Swedish consultant gave Block 7, 8 controversial Setswana names

While the Minister of Health, Dorcas Makgato, has laid the blame of controversial neighbourhood names at the feet of the former Gaborone mayor and current Gaborone North MP, Haskins Nkaigwa, the latter has shifted the blame to the minister’s own party. During the course of a debate on the Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources Bill, Nkaigwa asserted that Botswana characteristically doesn’t appreciate its own and gives jobs that its own people can do to westerners.

“We tend to believe that it is the western influence or it is the western countries that can be able to deliver to our nation. I remember a time when we were naming the streets of Gaborone. We engaged a Swedish consultant – imagine, a Swedish consultant – to come and call areas like Block 7 “Ditimamodimo”. It is just unfortunate. It is unfortunate that we have a government that cannot recognise expertise that we have as a country,” the MP said. Soon after he made this statement, Makgato was on her feet to remind Nkaigwa that the decision to call Block 7 “Ditimamodimo” was taken during his mayoralty.

Some Block 8 residents are also displeased with the new name for their residential district – “Marapoathutlwa”. “I suspect parliament is out of order because the person who bears responsibility for that name is him [Nkaigwa] as mayor, the man standing here today,” Makgato said. Elaborating on this issue outside parliament, Nkaigwa said that contrary to what the minister had said, he was deputy mayor at the time that the Gaborone City Council engaged the Swedish consultant. “I was a member of the Botswana Democratic Party,” said Nkaigwa who was part of a group that broke away from the latter to form the Botswana Movement for Democracy.

“Even then I expressed my opposition to the decision to engage a Swedish consultant, who didn’t speak Setswana, to come up with Setswana names for Gaborone neighbourhoods. The consultant didn’t suggest the names but got them from civil servants who mostly submitted names of wards from their respective villages at kgotla meetings. As councillors, we were never consulted,” Nkaigwa said. We couldn’t establish the origin of Marapoathutlwa (which means “bones of the giraffe”) but it turns out that “Ditimamodimo” (those who are close-fisted with God) is the name of a ward in Serowe.

Residents of Ditimamodimo have petitioned GCC to force it to change the name to something more agreeable. There is no provision for such reversal in the current guidelines but ones which are being developed empower residents to effect such reversal. For those who are particular about what name their neighbourhood is given, it is important to attend kgotla meetings where names are suggested. “Block”/”Extension” names are given by physical planners to identify blocks they are doing work on – like Block 5, 6 and Extension 10. In almost all cases, post the development of a residential area, these names stick and become difficult to replace as GCC will find with Ditimamodimo/Block 7.

In future and in order to discourage the adoption of meaningless physical planning monikers, a source says that in future neighbourhoods will be given proper names before they are settled. In another matter related to names, the Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso, recently urged parents to stop the practice of giving their children inappropriate names. As the case of a South African musician who calls herself Shh! amply Illustrates, the latter is something that children can do themselves when they develop full language ability.