Our forefathers, having observed a consistent and unsettling association between people’s unsavory characters and their bad names, composed a cautionary adage; Ina lebe seromo, indicating the omen and predestination power that a bad name carries.
A local name is, therefore, both a label, a wish and a brand that the residents of a place can derive motivation from as they thrive and strive to traverse life’s challenges and in building a better tomorrow for themselves and their children. It is even better to have no name than to have a horrible name.
Recently, the place we have known as Block 7 was suddenly named Ditimamodimo. Forget that there is a kgotla named ‘Ditimamodimo’ in Serowe, but that name cannot be transferred wantonly to the residents of Block 7. For an area that hosts two institutions of learning with thousands of students, to receive such a negative and poorly inspiring declaration demonstrates a worrisome understanding of the power of naming. Yet, for an area that has several church organisations, with thousands of followers every week, to be called Ditimamodimo is a poke in the eye of the believers. What more of the residents who went to bed living in a lazily named, but neutral place, Block 7, only to wake up with a declaration that they are the selfish and foolish misers who do not give back to God ?
A suburban community of people is like a regiment. When elders and kings allocate names to initiation school graduates, they speak into the desired future of the regiment. Hence the names such as Madisamotse, Difetlhamolelo or Malekantwa. Where the names are seemingly odd or surprising, there is a specific and relevant inspiration derived from that as a time marker for remembrance. An example is Bagwaketse King Makaba’s Battle of Losabanyana during the Mfecane, where the situation of the time demanded the uncommon, but effective use of girls and women in Battle. Now someone has to tell us how the Block 7 residents, students of Limkokwing, ABM and the members of the Apostolic Faith Mission and the Good News Churches will derive inspiration from the inscription ‘Ditimamodimo’. Even names such as Quett Masire or Kenneth Koma would have been better and meaningful memorials than the “the people who refuse to offer to God”. Who decided that and what criteria did the person have to pronounce such a curse over the residents of Block 7?
Without saying too much, I hope too that the people of ‘Tsolamosese’ will reject the name, which though having historical reference, should be rejected on the grounds that it manifests the celebration of a rapist who troubled the area in the 1950s. The new name should possibly be ‘Tlotlanang’. This will be in direct reverse of the spirit that prevailed in the perpetrator whom oral history says lucked in the bushes for unsuspecting women of Gabane and Mogoditshane as they travelled between their abodes and Le Cordeurs’ trading store at Kgale. The same applies to a street in Block 8 called ‘Mmaleso’. Why would you call a road the mother of death ? At least we who live or go to church on that road have taken advantage of the orthography and potential ambiguity in ‘leso’ to call it the mother of spoon, to say we are the generous hosts who are always waiting to feed our guests. Where the name givers derive their names is everybody’s guess.
In the Middle East cultures, much as ours, people were taught that ‘life and death is in the power of the tongue’. In other words, we become what we say. In fact, a Jewish Prophet, Isaiah, places confession in the same level with the danger of military weapons as things that God protects his people against; ‘No weapons formed against you shall prosper and no tongue that is raised shall stand’. I, therefore, propose that the people and users of Gaborone Block 7 should rise up and refuse a negative declaration over them and one of which they probably were not consulted. Like the Biblical Jacob who became Israel, or Saul who became Paul, they can change their name from something negative to something inspiring.
We are grateful for the Council deciding to give the names to the city suburbs and roads, but due consultation and consideration on the meaning will be in order.
*Phillip Segadika, a Gaborone resident, is a Landscape Archaeologist. Opinions expressed here are his and not of any of the organisations he is affiliated to.