Former High Court Judge John Mosojane has come out with guns blazing accusing the first president of Botswana, Sir Seretse Khama for being a hypocrite.
Giving his keynote address during the annual Domboshaba Festival, a day after the Bot50 celebrations last week, Mosojane vented his anger on Seretse for crafting a constitution that was oppressive on minority tribes.
He said while Khama condemned the apartheid regime in South Africa for introducing Afrikaans as the medium of instruction above other local languages he, on the other, hand introduced Setswana in 1972 as the only medium of communication and not recognising other languages in the country.
“In 1976 Philip Matante called Seretse a hypocrite. Wasn’t he? Of course he was. Khama had after all, almost single-handedly at the constitutional talks in London made Setswana the national language, and he was obliged to finish the job by removing any possible competition that might arise with or against Setswana. This is how Ikalanga was abolished in your schools,” said Mosojane.
The former Judge said that those who went to school before 1972 will know that Ikalanga was taught until it was stopped that year by the current government rather high handedly and with a great deal of contempt. He said the senior Khama addressed Kgotla meetings and gave lame reasons why his government had found it necessary to stop the teaching of Ikalanga in schools.
“Despite the fact that people strongly disagreed with him and expressed their anger against such a proposed move he went ahead and abolished the teaching of our language anyway by a mere political act. We were all saddened and steps taken then by us proved inadequate and fell on deaf ears,” said the former Judge.
He also said that the constitution of Botswana was deliberately and cynically crafted to treat non-Tswana ethnicities with blatant partiality in their own land. Mosojane emphasised that both the name of the country plus policies of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) of containment and forced assimilation confirm this without a shadow of doubt.
“Both the provision of making Setswana the national language and the provision listing only the Tswana-speaking tribes as the principal tribes without saying who the minor tribes were, are a further testimony to the lopsided nature of our constitution. It is worth noting that all of the excluded ethnicities are indigenous to this country and were in fact here before the Tswana tribes arrived in this country,” he said.
Among other issues, Mosojane said the then Bechaunaland People’s Party (BPP) led by the late Matante strongly opposed these discriminatory provisions both at Marlborough House in London, England and thereafter in parliament. He also said that although Matante was a Mongwato like Khama, he did not see eye to eye with the latter.
“Philip Matante was a man of character and of principle, a man of courage and resilience and exceptional vision. He believed in social justice and was an advocate of human rights. He was against any form of discrimination. It did not matter who was doing it to whom. He condemned the inequalities as reflected in the constitution both in and outside Parliament at his rallies. He spoke strongly against the elimination of IKalanga from our schools,” he said.
Mosojane also took issue with Bakalanga Members of Parliament (MP’s) saying that they do not have the interest of their electorates at heart. He said whenever the issue of teaching or introduction of other languages in schools was raised in Parliament, it was the Kalanga MPs who were front-liners in opposing the motion. He said their argument was always that such a move would divide the nation but did not say how.
“This is of course was utter nonsense, how can a liberation of a section of the citizenry cause divisions within society, unless there are people who have a vested interest in keeping others down. Clearly these MPs thought with their bellies not with their heads. Others of your MPs have simply walked out of Parliament during such debates to expose themselves for who they really are. Cowards who also think with their stomachs and not their heads,” lambasted the former Judge.
A clearly disappointed Mosojane also said that the survival of Ikalanga as a language is under serious threat and urgent action is required to reverse the trend. He said that it is clear that teaching of Ikalanga in schools will not be handed down on a silver platter as no one will take the Bakalanga seriously for as long they show signs of weaknesses.
He emphasised that the only way to fight discrimination is to fight it head on as it rears its ugly head.
“You do not have to call other people to help. You need to stand on your dignity and challenge it there and then,” he said.
In conclusion, he implored Bakalanga to protect their culture and heritage and be proud of who they are. This year’s Dombashaba Festival was held under the theme “Teaching of mother tongue a critical approach to sustainable development,”