Following his official resignation from the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Maun West MP Tawana Moremi hosted SONNY SERITE to a braai session where he poured his heart out on various issues.
More often, Kgosi Tawana Moremi comes across as someone who is largely misunderstood by society. So when it was announced last week that he had officially left the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change, I set out to hear him in person.
I contacted him to find out if he was available for a chat. “Yes, I’m here- my house is your house’’, he responded. I showed up at his house last week. Just as we are about to start our conversation on his resignation, Kgosi Oleyo Ledimo, who represents the Maun region in the Ntlo Ya Dikgosi, arrives panting, with his face depicting concern and worry. The three of us take a leisurely walk to the parliamentary bar and Kgosi Oleyo explains why he had come to see Tawana. He wants to know what is going on with Tawana because Batawana are demanding answers from them as their royal leaders. Tawana explains his resignation and future plans. Kgosi Oleyo bids us goodbye. Tawana and I walk back to his house where he pulls out a bag of charcoal and prepares fire on the braai stand. He asks me to switch on the radio but quickly reminds me to lower down the volume as he wants to be considerate to his neighbours. “If I play too loud they will say I’m mentally disturbed’’, he jokes and we laugh about it. Well, I am laughing but one of the reasons I came here is to find out if he is mentally fine-tuned given all the gossip doing the rounds about his sanity or lack thereof. I am impressed because I know only a sane man would be considerate of his neighbours. We are jamming to the sounds of Steve Kekana and singing along to his ‘Ga ke lejwe ke le mobe…jo ke metlholotlholo’ hit. I sneak to the kitchen to check if he is eating okay and his fridge is fully packed with all sorts of food, a good sign my Chief is eating properly. From his desk it is clear he is fond of books. I see a book by Karen Moss (Jewel of the Kalahari: Okavango). There is also Norman Moyo’s Rumble in the Jungle: Leadership from an African Perspective. He also reads It’s Our Turn To Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistle-blower. Tawana appears very happy to have me around. For the many years that I have known him, Tawana has always seemed to regard me as someone he can confide in his deepest thoughts and emotions. I always ensure that i make him feel at ease around me. We talk about anything and everything. There is never a dull moment with the witty Paramount Chief. Below is how our conversation went:
Sonny Serite (SS): I understand you have resigned from the UDC but you have not yet resigned from the BMD. How possible can that be? (I then explain to him how it doesn’t make sense to resign from UDC and remain with BMD).
Tawana Moremi (TM): Yes, I have tendered my resignation from the UDC and by extension from the BMD. I am now an independent MP.
SS: But you have not informed the BMD. Don’t you think they deserve to know you are no longer with them?
TM: I intend to notify them sometime this week.
SS: What about the people of Maun West and Batawana in general? Don’t you think they also need to know of your move so they can find your replacement?
TM: Very true, they deserve to know and I will be going to Maun in the coming weeks to let them know of my decision.
SS: Are you on your way to re-joining the BDP?
TM: Hell no!!! I am not joining any political party. I will be independent until my term ends in 2019.
SS: Are you standing for political office in 2019?
TM: No, I’m quitting politics altogether. I want to focus on Climate Change issues. I am currently talking to some international organisations and one university in Canada to see how best we can work together.
SS: Climate change? I thought you would venture into something in line with your qualification as commercial lawyer?
TM: I have taken serious interest on issues that affect society. In fact I want to use the remaining 2 years as MP to purse a Master’s Degree in Social Anthropology with a view of going all the way to attain PhD.
SS: But why did you leave the UDC?
TM: I want to safe-guard my integrity. There is a lot that is happening in the UDC that I would not want to be associated with. I have worked hard for my reputation.
SS: Can you elaborate
TM: I don’t want to be associated with criminals and thugs. You know about all these court cases of people being charged with threat to kill the president and many other things that we hear people talk about. I don’t want to be a part of that because I don’t want to soil my reputation.
SS: Let us be blunt. Are you talking about the case of Boko’s associate who is charged with threat to kill?
SS: And what does that have to do with Boko or the UDC? Is he guilty by association?
TM: I am told more is coming. Even newspapers have written so.
SS: Fine, even though I still don’t think all that warrants your resignation. Jaanong, how has Ndaba Gaolathe wronged you?
