Saturday, June 15, 2024

Khama, Makaba, Sechele, Bathoen, Pilane on a Coke can

A few weeks ago this column dealt with the statistical information of personal names as in relationto the inclusion of first names on a Coke can. My observation then was that there was a clear strategy by the Coca Cola company to engender emotional attachment to their product by adding a personal names touch to the Coke can. This strategy seems to have worked rather well in Botswana, save with a few people whose names are missing from any Coke can feeling a tinge of jealousy and a bit disappointed.

In the present column I argue that the names of selected dikgosi from different merafe should be put on a Coke can as well. This will have a similar impact, if not a greater one, than that of individual personal names on a can. Batswana are generally more attached to their morafe than to their political parties. To understand this clearly, we must fully grasp the structure of Tswana society from a family, to a surname group, to a kgotla and then to amorafe. The point is that Batswana are principally proud of their tribal identity. That they are Bakgatla, Bangwato, Bangwaketse, Bakgalagadi, Barolong, Bakalaka, Bakwena, Bahurutshe, Batalaote, Bakaa, Baherero, Bambukushuetc is important to them. Because tribal identity is important to many citizens of Botswana, it is imperative that companies and industry leaders understand that many elevate their tribal identity over a national identity.

If this is fully grasped then business could do much to exploit this emotional and psychological attachment. The argument here therefore is that an understanding of this identity peculiarity is central to understanding the Tswana psyche, which companies can use profitably. Tribal pride is sometimes carried in pride in one’s totem that many use to identify themselves. Thus, BahurutshekeBatshweneng; Bangwaketse and BakwenakeBakwena, Bakgatlakebokgabo while Barolongkenamanetsatholo.Totemism is therefore central to any morafe as akey identifying factor of the whole morafe as a single entity. The totem is therefore a tribal symbol in a similar way that a kgosi is.

Another important factor to a morafe, is morafe’skgosi. A kgosi is a living embodiment of the entire morafe. Dikgosi are expected to be brave and fierce. A brave kgosi is a source of much pride to the morafe. He attracts praise and dignity from his own morafe and from people from other merafe. A dignified kgosi leads to a dignified morafe. We can herementionhonourabledikgosi such as Kgama III of the Bangwato, Makaba of the Bangwaketse as well as Sechele of the Bakwena. On the other hand weak dikgosi are usually a source of shame and discouragement to a morafe. We have many examples in Botswana history and I will leave their names unmentioned here because they don’t deserve to appear in ink.

It is with this in mind that the Coca Cola company should consider putting the names of various dikgosi on the Coke can. This will be purely because their names are famous and preferred by their subjects, though the names may not frequent. Persons whose kgosi’s name appears on a Coke can would therefore be more likely to pick a Coke can with the name of their departed kgosi such as Seepapitso, Gobuamang or Lenchwe, than a can without. Exploiting this allegiance makes economic and marketing sense. The determination of which name to include on a Coke can will be done on historical significance instead of raw frequency. Actually if it were done on the basis of raw frequency most of the dikgosinames will not make it into the most frequent 100 names.

That is why names of the dikgosi should be included on the basis of their historical prominence: a matter that can be determined with minimum difficulty by historians.Perhaps more significantly though, the inclusion of dikgosi names on a Coke can will be a unique celebration of the historical contribution of dikgosi to the formation of modern Botswana. We know that modern Botswana was formed from a contribution of various dikgosi around Botswana and not just the three dikgosi, whose legacy is preserved in a statue in the Gaborone CBD. Actually, Botswana’s first president was a kgosi himself. The voice of dikgosi has not dimmed in modern Botswana though their roles and responsibilities have gone through some changes in the last 50 years. Dikgosi continue to contribute significantly to the cultural preservation and political life of Botswana.

The fascination with names on a Coke can is largely a fashionable matter with will fizzle out with time. However while it is with us, it is beneficial to consider exploiting it in a manner that will be mutually beneficial to the Coca Cola Company as well as to the Botswana community. While some names may be selected purely on the basis of their frequency; frequency alone is not a measure of that which is well known and respected. It simply measures that which is common. Commonality is however not popularity. A consideration of famous dikgosi names is therefore something to consider seriously. Obviously mine are the rumblings of a linguist on his chair and the chaps at KBL may have a different idea concerning this matter. However, my point has been made.


Read this week's paper