When BPS ‘restrains’ a prisoner

One understands why members of the armed forces have to use coded language. However, where they interact with members of the public, it would certainly be desirable if they used simple language that everybody else understands. Years ago, a UN agency did a study on the HIV incidence in the army and uncovered a completely new vocabulary that some young women certainly needed to know.

One was the phrase “jumping without a parachute”, code for sex without a condom. In the Botswana Police Service, the standard of proof is so high that officers wouldn’t call tap water as such until it has been tested in a forensic laboratory. Before that happens, the water is called “something that looks suspiciously like water.” A knife or a screwdriver is “a sharp instrument” of indeterminate nature. It turns out that the Botswana Prisons Service also has its own unique language.

On Tuesday, the PR office released a public statement about the death of a prisoner who died after assaulting a prison warder with an iron bar. The statement says that the prisoner died after he was “restrained.” Seeing this statement was for public consumption, the author could have used un-coded language – or a “wink-wink” emoji to qualify “restrained.”

What’s up?

Still on matters relating to language, the urban young continue to prance around supermalls, asking friends they encounter: “What’s up?” The uniform response explains why the pass rate in schools has been persistently below 40 percent. To that question, all answer “Cool!” This answer is incorrect. At a time that there is a cost-of-living crisis, “prices of food and fuel” would be a proper answer. The word “cool” has a very precise meaning and no longer has applicability in Botswana because, like prices of food and fuel, temperatures are also on the up and up.

Should Botswana also traffick humans?

The next time the presidential jet goes airborne – which could be any minute – it should head to Europe. President Paul Kagame has just cut his country a deal in terms of which Britain will dump black economic refugees who fled there in Rwanda. As more and more Africans flee to Europe, this human trafficking will increase in volume and scale.

Following in the example of Britain, other European countries are also going to traffick human beings to Africa because they have more blacks than they need. In the future, African countries will be given foreign aid on the basis of their willingness to accept black Africans trafficked from Europe.

That has become apparent with Rwanda being chosen as the venue for the last Commonwealth Summit. In addition, western media will overlook Kagame’s dictatorship and lionise him like it did Robert Mugabe and Mobuto Sese Seko until they fell out with the west. Our diamonds are being mined out and our efforts to diversify the economy have failed. Human trafficking may be our next best hope.

Nobody should worry about Botswana ever being accused of being involved in “human trafficking” because the people who craft language to describe phenomenon are not even using that term but an innocent-sounding one – resettlement programme.

Karen’s Kitchen

A British restaurant is claiming credit for an idea that the owner may have plagiarised from Botswana. The restaurant calls itself Karen’s Kitchen and its selling point is intentionally poor customer service – which includes making a point to insult customers throughout their stay. What is odd about this case is that a government that is always encouraging us to copyright our ideas has itself failed to copyright its own.

Increase your Setswana vocabulary

Given the popularity of English nowadays, most people don’t get to speak enough Setswana and often when they do, are confronted with new vocabulary that they don’t know. As a public service, we bring you new terms that you will certainly find useful when you stop twanging away and briefly interact with the hoi polloi.

Phakalane: Yes, the word comes from the stockbroker belt north of Gaborone but also refers to the latest Range Rover model.

Mabiletsa: this word refers to two types of people, both of whom do business on the edges of the law. Type 1 is the self-appointed car-park marshals who have commandeered Gaborone City Council-owned parking space.

The Type 1 mabiletsa seeks to extort and generally terrorises (especially female) motorists by demanding payment for having guided them to empty parking space. Some of these mabiletsa punish motorists who refuse to use their services by either breaking into their cars to steal things or scratching the paint work of their vehicles. Type 2 mabiletsa ply their trade at the Gaborone bus station as loud, obnoxious route touts.

Motlabaseyo: this means night watchman, who is so called because he comes around when nobody is around.

Borotho jwa sekuta: pizza.

Lodge/guest-house: we don’t consider ourselves brave enough to give the Setswana term for these hospitality establishments but there is one.