Botswana: Bring in other local languages

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Aug 23 13:18:50 UTC 2006

Bring in other local languages - Sebetela

Staff Writer
8/22/2006 4:22:11 PM (GMT +2)

Member of Parliament for Palapye, Boyce Sebetela has said that Batswana
fear discussing national issues especially those that deal with minority
ethnic groups. He said that Botswana is sitting on a time bomb because the
marginalised ethnic groups are not happy with the way things are done. The
MP was debating the Draft Botswana Broadcasting Policy in Parliament
yesterday. He said the policy is inadequate. He called for other languages
to be introduced in the state-owned Botswana Television and Radio
Botswana. "I know that there are prominent people even inside this house
who are not happy that their languages are not spoken in the national
broadcasting stations." He warned that if community radio stations are
licensed, the aggrieved ethnic groups could use them to press their
demands and settle scores.

He disclosed his reservation about community radio stations saying that
they are likely to divide the nation. "The mother tongue language is the
centre piece of cultural actualisation," he said. Sebetela said that
Botswana could emulate what British Broadcasting Corporation is doing by
introducing many radio and TV channels to cater for all members of
society. He said that the Botswana government should give the kind of
treatment reserved for developing social infrastructure to radio as a
means of improving people's lives. He said that through radio, government
can easily and cheaply reach the people in all corners of the country.

He added that radio can be used as a very powerful tool to unite a nation,
and that it could also be another avenue for economic diversification.
Sebetela got overwhelming support from MPs when he gave the example of
neighbouring countries of Namibia and South Africa for giving priority to
local languages in broadcasting, though they got independence more than 20
years after Botswana. He said that these countries are demonstrating their
commitment to national unity by communicating in local languages in their
national broadcasting stations.The MP for Kgatleng East Isaac Mabiletsa
supported Sebetela's argument and stated that there is a lack of political
will in Botswana to achieve what he is advocating for. The MP for Tati
East, Samson Moyo Guma said that he is not happy that his language -
Ndebele is not spoken in national radio and television. He said this makes
other ethnic groups to undermine his people.

Sebetela who was once Minister of Communications, Science and Technology,
said that there should be no external influence from politicians or
business people on the operations of a national broadcaster. He said that
in developed countries national broadcasting stations are barred from
engaging in any form of profit-making activities because business people
might take advantage of this. But in Botswana, he said that big companies
influence the editorial content of media houses by advertising in them and
threatening to pull out in the event they are given negative coverage.


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