The fight over whether the wards of Tupya, Malete, Seleka and Rasesa should be known as ‘Tumasera’ has risen to a criminal level with government road signs being vandalised. The name is a conflation of the first syllable of each ward’s name. Having been constructed in that manner, the name is meaningless which is what rankles some residents.
The village lies some nine kilometres off the Martins Drift-Palapye road. A road branches off in the direction of the village and is marked with ‘Tumasera’ road signs. Some vandal or vandals prefer the name ‘Seleka’ and they have defaced two signs to show such preference.
On one sign, the official name has been blacked out and replaced with ‘Seleka’ which was crudely spray-painted with white. On another, the name has been painted over with white and ‘Seleka’ squeezed between the obscured text and ‘9 km’. Apparently, the non-official names are competitively changed on a rotational basis.
Residents say that the seriousness of the problem is such that hitchhikers have to say just the right name or they won’t get a ride. A Seleka motorist who is emotionally committed to the name issue would drive off in disgust if you say you are going to Tumasera or any of the other three wards.
Opposition to the name of Tumasera goes back years and stems from the fact that residents feel that it dilutes their unique identity as separate geographic entities.
Those who argue against the name from an extremely unique tribal perspective assert that the conflation of their wards’ names is unacceptable to them as Batswapong in the same manner that combining the first syllables of some village names would be to historically privileged tribes. The example they give is combining the first syllables of Mahalapye, Serowe and Palapye (which are Ngwato areas) to form a crude Setswana word which means ‘human waste.’
The defacing of road signs is something that relevant authorities do not always respond swiftly to. For over five years, a sign along the Gaborone-Molepolole road bore the words ‘Nandos was here’. This was after a brush fire burnt (‘fried’ as it were) a section of the bottom part of the sign’s frame. However, the defacing of the Tumasera sign presents a much more serious problem than that of cheekily advertising a chicken outlet. One particular challenge to motorists (tourists included) who are unfamiliar with the name politics of Tumasera is missing the turn-off and fetching up in the wrong place, having used up fuel and valuable time.
However, while vandals may use the road signs as canvases for identity expression, there are some areas where they won’t succeed. Having been adopted as the official name, ‘Tumasera’ is recognised by organisations like the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation. The BTC directory lists Tumasera and not any of the individual wards.