My Setswana tradition declares: “leina lebe seromo” – which loosely translates into a person’s behaviour is largely informed by their name. English has eloquently captured the essence of this by proclaiming that “having a name holds the power”. The essence of the benefit that is derived from one’s name is reputation! The English bard, William Shakespeare, described it as the “immortal part of being” as everything else is “bestial”.
That’s why giving a name to a child is a serious family matter – not necessarily the responsibility solely of the baby’s parents. Growing up, I have had the opportunity of observing ritual ceremonies for renaming a child being held simply because our “forebears weren’t happy with the name” a bundle of joy was showered with. This happened often with the contemporary post-modernist African Google-obsessed young parents who would be tempted by the dictates of the occidental Coca Cola culture to deviate from their family traditions of naming their children after the elders.
Let me make a confession upfront. As someone whose world-outlook is centred on the science of dialectics, I wasn’t convinced about the ancestral discomfort or rejection of a baby’s name, but I chose not to experiment with my own children – so I complied with the dictates of my Setswana tradition and avoided any cultural deviances.
So the centrality of an appropriate name as a critical jigsaw piece in the puzzle of brand management has to be completely complied with. The other pieces in the mix are a logo; slogan; shape (even font/typeface); and colour palette. These elements may collectively be referred to as a trademark. These are defining characteristics of a brand – hence the brand owner will not only guard against its abuse, but will also police its proper usage. By mere looking at or hearing the brand pronounced, a consumer immediately formulates their perception of a brand whose identity is encapsulated by what they see or hear.
The perception alluded to above is related to what promise does the brand make to a consumer. And do remember the art and science of marketing teaches us that since there’s such a thin line between the two, perception is reality. This has validated what Socrates (470 bce – 399 bce, Athens, Greece) pronounced on: “The way to gain a reputation is to endeavour to be what you desire to appear…”
So your name is crucial. And so it is with the name of a place, a street, a service or a product! While I’m a diehard African Renaissance paratrooper, I haven’t succeeded in giving prominence to my indigenous African name, Kgomotso, over my “Christian” one, Saul. I do feel passionate about the former although my trading name is Saul. My earlier published materials as a journalist, poet and author were signed as Saul Molobi.
According to my Setswana tradition, a baby has to be named after one of their forebears. If they are given a second or third name, they have to relate to a significant occurrence during the period of their birth. So I was given the “middle” name Kgomotso, which means comfort, because my parents had three daughters and their fourth child who was a boy, named Michael, passed on in his infancy. So when I was born as a boy, I was comforting them. My tradition dubbed me “ngwana wa ngwako“, which loosely translates as the one who was born after a baby who passed on, and the ritual conducted for the preservation of my life was to not completely clean shave my head (I always had to leave a discreet patch of hair somewhere on my head while growing up).
Then my first name was after my father’s younger brother, Saul – who was stabbed to death in Alexandra township on the day I was born. So perhaps I was seen as his reincarnation. But my paternal grandmother went further to give me a third name, Sello – which means a cry denoting her mourning her son’s passing on. But to avoid the contradictions of Kgomotso and Sello, I decided to drop the latter in favour of the former which has positive connotations.
Yes, my Bakwena ba Batlase clan in Rustenburg were some of the first to embrace Christianity and as such my family tree is littered primarily with non-Setswana names. My grandfather was Josias, his father’s name was Malgas who was the first to convert in the lineage because his father’s name remained Ramatlhodi. Though Malgas was a Christian convert, he still became politically-conscious as one of the chiefs that attended the launch of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) as members. I grew up hearing the family’s closely-guarded secret of his membership card hidden in a plastic bag on the roof of my grandfather’s house in New Eersterus in the 1970s.
In the 1980s when I became politically conscious and started asking my rangwane (my father’s younger brother, the English lexical equivalent of uncle doesn’t cut it for me as it means malome – my mother’s younger brother in Setswana), Johannes, who lived with my grandparents, questions about this, I was berated. On insistence, I was told the family couldn’t afford to lose another child after my father’s cousin brother, Elias Ntloedibe (a Pan-Africanist Congress leader), went into exile. The only symbol of political statement growing up in my household was a photo of Botswana’s first post-independence President, Sir Seretse Khama and his white queen, Ruth Williams Khama. The photo was political because mixed-marriages were banned in South Africa.
