Monday, September 28, 2020

Mogae’s sound bites leave amusement on the trail

As a public speaker, President Festus Mogae has always been most interesting when he pushes the prepared speech aside and launches into off-the-cuff commentary. The comments are a pot-pourri of straight talk, one-liners and Freudian slips that have had the effect of amusing, shocking and offending. This is what he served up to his audience in Molepolole last Monday:
* On a public service that he described as “one of the best in Africa” when he was inaugurated on April 1, 1998: “When they are supposed to start work at 730 a.m., civil servants instead make tea, then go out to buy diphaphatha, eat breakfast at 8 a.m. and only start work at 9 a.m. That’s a fact.”

* On a failed rice farm pilot project with the Taiwan government. “Each time we visited the farm we would find the Chinese working and their Batswana counterparts would be sitting in the shade of trees, laughing and joking that “mathaka a ga a na santhoko” [These guys don’t have gall bladders]. We never found Batswana working and the project failed.” (Folk legend among the Batswana is that if one is overly hardworking or has tremendous amounts of stamina, then s/he doesn’t have a gall bladder.)

* On the disgruntlement by some speakers that students who owe school fees are routinely sent back home: “Should we waste more money on cars and on petrol by driving to the home of each parent and remind them to pay school fees?”

* On the wisdom of not biting the hand that feeds one: “I can’t argue with you ÔÇô not after you gave me so many cattle.” (Presenting all kinds of gifts to the president is an agenda item at these farewell tour meetings.)
* On misguided priorities: “Some parents can afford to buy alcohol and cars. Can it be that difficult for them to contribute just a little money to their children’s education?”

* On businesses set up by criminally circumventing due process: “If such companies fail because the owners cheated, so be it.”

* On limited term of political office: “No country in the world limits the term of office for MPs.” (Response to suggestion that the term of office for MPs, should be limited like that of the presidency.)

* On David Magang’s pronouncements that government knew a long time back about the looming energy crisis and did nothing about it “Why don’t you ask Magang what he did when he was in government? Is that why he left government service before he reached retirement age? Was he running away from the problem?” (A speaker had quoted a statement recently made by former minister and Lentsweletau MP David Magang that the government knew of the current energy crisis as early as 1994.)
* On the extravagance of youth: “If we pay you more than adults you are going to buy fancy cars and motorbikes.” (A youthful speaker had suggested that the government should pay the youth more than adults.)

* On currying favour with those who allocate land: “Nowadays when I address kgotla meetings I always make sure that I acknowledge the presence of landboard chairpersons. I am ingratiating myself with them because I plan to go into farming [and need land].”

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