Question marks over naturalized Batswana's patriotism

25 Oct 2018

Prominent Gaborone based private lawyer Kgosietsile Ngakayagae in one of his Facebook posts raised quite an interesting and fundamental topic which has been of late a subject of serious discussion in many quarters.

To put the matter in its appropriate and proper context, it suffices to quote Ngakayagae’s post verbatim.

“As a nation we must confront two ugly racial realities. Firstly, citizen whites don’t serve in our armed forces. Have you ever seen a Caucasian or Asian soldier marching under the Botswana flag ko National Stadium kana ale mo sekeleng mo letsatsing ka thobolo le nale ma special constable on patrol? Yet we have a sizable population of both. Same with citizens of Asian extraction.

“There is an urgent need to amend the BDF and Police Act(s) to introduce conscription or mandatory service. A racial, caste system is developing in our nation’s socio- economic structure. It must be stopped. White citizens have the distinct privilege of being represented in our flag, yet they consider its defence to be below them. We can’t have a system where some races have no sense of national duty and are about grabbing opportunities and citizenship rights.

“White and Indian soldiers must patrol our borders, defend the rhinos with their lives, patrol out streets at night, chase smash and grab thugs, march at the stadium on Independence Day, just as our children do. My children will not make the country safe for children of other races whose blood is considered too scared to be spilled even for their own safety. Playtime is over,” posted Ngakayagae on his Facebook account.

I was personally alerted to Ngakayagae’s Facebook post by a retired Botswana Defence Force (BDF) army colonel friend who wanted to know if by any chance I happened to share Ngakayagae’s views. After a careful reading of Ngakayagae’s Facebook post, I returned the same question to the retired army colonel to also share his thoughts on the post especially that he is a former military man who was in the trenches for more than twenty years protecting the national sovereignty of our beloved country.

His answer was apt and he congratulated Ngakayagae’s thought provoking observation and leading a serious discussion on a subject of such immense national importance. The retired army colonel said although he differed with Ngakayagae on the issue of conscription, he agreed with him on all aspects of the issues he had raised.

“Except for the issue of conscription I fully concur with the lawyer. There is no need to amend the BDF and Police Act(s) for this particular issue. It is important and most appropriate that this issue should immediately be raised with our country’s political leadership. Now that Ngakayagae has raised this important observation, it must be escalated to the country political leadership. Security services is not meant for black and indigenous Batswana. It is the responsibility of all of us who call themselves patriotic citizens”, said the retired army colonel.

He explained that he is apprehensive that naturalized Batswana who have seen the post should already be reeling in anger despite the frankness of the statement.

“Even in their (whites and Asians’) anger, do indigenous Batswana who went to the same higher and prestigious learning institutions with those naturalized Batswana of Whites and Asian extraction feel any inferior to these guys who do not care for their country’s national security and protection? No, they don’t absolutely feel any inferior. They joined the security services for the protection of their country. It was their national duty to undertake. The indigenous Batswana are no less human. This debate challenges naturalized citizens to take full responsibility and enroll in the security service organs for protection of this beloved country” explained the retired colonel.

Before answering the colonel and sharing my personal views on the issue, I reached out to my cousin who also served in the Botswana Defence Force before retiring. My cousin found this to be an interesting topic that ought to be thoroughly and openly discussed.

In his view this feeling has been bottled up by indigenous Batswana for quite a long time and he applauded Ngakayagae for starting the debate on the issue. “I served the BDF until mandatory retirement age. I fully enjoyed serving my country and was assigned on international peace keeping missions in both Mozambique and Somalia. Not a single during the days of my service did BDF have naturalized Batswana of White and Asian extraction. It is a serious anomaly that should henceforth be rectified. The issue has never been topic of discussion but Ngakayagae has a raised valid point for serious discussion”, said the retired soldier.

After engaging the two retired soldiers on the issue, I reverted to colonel to offer an answer. Having been enlightened by at least people who are former members of the country’s security services (BDF to be precise), I also agreed that this is an important issue for serious discussion and there is urgent need for it to be escalated to the country’s political leadership.

If naturalized Batswana enjoy all other democratic, civil, human and others rights conferred on indigenous Batswana without discrimination, why don’t they challenge themselves to also serve in the country’s security services.

In fact Ngakayagae will be hauled over the coals for having at least started a very serious national dialogue of this all important issue. As a lawyer he must have read all the statute books and found out rightfully that there is nothing prohibiting naturalized Batswana of modern generations to enroll in the security services.

Like the retired men, I also have my reservations on conscription. But if the national consensus is for conscription, who will I be to object. Further until and unless this anomaly has been rectified, I am inclined to encourage my children too like Ngakayagae not to enroll in the security service organs.

It is high time these ugly racial realities are confronted with the frankness and seriousness they deserve. These naturalized Batswana enjoy all other rights conferred on indigenous citizens by the country’s constitution. This is brazen discriminations which should immediately be nipped in the bud.

Botswana Defence Commander Lieutenant General Placid Segokgo and Police Commissioner Keabetswe Makgophe, a very serious issue has been placed before your door steps. May be in the coming intakes, you must reserve spaces for Whites and Asians and in the long term the imbalance will have been rectified.

Indigenous Batswana are alive to the fact that their numbers will always be higher in the security services. Political leadership must assist the country to achieve the noble ideas generated by Ngakayagae’s Facebook post.