In addressing this theme, a few fundamental and hypothetical questions need to be addressed to reveal what is the meaning of identity and recognition to someone’s macro environment.
These questions include: what is the meaning of language to an individual; what is the meaning of having a legitimate cultural leader; cultural clan (kgotla) and symbols to an individual in a multicultural and politicized environment (democratic environment for that matter).
If the afore-mentioned questions mean something to every individual in every society, then why would some culture claim supremacy and assimilative methods over other cultures?
In my addressing of this theme, I am not only driven by the lucrative one gets from enjoying his/her cultural privileges, but rather by the detriments of excommunication of identity and culture on the subject’s intellectual capacity and the cognitive development of self in a competition oriented system or the evolution of capitalist modernity. This is where the word indoctrination comes into play. It is provocative in its nature, but this is the method the government uses in dealing with minorities in Botswana.
The government hypodermically injected a feeling of part and parcel to the system into the minorities of Botswana while in practical and systematic terms it excluded and alienated them. Some may question this alienation and exclusion considering the fact that minorities enjoy all the amenities provided to any citizen within the country; for example free education, free medication and security.
The question that remains is how could a system be said to include all while the constitution clearly brands minorities within its borders as “others” and mandating them to the supreme eight major groups as their customary leaders? This is clearly stated in section 78 of the constitution; “The ex-officio Members of the House of Chiefs shall be such persons as are for the time being performing the functions of the office of Chief in respect of the Bakgatla, Bakwena, Bamalete, Bamangwato, Bangwaketse, Barolong, Batawana and Batlokwa Tribes, respectively”. Section 79 states that “The Elected Members of the House of Chiefs shall be elected from among their own number by the persons for the time being performing the functions of the office of Sub-Chief in the Chobe, North East, Ghanzi and Kgalagadi districts, respectively”. A point to make is that all the highlighted areas in this section enshrine only the minorities.
The system also overrides their cultures by teaching them the dominant language with its culture embedded in the process. Kids from the minority communities are forced to appreciate Tswana culture as theirs in primary schools and secondary schools (ngwao ya rona ya Setswana) by teaching them Tswana aspects of culture like dikgafela and letsema. Sometime they are made to translate these aspects to their mother languages.
Like I indicated earlier on, these steps were taken to symbolize supremacy to some citizens and inferiority to the so called minorities. Pertaining to the meaning attached to language, no matter how small it may appear to be, the greatest African writer “Ngugi wa Thiong’o” clearly demonstrates in one of his writings that it carries the memories of the world and suppressing and diminishing it means marginalizing the memories it carries thus upgrading the memories attached to the conqueror’s language (Mkandawire, 2005:160).
Furthermore language and cultural cognitive development carry not only memories but also some mechanisms which facilitate intellectual capacities. This has been evidenced by most great thinkers of the medieval world and 18th centuries, whose intellectual capacity have been influenced by their mother languages.
Socrates, Aristotle and Plato wrote and developed their philosophies in a Greek dimension. Not only Greek philosophers wrote their philosophies in their mother languages, but also philosophers from Germany and France did the same (Emannuel Kant ‘German’ and Jean Jacques Rousseau ‘French). But people who were interested in their works translated it to the language they preferred.
To emphasise the significance of language I would like to quote from one of Africa’s greatest philosopher, Cheikh Anta Diop who argued that “no language has a monopoly on cognitive vocabulary; every language could develop its terms for science and technology”. (Mkandawire, 2005:160). This outmaneuvers the concept of a universal language used to degrade other languages. To those who are still kept hostage to the inconceivable perception that a multilingual nation is encouraging tribalism are still preoccupied by the barbaric system of cultural hegemony which has proved to be incompetent in many regimes including the Apartheid South Africa.
Alienating minorities does not only play a detrimental role to the bearers of disgraces, but also play a detrimental role to national democracy and patriotism. This is pertaining to the fact that no one would compassionately work for the development of the government and a nation which does not give him/her a national pride. For example a South African can openly say that I am a proudly Sotho speaking South African.
A statement of this nature is hard to make for a Kalanga, Herero, Mosarwa, Mbukushu, Moyei or a Mokgalagadi since either one of these tribes would be forced by a tribalised nationality to say I am a proudly Herero speaking Motswana. This statement degrades the latter in return upgrading the original Tswana speaking Batswana.
It is through statements like this which planted a sense of ignorance in that some feel that the only native language in Botswana is Setswana. Apart from this, in practical terms Botswana is lagging behind in global competitions due to untapped talent in the minority groups. They might not be denied the chances, but their systematic exclusion questions their patriotism and competence against the major groups. This is to say that their confidence is shaken by the fabricated dichotomy between the major groups and minor groups.
Indoctrination has led to the erosion and corrosion of other languages in Botswana since it drove people to jump in the band wagon of slogans like re Batswana mo Botswana, forgetting their natural identity. The question to ask is how long someone can be a minority in a country, does being a minority means being small in number or does it mean being marginalized or being inferior.