Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone)

4 October 2006

Botswana: Tribes of Botswana

opinion

For a long time we have been turning a blind eye to an ever-growing problem. To a lot of people this may sound tribalistic but this is an issue of importance which we need to attend to. It's very sad that even after 40 years of independence there are still only eight tribes recognized as the majority.

This is very disturbing in a sense that the government expects us people referred to as the minority to celebrate with open hearts the fortieth anniversary of independence. We all want to be part of the so called Botswana nation with equal recognition, people should understand that even though we are quiet about the issue we still discuss it in our social circles and a lot of us feel that it would have been appropriate to mark such an anniversary recognized equally. Words like 'lekalaka, lesarwa' still exists behind doors of people who claim that they are from the recognized tribes. People in the spot light will tend to disagree with me on this issue because they are not exposed to it. When I started school I could not speak even a single word of Setswana and to my surprise a lot of other kids used to mock me and teachers were my worst enemies because they would beat me for not knowing Setswana and I used to over hear them saying such things as 'Fa ele lekalakanyana le la lapisa motho wa bone o ipotsa gore o goletse kae'. Although one could simply blame the teachers and say whatever they said and did was wrong, people should see this with the much wider view it's the mental set up of our society to address such scenarios with such lame statements. Until and unless the constitution changes these things will never go away. I remember some few years back when we had thought that finally maybe the Balopi Commission would bring down the recognition we all deserve as citizens of this country, but such attempts are seen as threats to the peace we live in Botswana.

Sometimes I feel that such words as peace are used wrongfully looking at our situation with only a few tribes recognized as majority. We are made to feel like second citizens of this country and a lot people from our tribes with influence in our society seem to enjoy this because they are not doing anything about it. I know one day sections 77,78 and 79 of the constitution will change, it might not be during my time but I know our kids will always question such injustices. As for Wayeyi, Basubeya, Bakalaka, Basarwa, Batswapong, Bakgalagadi, Bakhurutshe, Bambukushu, Bangologa, Babirwa, Batlhaping, Bashaga, Baxhosa, Bazulu and Baherero we all need to work closely and push for the recognition we all deserve. We are here to stay in Botswana and we should not be treated like refugees and be named minority. One wonders if there is anything that we should do first or if there is any qualification to be in the top league of the major tribes. Its now a tendency to find a few people (from the so called minority tribes) without a clear stand in life trying to hide their identity claiming to be either bangwato or even bakgatla's of this country. All this is happening because it hurts to be referred to as minor, and to a few of us its insulting. Our tribes won't die away and we will continue to be proud of who we are, just because we are not Tswana speakers does not make us inferior to anybody.

Firstly we need to do away with those sections of the constitution and that's when our languages, norms, culture would be recognized and appreciated. Those people who think that the current situation we find ourselves in is right or should not be changed are tribalists in the making and I would associate them with racists, apartheid, and enslavers. We all have rights to be recognized for who we are.

Thuso Chingua is former Non Alignment Movement (UB politics) Chairman 2003

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