Later I also learnt the reasons I was berated over my politically-inspired questions was meant to discourage me from being interested in the history of the clan as it was berserk with strife over chieftaincy and the preservation of normal family secrets as every family has. Though they didn’t succeed because I still got it from nkoko (granny) Miriam Lebudi (nee Molobi, a sister to my paternal grandmother, Rosinah) who lived in Swartdam. She gave me the lineage and recited the family’s praise poem which is rich with historical imagery. Yes, I did understand my grandparents’ apprehension in my interest in our family history because it harboured deep secrets with potential security repercussions – for instance, our praise poem says “re ngalla Matebeleng” (taking refuge in the land of the Ndebeles – under chief Langa in Mapela, Limpopo) and getting to understand it wasn’t just apartheid’s Home Affairs Department’s poor literacy skills that some of my relatives had to adapt their surname to Molubi spelt with a u and not o.
Another source of my complication in not using Kgomotso is the fair popularity of my nickname, “Bra Saul”, which is more famous than a mere Saul as my nieces and nephews go to an extent of calling me uncle “Bra Saul” in the presence of my mother who insists on them according me some respect as their elder.
Then my attempted compromised African Renaissance corrective measure in using Saul Kgomotso Molobi in full also failed. This confuses those thinking I have adopted the Spanish code in which Saul is my name, Kgomotso regarded as my appellido paterno (paternal surname) and Molobi my appellido materno (maternal surname) – which is a gross distortion or misrepresentation of who I am and I suspect may provoke the ire of my forebears that I have alluded to above.
Accepting defeat, or rather appreciating the simplicity of the life I live devoid of any complications, I have resigned myself to retaining Saul Molobi as my trade name – and the commonly known, “Bra Saul”, in everyday settings. I can’t go to the extreme of branding myself “an author-formally-known-as-Saul” as the late American musician, Prince, did. I find comfort in the knowledge that Saul Molobi is a sum total of many brand elements beyond just the name.
The mesmerising effect of place branding could be attributed to General Gregor MacGregor who lived from 24 December 1786 to 4 December 1845. A Scottish soldier and adventurer who from 1821 to 1837 conned British and French investors and settlers into believing he was from “Poyais”, a fictional Central American principality that he claimed to rule as a “Cazique”. He convinced many to invest their savings into Poyaisian government bonds and land certificates.
To further validate his claims, he provided detailed accounts not only of the country’s untapped economic resources and geography but also provided documents validated with his principality’s coat of arms, military uniforms, national flag and many other branded collaterals. The royal family even knighted him.
Furthermore, he managed to convince over 250 investors to emigrate to Poyais from 1822 and 1823. Unfortunately, the voyagers only found an untouched jungle and more than half of them died.
There are various reasons motivating for a name choice – sometimes political or economic. And place names are often changed inspired by the same reasons. For instance, many countries and cities were renamed post-independence in Africa. Zimbabwe from Rhodesia. The Democrat Republic of the Congo from Zaire. Namibia from South West Africa – though the ruling party has probably a similar problem to mine as they remain to this day the South West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO). I’m not certain that they are not just SWAPO in the same way KFC is no longer Kentucky Fried Chicken. Yes, even beyond our African shores. New York from New Amsterdam.
And the South African government has recently renamed many cities. Some name changes generated controversy as there were legal attempts to block the move.
But I believe we fail to identify low hanging fruits. I don’t see any logic in not renaming Soshanguve. This township north-west of Pretoria. While Soweto is an uncontroversial acronym denoting South Western Townships (of Johannesburg), Soshanguve represents the wrath the apartheid regime inflicted on our people.
The regime divided Mabopane into two by a railway line. One part, whose residents were predominantly Batswana, retaining the name and then condemning them into the Bophuthatswana bantustan. The other part then named Soshanguve, an acronym derived from Sotho, Shangaan, Nguni and Venda – and thus meaning Batswana were not allowed to live in this part of the township.
