Dikgosi are politicians!

June 17, 2015

There is a false dichotomy that has been maintained for a while now. In Botswana politics, it is as old as the republic itself. It is a view, a feeling, a claim that the kgosi should not meddle in politics because he is a leader of a morafe. The argument goes that if he were to meddle in politics then the morafe would be split along political lines. The argument sometimes takes the form of a rhetorical question: if the kgosi were to meddle in politics, how would he be able to serve his morafe well and equally without political influence? No one would make such an argument for ministers! The argument goes further than that. The kgosi should stay away from politics because if he were to get involved he would lose the respect of his morafe; his very subjects would insult him in the freedom squares because he would have removed the royal blanket, seana-marena, the protective leopard skin which hitherto had shielded him away from the fiery darts of the messy freedom square discourse. Here one is reminded of Alec Seametso’s infamous attack on Kgosi Tawana Moremi “Kgosi e ya nyena ga e a senyega e bolosokane, o senyegetse matlakaleng ka ntata ya nyena…o tebelegane; jaanong e bile gompieno o senyegela matlakaleng.” Sadly sometimes this line of argument is so entrenched in the Botswana politics that the dikgosi have not only imbibed it, they have actually argued against dikgosi getting involved in party politics. Kgosi Lotlaamoreng of the Barolong has previously been quoted as arguing that “We should not be lured into the game of politics because a chief is born and remains a chief until the end of time…Those who have chosen the political route did so of their own volition and we have to respect their decision. However, magosi must remain servants of all people, something which is difficult when you are in politics because you wear certain colours.” The kgosi missed a critical point. He was speaking as a kgosi, wearing certain royal colours which separate him not only from his subjects but also from other merafe, as a kgosi of a specific morafe.

But let us return to the central thesis of this column. Dikgosi cannot avoid being involved in politics because the very institution of bogosi is a political entity. Politics is a term of Greek derivation. It is from the word politikos – that is, relating to citizens, a population or a group of people. It is by definition a theory and practice of influencing or controlling other people. It is about acquiring power and exercising positions of governance — organized control over a community or a state. Politics deals with how power and resources are distributed in a society. A kgosi is a leader of a morafe with immense power and authority. In traditional Tswana society the kgosi’s power was administered from a kgotla and it was almost impossible to envisage a kgotla without a kgosi. The kgosi and the kgotla both inextricably expressed tribal leadership. As Schapera (1970:5) observes, “The Chief is therefore not only the ruler of the tribe. He is also the visible symbol of its cohesion and solidarity” For ages the kgosi has been a supreme politician, a position he acquired by birth. The kgosi “governed the society through a hierarchy of headmen and with the support of personal advisors and officially recognised councillors. The supreme authority of the kgosi was vested in the royal office (bogosi)… The ruler is granted custodianship of the national material and symbolic wealth of the bogosi. Although the kgosi’s decisions are acknowledged as final – lentswe la kgosi ke molao (the kgosi’s word is law) – it was imperative for a kgosi to consult with the people, because kgosi ke kgosi ka morafe (the king is king by the grace of the people) (Gulbrandsen, 1995:419). The kgosi’s power included military power and sometimes bordering on the divine. The chief for many years amongst the Tswana was seen as in possession of great medicinal powers (both metaphorical and in reality); having powers to restore health to a sick and fragmented tribe. He united the fragmented tribe and restored order and discipline as he settled disputes and punished misconduct. “The chief was head of the dingaka and as ngaka supreme of the tribe he possessed two horns: the lenaka labokgosi (the horn of chiefship) and the lenaka lantwa (the horn of war). Only the chief could possess these horns, which were filled with tshitlho, medicine believed to secure protection for the tribe and combat hostile influences. In the possession of these horns lay supernatural power and sanction for the authority of the chief over the tribe.” (Dennis, 1978:53). Gulbrandsen (1995:421) observes that “The kgosi is not only rich but ideally generous, the source of wealth for all.” This is so since a kgosi used to control the tribal herd and a common granary (dihalana tsa morafe), serving as the major source of concord and prosperity. The kgosi has historically been an incredibly powerful politician. With the coming of independence, power shifted from dikgosi to elected leaders, mostly lacking royal blood. In other cases power stayed with dikgosi. The kgosi shifted from leading his morafe and engaged in party politics to lead his nation. This was the case with Sir Seretse Khama, kgosikgolo of the Bangwato, who turned his back on the Bangwato bogosi and took on the BDP and Botswana leadership. Julius Nyerere, kgosi of the Zanaki, also opted to lead his country to independence. Bathoen Gaseitsiwe, the father of Seepapitso IV also moved into party politics leaving Bangwaketse bogosi politics to his son. In the current Botswana parliament, we have President Ian Khama, who is the kgosikgolo of the Bangwato. We also have Kgosi Tawana Moremi who is kgosikgolo of the Batawana. Recently we have heard murmurs that Kgosi Lotlaamoreng of the Barolong may be joining party politics. He is doing nothing new. He will be in good company of other dikgosi who are into party politics. What appears to have happened is that over the years, power has shifted from dikgosi to the party politicians and bureaucrats and party politicians have convinced the dikgosi that it was a bad idea to be involved in politics. This was a great deception because dikgosi from time immemorial have been de facto politicians. They have never commanded a hundred percent following of their morafe. Dikgosi are slowly waking up to the fact that they are TS Eliot’s hollow men, stuffed men, leaning together, headpiece filled with straw. Alas! Their dried voices, when they whisper together are quiet and meaningless as wind in dry grass or rats’ feet over broken glass in their dry cellar. They are quietly walking to where power has shifted: party politics.

