Thursday, March 4, 2021

No Setswana version for councilors’ manual

There is no Setswana version for a recently launched document- ‘Code of conduct for councillors’- a councilors’ guiding manual, also meant for public education on the responsibilities of councilors.

And while the council candidates that spoke to The Telegraph feel there should be more usage of Setswana as an official language; even in documents like this one, the Executive Secretary of Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA), the umbrella organization under which councils fall, thinks otherwise. There is likely never going to be a Setswana version of the document.

“We should have a solid way forward if we are to develop as a country and a nation. During the recent conference held in Maun, participants agreed during deliberations that there should be certain level of minimum qualifications for councilors. When time for voting came most of participants had changed their minds. How can there be progress with this kind of practice?

We should learn to take decisions once,” said Ketlhomilwe Moletsane, the BALA Executive Secretary in an interview. He added that the document is fine in only one language because, irrespective of how low Batswana may rate their education, Botswana’s literacy rate is very high. Most will understand the document.

He criticized districts like the Kweneng District where the Chairman’s speeches marking the opening of full council are interpreted into Setswana by a Council official after deliverance.

But Botswana Democratic Party council candidate for Gaphatshwa ward Moemedi Mokgachane says even the chairman’s speech should be written in both Setswana and English. Mokgachane was councilor for the same ward from 2004 to 2009 when he lost to Kabelo Mokgalajwe; and he re-won it in the past primary elections.

“Both these languages are our official languages. Using only English is promoting a foreign language and losing out our society in the process. Full councils are attended by all members of the public. We find chambers filled to capacity during these important occasions. But we tend to disappoint them by use of English. It is even confusing to find that response to the speeches is in vernacular. Councilors do not respond in English,” said Mokgachane, adding that the interpretation is but a summary of the contents of the chairman’s speech.

He said he strongly believes that the ‘code of conduct for councilors’ should be published in both Setswana and English. It is an important document; he said which adds value to the requirements of a councilor. It will provide excellent support to the existing standing orders that guide councilors during council proceedings inside the chambers. Furthermore, its accessibility to the general public would help .

Another councilor candidate, Dux Mafoko, of Umbrella for Democratic Change, a sitting councilor and candidate for Mankgodi North said the document should be accessible to all Batswana, irrespective of educational background because the councilors are people’s representatives who work closely with them from ward level. This meant it should have Setswana version.

“Even those that live in cattle posts and lands should access it. And you may agree with me that people who reside there are mostly those who did not complete their education. But those people still need a councilor as a political representative,” said Mafoko .

The document was launched at a conference in Maun from the 13th to the 15th May. The overall aim of the code is to set up a code of conduct and integrity for councilors.

Among its objectives is to provide a blue-print agreement by all, as ethical conduct for councilors.

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