Ladies and Gentlemen……….Vambanderu vojetu: In my personal capacity as a proud member of theOvambanderu (or Mbanderu) Tribe, and secondly in my humble capacity as the Chairperson of the Mbanderu Youth Association of Botswana (MYAB), I feel compelled to seek your audience through this piece following on some disturbing, agonizing and astonishing developments within our community, but more specifically amongst the youthful members of our community over the past couple of years and months.
I will elaborate on the heading above in a minute, but for now allow me to introduce my organization (The MYAB) a little bit, just to give the audience some background to our concerns. The MYAB, as it is widely known, is a non-profit making, non-governmental, culturally oriented group of young people from the Ovambanderu tribe in Botswana, who in 1999 saw the need to form a platform under which they could bring together all the Ovambanderu youths from across the breadth of the country with the sole desire to foster, maintain, develop and promote their diverse culture in an endeavor to create a sense of pride amongst these young people about their culture and unique language. Now, hold your horses, before you start pondering as to who this ‘new entrant tribe’ I am talking about is, and where it comes from. Many who know us better would recall that the Ovambanderu are not any new comers around.
Personally, I am not a linguist of the Queen’s Language nor am I an expert historian in the traverse of theBantu peoples, so I will not attempt to try and claim any extreme knowledge of some of these facts, lest I end up being accused of ‘deviating’ from the intended message I seek to put across. However, it may benefit some just to note that the Ovambanderu people are ‘blood brothers and sisters’ to theOvaherero peoples (or Baherero as we ALL tend to be referred to). I say so with uttermost pride at every association with my fellows.
One could say, we are more or less the same tribe, but speak different dialects of the same language…………..and for simplicity, personally I am not too particular about such an explanation, especially when applied for purposes of identity and clarity by someone foreign to my two ethnic groups. The truth be told, in my humble view, the Ovambanderu and Ovaherero are really two, yes, distinct ethnic groups, of one and the same major tribe (call it whatever suits you), who speak slightly different dialects of the same language. Let’s leave that aside for another day, shall we, perhaps for those vested with historical expertise in the subject. In any case, it is rather too difficult to ‘draw a separation line between the two ethnic groups’, unless of course you are an insider to the two.
Now, coming back to the concerns captured by the heading above, it has disturbingly come to my attention and observation, and indeed that of my Association, the MYAB, that over the past couple of years, and of recent, in the past couple of months, we have noticed with worry a growing trend that for many years had seemed ratherforeign, or immune shall we say, to our customs and two tribes (the Herero’s and Mbanderu’s). This growing phenomenon noticeably includes some astonishing developments in which many of our youths across our tribe have regrettably found solace in a new habit; that of a growing trend of young people indulging in taking their lives after ‘some failed social relationships’; a situation in which many of them become ‘suicidal’ once they’ve been turned down, dumped, or have had misunderstandings with their partners.
As if this is not enough, we have also regrettably noticed a growing behaviour in which ‘lawlessness’ amongst the youth has become the order of the day, especially at various community functions like funerals, weddings, traditional ceremonies, etc. This in many cases is coupled in-parallel by a disturbing rise in the levels of various substance intoxications and abuse, especially alcoholism and, to some extent, drug abuse (especially ‘orukara’………dagga). This is a cause for concern, especially to a group of tribes or ethnic groups, who for many years have always been well-known andpraised for their adherence to the rule of law, their strong observance to their cultural practices, and pride in their inter-relations to one another (close connections with extended families).
It is thus against this background that on behalf of the MYAB, I thought it worthwhile to make our concerns and our worries known to our fellow young people, perhaps in an endeavor to seek platforms on which we could try to address these evils that seem to be bedeviling our communities. It is disturbing that of late, week in and week out, our communities have become synonymous with funeral functions, many at which the community would be deprived of various future pillars of the community, future leaders, prospective bread-winners on which many of their families were hopeful for a prospective better life.
In particular for me, the loss of about three of my closely-related cousins, from the same village (Sehithwa), within this year alone, under similar circumstances related to the so-called ‘passion suicides’ was what broke the camel’s back to compel me and hence necessitated me to seek this audience from my fellow brothers and sisters. For many of our families, it is therefore befitting to say ‘ovivereko via poka vianda’………..which in its literal translation implies that ‘a mother’s baby carrier has being cut-off’………..in other words, siblings are being lost at an alarming rate, and in a very painful manner, synonymous with a mother’s hope being ‘cut-off’. Ladies and Gentlemen, my fellow Ovambanderu youths, as an Association we wish to plead with all of us to ‘think twice’; in fact, forget the common phrase; think thrice, before we make some of these hasty ‘short decisions’ when we are overwhelmed, but rather choose to seek counsel, as well as take a moment to pause and wonder where we are headed to.
Omuhoko uetu katji uaenda………..this is neither the image nor the moral practice that portrays or signifies our tribal beliefs. Certainly something has gone completely wrong somewhere, and though we do not lay claim to have solutions to these challenges, as an Organization we wish to demand for a deeper introspection by our youthful members, as well as to seek to encourage amongst the Ovambanderu young peoples a sense of responsibility in our actions; especially in a tribe where the role of the extended family is still strongly cherished, and hence our families expect a lot from us.
We need to remember that through these actions, we are indeed regrettably robing our communities of a better chance to self-actualization and recognition, and doing so at an alarming rate, and we need to come to a stand where we say “enough is enough”. Let us remember the old saying in our language that ‘tjitjaoro tjipura oina……..katjipura omiti kako’………….when all hope is gone, a ‘mother’ is all-knowing………a saying that in actual fact portrays the importance of ‘seeking counsel’ through ‘a mother’s role’ in society as an example.
Henda Joseph Uananisa is a Lecturer at the University of Botswana (Department of Mechanical Engineering); but writes here in his ‘personal capacity’ as a member of the Ovambanderu tribe in Botswana, as well as the current ‘Chairperson of the MYAB’. He is currently on study leave at the University of Pretoria.