How baruti ran away from being herdboys!

June 10, 2015

The word moruti is used generally to refer to a church pastor. Pastors are baruti in common Setswana discourse. How this translation problem came about perhaps may be explained by the fact that those who established churches across the Tswana land from the areas of Kuruman, where the Bible was first translated into an African language, to the land of Khama the Great who believed so much in God that he constructed for him a most spectacular temple, spent much time teaching; not just Christian doctrine, but also teaching general education studies that included reading and writing, agriculture and other essential skills for the morafe. However the concepts of teaching and pastoring amongst the Tswana predate Christianity. The concepts were lexicalized many years before through the practices of bogwera and bojale as well as through the pastoral life of caring for livestock. Moruti is a personal noun derived from the verb ruta (to teach) mo + ruta + -i = moruti. Moruti is therefore one who teaches, a teacher. The biblical text 1Cor 12:28: “…third are teachers…” is therefore translated correctly “…ba boraro baruti…” since it renders teachers as baruti. Nothing would be interesting about this observation if we had teachers in Setswana general vocabulary referred to as baruti. However this is not the case. Teachers are not called baruti. They are called barutabana. Setswana translates the term baruti into pastors. Now this is the problem. Teachers in a classroom are called barutabana while teachers in the Bible are called baruti. How did it happen that in the domain of Education teachers are barutabana while in the domain of Religion they become baruti? What about those teachers who are not teaching children? I am here thinking of lecturers in colleges and teachers of adult classes. Certainly these are not barutabana because the people they teach are not children (bana) but adults. In certain quarters these are referred to as barutabagolo, which is a weak attempt at making the term for a teacher more applicable to adults as well. We must however be careful, we are not actually right in claiming: “…in the domain of Education teachers are barutabana while in the domain of Religion they become baruti.” What we find is that in the same domain of Religion, teachers are called baruti and pastors are also called baruti. The Bible translates the term teachers accurately as baruti while in the day to day running of the church the term pastors is translated to baruti. But are the words pastors and teachers the same? Not at all. We must return to the biblical text. Ephesians 4:11 “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, evangelists, the pastors and teachers.” The Setswana text reads: “Ke ene yo o tlhomileng bangwe go nna baaposetoloi, ba bangwe go nna baporofeti, ba bangwe go nna baefangele, ba bangwe go nna badisa le baruti

