Domboshaba calls for official use of Kalanga language

Updated: September 9, 2012

BACKGROUND: In 2011, the Dombashaba Cultural Trust had requested that the ministry advise government to reintroduce the teaching of the Ikalanga language which was withdrawn in 1972.  The Ministry of Education contended that although all languages are given equal benefits by government, the recommendation would be impractical and unaffordable. This led to a meeting.together with different representatives of cultural groups to discuss the introduction of indigenous languages as a mode of instruction in schools.

By Sesupo Rantsimako,  reprinted from The Botswana Gazette

FRANCISTOWN: In January 2012, Domboshaba Cultural Trust (DCT) called on Members of Parliament and councillors to fully assist Bakalanga tribe to use their language in all areas where they are the majority.

In the proposal the Trust put to the Francistown councillors, the DCT publicity secretary Kangagwani Phatshwane lamented that the splitting of Bakalanga lands denied the tribe collective recognition and was subsequently followed by the removal of Kalanga language from use as medium of instruction in 1972. “This has resulted in many Bakalanga losing their self esteem to the point where some now even deny their very identity as Bakalanga in 2000,” Phatshwane said. He added that many people are ashamed of speaking it and are now forced to abandon it because they interpret government policy of not teaching Kalanga as a tantamount to prohibiting its use.

Councillors were urged to exchange views on the promotion of collective rights such as teaching and promotion of the Kalanga community. “Why should the government regard the people of Mochudi as Bakgatla as they indeed are but refer to the people of Maitengwe as residents of Maitengwe while they should more appropriately be referred as Bakalanga?” quizzed Phatshwane. Phatshwane argued that the language should be offered as a subject in schools, used in all customary courts in predominantly Kalanga areas, on national television and public meetings. Furthermore, Phatshwane appealed to Bakalanga chiefs to promote the use of the language in all social gatherings. Phatshwane said that since there is currently no written indigenous language policies for Botswana, leaders are expected to contribute to the development of such policy with the aim of introducing Kalanga in schools.

Responding to the proposal, councillor Professor Tlou blamed Members of Parliament (MPs) for the status quo saying they should be lobbying for the promotion of the language. “These MPs do not support the introduction of Kalanga language because they are not lobbying other MPs,” he said. Tlou advocated for a constitutional amendment, saying, “if the Constitution can be amended it will have to cater for all usage of indigenous languages”.

Councillor Tabengwa Tabengwa, however, was worried that their wishes will not be realised easily as it is being advocated for by a smaller organisation. “Maybe if the leadership were also part of your organisation it was going to be easy and possible. In the past we had some of the organisations which were trying to do the same thing and they just failed since there was no support of the leadership,” Tabengwa said.

Another councillor James Kgalajwe, on the other hand, applauded the trust for bringing the proposal to the council, noting that as leaders they will also start to mobilize the people they represent. “Language is one of the key elements of a tribe. When the Kalanga language disappears, the future generation will lose their identity,” he said, further urging for all public institutions in the Bakalanga region to be named in Kalanga.


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