BPF presidency and Bangwato bogosi

Let’s say we were living in the 1990s and the makers of Chappies chewing gum felt the urge to spread local political knowledge on the inside of a gum wrapper. What would they have said about the Botswana Patriotic Front? First though, let’s share some details about the party and its founder.

The party was founded in May 2019 by former president Ian Khama who quit the ruling Botswana Democratic Party but doggy-bagged the latter’s constitution and processes. BPF is essentially a provincial party with its support confined to all three Serowe-name constituencies. In addition to his politics, Khama is also the absentee kgosi (traditional leader) of Bangwato. The latter’s bogosi (traditional leadership) has been run by a regent since 1925. In addition to the regency, there is also Khama’s absence from the tribal capital – he hasn’t lived in Serowe full time since the early 1960s.

The BPF president, Reverend Biggie Butale, has been on suspension since 2020 whereupon Vice President Caroline Lesang acted as president but there is very clear understanding that Khama is the power behind the throne. After a run-in with law enforcement, Khama has fled to South Africa from where he continues to run the party. The information on the inside of a Chappies gum wrapper would likely say, “Did you know? The BPF presidency is patterned after the Bangwato bogosi: it is run by a regent. In much the same way that the Bangwato kgosi is absent from Serowe, the party’s real leader is absent from Botswana.”

Govt killing athletics

It is right and proper to celebrate the wonders that Letsile Tebogo is doing in the world of athletics. We hope though that the Botswana Athletics Association can get him an outfit that is not 12 sizes too small what they gave him technically amounts to defamation. Among those who have celebrated Tebogo’s feat is President Mokgweetsi Masisi - whose personal sporting passion is sitting in the passenger seat of a car being dangerously spun around.

More than anybody else, Masisi has the power to ensure that public schools continue to churn out excellent runners – private schools typically don’t do that. However, the siting of primary schools shows that Masisi clearly has no intention of doing that. A good example is of the two primary schools that are currently being built in Gaborone, one in Phase 4, the other in Block 6.

It is no great mystery why Kenya produces the best long distance runners in the world: schools are located far away from built-up areas, in hilly territory that can’t be accessed by vehicles. The result is that every school day, students have to do a marathon, to and from school. By the time they get to senior secondary, they run like “they have no gall bladder” – or so Batswana believe about super runners.

On the outskirts of Gaborone is a kilometres-long range of hills connected to Kgale Hill at Game City. The primary schools currently being built in Phase 4 and Block 6 should have been built along this range of hills in a place that could only be accessed by foot. That way we would have ensured that when Tebogo retires, there are more 60 super runners who can replace him.

Heavy toll of toll-free number

We are led to believe that Setswana for “toll-free phone number” is “nomoro ya mahala.” Technically, this statement is correct but the most important detail is missing from the translation: that no one ever answers calls placed to toll-free numbers. Try that with any utility corporation or the police and see what happens.

The more appropriate translation for “toll-free phone number”, one with more practical meaning is, “nomoro ya megala e e sa arabiweng.” On the basis of how Batswana generally don’t respond to calls placed to toll-free numbers, there is also an issue with the appropriateness of “toll-free.” If you are experiencing an emergency and nobody answers your call that is certainly going to take a heavy toll on you. How then, can that number be toll-free?


How do you know if someone had an urban upbringing and never spent a day in rural areas in their childhood? One useful piece of evidence is when they call a toilet a “restroom.” Part of growing up in rural areas is enjoying all the fruits that God’s garden provides free of charge from November to March.

One such fruit is called mokgomphatha (sandpaper raisin) which requires a lot of patience on the part of those eating it – especially children. You merely have to put the fruit in the mouth, wet it with saliva and chew it as you suck the sweet juice out of it. Not being experienced mokgomphatha eaters, some children swallow it whole, dry flesh and seeds.

The results of doing so announce themselves a few hours later in the form of an urgent nature call that, however, is not easy to answer on account of a rock-hard tummy. In extreme cases, children trying to answer that call, snap a twig from a tree branch and use it as an aid to answer that call. If you have had that experience in childhood, you are never going to refer to a toilet as a restroom in adulthood.