What we see here is that the word pastor is an agricultural term that translates to modisa; a de facto herdboy, who takes care of a herd of believers, or in the biblical language, he takes care of the flock. The image of a church leader as a pastor, a herdboy who takes care of God’s flock runs across the entire Bible. The very judgment is a matter of God separating the goats from the sheep. One of the Proverbs says to leaders: “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds” or Jeremiah 3:15 “And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Jesus also revealed himself and even God as a shepherd. Church leaders should therefore be called badisa and not baruti because they are pastors and not necessarily teachers. I am not here claiming that pastors cannot be teachers at the same time, or that they aren’t. I am instead grappling with words and their equivalence across the two languages of English and Setswana. The term baruti (teachers) must not only be restricted to those in the Bible, because that is not what the translators of the Bible intended. They did not attempt to restrict the use of the term baruti to the Christian or religious domain. Teachers in schools should also be referred to as baruti because ba a ruta. There is nothing religious about the term baruti; in fact when the Bible was translated into Setswana, the term baruti simply meant a teacher, one who teaches. It lacked any restricted theological connotations that it now has. It is time that the users of the Setswana language claimed the word baruti to its original meaning of one who teaches. The Bible translators were also accurate in translating the term that refers to students or disciples. They translated the term as barutwana. Unfortunately that is not what we call them. How students developed into baithuti it isn’t clear. The word barutwana for students is ideal since it refers to those who are being taught or trained. It acknowledges the presence of a teacher in the learning process. The word baithuti on the other hand, negates the active role of a teacher. It falsely assumes that learners are in some kind of self-directed independent learning process devoid of an instructor. Unfortunately barutwana has also become fossilized and restricted as a term for the religious domain. It is actually impossible to imagine the word barutwana in any other context, except that of the disciples of Jesus Christ. However, barutwana is a good word for referring to students in general and must be seized by writers and speakers of Setswana to express the meaning of students in general.

There are a lot of words in the Setswana Bible that need to be revisited, partly because language changes; it grows, ages and dies; partly also because conceptually they do not capture the central meaning of certain theological concepts. Take for example the term baptize which in Setswana is rendered as kolobetsa. Now go kolobetsa is to make wet while to baptize is to bury under water (from Greek baptizein: to immerse or bury under water). That certainly is more than to make someone/something wet which can be easily achieved with a mug full of water!

The greedy ones have already been born

May 27, 2015

Ours is a society full of greedy souls, the greedy ones. This greed exposes itself not so much in individual dealings in big and expensive stuff, but rather in small ways in which we interact with each other. We want to receive from each other but we are most reluctant to give to one another. The greedy ones attend village weddings uninvited and demand food and drinks while they are unwilling to give a present to the bride or groom. They don’t want to help in anyway during the celebration. No washing of the dishes or helping to prepare the meal like those who came before us used to do. When you organise a party or invite people to your house for dinner or a meal, the greedy ones will appear empty handed ready to eat and run. When our ladies are invited for “bridal showers”, “kitchen parties” or “baby showers” the naked greed is revealed. People are appointed “organisers”, which in reality means “contributors”, and large amounts of money are required from such organisers. Pressure is then exerted on an organiser and presents demanded. The sad thing is that in many of the cases such pressure comes someone who is not even close to you. A person may not know you very well actually but they will try as much as they can to extract as much money from you as they can.

Those getting married or those having birthday celebrations also sometimes make demands. They demand presents and get rather grumpy when none are given. Sometimes this greed is demonstrated when one meets you in the streets, at a mall or anywhere at all and attempts to steal your clothes right off your back! It all begins with a disguised compliment, something like: “Ke rata ditlhako tsa gago!” Or “Jakete ya gago e ntle jang mma!” When you smile and delight at the attention and appreciation, the greedy one pounces: “E mphe tlhe mma!” “Ke a e kopa tlhe rra!”What the greedy one is saying is: “What you are wearing is good on you but I want it for myself. I am envious of how well you look and therefore I want to take that good look away from you.” Indeed the greedy ones are amongst us; the greedy ones have already been born.

