A couple of weekends ago I was awaken by sounds of the loud speakers from the national stadium that is just across the street. It was Saturday, and National Police Day was starting at 7:00am. Things usually start early here, and the 6:30am business call is not out of the question, but 7:00am on a Saturday? When I got to the stadium 30 minutes later the best seats were all taken. I underestimated the draw of police day. The crowd was mostly adults with children…very few people my age. I guess that explains why some people laughed when I asked if they were going to police day.
The Botswana Police Service is just over 120 years old, making it one of the oldest institutions in the country. The police serve under the Office of the President, His Excellency Khama Ian Khama, so of course the President came out to inspect his keepers of the peace. This was a highly anticipated event, as the man on the loudspeaker kept reminding us of the President’s immanent arrival every 30 seconds for the hour before the President actually arrived.
I was impressed with the Police Band and the officers on review. They put on a stellar parade show with precision marching…reminded me of being in marching band at Grapevine High School.
Just like at the UB Logo unveiling there were traditional dancers (this would be like having people in overalls and hoop skirts doing a square dance at every public event in Texas). There was also the guy dressed up as a poor looking old man who gave an oral history of the police force. During the story the crowd would sometimes laugh, and people informed me that he made a veiled joke about the police force or poked fun at the President. This type of humor, which also entails speaking truth to power, seems be be encouraged here. Indeed, not long after the traditional dancers were done with their number there was a procession of people dressed up in rags and masks, even a guy riding on the back of a donkey with the President’s agenda scrawled on a piece of cardboard. Everyone was laughing or chuckling at this display. I’m not going to pretend I know the meaning of this, but I know it was not malicious. It is excepted, and expected, by cultural tradition.
The Botswana Police Service has male and female officers. They have a visible presence around gaborone, usually traveling by car or walking a beat in 2’s or 3’s. Some police stations have even started a bicycle mounted police program. In addition to keeping the peace the police take an active role in promoting health care…which should be considered as keeping the peace anyway. Check this out.