It was a rhetoric question raised by a big man which needed no answer. By default those who attempted to answer it appeared as idiots, for by definition rhetoric questions don’t demand answers. They are tools of rhetoric used effectively to drive a point home; to state some truism. The big man achieved that. He made us pause, think and wonder whether there is anything wrong with a hunger for leadership position. Through the rhetoric question the big man was in fact debunking claims that some are in politics for maemo while others are not, when in fact all politicians are in politics for maemo. You see, to achieve much you need maemo. There is very little you can do o sa ema. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with maemo. You need to stand up and be counted. Maemo may be a sign of courage at a time when a country or society needs leadership and direction. Ke gore o tshwanetse wa ema, fa ba bangwe ba borolala ba itsemeletsa. Actually it is those who do not want maemo who may be doing the society much disservice for they may be denying us their talents through go ikgogona.
Then there is the hypocric – the multi-coloured chameleon with a sweet tongue and deceit in his heart – who appears not to like maemo. To him maemo is bad. That’s a wrong way of putting it. The chameleon says maemo is bad. But the chameleon loves maemo, he is only ashamed to say so in public. The chameleon knows that maemo is very critical to his survival. He punches his opponents from the cozy safety of maemo and then when his opponents attempt to retaliate, he ducks behind maemo. So maemo is not really bad. The question is: Fa o eme o dirang? So with maemo in your hands, the question is, then what? Maemo are like hands. Do you roll them into a fist and deliver a killer punch or extend a hand of friendship, a warm embrace or an encouraging pat on the back.
The big man has said it: Ke mang yo o sa rateng maemo? The question is needed to expose lies and public posturing which has consumed some amongst our society. Maemo has been painted with a black brush to intimidate and exclude those who legitimately aspire for political leadership. Strangely those who paint maemo as bad, they themselves hold maemo, and some, it may be argued, illegitimately. So although from rooftops they insult those that want maemo, they themselves have maemo in truck loads and they dish maemo to their friends and those with the unique talent to kiss their boots.
The big man has asked the question: Ke mang yo o sa rateng maemo? What he got in response were giggles, nervous giggles of men and women who deep in their hearts would do anything to get and retain maemo. They know perfectly well that maemo have propelled them to great heights. Those who before attaining maemo were semi-literate and faced an uncertain future, have over night been transformed by maemo into village heroes, and some, even national heroes. They know, from firsthand experience what maemo can do for you. Their motto is fairly simple: Get and retain maemo through all means. To them principle, allegiance or morality mean nothing, as long as maemo is not secured. Maemo to them is like King Solomon’s wisdom articulated in the book of Proverbs. Get it and your future is secure.
I like the term maemo. It is a clear derivative of the verb ema. Like many of Setswana verbs, it is polysemous and homographic – that is, one word has many meanings, or one spelling represents many words. Ema can be used to represent multiple meanings such as stand, stop, cease to flow, represent and many others. The noun maemo means positions but with subtle subsumed related meanings. You can speak of maemo a motho kwa tirong, in this use the word maemo is neutral and possesses no negative connotations. And you may love maemo a gago kwa tirong, and that will not be construed in any negative light. However, when it is said that o rata maemo, various polysemous meanings are triggered. There are suggestions that you are greedy; that you would sell your soul to the devil for positions. There are even suggestions that you are corrupt and unprincipled. In part, this is a consequence of the way many Batswana are raised. We are taught that it is bad to aim for leadership. We don’t teach our children and members of our society that they can take a shot at leadership. This is in sharp contrast to how many American children are raised and are taught to believe in themselves and go for it. Part of this attitude is a result of our very rigid traditional class society with people being born into maemo, either as members of the house of bogosi or having a surname which associates them with wealth and success. Those who are not born into these positions of privilege but somehow are envious of those with maemo. They would usually stay content with another position of the less-successful but envious – that of malope. There is nothing attractive about bolope. Malope by their nature claim success by association. They excessively praise those with maemo and claim to know them closely with the hope that as they praise them; as they laugh at their bad jokes; they will be invited at the dinner table to eat masalela le magogo. That is the fate of a lelope, he is a career loser. So the big man has asked the question. His rhetorical question is a challenge at our insipidity. The point is not to demonize maemo, for maemo ke mashi a a phepa a tswang thobeng, and as usual, selabe se tla le motsaya-kgamelo.
** PHOTO: The Botswana Daily News