Greek philosopher Aristotle once asserted that a human being is by nature a political animal and his counterpart Pericles maintained that just because you do not take an interest in politics does not mean politics won’t take an interest in you. Even Plato cautioned that one of the penalties of refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.
Like death we cannot dodge politics because nothing is inseparable from it and all decisions made at whatever level are political. They can try to ban politics in the civil service, military barracks or chieftainship, but like a virus, politics will manifest itself in all forms and reclaim its rightful position.
Local politics seem to be more interesting, especially after this year’s polls. It is only a matter of time that Botswana catch up with more advanced and mature democracies like United States. Multitudes of Batswana are now becoming politically conscious as politics continue to dominate the business of the country. On this note, Batswana deserve a pat on the back because political illiteracy is now the story of the past. Recently we have witnessed another form of politics in language politics.
In the past only academics, language activists and politicians have been at the helm of language politics, but recently members of the public have joined the fray. As it stands, two camps have emerged and clashed over each other in all possible platforms. One camp believes that it is high time that the government changed its position on marginalised minority groups while the other believes that the government must maintain its position and interestingly both the camps have advanced their reasons. We take a look at these two camps.
In the academic arena, Professor Lydia Nyathi Saleshando lead this camp and her efforts are consolidated by Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and minority language activists such as Domboshaba Cultural Trust, Mukani Action Campaign, First People of the Kalahari, Lentswe La Batswapong and Kamanakao Association. All the people who make up this camp share the same sentiments, mission and core objectives.
One of the objectives is language development and the camp wants each of their ethnic languages be introduced in the school curriculum to facilitate the learning process, which, they say, is a determinant of academic achievement. In addition, members of the camp have already published their orthographies and to them the only stumbling block is the government that has refused on several occasions to advance their interests.
The mission of the camp is also cultural development of which they say if nothing is done their culture will die out. Lastly, the camp wants the government to amend all discriminatory laws including section 77 to 79 of the Constitution, the Chieftainship Act, the Tribal Territories Act and derogations in section 15(4) (d) and 15 (9) of the Constitution.
They allege that their cultural rights are being trampled upon and what add insult to injury is that their languages are not allowed in the public domain and mainstream media, hence, if nothing is done, they face extinction. They have even gone to the extent of calling on the government to imitate the Delimitation Commission by not naming land boards and districts along tribal lines. Their efforts to convince the government to establish community-based radio stations have proven futile but the fight is far from over. One of the camp members, Never Tshabang, who lost in the Nkange parliamentary elections, translated his party manifesto into iKalanga.
During the swearing-in of Members of Parliament (MP) Bagatia Arone, who forms part of the camp, deliberately made his speech in his mother tongue, Hambukushu, against the parliamentary Standing Orders, and he was forced to read his speech again in English. Arone is to table a motion in Parliament, requesting government to have news read in the so-called minority languages. The camp wants the government to benchmark in Namibia and South Africa in order to review its language policy.
One camp, as expected, wants the government to maintain its position especially on language policy. Visible on the camp is Professor Thapelo Otlogetswe, who has constantly accused the other camp of being in so much with English and hatred for Setswana. He went on to say though Setswana is spoken by 78 percent of the population as mother tongue albeit with limited usage in public domains is seen by minority language activists as an impediment to the development of minority languages.
Otlogetswe argues that though English is spoken by only two percent of the population as home language, it continues to enjoy more usage than any other language but surprisingly the so called minority language activists do not have the problem with that. English is the country’s official language and is used in almost all government businesses, including Parliament and courts of law. The Queen’s language also dominates the print and electronic media (both private and government owned), secondary schools and universities where it is used as medium of instruction.
Thapelo insists that he fails to understand this fixation and bitterness towards the Setswana language. At times, Otlogetswe and Saleshando have squared off in their academic articles. The government of the day is also the member of this camp. It has on number of occasions insisted that all languages in the country remain equal but due to financial constraints the government cannot afford to develop all the languages. In addition, the government fears that usage of all languages in the public domain might spark tribalism and threaten nation-building.
On incorporation of all 26 minority languages into the school curriculum, the government has argued that that is practically impossible because unlike in South Africa, Botswana ethnic groups are scattered all over, making it impossible for implementation. Other members of this camp have contended that the other camp envy the development of Setswana more so that it was recently recognised by the African Union (AU) as language that can be used for regional integration.
Some have submitted that perhaps the other camp do not perceive English as a threat to their languages simply because it is an European language as such it has been detribalised. They conclude that to be part of the global village, one has to learn more international languages and in this era there is no use of mastering indigenous languages other than for the sake of preservation.
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.