Mmegi Online :: Minority tribes lambast parliament, President Khama
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Last Updated
Tuesday 24 October 2017, 06:00 am.
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Minority tribes lambast parliament, President Khama

FRANCISTOWN: Four cultural organisations advocating for the teaching of 'minority' languages such as, Sekalaka, Sekgalagadi and Setswapong, have expressed disappointment at the rejection of a motion by parliament recently, which sought the introduction of mother tongue teaching.
By Edward Mpoloka
Correspondent
(GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Minority tribes lambast parliament, President Khama








The organisations have also expressed dismay at President Ian Khama's statement at a Kgotla meeting in Masunga that his government would not introduce mother tongue teaching.The President was answering a question from a member of the public who had wanted to know when the area language, Sekalaka, would be re-introduced in the education system. Afrikaans, Seyeyi and Sekalaka were taught before independence only to be discontinued after independence with only Setswana and English remaining in the public domain as official languages. 

Government argued even then that teaching the other languages was not only a needless financial burden to the fledgling economy but was inimical to national unity.Ironically the most zealous defenders of the status quo were members of Parliament from Tswapong and Bokalaka tribal communities.In a press release, the publicity and information secretary of the Domboshaba Cultural Trust  (DCT) Kangagwani Phatshwane, notes that, "The recent vote by Parliament, an institution at which we have representatives who ought to express our will is a monumental loss of opportunity to stop discrimination on the basis of language. 

"The decision by parliament entrenches discrimination and is at odds with the wishes of Bakalanga."
The DCT spokesperson feels that the denial of other tribes to be taught in their languages amounts to discrimination and abuse of children's rights of the kind that is morally indefensible and inhuman.Phatshwane concludes thus, "The use or denial of the use of a language, a God-given right and collective resource ought not to be left  for the partisan wishes of a few but determined by the collective wish of the communities that own the language."

The Secretary General of the Society for the Promotion of Ikalanga Language (SPIL), Professor Richard Tabulawa says that although disappointed, his organisation was not surprised that the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) dominated parliament rejected the motion."Paradoxically, the President's views are anti his principle of Dignity.  We all derive our dignity from our cultures.  When you deprive a human being of his culture you kill his soul. "What we are witnessing in Botswana is cultural genocide of unimaginable proportions in a country that prides itself on its democratic credentials," declares Professor Tabulawa on the President's reaction to the question at Masunga.

On the way forward for SPIL on mother-tongue teaching, the organisation's mouth piece says that while remaining non-partisan by not aligning itself with any particular political party, his group sees the  need to hold representatives at various levels more accountable than ever before."To the best knowledge of SPIL, MPs from the so-called minority groups never consulted with the constituencies on the motion and yet they could stand on the

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floor of parliament to shoot down a motion that their constituents would have advised them to support."In SPILS views this is condescending and irresponsible. Such MPs irrespective of their political party deserve punishment, "says the SPIL press statement without elaborating on the nature of the envisaged punishment.

Boasting that SPIL, together with the DCT pioneered the correct fervour of cultural festivals, which, according to him have resulted in the annual President's Day competitions, Professor Tabulawa reveals that the rejection of the motion would not dampen SPIL's resolve but make the organisation stronger."To us, it is Aluta Continua, "he declares.For his part, Poloko Monang, the Acting Chairman of Chelwa ya Shekgalagari says that, "We find President Khama's response and the rejection of the motion on mother tongue language education policy by the National Assembly as a verification that our government leads the promotion of tribal discrimination and has a deliberate non-Tswana language cleansing."

Chelwa ya Shekgalagari says that the Bakgalagadi tribe are victims of a mono-linguistic society particularly in the education policy."Our children are mocked in Tswana strict class environment just because Setswana is not their mother tongue," reveals Monang in a written statement.He also claims that "Our language and culture is at the edge of extinction and we are surely not happy at all about the biased history against non-Tswana tribes. Monang lambasts government for investing money in the teaching of 'European languages' at the expense of indigenous ones. Says Monang on the way forward, "The National Assembly joined the Head of State in denying people the right to use their mother tongue which is a violation of human rights and our government is leaving us with no option but to use other means of fighting for our rights," he writes without hinting on the 'means' beyond saying "It is time to take the government head on..."

Speaking in an interview, the Chairman of Lentswe La Batswapong, Shimane Namane, who is "utterly disappointed by both parliament and the President, says that if his organisation had the resources, it would take government to court.  "What we find most distressing as Batswapong is the fact that people like Shaw Kgathi, who represent minority tribes in parliament were at the forefront of the effort to frustrate the motion," states Namane.This he says is more painful given the fact that, the MPs never consulted their people.Namane is worried that instead of facilitating dialogue around the issue, our political leaders, perhaps out of cowardice, want to treat the issue of tribal rights like a taboo topic. Efforts to get Kamanakao's comments have proved futile.

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