The hustles of a city boy

May 18, 2015

He wants to be a well-mannered man, with poise and class, perhaps a CEO of some corporation living in the most affluent part of town. He wants to drive the most expensive car in town and wear the most expensive and exclusive clothes. What he wants is wealth; lots and lots of wealth. And so he hustles. At least that’s what he says he is doing. He is hustling. Life itself is a hustle; a series of hustles. It must be said that he also wishes for sophisticated mannerisms, something he can’t put his finger on because it keeps shifting like shadows. Is it a kiss on the cheek perhaps? Is it in a hug? A smile? Opening the door for a lady? Perhaps pouring the lady a drink? He isn’t sure. But both wealth and sophisticated mannerisms evade him at every corner.

If he were to visit a good psychologist perhaps she would discover that somewhere deep in his heart; somewhere where the spirit and the soul engage in the dance of old, there is a cry for recognition; an insatiable desire to be; to be somebody that can be seen, that can be recognized. No man wants to be Ralph Ellison’s Invisible man groping the underground. A man must be seen. He must be noticed.

And so he wears his suit with its tight pants. His tie is bright – always bright. It is important to have a bright tie. A man’s tie is his closes piece of attire to his phallus. What animal goes around with an exposed dark phallus? A phallus must be bright to appeal to the opposite sex and announce the presence of the beast. It must be bright for its owner to be seen. Is it any wonder then that his tie is made by the top men’s-clothes company called Hermes? Hermes is the son of Zeus. He is the Greek god of the phallus! A fertility god. He is a well-put together city boy. He is physically groomed. A good hair cut; a moisturized face and an over perfumed body. He drives a sleek clean car. It is always clean because it is cleaned whilst it is still clean.

Sometimes he comes to work driving a Land Cruiser – a heavy fuel-guzzling thing with clean shovels on its sides. This is not a mistake. He wants to be a farmer, yes a farmer. Though at one level he despises farming and all that is associated with it, there is one part of farming that appeals to him. The reason he drives his Cruiser is because a number of successful men drive Cruisers. This is the part that appeals to him. He wants to be within the circle of successful men. He wants to be seen as one of them. Certainly if successful men drive Cruisers, to appear successful, one ought to drive one.

So he says he bought a farm. Yes, a farm, not a tshimo. You see there is a subtle difference here to be made. Anybody can have a tshimo. Government allocates masimo to its peasants. Old men and women have masimo. They cut a few thorny branches to form a wall around a tshimo. Ke batho ba masimo! Tshimo communicates poverty and rustic mannerisms devoid of any refinement. It is associated with dikhwaere le banyana ba ba tlerebetsang. A farm means something else. It communicates money, wealth, modernity and sophistication. So he has a farm. That’s what he tells everybody else. No one has seen him farming. No one has seen him selling any produce. But that doesn’t matter. He has a farm.

He has also made sure that he lives and eats where important people eat and live. It really doesn’t matter to him what the expense is. It has cost him dearly to live in his neighbourhood which is far removed from his work place. He has a simple motto: you have to spend money to get money. He knows that money is not made by the most educated or intelligent, but by the most connected. He therefore runs after connections and pays to get connected. The most important issue for him is who knows him and not whom he knows. He therefore has a stack of business cards somewhere in his inside pocket from which he periodically extracts one card to hand to his contacts. He hopes for a call from his contacts. It is always better to receive a call from a contact rather than to call him. It is a good sign. But he is angry and frustrated because his choices and tastes have left him financial exposed. For a number of years now he has been sinking into a dark pit of debt from which it is becoming rather tricky to extricate himself. He has therefore tried strategies of extracting money from his contacts in a dignified manner. He tries to be useful to his contacts. He has got a number of his contacts to supply his employer with much needed services with an understanding that upon receipt of payment his contacts would grease his hands. Up to today his hands remain dry. Recently he travelled to China and Dubai in search of ways to make extra money. It hasn’t been as easy as he thought it would. Now he frequents coffee shops in Riverwalk, Game City and Airport Junction with a laptop. He still shakes hands enthusiastically with a wide smile followed by a short loud laugh. He hasn’t lost hope. One day. All it takes is one day, then that tender will be in the bag and he will be home and dry.

