Friday, September 25, 2020

Festus speaks through scrambled eggs!

Regardless of what you wish to say about Festus Mogae, one thing is clear, he is a truthful man.
He speaks the truth from the heart as he knows it. He wishes no obfuscation and euphemisms. Much attack that he has endured from the media in the past was very much because people thought he should have chosen his words carefully and avoided stating the truth as strongly as he did.

But at heart Festus is a good man who wished to do the best for his country. He became president at a very difficult time, when the full effects of Aids were being felt and the country never fully enjoyed his economic genius. When he was angry you didn’t have to guess it.

Remember, his Mogoditshane outburst: “Ke tlaa le kabolola ditshoka.” On that day, as in many others, Festus was truthful. He wished he could sort out the Mogoditshane malcontents who were jeering at him. He was angry, but he spoke truthfully.

Later when the two diplomats to the USA and China were at each other’s throats, Festus again spoke truthfully: “I will sack them!” The bottom line is this: Festus is an honest man. He wishes only to speak the truth. He spoke truthfully also during the Nchindo case.

This is in contrast to the “young man who is refusing to grow up” whose credibility was doubtful.
So how come he ‘refused’ to answer certain questions during an interview with Baputaki? The answer lies here: Festus is a truthful man; he doesn’t like peddling lies.

He answered truthfully and where he felt his genuine views would be hurtful, he answered thus: “I am not going to say anything”. It was not because he didn’t have anything to say.

He was just not going to say it. “Ga ke bue!” He was cautious not to do two things. First, it is clear that Festus wouldn’t utter untrue statements since he is a truthful man.

He therefore wouldn’t say things were fine when he knew that batho ba ithetse mmoko wa talane, e bile ba gatile mosima wa phika ka marago. A happy man over the weekend put it differently: Go setse moitlobo fela, noga e ile! Second, Festus wouldn’t undermine the current leadership and government.
Otherwise, he may be accused of being behind the breakaway group or one of the factions. He therefore characterised himself in grammatical terminology: “I am past tense and past tense can’t say anything about the present tense.” It is an unwritten code of presidents from the same party. In saying this, Festus answered well.

He won’t defend the indefensible; neither would he tell a lie. This is what we have come to. We have descended to the level where even a former president can’t express his views freely. Where does this leave an average Motswana?

But some who read Festus’ interview didn’t realise that he sent a clear message. It was a message sent through scrambled eggs: “All I can say is that, go and tell all the political parties to exercise patience, tolerance and Batswana to have tolerance.

We are a scrambled egg, re thakathakane and we must learn to live together.” His answer was in response to a question about BDP problems. The message is coded in broad terms, so we may have to decode it. By “all the political parties…and Batswana” he meant The BDP and its leadership.
It should be a painful thing for an Oxford-trained economist to speak to and about “the present tense” through scrambled eggs. Festus’ answer to the BDP problem is this: be patient and tolerant for we don’t share the same views and ideas.

When asked if he supported condoms in prisons, his answer was a clear “Yes.” When asked if he thought the current leadership had the economic discipline and priorities right, he didn’t say “Yes” neither did he say: “No.” He said: “I hope so.” Now that speaks volumes.

Festus clutches to hope. When asked what his views were on the current leadership in promoting good governance Festus says: “I am not saying anything about his leadership style.

I am not saying anything and I am not going to say anything because I do not want to.” Surely if Festus had anything good to say, he would say it. That Festus omits to state the good, and yet fails to say the negative, leads us to assume that he has negative views which he would rather not express. Remember, Festus was not asked about any leadership style though he clearly answered that he was not saying anything about his (Khama’s) leadership style. This implies that he is displeased with the current leadership style.

In Linguistics, this phenomenon falls within Pragmatics, specifically on the area of implicatures. It is a large area which I don’t have the space to discuss. What is relevant however is this: people will always express freely that which shows others in good light and would be reluctant to utter anything that they consider damaging.

Think about it. Have you ever read a reference which says: “I am pleased to write a reference for Mr. OP. In the two years of my interaction with Mr. OP it has become apparent that he is an appalling leader with terrible interpersonal skills.”

No one writes that kind of stuff. To avoid writing this sort of thing, referees would rather say to an applicant: “I am sorry I cannot write you a reference, please go elsewhere.” That is precisely what Festus did. “I am not saying anything and I am not going to say anything because I do not want to.”

So for those who say that Festus “refused” to answer the questions, let it be known that Festus’ answers were sufficient, for he answered truthfully. It is left for us to understand his message.
Some of it may prove hard to decode, for it is sadly articulated through scrambled eggs. A re: “Re thakathakane”. Ga se gore tlhakatlhakano e, ga a e bone.


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