So I’m wondering why don’t we change this diabolical name that I think such an initiative will be supported by all residents? Why don’t we return it to its original name and reunite this community again. This could be a huge contribution to social cohesion that we yearn to create in this country.
Here’s another low hanging fruit. Why not give relevant names to new streets in the rural villages, smart cities and residential estates? In my own home village of New Eersterus, streets were given names that nobody knows which potent zol whoever decided on them smoked. Then obscure inner village streets, that have never seen a car driving on, were given four-way stop signs – yes, I’m not exaggerating. To me all these came across as fiscal dumping exercises. In fact, residents of informal settlements that are mushrooming and are even more socio-politically astute than government and property developers as they give appropriate names to their squatter camps.
Here’s another sad one about another village in Hammanskraal. It’s named Stinkwater. Since its inception in the early 1960s, it has never had running water. Post-1994 the City of Tshwane provided water to this village. But in the past few years the stinking undrinkable water has been dripping out of their taps and the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) also had to declare them as such. Leina lebe seromo!
It pains gravely because I know Stinkwater has contributed immensely to the struggle for national liberation in this country. It hosted Général Solly Shoke, the recently retired Chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and Adv Ngwako Ramatlhodi while on hiding before they went into exile in the 1970s. It hosted Benjamin Moloise as an underground operative before he was captured and sentenced to death by the apartheid regime in 1985. Yes, Stanley Molefe, karate master, trained Benjamin in the martial arts before he also went into exile to become ANC’s videographer.
Place branding is highly critical. Like corporates, places – be they cities, provinces, countries or continents – with a good reputation attract tourists, investments and aid much better than those with poor reputations. At the same time, services and products from such places with positive brand image are perceived positively too. This is the reason why places have to spend decent resources on advertising and media to enhance their international profile.
This is what constitutes the core business of Brandhill Africa (Pty) Ltd. Our competencies are as follows:
- International business (market & product: development, entry, penetration and diversification strategies) – the Ansoff matrix and BCG matrix
- Trade facilitation and investment promotion – Keith Dinnie’s ICON model and the Brandhill Africa’s “Zebra Paradigm” model
- Global marketing strategy development, management, implementation and review
- Brand development and management – the David Aaker Brand Vision Model
- International relations (traditional diplomacy and public diplomacy)
- International stakeholder matrix and management and management (public, private and civil society sectors)
- Development of strategic partnerships (national, continental and international)
- Global marketing strategy development, management, implementation and review
- Brand development and management – the David Aaker Brand Vision Model
- International stakeholder matrix and management (public, private and civil society sectors)
- Journalism (research, writing, subbing, design, printing, sales and marketing)
- Multiple channel publishing (print, online, audio & videography)
- Political and public service administration (PFMA, MFMA etc.)
- Corporate social investment (CSI).
I have absolute faith in this carefully selected team. I was inspired by the team building principles as promoted by such movies as “The Expendables”, “Gone in 60 Seconds” and “Ocean Eleven” when I brought this team of non-conformists together. They are the kind that Thomas Sankara referred to as “the madmen”, Steve Jobs dubbed them “the crazy ones”, Nawal El Sadaawi saw them as creatively “disobedient” while the Harvard Business Review ordained them the “rebel talent”. These are the ones who “push the human race forward”, to borrow from Jobs.
Drop them an email. Do your city, region or country a favour. Do your service or product a favour. Yes, do your company or institution a favour. Reach out to this team. This is the A-Team of competitive identity and public diplomacy.
This is a working weekend for me. On Saturday, I have the honour of attending the National Steering Committee of the National Writers Association of South Africa (NWASA) in which I will be presenting on the brand management, cultural diplomacy and strategic alliances programme of the organisation for the next twelve months.
I’m also privileged to have been invited to do a presentation on the state of trade in Africa outlining opportunities and threats faced by the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). This event, themed “The Future of SMEs and Trade in Africa” aims to celebrate the “World MSME Day 2021” and is hosted by the India-headquartered Global Council for the Promotion of International Trade (GCPIT).
Enjoy your weekend.