Saturday, July 11, 2020

Post-Khama, ‘Ditlhopho di tsile’ back on Radio Botswana┬áplaylists

It is a song whose presence on Radio Botswana playlist has been linked to the mood of the man holding the most executive power.

President Festus Mogae had no problem with his homeboy’s song and so Radio Botswana played “Ditlhopho di Tsile” ahead of the 2004 general election. Four years later, Mogae made way for General Ian Khama who successfully led the Botswana Democratic Party to the 2009 elections. The song, which was commissioned by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and sung by Joe Morris with backing vocals by Nnunu Ramogotsi, Punah Gabasiane and Nono Siele, continued to play on Radio Botswana and Botswana Television. There was no reason why it shouldn’t. A November 27, 2003 story in the Botswana Daily News said that “Some people say when they heard the song they felt compelled to go and register [to vote] because the song makes the listener look to the future with hope.” The IEC itself was as impressed because in its 2004 elections report, it said the following: “The IEC produced an election song “Ditlhopho di Tsile” which has proved very popular with both the young and old. The song helped in advertising the elections.”

However, the situation changed dramatically in 2014 during an election cycle in which the BDP was – for the time in history, facing a united opposition. At this point, Morris had joined the Botswana Congress Party and released “Fetolang Puso”, a partisan song in which he sings the blues about BDP rule under Khama.Morris urged listener-voters to restore Botswana to its democratic promise by voting for BCP in that year’s general election. Over sedate Afrobeat instrumentals, BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando, gets the party started by declaring in very well pronounced freedom-square cadences that his party will use social-democratic rule to engender transparency as well as economic rights and respect for the dignity of all citizens. As his voice fades off to a drum pickup solo, there follows a brief instrumental interlude that is broken by background vocalists who lyrically lament unemployment, corruption and autocracy and urge the youth to vote for the BCP to change such status quo. Gravelly-voiced, Morris comes in much later with the main message of the song: “A re fetole puso” which in translation means “let’s change the government”.

Despite the fact that the two songs occurred in two completely different contexts, the powers-that-be (which between 2008 and 2018 basically meant Khama) thought otherwise and “Ditlhopho di Tsile” was never played during 2014. Government sources say Morris’ affiliation with BCP was the direct result.

Khama has been replaced by President Mokgweetsi Masisi who obviously doesn’t have a problem with a song that the IEC says helps a great deal in its voter registration campaigns playing on state media.

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Sunday Standard July 5 – 11

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of July 5 - 11, 2020.