Rre Masire’s message to the BDP in the southern region has a raised a sore point in the streets and corridors of our daily lives. It is too good to true. Yet it must be true given that it was presented by statesmen who themselves are responsible adult members and leaders of society who may not be that uncourteous as to peddle falsehoods in the name of the parent and statesman that Rre Masire is. According to media reports of June 18 2015 Rre Masire is attributed to have advised BDP Southern Region to rally behind Rre Masisi for BDP Chairmanship not because of any good quality or merit he ought to have pointed at, but plainly because he is a southerner.
Obviously every citizen reserves the right to hold and express a personal opinion within the Setswana dictum that mmualebe… However, many BDP functionaries are reported to have been vilified by the statements as read by Rre Peter Siele on behalf of the former President, and see in them sentiments divisive and contrary to the spirit of nation building and national unity. Many feel and decry the divisive statement as the surefooted hallmarks of factionalising the party and the nation of Batswana at large. Be that as it may, whether or not the former President said and meant what he is reported to have said, the BDP would have to be a spineless organization without the acumen that has seen this country to be a marvel of nations where peace and tranquillity reign supreme. We can only believe and trust from the hard proof of experience, that the BDP and Batswana are a principled people who would fittingly leave such erstwhile separatist notions to vaporize into the reckless abandon of a mirage without substance.
From the benefit of hindsight however, the Masire statement may not be brushed aside that easily, given that nation building and national unity is something that we may not claim to have successfully given heed towards accomplishing even after 50 years of independence. Many issues, whether by design or accident, especially those anchoring on human identity and dignity, have somehow eluded priority status in our nation building dialogues, policies, and practices. Only a few years ago we had Former President Rre Mogae institute a commission from which we were to amend the constitution to say instead of only “8 tribes” we had upward of 45 ethnic groups in our beloved Botswana! It took more than 40 years to realise that the “8 main tribe” clause in the national constitution was an affront to the principles of nation building and an insult and a marginalisation of those outside the main 8. Yet, during the Balopi Commission, sentiments from many national leaders and the public as well, were brought on record with many insisting that some tribes were minor and therefore subordinate to and subjects of the “8 main tribes”. Quite some travesty of social justice and democracy.
All things being equal, it may also be remembered that factionalism in the BDP found ground, sprouted, and grew during Rre Masire’s term of presidency. Whatever that may portend, the statement as read by Peter Siele as according to the media does have the urgency to ignite a repertoire of experiences some of which with far reaching implications. Particularly when given within the background of the demise of Kgosi Bathoen II and “Holo ya Telona” debacle, the brief history has become a mere current news item. It was then, as if only yesterday, when we saw many dignitaries and ministers leaving the funeral feeding arrangement because if only for their ethnic or regional origins they would have to be fed under “that tree” while others singled out by tribal names were chaperoned to the famous Community Hall. But that is only an aside.
To the point we should note with alarm that the very fact that the thought that there is a possible regional mind-set among our people, even among the revered leaders and founders of this nation ought not to sit well with sacrifices made and ought to have been made towards forging national unity. The ethnic cultural endorsement and the language question being a case in point. The idea of “re Batswana mo Botswana” would seem to make the late Stampore more of a statesman than anyone of us who may be seen or indeed suspected of harbouring notions or even insinuations of ethnic or even regional bias.
The recent elections in Turkey ought not be suggested and embraced as an example we should follow in nation building, - where ethnicities may be galvanised into independent or regional entities and the nation to be run along federated guidelines with a clear sense of proportional representation. Otherwise for Botswana this may suggest that the ethnic realities as loosely captured in the administrative districts could be politically realigned into systematically structured federal units with each taking turns to ascend to the highest office in the land? Yet it sounds quite plausible to me.
Here is a thought that may not be as farfetched. Consider that even after 50 years of independence, no one speaks of westerners or easterners or any of those who prior to the Balopi commission were considered minority tribes as being fair candidates for to ascend to the highest echelons of power. Logic evokes a mathematical concept of balancing the equation.
Otherwise the idea as muted, that there are southerners and northerners in the BDP and apparently in the nation at large, does not only suggest but states categorically that with the cardinal points complete, westerners and easterners too ought to be afforded an equal chance to ascend to the highest offices in the land. Yet another question would be what to do with the diversity of ethnicities within these regions. For example, South of Dibete, we have among others Bakgatla ba Kgafela, and two groups of Bakgatla ba Mmanaana, Basasi, Batlokwa, Balete, Bakwena, Bangwaketse, Several Bakgalagadi groups, Several Basarwa groups, Barolong, Bahurutshe, Basotho, BaXhosa and so on. Jaanong, another practical question is, are these ethnicities, including those of the three other regions, as inspired as to believe and accept that each one of them has an equal chance to represent the rest? Is it a question of representing a region, or even a tribal grouping? What yardstick will be used at equalising the candidature of each region or tribal group in the region? Will it be a regional elective instrument, and perhaps proceeding from the tribal like process? Such is the brief extent to which an ordinary person is moved to application of mind on the statement as read by Rre Peter Siele on behalf of former President Masire. It sounds long winded yet strangely plausible. Mmua lebe.
By M.D. Lecha