Botswana is currently celebrating its 43rd anniversary of independence from British colonial rule. Like any developing country, Botswana has its share of problems – poverty, unemployment, skewed distribution of resources and their attendant vices. There are intra and inter party battles. The ruling party is marred by divisions so is the former official opposition the Botswana National Front (BNF). Moreover, the opposition parties in Botswana apparently find it difficult to unite against the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
Moreover, Botswana’s labour laws favour the employers and this dates back to the time of the incumbent’s father and first President of the country, Sir Seretse Khama. In the 1970’s a miners’ strike in the mining area of Selibe Phikwe was suppressed in line with the neo-liberal policies of the IMF and World Bank.
The point of this submission is not about Botswana’s socio-economic challenges, but about how they approach events of national importance like their independence celebrations. There seems to be a common thread that runs through the veins of every indigenous population of Botswana when coming to issues of national importance. It is different from South Africa where the ruling party appropriates to itself the history, achievements and whatever accrues from our struggle for liberation.
The statues, except that of Steve Biko ( which they built under pressure), are all of members of the ruling party. Sports victories are also being politicised. The South African Football Association (SAFA) has also been dogged by bitter rivalries and the contenders belong to this or the other faction in the ruling party that is why they couldn’t honour Steve “Kalamazoo” Mokone.
In Botswana there are three kings who went to represent the then Bechuanaland in Britain – Kgosi Khama, Kgosi Sebele and Kgosi Bathoeng whose joint statue is a symbol of national pride. An assortment of cultural activities were held in front of that statue and they were not groups belonging to the ruling party like we experience in South Africa during “Free dom Day” celebrations where the ruling party invites extremely partisan musical groups to perform even at events which have nothing to do with the ANC such as March 21 and June 16.
Botswana’s P20 note has a portrait of a member of the opposition who is also said to have composed Botswana’s National Anthem. The ANC even under Nelson Mandela would not countenance acknowledgement and recognition of the contributions of Robert Sobukwe, Zeph Mothopeng and Japhta Masemola and Onkgopotse Tiro. It is inconceivable that the portraits of these leaders can appear on the different denominations of our national currency.
University of South Africa (UNISA) under Barney Pitjana is failing to bestow a posthumous doctorate to Zeph Mothopeng who studied and was awarded a BA degree at UNISA in 1946 and who, as President of the Transvaal African Teachers Association (TATA), has also played a leading role in fighting against the introduction of the inferior system of eduction called Bantu Education in the early 1950’s until he was expelled. Not only did Mothopeng resist the introduction of Bantu Education but was also an excellent Maths and music teacher and Vice Principal of Orlando High School. Mothopeng was also a founding member of the ANCYL and later the PAC. He also served time on Robben Island.
Had Mothopeng, Sobukwe, Masemola and Tiro been nationals of Botswana they could have long been honoured. The ANC is starting something it will never be able to stop because parties that are going to take over after the ANC are going to do the same things that the ANC is doing.
By Sam Ditshego