While he is now a politician, Wynter Mmolotsi’s heart is still in the classroom. And so one can understand why his mood sours when he hears his colleague MPs mispronounce the name of the subject he taught for years: Agriculture.
“I get so worried during question time because today I have heard a good number of Honourable Members saying, ‘agrigulture’,” said the Francistown South MP in parliament. “My worry is if we are recording, for example, what comes out? Are we ultimately going to find hard copies that read ‘agrigulture’, or they will seek to correct? You know ‘agrigulture’ was said a lot today and as a student of Agriculture I get so worried because that is not how it is supposed to be said.”
Interestingly, it was only two years ago that the same Mmolotsi was rapped on the tongue for mispronouncing “agriculture” the same way. Then parliament was debating a bill authorising the transition of the Botswana College of Agriculture into the Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Mmolotsi had debated before the Minister of Justice, Defence and Security, Shaw Kgathi ÔÇô another former schoolteacher ÔÇô and was not in the house when the latter made his own contribution.
“It’s a pity Honourable Mmolotsi is not here. He is a student of agriculture but he pronounces this word as ‘agrigulture.’ It is pronounced ‘agriculture’, not ‘agrigulture.’ He [Mmolotsi should know better because he] was an Agriculture teacher. I say this so you can tell him to pronounce words properly because students visit parliament and listen to our debates,” Kgathi said.
Going back decades, there is a culture of (especially ruling party) MPs policing phonetics. Years ago when the State House would host the media around Christmas time, then president and host, Festus Mogae, remarked at one of these shindigs that journalists’ mastery of English was woefully wanting. He particularly chafed at their mispronunciation of “determine.” Many years ago, the former and now deceased MP for Gaborone North, Maitshwarelo Dabutha, found himself the butt of David Magang’s joke during a parliamentary debate. Unlike now, then it was a requirement that MPs should use English in their debates. Dabutha was on the floor when his pronunciation of one English word met Magang’s disapproval.
“It’s helicopter, not hilly-kopta,” said Magang who was both MP and minister.
One would like to hear Mogae, Kgathi and Magang pronounce “Emily”, “luxury” and “extraordinary” to determine (de-tar-mean) if they really qualify to make such kind of ribbing.
On other ribbing-related matters, you wouldn’t want to wear a shirt that the Minister of Transport and Communications, Kitso Mokaila lends you to a ceremony that both of you attend. Mokaila and the Gabane-Mankgodi MP, Major General, Pius Mokgware, joined the army as officer cadets at the same time. When debating the Police (Amendment) Bill, Mokgware pointed out that police officers are underpaid yet they are required to have food in their refrigerators. It was then that Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi, regaled the house with a second-hand account from Mokaila that when he and Mokgware were army officers, the latter was in the habit of “borrowing food.” It is difficult to get clarity on the issue because Mokgware’s response oscillated between “he’s joking’ and “he’s referring to what happened when we were still young.”