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6 May 2010

First Setswana Debate Tournament a success

Botho College (NIIT) has emerged as the winners of the inaugural Setswana Debating Championships hosted over the weekend at the University of Botswana. The College triumphed over teams from the University of Botswana, Limkowing University of Creative Technology and 1 Independent team. The motion for the finals was: Go fitlhelelweng Tekatekanyo ya banna le bomme a bomme le bone ba duele Bogadi (To achieve gender equality women should pay bride price).

The Setswana Debate Championship was organized by the Debate Masters Association. It has been developed to revive and sustain the Setswana language and to prepare a platform for students to speak and communicate in Setswana. It is also meant to promote debate through one of African’s popular languages. This comes as part of an initiative to echo Botswana’s national identity particularly the use of classical-standard Setswana by cooperating with Setswana speaking schools in Botswana and South Africa. More than 50 Setswana debaters participated in this tournament. The tournament comprised 16 debate teams from 4 tertiary institutions in Botswana. It was support by the House of Chiefs, the University Of Botswana Department Of African languages and literature and the Department of Youth and Culture.

More teams from Mafikeng and Setswana speaking group in Namibia and Zimbabwe will receive an invitation next year with the aim of increasing participation and involving more countries. Other motions at the tournament were on the existence of witch craft in Africa, the role of chiefs in a democracy and gender roles in an African context.

Below is brief history of the Setswana language.

Setswana is a southern African language spoken predominantly in South Africa and Botswana. It is the national and official language of Botswana. It is also spoken in some regions in Namibia, Lesotho, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Since 1994, Setswana was one of nine indigenous languages to obtain official recognition in South Africa’s first post-apartheid Constitution. The 2001 South African census estimates the number of Setswana speakers to be 3,677,010. At 8% of the population, Setswana speakers make up the fifth largest language group in South Africa. In South Africa most of the speakers of this language are situated in the North West province, which borders Botswana. There are also significant numbers of speakers in the Northern Cape and Free State provinces.

Setswana forms part of the “Southern Bantu” group of African languages, which in turn forms part of the larger Niger-Congo language family. The Central subgroup is further subdivided into geographical regions, each designated by a letter. The S-Group covers much of southern Africa and includes the two major dialect continua of South Africa: the Nguni and the Sotho-Tswana language groups. Setswana forms part of the Sotho-Tswana language group and are therefore closely related to the other major languages in this group, Sepedi and Sesotho. Linguists commonly drop the language prefix when referring to these languages. Hence Setswana is also commonly known as “Tswana” In many older publications this language is referred to as Western Sotho.

Setswana was the first of the Sotho-Tswana languages to be codified. The standardized language is based on the Sehurutshe dialect. In 1806 Heinrich Lictenstein produced the book “Upon the Language of the Beetjuana” – under British rule Botswana was known as Bechuanaland. Dr Robert Moffat, of the London Missionary Society, arrived in Bechuanaland in 1818 and some years later began translating the Bible into Setswana. Moffat’s Bible was completed in 1857. The different spellings of “Setswana” reflect the various missionary attempts to codify the language spoken in different regions.

The development of the Setswana language in education has proven to be useful to Setswana speakers. The language is taught as a subject at all levels in government schools in Botswana and in schools in South Africa. It is also used as a medium of instruction in schools from standard 1 to standard 7 and at university both in South Africa and Botswana. Increasingly parents have been opting to have their children educated in English. The language is however fairly well represented in the media and text books. Setswana shares a television channel with other Sotho-Tswana languages and is used on two radio stations, Motswedi Radio and Radio Mambatho in South Africa. It is also used on Radio and Television in Botswana and in some newspapers in both Botswana and South Africa. The most famous Setswana speaker was the intellectual, journalist and writer Sol T Plaatje. In addition to his other achievements, Plaatje translated some of the works of Shakespeare into Setswana.

Justice Motlhabani

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