A member of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Youth Wing, Tony Sebabi is unapologetic about the statement he made over the past weekend in Masunga during the launch of Tati West Parliamentary candidate Simon Moabi. Sebabi called on President Mokgweetsi Masisi to cut his predecessor, Ian Khama’s hair. Staffer LEBOGANG MOSIKARE reports
FRANCISTOWN: With the general elections fast approaching in October and politics reaching fever pitch, from time immemorial, politicians do whatever they can to outmanoeuvre their opponents in the race to attract votes.
In so doing, they end up using words that in some quarters may be interpreted as unpalatable and therefore not in good taste for public consumption.
In a mostly conservative society like Botswana, children are expected to speak to adults in the outmost respectful manner at all times.
However, Sebabi may have touched a wrong nerve when he made a clarion call to Masisi to cut Khama’s hair.
Sebabi, who was taking no prisoners when Mmegi contacted him to seek clarity about his recent statement about Khama said he was aware that some sections of society may have interpreted what he uttered as being disrespectful to the former as an elder.
Sebabi who was in his element was cryptic about who he was referring to in his attempts to persuade the electorate in Tati West to vote for Moabi.
He used the noun Tshetlha (lion) when appealing to Masisi to cut Khama’s mane much to the applause of many who attended the launch.
It is a well-known fact that people in Botswana use the noun Tshetlha when praising the former statesman.
But Sebabi put the matter to rest this week when he admitted that he was indeed referring to Khama during the BDP barnstorm although he is aware that his intended meaning may be blown out of context.
He said: “I am aware of the fact that some people may blow the meaning of the words I uttered at the rally out of their proper context.
When I asked Masisi to cut Khama’s hair, I only meant that Masisi should strategically counter some issues that Khama is fond of raising about the current ruling regime which are not in the interest of the nation since he (Khama) left the presidency and formed a new party”.
Sebabi clarified that amongst the issues that he would like Masisi to address was the call by Khama for opposition parties to work together to topple the BDP from power during the upcoming elections. Khama’s personal hatred for Masisi and his position that Botswana was no longer a democracy since he left power are yet some of the issues.
“My statement was in good taste. I was only referring to the examples I stated above and was not being disrespectful to Khama,” he explained.
Although Sebabi said that his statement was in good faith and not motivated by any malice, an almost similar example to what he said at Masunga attracted the wrath of government and some sections of the public in the past.
The example alluded to above, showed a photoshopped picture of Khama with his hair shaved that was circulating in social media.
Notwithstanding what Sebabi said, during a recent BDP press conference that was addressed by the BDP chairperson, Slumber Tsogwane, and secretary general, Mpho Balopi, in Gaborone, the BDP distanced itself from any of their members who may use language that is not in the public decorum to attract votes to the party.
Asked for her opinion about the issue, former Tatitown Court President , Margaret Mosojane said Sebabi’s statement was not compatible with Botswana’s culture. Mosojane, a former Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) councillor in Francistown during the 1980s ,categorically stated that Sebabi’s statement was not in good taste.
She urged politicians to respect each other despite their political differences.
She said: “In our culture, the younger ones should learn to respect elders and vice- versa. Our society is fast losing its culture.
The young ones should emotionally and socially respect elders. Nowadays, some people are not respecting others because they say that they have freedom of speech. Freedom of speech has its limitations and should be balanced with our society’s good moral values”.
She said that whether Sebabi lovesd Khama or not, he should use language that was acceptable in the society even when differing with the former president.
“Khama is an elder who should be respected. We should respect others and their dignity.
The continuing use of offensive words by politicians against their opponents in the political domain is surely not in the best interests of our country. Politicians should with immediate effect desist from name-calling their nemeses. We are all Batswana,” Mosojane advised, adding that politics should unite and not divide the nation.