TM: With Ndaba I have to be careful lest I regret (ke toga ke itshenyeletsa). But you know, just like all my other colleagues, he is avoiding dealing with issues that I want dealt with. I have knocked on all their doors and they don’t want to talk to me. I have raised issues concerning my people in Ngamiland and no one wants to listen. I always seek audience with these guys and all they will say is, we can’t talk here because these parliamentary houses are bugged. They are also the ones spreading this rubbish that I am mentally disturbed. It really pains me to have to deal with people who view me as a mad man. How am I supposed to continue being in the same party with them when they view me as a mad man? Even bo Rre Motshwarakgole know my issues but they want to solve them with ultimatums. I don’t accept ultimatums.
SS: So, Chief, it is not true that you are mentally ill?
TM: Serite do I sound like a mental case to you? I have gone through psychiatric evaluations here in Botswana and South Africa and the doctors have all cleared me.
SS: But Chief, are you going through any depression because it can also be a form of some mental distress?
TM: Well I am going through normal depression that affects every other guy in the society. You know, financial stress or where the girl you love does not want you or the one who loves you is the one you don’t want. It happens to all of us and that does not warrant for people to classify me as mentally disturbed.
SS: Have you fully healed from your divorce?
TM: People always ask me if I have healed from the passing away of my dad and remember he died in the 80’s. It is never easy but you get to a point where you realise the best solution is to let go. My ex-wife is a very beautiful woman that I had spent so many years with and obviously it hit me hard when we divorced.
SS: My question was, have you healed from the divorce? Have you moved on and let go?
TM: Yes I have. We have both moved on with our lives. We have a good relationship and we co-parent our kids brilliantly. In fact she often comes here with her boyfriend and we have a braai without any qualms. She is a good woman.
SS: Are you seeing any woman at the moment?
TM: No, I am not dating anyone at the moment. I am focusing all my attention and love towards my kids. It also gives me time to sit alone at home and introspect and plan for the future.
SS: I see a Bible on your desk, do you go to church?
TM: I am a staunch Catholic but normally on Sundays I take walks and would just gate-crash any church that I see along the way.
SS: Is it true you once went to parliament wearing shorts?
TM: Yes, but people must stop twisting it because I had gone there to submit my sitting allowance claims at parliament offices and not inside parliament chambers. I was not there for the formal parliament business.
SS: You once refused to remove your sunglasses while inside parliament?
TM: Yes I refused. Why should I remove my sunglasses when I feel the lights inside parliament are too bright for my eyes? Ga kere they also wear ‘four eyes’ to mitigate their sight problems. Gape hela I don’t understand why we are expected to respect a parliament that does not respect itself.
SS: On Monday you attended the budget speech session not wearing a neck tie and your shirt was not tucked in.
TM: Parliament rules are not specific on what type of tie we should wear. I was wearing a cravat tie and I didn’t tuck in my shirt because I wanted to allow air in-flow.
SS: You once used the word ‘matanyola’ in parliament. What were you on about?
TM: The previous day while parliament was discussing the issue of distributing condoms in prisons, Minister Siele had used the word. He had said he doesn’t support ‘matanyola’. So I used the word to see if he was the only one allowed to use the word in parliament. BDP MP’s objected to the use of the word but the then Speaker, Pono Moatlhodi, came to my defence and said the word was a permissible and proper Setswana.
SS: How is your relationship with President Ian Khama? Do you guys talk to each other? Is he still your children’s God father?
TM: We have a cordial relationship. He is still the God father to my kids and as such it is important we keep a healthy relationship for their sake. He calls regularly to check on them and actually phones them directly. We don’t talk politics and he has never attempted to recruit me back to the BDP.
SS: You are often seen hanging out at Partial and people suspect you could be taking drugs there.
TM: That is rubbish. I don’t do drugs and it pains me every time people see me out there and they rush to call my mother and cousins telling them untruths. I hang out at Partial because the people there offer me that normal atmosphere. Guys just come and say ‘eitah’ and proceed to have their drinks and mind their business. Obviously they know who I am but they don’t overwhelm me with expectations to have me live a somewhat different life. They allow me to be. For the past four months I have been without a car and this allows me to walk to the shops or just take a stroll in the neighbourhood. I find it very therapeutic and at times people appear shocked to see me walking. It is so refreshing there are times I just want to walk bare-foot but I fear our judgmental society would say I am not mentally stable.