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Orange Botswana shown Red

Publishing Date : 30 April, 2018

Author : KEAMOGETSE MOTONE

Orange Botswana was this week engulfed in controversy as their poorly conceptualized advertisement was deemed sexist and undermining the rights of a child. Batswana from all walks of life took to social media to express their displeasure with Orange Botswana’s ‘desperate and attention seeking advert’.  


While the mobile network company calved and apologized as an afterthought, it was too late as some Batswana believed the damage had already been done. Compounding matters for Orange were suggestions that the child was paid P100 to do a performance of traditional dance, and further that there was no permission sought from the parent of the child for her picture to be used on the ‘sorry advert’.  


Senior citizens and international organisations came with guns blazing because the Orange advert was seen to be encouraging pedophilia and or potentially exposing the girl child to abuse and sexual violations. The advert was headlined with a ‘misunderstood’ Setswana idiom by the Orange marketing team, "Nnana tsholetsa makgabe re je bophose”. Linguist, Professor Thapelo Otlogetswe suggested that the idiom has sexist connotations hence linking it to a picture of a child was PR disaster for Orange.


Various personalities, among them politicians and artists took to social media to lay down the moral route for Orange Botswana:
The Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry Bogolo Kenewendo, expressed out her concern about a cultural event advert that depicts a girl child in a sexually suggestive or an indecent manner.


“An appropriate outcry to this inappropriate use of a child, there is something on things like these in the Penal code and cybercrimes act, I have consulted with the Minister of Justice and he will revert. You’ll remember I’ve fought hard for the elevation for children’s rights in the national agenda. This is one of the reasons we fight for the protection of children and women’s rights. Another day, another abuse. There still remains a need for feminism,” she said.


The minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development Unity Dow also dismissed the advert. “The Orange sponsored advert that shocked every right-thinking Setswana speaker has now, I understand, been taken off the net, and one hopes, off every other space on which it had been placed. That material so offensive at so many levels could have made it to print and the net is shocking,” she said.


The Minister expressed her shock to Orange officials for approving and agreeing to the controversial and misleading advert. “It is shocking that some adult conceived it; developed it and presumably presented for approval. Is shocking that a team at Orange approved it. It is shocking that not one person, in this chain of actors, was horrified by the advert.  It is shocking that other businesses, The Voice, included, proudly associated themselves with the advert. How did we get to this point? It boggles the mind. It's depressing,” she added.


The Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Dorcas Makgato also disapproved the advert due to the content it packaged. “I found the advert sponsored by Orange Botswana among others to be offensive, demeaning and degrading of all children. I have as Chairperson of the BDP Women’s Wing and government Minister responsible for gender, demanded a retraction of the advert and an apology by those responsible. I wish to commend the speedy response by the portfolio minister Hon Mokaila and also BOCRA,” she said.
The Minister rather found the advert insensitive hence the need for public education on the power and effect of advertising and messaging.


“More importantly it highlights the duty and care of the crafters of advertorials and public messages to ensure that their messaging causes no harm to societal norms, morality and public order,” she added. Local poetry and music sensation, Berry Heart also stepped forward and fought her battle against gender violence.


“I saw this Orange Advert and I find it wrong in so many ways and Levels. This is Very wrong. Gatwe Nnana Tsholetsa Makgabe re Je bophose? SE! This is 2018 and we are living in an Era of Paedophiles (men who sleep with kids). A company as big as orange use those Setswana saying that support child molestation and its related misogynistic acts? I refuse!” she lamented.


UNICEF has also cited that the advert exposes children to abuse and validate harmful cultural practices and attitudes that drive sexual abuse. “"UNICEF believes sexual exploration and abuse of children can only be stopped by collective efforts of ordinary citizens, policy makers, governments and international stakeholders. We applaud all those who have spoken out against this practice," Julianna Lindsey, UNICEF Representative.


Meanwhile, the Orange officially found it befitting to apologize to the whole public and they have pulled out the advert. “As Orange Botswana we would like to acknowledge and profusely apologize for the unfortunate misrepresentation of the girl child in the event advert. All our stores will remove all the current posters. The tagline and artwork will be changed with immediate effect. On a final note we thank Batswana for pointing out this oversight. We are an organization that listens and acts. We thank you once again for your continued support,” they said.

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