they wouldn’t care fokol.
The mood in government offices and other public enterprises during this festive period is that of impatience on customers. Yet conditions of service do not change with seasons. The public expects the same kind of service as has been offered throughout the year. We should have love for our work so that we serve people with love, no matter what time of the year!
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