By Sefalana R. Matambo, Second Secretary, Embassy of Botswana to the Kingdom of Belgium, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Permanent Mission to the European Union.
Long before the lexicon was conceived, the people of Botswana were already living the concept of Botho. The word, derived from Setswana, the national language of Botswana, describes a latent consciousness that one’s own sense of humanity is deeply rooted in the humanity of others in the community, whom we traditionally consider our extended family. It speaks to the very core of our humanity and says, “I am because you are” [“Motho ke motho ka batho”], a social contract of earning respect by first giving it. It is humanness as an essential element of human growth, compassion, humility, sharing, responsibility and accountability. Most importantly, for us Batswana (citizens of Botswana, singular: Motswana), it is greater than doing what is good because it is right. It is an innate manner of existence that permeates the grandness of the cultural spirit of Batswana across every aspect of our lives – the home, community life, education, the workplace, national policy. It is the social and cultural cohesion that ensures no Motswana shall rest easy knowing that another is in need.
The concept of Botho is upheld within Botswana’s five National Principles, the other four being: Democracy, Development, Self-reliance and Unity. All are derived from Botswana’s cultural heritage and as a collective, are designed to promote kagisano [social harmony]. Botswana’s Vision 2016 acknowledges Botho as one of the tenets of our cultural heritage which has guided the country’s successful socio-economic development to date. Through the common sense of a shared identity and destiny within every man, woman and child, and the idea that empowering others is to gain empowerment, the five National Principles set a broader context for the objectives of the country’s national development, namely: Sustained Development, Rapid Economic Growth, Economic Independence and Social Justice.
In adapting to the age of rising globalisation, technology and rapid urbanisation, Botswana has become a melting pot of diversity. Our National Principles have proven to be all the more important and influential in directing the excellent relations we have cultivated with the international community. The atmosphere of friendship, respect and mutual understanding – elements of Botho – is the platform upon which Botswana promotes all aspects of the country’s national development agenda. Botho embeds itself in our interactions with the international community, encourages us to cultivate fraternal bonds of friendship with Governments and their peoples across the world, urges us to be ambassadors of goodwill, compels us to be one with our neighbours, both near and far, and instils a profound sense of duty to defend the defenceless, care for the vulnerable and seek social justice for all.
Botho is a powerful and revered cultural concept that unites us all and, by virtue of its true essence, excludes none. It is an unwavering, universal ‘Welcome’, an invitation to become part of a shared value that promotes harmony and respect amongst people living together, from our families and neighbours at home, to our international friends and partners abroad.
After all, motho ke motho ka batho…