The National Vision 2016 Council has put the mother tongue issue on its agenda and intends to facilitate development of an overarching national language policy that would probably see the introduction of teaching in the vernacular in local schools and introduction of community radio stations.
In a mission to ensure that Botswana would be a tolerant nation by the year 2016 (next year), the Council has expressed its wish for the government to embrace other local languages in consonance with the ideals of the European Union (EU).
“Botswana is still to introduce teaching in mother tongue or language in the schools. This continues to be seen as some form of intolerance in certain quarters, especially among the minority groups who feel marginalised by government,” a draft report from the council on the matter has revealed.
The report suggests that the council was mandated in a recent workshop with stakeholders to establish incentives for Batswana to speak at least one other local language over and above their mother tongue and therefore the introduction of teaching in local languages in schools would be a step in that direction.
Another mandate was for the Council to lobby for different Languages to be used in local publications.
“In the same way, there is still no room for ethnic languages in both public and private media and still no community radio stations to promote the different ethnic cultures and languages,” the report further reads in part. The Council comes to a close next year September and by then it hopes to have achieved pillar number six which calls for a moral and tolerant nation.
The general view is that the current regime has been running an exclusive government which discriminates ethnic groups and their languages for close to five decades. The findings were not only made by the Council but another independent body, the Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) which says the unequal treatment of ethnicities is a creature of the country’s constitution.
According to BIDPA, the reforms to section 77, 78 and 79 of the constitution which were done at the begining of the Millenium did not go far enough. Suggestions were raised that Dikgosi from different ethnic groups must enjoy equal status at Ntlo ya Dikgosi and that other languages must be recognised and be introduced in elementary education.
Sections 77, 78 and 79 of the constitution recognised eight tribes as the major tribes and the rest were not given the similar status and were not even represented at Ntlo ya Dikgosi (House of chiefs). The eight tribes included, Bakgatla, Bakwena, Bangwato, Bangwaketse, Balete, Barolong, Bahurutshe and Batawana.This arrangement was perceived as discriminatory and the constitution was amended during president Festus Mogae’s tenure to do away with the discriminative sections.
The population of Botswana is divided into the main ethnic groups of Tswana people (79%), Kalanga people (11%), and Basarwa (or Bushmen) (3%) and the the remaining 7% consist of other ethnic groups including some speaking the Kgalagadi language, and 1% of non-African people.
In its 2014 report tittled, Elections and the Management of Diversity in Botswana, BIDPA revealed that the general view in the country is that the country constitution is very discriminatory and Batswana in general are not happy with it.
Botswana is a constitutional democracy with the constitution having been adapted from great Britain at independence in 1966. The constitution is generally respected and regarded by all citizens as the supreme law of the country and the country continues to use strictly two official languages, Setswana and English.
On a global basis however the country is generally rated highly in terms of tolerance for diversity and acceptance of differences between people, their religion, language, political affiliation and ethnic background but both BIDPA and the Vision 2016 Council agrees that the issue of language remains and perhaps needs to be discussed further for the nation to reach a consensus.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.