A year ago, an idea was born from a speech by President Dr Ian Khama, which called on all of us to seek means and ways of celebrating Botswana’s jubilee. GabzFM and Mail & Guardian Africa have now met this plea.
Though incepted a year ago, much of the hard work began in 2016 where two teams — one going southwest, the other going to the northeast of Botswana — covered 50 destinations, did over 10 000km of travel and had conversations with people from cities, towns and villages about Change Makers.
The Kgotla meetings at times lasted no more than two hours, with at least three to four destinations per day over just two weeks. What made us feel humbled were the words of many tribal leaders who said to us: Bongwanaka, Banana ba tsenwe ke boitlhobogo, re tshwenngwa thata ke basetsanyana ba ba tswang mo sekoleng e se ka maikaelelo. Ba bangwe ele ka go ima, go tlhoka tsebe kana mabaka a seemo sa malwapa kana dithuto.
This was presented to us in almost all areas we visited, especially the remote areas. In their demands from us, they spoke plainly in commending the 50 Change Makers Project as a noble initiative that will encourage young people to do more and not waste their lives.
The 50 Change Makers Project should not be confused with a funding scheme or government programme. It is a project driven by people in communities to recognise exceptional individuals doing great things for Botswana, in turn helping the government to achieve some of its goals, like employment creation.
What became clear during our benchmarking process was that there is hunger stemming from a lack of courage, opportunities, or a reason to be exemplary.
One kgosi was happy to know that the intention of the 50 Change Makers is not about a financial reward, which may not provide sustainable futures based on independence and initiative.
Looking ahead, Botswana needs youth that are not engulfed by lost hopes, which create a cycle of hopelessness. If these concerns from our tribal leaders can be taken as a challenge requiring more that just boardroom meetings to address, it is then my plea to you that we will consider change as a pure and boundless effort, which should enable us to deliver the youth and the country with results born out of resolve.
Many of us lose the boldness to influence change, often due to a fear of risks, but to a Change Maker, change should be a necessary challenge where persistence yields great rewards.
Our culture of Botho is the embodiment of positive change and our common progressive cause. Therefore, let us cast off any negative thoughts and refocus our attentions to these unsung heroes and heroines, without losing sight of the works done by those before us.
We should, as a country, return to the passion we are known for, lest we lose ourselves, like other countries that have lost their distinctive shaping, which should define their national culture and heritage.
Like Kenneth Waltz wrote in his book Man, the State and War, with reference to Rousseau:
“If children are brought up in common in the bosom of equality; if they are imbued with laws of the state and the precepts of the general will; if they are taught to respect these above all things; if they are surrounded by examples of objects which constantly remind them of the tender mother who nourishes them, of the love she bears them, of the inestimable benefits they receive from her, and of the return they owe her, we cannot doubt that they will learn to cherish one another mutually as brothers, to will nothing contrary to the will of society, to substitute the actions of men and citizens for the futile and vain babbling of sophists, and to become in time defenders and fathers of the country of which they will have been so long the children.”
With this, we can then understand patriotism as the will to change and grow Batswana, leading into innovations, ideas and growth as an instrument of positive change through generations.
Kenneth Oaitse Moeng is Gabz FM Programs Manager