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Decoding just about everything

SANDY GRANT
A few months back we gathered that the designers of the coat of arms had given us a Zulu rather than Tswana shield.

Now Donald Molosi has told us in ‘Decoding the Botswana Flag’ (The Telegraph 25 March) what we did not know about it, an achievement in itself because during the best part of fifty years, nothing of importance would seem to have been left out.

But not so. How could it have happened, given our addiction to international categorization, that not one of our many BDP governments got around to telling us that this is the only country in the world whose national flag symbolizes racial harmony?

Now that really is something worth crowing about! . Seretse, according to Molosi, wanted something different from the Pan African red, yellow and green and with the blue, black and white, he got it. 

I am puzzled though to understand why Molosi feels that the flag should have a name. The flags of some countries have specific names; most do not. Nor was I very clear as to why the Zebra was chosen to be the national animal.

Yes, its black and white coat matches neatly with the colours of the flag but that would mean that the coat of arms came first and the flag second.  But, yes, the zebra is a neutral animal being a totem of none of the varied peoples of this country. 

And yes, again, it would not have been too clever to have chosen the crocodile, vervet monkey or steenbuck! On the other hand, there are any number of neutral animals which could have been strong candidates for selection. What would have been wrong with the eland? Or even the baboon!  Or perhaps a bird although birds, for some reason, only rarely feature on national coats of arms – apart from the ubiquitous eagle, of course,  Mr Molosi has had a hard look at the relevant file so hopefully he will tell us more. We need to know.

Mr Molosi, as we know, is using his own key to try and unlock the door which will help to explain what it is that, in the past, has made Botswana different – which, of late, has become in its own way, a quest for the Grail. Recently Professor John H. Stanfield II in Mmegi. (20 March), told us in a single sentence of extraordinary length how he has also reached for that elusive object.

The sheer combination of his words and ideas is extraordinarily compelling and attractive but

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does hang on the notion that the global awareness displayed by the three famous dikgosi stemmed from earlier, historical origins. Personally, I cannot believe – but hope to debate – that the tribal/national Tswana leaders in the 1850-1950 period were more or less globally conscious, brighter and had more savvy than any other leaders in Southern Africa. What they did have was a degree of luck which was denied to others. Read Shillington’s chilling account of the Langeberg uprising and the tragic fate of the remarkable Luka Jantkie who displayed all the well-recognised qualities of the Tswana Dikgosi.

 In their case, such qualities helped them to survive. In Jantkie’s case, they made not the slightest difference. He was inevitably doomed.

Had the spin of the historical coin gone the other way, we might now be honouring Jantjkie, instead of wondering today, who he might have been?  Professor Stanfield, incidentally, suggests that this country’s historical experience is matched only by Thailand. Can this be correct? What happened with Lesotho, maybe Swaziland and possibly Zambia?

Those two comments, of Messrs Molosi and Stanfield, do lead us naturally to the recent doings at the National Assembly which is, of course, the pinnacle of our democratic state. Perhaps it is a result of dull reporting but looking back over the last 49 years the Assembly does seem to have been surprisingly short on drama, personality, humour, and incident. 

All those ingredients may have been there but little has emerged to suggest that this has been other than a fairly dull institution. But now all is changed. All of a sudden we have MPs who want to die before a bill is approved, or was it rejected?

 Others who have smashed their specs in fury, a female Minister who has cried at being put down by the Assistant Speaker, and another who said that she would come naked into the Assembly if her views on the Bill in question were not accepted.  And all this over the number of members a church should possess in order to be registered. Extraordinary. But what a very strange institution this can be. Take a really important issue such as the Intelligence and Security Bill in 2007 and not a single member cried, smashed specs, offered to die or to prance around naked. In fact, not one had even a word to say.



Etcetera II

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