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Which way Botswana?

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Culturally when a woman was in labour it was a big deal.

Apart from the midwives ensuring the safe arrival of new life, there would be women drumming outside to prevent the agonized cries of the mother reaching the ears of men in the homestead.

This week Batswana hold their breath in the midst of drumming since the nation is about to give birth to a crop of new leaders.

This has prompted me to share with you how in the years gone by society ensured that people were trained to be great leaders through Spartan and archaic rules.

The golden question comes to mind as we are about to cast our ballots – Are leaders born or are they developed?

Traditionally every one was raised to become a leader through character building.

There were many lessons that raised awareness on integrity and dependability.

Quite often phrases like ‘fa o ka tshameka otlaa ja maswe a balekane ba gago’- meaning if you don’t rise up to the tasks before you, you will eat the faeces of your peers.”

In the formative years it was important that young men achieve excellence in simple things like ensuring that their cattle did not destroy other peoples crops, whilst young ladies were drilled to be dependable through chores like stock pilling of firewood for the rainy season.

That made individuals not only dependable, but responsible members of society.

What comes out of the child rearing strategies of our culture is that leadership was not just a development issue. It was perceived holistically.

Iwill share with you Sebopiand Rapula’s story, which demonstrates that over the years “borena”- high profiles and all the trappings that go with them have created a leadership personality clash that has tragically created social giants but moral dwarfs.

SEBOPI S STORY

Sebopiarrived at the kgotla in the latest Merc, but what came out of the car was a broken woman who might have been better off being attending the clinic.

She had taken pains to cover the ugly blue patches on her face with layers of make up, but it seemed that she was more concerned about Rapula’s high profile than of her discolouredeye and bruised and swollen face.

This was evident as she prefaced her story by warning me to be discreet since her complaintwas against a very important man who was not just a social giant, but a preacher of repute.

She related how she had been assaulted for investigating Rapula’s phone and finding messages from his mistress demanding maintenance for their child.

After lodging her complaint she requested me to be nice to ‘Rraetsho’ when I notified him of her grievances.

I told Sebopi that hers was essentially a police case, but I took it upon myself to call Rapula and inform him of his wife’s report.

When told that he was accused of assault, occasioning bodily harm, his initial response was outraged arrogance.

“O a ja o a nwa ebile o nkisa lekgotleng kena le batsadi” (this woman eats and drinks at my expense and she has the nerve to report me).

AND IN THE END

Rapula showed no remorse at all. His apology was punctuated with a string of ‘buts’ and ‘ifs.’

He was amazed by his wife’s stupidity in reporting him and risking that he, of all people,might be paraded in the front of the newspapers for wife beating.

Sebopi was intimidated into apologizing for reporting the matter.

Rapulathen smiled victoriously, which provoked me into remarking that if he wasthat concerned about his leadership position in society, he shouldn’t go around beating up his wife.

His reply shocked me: “Rapula the high flyer and Rapula the husband should never be mixed up. He is a preacher on Sunday and a man with every day needs the rest of the week.”

On Friday night many new leaders will be born followingaggressive and noisy campaigns.

Promises have been made, but most will not be kept, and the things that politicians say before the election, are different to the things they do thereafter.

Or in the words of a famous French playwright: “Man are alike in their promises – It is only in their deeds that they differ.”