I bet you did not know this about kgomo

May 11, 2015

We know that an entity (that’s an intelligent way of saying “a thing”) is an important part of a people’s life by the way it is expressed in their language. If an object or a living entity is central to a community, the amount of lexicalization, i.e. the formation of terms to refer to that object’s permutations in the society, will be high. The English have a great fascination with dogs. They therefore have a large collection of terms that refer to dogs. Specifically, the terms refer to the different breeds of dogs. These include Cocker Spaniel, Foxhound, Mastiff, Setter, Springer Spaniel, Water Spaniel, White Terrier, English Bulldog, Staffordshire Terrier, German Shepherd, Basset hound, Beagle, Bearded Collie, Bloodhound, Rhodesian Ridgeback and many many others.

It was the linguist, Franz Boas who first noted that the Eskimos have multiple words that refer to snow, a matter that has been a subject of much debate in linguistics circle. For the Batswana, for many years nothing has been definitive of the social life as kgomo (a generic term for cow. In this column we use the term cow, not to identify a female beast, but we use it generically to refer to all cattle, male and female). Kgomo has defined a man. A man with many cattle has been defined as smart, intelligent, wise, influential and rich. A man without cattle has been a perfect symbol of poverty. This is because with cattle a man can feed his family. He can get milk from his cows for tea, for drinking, for making logala, also known as sekholo, nthiane, sengana and lephintshatshwene. The milk can be used for madila (sour milk) that can be added to bogobe before or after cooking. Lobebe (the thick milk crust that forms on top of boiled milk) was eaten or applied on the face of girls and women for personal beautification. The importance of milk amongst the Tswana has led to a variety of expressions that relate to milk. Amongst these are kgwa mashi, kgomo ya mashi, mashi a kgomo ke tswa thobeng ke le phepa, selabe se tla le motsayakgamelo. Milk that has just gone bad, is known as mageri. A cow that is a source of milk is called legangwa or leradu. Go lala digobo is when a cow goes a day without being milked, or skips a day without feeding its young. A cow that produces much milk is called segamo while the one that produces little is called motete. Lephusa is a cow that has been producing much milk but now has started producing little because it recently fell pregnant. If a cow cannot become pregnant it is known as moreba or setwatwa.

The significance of kgomo can also be seen in the terms that are used to refer to the different types of dikgomo amongst the Batswana. Kgongwana is a term that means a smaller cow, usually slightly older than a calf, which in Setswana is lexicalized as namane. There are also terms that refer to a calf. If a pregnant cow dies before giving birth, the dead calf found inside it is known as mohungwana/mohumana. Its meat is usually cooked and fed to toothless old men and women! A calf that was born recently is called lebotlana. An older calf that is fit, healthy and beautiful to behold, is called lesole. Some call it lesolemotlhabana. Moalolelo is a calf that has been separated from its mother, especially to allow its mother to mate with bulls. In terms of size, there are cows that are mature but not fully developed to be called cows, bulls or heifers. At this size, they are called meroba (pl); moroba (sng). An un-castrated male adult cow is a poo (a bull). A castrated male cow is called a pelesa. A pelesa was used in the past as a beast of burden. E ne e belesa dithoto. During travel, it would be loaded with all manner goods on its back. Pelesa was also used during the ploughing season to pull a plough. If a bull was castrated as an adult it was called tshikela. Tshikela therefore refers to a poo that has been castrated in its adult life. In the past Batswana used to ride male castrated cattle just like horses. Such a cow was called lekaba. It is from this cow that the idiom mogwe lekaba ga a tsofale has been derived. If a cow has no horns we say e chochwa.

