With his boast to Francistown South MP, Wynter Mmolotsi that “I know Setswana better than you do,” Deputy Speaker Kagiso Molatlhegi may have tied himself up in knots.
Using that refined Setswana would have been useful earlier this year when the Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Eric Molale, used idiomatic Setswana that threw the house in a bind. Debating a motion that called on the government to repeal the draconian Media Practitioners Act, Molale stated in Setswana: “Fa ba sa itsamaise, re dire gore jaanong mongwe a ba tsamaise; a ba gagamaletse setoropo.” He basically meant that if the media people couldn’t regulate themselves, then someone else should do so and be overly strict with them. Reacting to this statement, the Gaborone North MP, Haskins Nkaigwa, said that the Act was made by “angry” lawmakers hell-bent on getting even with the media. Challenged on his use of “angry”, the MP said that that his understanding of “a ba gagamaletse setoropo” is that it denotes anger on the part of someone taking punitive action.
“When I was growing up and my mother would say to me, ke tsile go go gagamaletsa setoropo, I knew she was angry. It shows he [Molale] is angry,” he said.
Molatlhegi said he understood the phrase to mean “being serious-minded about a task and not being angry when going about it.” His precise words were: “Honourable Member, gone go gagamatsa setoropo ka Setswana go raya gore o ya go dira o tlhwaafetse, e se gore go o a bo a bo raya gore o ya go dira o tenegile.”
In the latest linguistic tangle, Molepolole South MP, Dr. Tlamelo Mmatli, used Setswana to compare the economic stimulus package to a thief’s loot, instantly incurring the wrath of Botswana Democratic Party MPs. Rising to his comrade’s defence, Mmolotsi, a former teacher, said Setswana grammar permitted the use of such comparison.
Molatlhegi shut him down with: “I know Setswana better than you do. The fact that I have never been a teacher doesn’t mean that you know Setswana better than I do. I know Setswana very well.”
If the Deputy Speaker knows Setswana that well, then he will definitely know the precise amount of atavistic rage invested in “a ba gagamaletse setoropo”.