No harm in local languages, just fear

The National Assembly has rejected a motion by Member of Parliament for Selebi Phikwe West, Gilson Saleshando, calling for the introduction of news bulletins in more indigenous languages on state-owned media.

That is, news in languages such as Kalanga, Sesubiya, Shekgalagari, and others.

The arguments raised by opponents to this motion were that the move has the potential to divide the nation along tribal lines and cultivate tribalism.

We all appreciate the horrors tribalism has wrought in many countries, especially in Africa, a developing continent already facing many challenges.

Saleshando’s motion comes at a time when his party, the Botswana Congress Party, is lobbying government to introduce mother-tongue language as a medium of teaching in primary schools, an idea that has also been met with stiff resistance from those in power.

The “will-cause-tribalist-divisions” argument was also raised when some advocates asked government to open the airwaves for community radio stations to operate.

The fears of tribalism are being blown out of proportion.   Those in power need to understand the essence of Saleshando’s motion, adopt it and implement it in phases. We, in fact, believe that news read in other languages would unite this nation rather than divide it. For instance, many people across the country want to understand other languages referred to as minority or non-Setswana.  Batswana are a united nation as witnessed in inter-tribal marriages, sharing of natural resources, and land allocation policy/law that disregards one’s tribal origins. The same can be said about our political parties, as none of them can be said to belong to a certain tribe.

Actually, across the ages, the denial of expression in one’s mother tongue has fomented deep divisions in society, resulting in unrest, hostilities and the reversal of nation-building. In fact, the denial of self-expression in one’s mother tongue was a key weapon for colonialists seeking to mentally subjugate Africans during the so-called Struggle for Africa.

Freedom of expression is associated with the inalienable right to hear national news and issues on a taxpayer funded radio station in your mother-tongue.

It is high time we stop hiding behind a finger and accept that we are one nation built out of several tribal groupings that have managed to co-exist peacefully for decades before and post independence. 

Tribalism rejoices when a 48-year-old nation still thinks that recognising the existence of a “different” person next door will destroy its self-worth. To those in power, please give us news in other local languages to foster national inclusion and eliminate this fear of the unknown!

                                                            Today’s thought

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”


                                                           – Nelson Mandela

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