During a wedding ceremony cattle that function a variety of roles are lexicalized differently. The cattle that are given as bride-price to the family of the bride are called bogadi. After the delivery of bogadi in some Setswana cultures, such as the Bangwaketse, there is an adult cow that is given to the family of the groom by the family of the bride. Such a cow is given alive, e perepetshega. It is known as perepetsha. I have only scratched the surface on the different names that cattle can receive because of the function they perform in the various Tswana cultures. There are also numerous idioms and proverbs which have been derived from kgomo which I give below for evidence without comment. If you wish to know what they mean, consult a good Setswana dictionary like the one I wrote: “Tlhalosi ya Medi ya Setswana”. Nnete ga e jelwe kgomo, lentswe la maabanyane ga le tlhabe kgomo, kgomo mogobeng e wetswa ke namane; lebitla la kgomo ke molomo; mmatla kgomo kolomela o etse mhata sediba; kgomo ga nke e ntsha boloko jotlhe; kgomo ga e nke e tlhaba mong wa yone; kgomo ga e latswe namane e se ya yone; kgomo ga e imelwe ke dinaka e le tsa yone; ka e tlhoka ka tlhoka boroko ka nna le yone ka nna ka bo tlhoka; mokoduwe go tsoswa o o itsosang; kgomo go tlhabana tsa lesaka le le lengwe; makuku a naka tsa kgomo; mashi a kgomo ke tswa thobeng ke le phepa, selabe se tla le motsayakgamelo; mmala wa kgomo o gola namaneng; go baya motho mabele a kgomo; go opa kgomo lonaka; go bopa kgomo ya mmopa; phitlhela kgomo ya serotswana; go se na kgomo ya boroko; go jela motho kgomo; kgomo ya lefisa re e gama re lebile tsela; Kgomo e tshwarwa ka dinaka, motho o tshwarwa ka mafoko; kgomo e e mashi ga e itsale; mosima o duleng kgomo ga o thijwe ka bobi; mahube a naka tsa kgomo; Go jela motho kgomo; Go ema kgomo mogoja; Go se na kgomo ya boroko; Itaya kgomo lonaka; (Dithoto) di ja kgomo le namane; Kgomo e e mashi ga e itsale; Kgomo e tsentse tlhako kgamelong; Kgomo e tsewa ka namane; kgomo e tsoga ka tlhogo; kgomo ga e imelwe ke dinaka e le tsa yone; kgomo mogala tshwara ka thata e se re o utlwa sebodu wa kgaoga; mahube a naka tsa kgomo; makuku a naka tsa kgomo; mabele a kgomo; mmala wa kgomo o gola namaneng; poo go bewa ya kgomo, ya motho e a ipaya; se beetswe kgomo se retetse; tlogatloga e tloga gale, modisa wa kgomo o bolola nayo; ga le ke le feta kgomo le tlhaba motho

