Once upon a time, there existed a disjointed Republic of Bophuthatswana whose leader was tough-as-teak, no-nonsense Kgosi Lucas Manyane Mangope.
An apartheid creation, Bop, as it was known, was indeed scattered across four provinces where there was a large concentration of Batswana.
So, it was quite not unfunny that you could not locate the "independent republic" on the National Party map.
I do not wish to irk you with that bantustan history you may wish to leave buried in the past.
The first to accept "independence" a la NP-style, Mangope is to date still known as Tautona by friend and foe alike.
The Bophuthatswana anthem was quite catchy and energetic, while it also reflected Tautona's little regard for the armed struggle. The song was forthright: "This, our forefathers land is God-given, without the shedding of blood .". So it went, and the meaning was clear; it gave the finger to the armed struggle.
An unsmiling man, Mangope was always the butt of jokes, especially about his headmaster-like strict control of his bantustan.
The NP gave him "power" at the height of protests against apartheid in 1976, shortly after the Soweto youth uprising.
It has been well chronicled how donkeys were culled at his behest. I never wanted to believe this: that Mangope ordered the wholesale slaughter of donkeys in his "country" because his beloved wife Leah had survived a car accident involving an ass.
But officially, Mangope's reason for the mass slaughter of the animals was that they were hazardous to motorists.
A proud Motswana, is Mangope. Most, if not all, landmarks had Setswana names, including administrative buildings.
Non-Baphuthatswana traveling to any of the dots that comprised the bantustan were required to carry passports which were known as lekwalo la mosepidi.
Therefore, one of the most popular jokes about Mangope's Bop was the one about ATMs.
A bank client approaches an ATM for obvious reasons. But, instead of spewing out cash, words in Setswana flash across the screen: "Ga o na madi tlhabela pele" - Go away you don't have money. The client insists, only to be told: "Ke rile tsamaya modidi ke wena" - I said go away, you pauper.
On the third attempt, the ATM says: "Ke go boleletse, jaanong ke a e kwenya karatanyana ee!" - I warned you, now I am swallowing this lousy card.
Now the chickens have come home to roost and Tautona should be laughing all the way to the bank. Pardon the pun.
It is now official. Most of our 11 languages feature on the ATMs of most major banks.
In Sepedi, which unfortunately one of the banks still refers to as Sesotho sa Leboa, the prompts read: Hle, lokela PIN ya gago, gomme o kgotle PROCEED - Please enter your PIN and press PROCEED.
And in Xitsonga after correctly following the prompts and after the money is safely in your hands, these words spring to the fore: Hi kombela u teka mali ya wena. Hi khensile. - Please take your money. Thank you.
See, this is no joke.