White House Speechwriters descend on Gaborone

SHARE   |   Thursday, 01 August 2019   |   By Ricardo Kanono
Tutwane Tutwane

Concerned about the growing plagiarization of speeches of American leaders by African leaders, University of Botswana (UB) academic Dr Letshwiti Tutwane, through his company Optimum Answers, has organised speechwriter training to address the problem professionally. The first ever speechwriter training, scheduled for September in Gaborone, targets corporate executives, corporate and government communication personnel, government executives, politicians, private secretaries.

"It is hoped that by bringing such training to Africa and to Botswana in particular, we can improve our bureaucratic set-up and inject a modicum of both efficiency and effectiveness," said Tutwane.


For many years African leaders have been exposed for plagiarising speeches from elsewhere, particularly from American presidents. The problem has been recurring recently with the inauguration of President Buhari in Nigeria in 2015 and President Nana Akufo-Addoin Ghana in January 2017. Closer home the latest revelation has been that a senior executive at UB had reproduced and presented as his, a speech from the University of Limerick (UL) in Ireland. President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi, was also recently exposed after reading a speech plagiarised from that of US president when addressing a Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) congress in Kang. "Clearly this problem was not going away and it needed to be addressed," said Tutwane.

Tutwane says the idea was born when he arrived in America in September 2016 as a Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence at Illinois Central College where he underwent training with the Professional Speechwriters Association (PSA) and attended a good number of their events throughout America. "I immediately joined the PSA and developed a good rapport with them. The idea of speech training in Africa was born this way. I began to learn the American speechwriting system which helped me to identify serious weaknesses in our speechwriting system in Africa. One main weakness was that we do this on an ad-hoc basis and do not have any bureaucratic set-up specifically designed for such, i.e. a Speechwriting office. Contrast this with the Americans who have a chain of command in the speechwriting office, ranging from speechwriters, to senior speechwriters to chief speechwriters, to the Director of Speechwriting. This allows for smooth planning and eases tension and pressure of work that is normal in busy government offices such as parliament, ministries and Office of the President".


The speakers are former presidential speechwriters from the White House, Eric Schnure and Robert Lerhman (Bob) who are both professors of communication at American University in Washington DC. Accompanying them is another high profile speechwriter David Murray, Executive Director of the Professional Speech writers Association in the US. The training is done in conjunction with the PSA, who will award the certificates of attendance and bring the branded merchandise.


At the event the Africa affiliate of the PSA will be formed, Tutwane said.

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