Tales of peace and conflict

April 29, 2015

The field of linguistics is broad. None can study all of its areas sufficiently. Advanced linguistics study demands that individuals specialise in specific areas. There are those who study the sounds used by languages of the world. We call them phoneticians. There are those who study the structure of words. We call them morphologists. There are those who study the structure of clauses, phrases and sentences. We call them syntacticians (from the word syntax). Those who concern themselves with linguistic meaning are known as semanticists. We must quickly acknowledge that the study of meaning is itself vast. There are linguists who concern themselves with sentence meaning, that is, how different sentences relate to each other. Such linguists look at sentence relations such as contradiction (e.g. I killed a man but he is alive) and tautology (e.g. I saw him with my two eyes. Obviously! We never see others using borrowed eyes!). There are those who deal with word meanings and how they relate to each other. Such individuals deal with matters of meaning similarity known as synonymy as well as meaning opposites known as antonymy. There are also those who study how context or society contributes to our understanding of meaning. They argue that language is a social product and it is better understood within specific social contexts. For instance, Setswana has unique colour patterns and terms which are unique to it. We know that both blue and green are represented by the form tala, the same form that we use to mean raw. We also know that Setswana has a unique and rich animal colour terminology. Technically we say such terms have been lexicalized, by that we mean that a single word refers to a concept. For instance phatshwa refers to the concept: “black and white in male animals”. English lacks a similar colour complexity. This unique quality of language linked to a specific culture is known in linguistics as a Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. It is a fanciful way of saying language is linked to its context. In other words language reflects elements of its culture and therefore words gain better meaning within a specific culture and period. Below we look at the word kagiso and how it is formed in Setswana. The central argument in this regard is that Batswana look at peace not as a state but rather as a continuous process that is continuously being built. We gain all this by looking at the formation of the Setswana word kagiso. Let us start with how kagiso is put together.

The Setswana word “kagiso” means “peace”. It is formed from the root: aga which means to build, to construct or to put together. The suffix “-isa” is then attached to the verb “aga” to form “agisa”.
aga + -isa = agisa. “Agisa”
means “to help someone build”. To change agisa to a noun we add the noun maker suffix [-o] to derive a noun. We therefore have: agisa + -o = *agiso (We here use the asterisk * to show that a word is not acceptable or doesn’t exist in Setswana.) Unfortunately [*agiso] is not acceptable or doesn’t exist in Setswana. This is because in Setswana when you form a noun from a verb that starts with a vowel you always insert a [k] at the beginning. For instance:

aba + -o = *abo > k + abo = kabo
aga + -o = *ago > k + ago = kago
ara + -o = *aro > k + aro = karo

To return to our unacceptable verb “*agiso”, the argument is therefore that it follows the same pattern as the above verbs. “*agiso” therefore takes a [k] at the beginning to form “kagiso”. The whole process appears as follows:

Aga + isa = agisa + -o = agiso > [k] + agiso = kagiso

That is the technical morphological formation of “kagiso”. Semantically it is clear that the Tswana believe that peace is something that is built with the help of others. In the language it is called “go letlanya” (from the verb “letla” meaning to allow/permit) to bring peace between two or more people. Amongst the Batswana, therefore no one builds peace by themselves. Peace in the Tswana philosophical thinking is negotiated. It is a matter of give and take: trasliterationally “I allow/permit you” and “you allow/permit me”: Re a letlana. Peace is also seen as a continuous process; and not a state or a once off thing. Peace like a building is built or constructed. It takes time. Like a building sadly peace can be destroyed and razed to the group. Let’s pause there with our discussion of the term kagiso and consider its opposite: kgotlhang meaning conflict.

The word kgotlhang is derived from the verb: go gotlha (and not the verb kgotlha which means to poke, as one might expect) which means to rub against, to file down, to scratch, to scrape off. Through a linguistic process of strengthening the noun kgotlhang is derived from gotlha. Conceptually when there is conflict the Batswana see this as the occurrence of a rubbing against each other between protagonists: batho ba a gotlhagotlhana. The idea behind this is that there is not just an encroachment into each other’s space since that is not seen as a source of conflict. Instead, a conflict is when one doesn’t just encroach into individual space, but proceeds to clash with the occupants of such a space; to rub against them, to cause friction. This results with a clash against each other which causes friction. Friction is unpleasant. It leads to fires. It leads to a burning and a peeling off. This tells us something else. It tells us that the Batswana value individual space since it signifies peace and serenity. They value coexistence within such a space and not a clash. One must be left alone and not be harassed: a tlogelwe. An understanding of where words come from gives us a better glimpse at the mental processes that birthed them such that an understanding of peace and conflict is laid bare before our eyes.

As the statues come tumbling down

April 10, 2015

Read the rest of this entry »


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