A developing dangerous trend of politics of regionalism and tribalism seemingly playing out in the chairmanship race for the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) should not go unchallenged.
Of late, the BDP campaigners seem to be loosely uttering words that should get all of us, not just party members, worried.
Two weeks ago, a message purportedly from former President Sir Ketumile Masire was read at Jwaneng BDP conference, allegedly declaring happiness at the fact that the vice president, Mokgweetsi Masisi is a ‘southerner’. The letter, read by former minister Peter Siele, went further to ask the southern regional conference to endorse the VP for the chairmanship as he was a ‘southerner’.
The message sent shockwaves but surprisingly the BDP leadership did not respond or reprimand the statesman for utterances that had the potential to create regional tensions. Just as the shock was waning, a greater one came from the north west of Botswana. Former BDP secretary general, MP Thato Kwerepe was alleged to have told Ngamiland colleagues not to endorse fellow legislator Biggie Butale for the chairmanship, as he was a Kalanga.
Not only had the alleged utterances left the Tati West MP in shock and angry but seen as meant to demean the status of the tribe of Bakalanga. This can be disturbing especially coming from elders, in elected public offices. Tribalism and regionalism are cancerous traits that have potential to reverse national unity achieved through hard work and sensitivity. Almost 50 years after gaining independence, and a striving for nation unity, it is shocking to find amongst us individuals who still think that they can pass judgment on fellow citizens based on their tribal origins.
Tribalism is an evil that can break up a nation. A recent and very painful case is of the Rwanda genocide of the 1990s. The massacres of ordinary civilians by fellow citizens were fuelled and sparked by leaders who unleashed verbal assaults on each other. During the genocide, the perpetrators referred to their victims as ‘cockroaches’ and at the end of that, approximately 800,000 lives were lost, and thousands others were displaced. The result was devastating, - thousands of orphaned children, destroyed families, and collapsed government institutions.
We do not want that here.
Leaders have a responsibility to build not to destroy national unity. Leaders have to be careful, all the time, of words they utter during political campaigns, as theirs hold greater weight and may be misinterpreted by others to launch attacks on other tribes. Whats leaders say has the potential to destroy us. We therefore urge our politicians to be careful of the words they use when they endorse their candidates, when they dismiss their opponents, and when they promote their parties.
Botswana is a small nation that cannot afford to identify along tribal lines or geographical origins of North, South, East, or West. We are one Republic.
“The Destiny of Man is to unite, not to divide. If you keep on dividing you end up as a collection of monkeys throwing nuts at each other out of separate trees.”
– T.H. White