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Botlhodi Jwa Nta ya Tlhogo : A Novel of Botswana’s anti-colonial Crisis

Book Review
Keith Phetlhe © 2018

Botlhodi jwa Nta ya Tlhogo (1985) is Tiroentle Bafana Pheto’s major debut Setswana novel. It is a remarkable literary offering which alludes to an important historical moment of British colonialism and its dire consequences in Botswana.

It is a fiction of resistance that teaches us that colonialism equally affected Botswana just like other countries elsewhere in Africa. It is set in Molepolole and it chronicles actual events that happened after the arrival of British missionaries and colonial administrators in Botswana. Clearly, religion was one of the major tools used to indoctrinate and control the people and traditional systems that the missionaries had found existing among the Bakwena.

The protagonist, Modiko experiences a challenging situation; he is caught between the likes of his converted father who believes traditional ways are sinful, he is also a pastor of the Motlhaoetla church which was formed by the villagers. On the contrary, Modiko also has to deal with his grandfather who believes in tradition. Another challenge that Modiko grapples with as a protagonist is that he experiences some illusions and nightmares that are clearly motivated by the teachings from his church and illustrations of hellfire.

Other characters in the novel that confront the protagonist include the chief and the missionary, also a medical doctor Dr. Lovelace. Placing our emphasis on the protagonist does not mean that other characters featured in the novel are not significant, the author uses them at times casually and through humor to develop some major themes of the novel. For example, we read about the interesting war stories about of the men who were conscripts as they carry their daily conversations.  

The consistent use of humorous language in the novel is an important feature that gives this work its identity as a Setswana novel.  It also uses rich Setswana expressions and descriptions that describe Molepolole at the time.  The author further develops a very complex narrative and plot that does not align to the western conventions or mainstream literary aesthetics. In reading the novel closely, readers get to learn that one of the key characteristics of colonialism in Africa was that its institutions were not democratic.

They also learn that power can be abused by those who have it, but also such can be challenged. This can be seen through some events of the novel which highlight on the exploitation of Batswana and their resources for the benefit of Europe. For example, the novel talks about Batswana men who were conscripted to go and fight during the historic second world war. Some characters engage in conversations that question the whole idea of conscripting men to go and fight at a war that did not concern them, fighting for the people who were responsible for the unfortunate and painful experience of colonialism.

The whole notion of ‘civilization of Africans’ is questioned, especially if it comes from the idea that some civilizations and cultures are backward and lack sophistication.  The novel further shows how religious assimilation was used to destabilize traditional institutions including as that of Bogosi, especially in situations where the traditional leaders such as the Kings had converted to this new religion. As depicted in the narrative, when the morafe of the Bakwena showed resistance by opening their own church, which they named Motlhaoetla, -which sort of blends their traditions with Christianity and rejecting the one led by oppressive British missionaries- the followers of Motlhaoetla are severely persecuted at the instruction of the chief and the influence of the missionary, Dr. Lovelace.

Pheto depicts scenes that suggest the extent of violence, corruption, oppression, and inhumanity. He also uses his characters to reject the western impositions. Through this literary work, as readers we are empowered to use characters such as Modiko and Rre Tlholego to juxtapose between tradition and modernity, and further, how in the disguise of witted characters such as Rre Tlholego the author forces us to see the need to locate modernity within tradition. To understand the way of life of Batswana. Characters such as Rre Tlholego are created to emphasize that it is abominable that a man must leave his own culture and follow foreign cultures and beliefs which intentionally pushes his being to the lowest binary.

Clearly, Pheto’s name is counted among the first writers who unapologetically provides literary responses to colonization. According to a postcolonial critic Anne Mcklintok, by definition, ‘colonialism involves direct territorial appropriation of another geo-political entity, combined with forthright exploitation of its resources and labor, and systematic interference in the capacity of the appropriated culture (itself not necessarily a homogenous entity) to organize its dispensations of power’.

The storyline of Botlhodi Jwa Nta ya Tlhogo succeeds at showing the operations of colonization in different settings of the novel, and how they end up creating confusion and division among the Bakwena. It also shows that Bakwena at the time, even though it was not all of them doing so harmoniously, had devised ways to confront and combat imperialism. This novel compares very well with the work done Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o in his A Grain of Wheat which will be reviewed in the future. Concepts like migration and imperialism are redefined critically in relation to a historical moment of colonization. However, Ngugi’s novel focuses in Kenya.

The novel also teaches us about the history of Molepolole and can therefore be viewed as one of the few existing historical fictionalized narratives based on actual events that took place in Botswana. It refers to the Bakwena clans and their interactions with other ethnic groups in Botswana. It also teaches readers about the significance of places like Legaga la Ga Kobokwe, which has been erroneously claimed and referred to by some people as Lingstone’s cave.

The novel also teaches us about boloi or whichcraft practices and beliefs and how they differed depending on an ethic group. In fact, at the end of the novel, witchcraft and modern technological advancements are used by pastors at the end of the novel when the local church is divided.  There are many aspects of this novel that can be analyzed and this week’s review was meant to only give you an appreciation of  Pheto’s critical commentary in the wake of colonialism.

For example the significance of the abstract artwork used in the cover page  hints us a lot about the series of events discussed in the novel. This novel is thus far one of the outstanding novels in African literature written in Setswana. This novel is currently being translated from Setswana into English, under the working title “-The Abomination- A novel of Botswana’s anti-colonial Crisis.” There are plans to write a screenplay and adapt it to film in the future. I was privileged to meet and interview the author of the Botlhodi Jwa Nta ya Tlhogo in Molepolole.

KEITH PHETLHE pursues a Ph.D in Comparative African Literature with a minor in Film Studies from Ohio University, College of Fine Arts. He does research on Postcolonial Theory, Translation, African Languages & Literatures Language Education and Film. kp406314@ohio.edu

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WeekendLife

5 consideration for your Marketing strategy in 2022

12th January 2022

‘The world of marketing is getting confusing,’ this is the sentiment from many marketers who find themselves in the middle of rising digitization and online migration driven by increased connectivity and a pandemic that dictated reduced physical interactions.

According to the Harvard Business Review, customers’ increased discernment, demand for great service experience and the ability to raise ‘a storm’ of complaints online about brands, is reshaping the role of marketing.

In today’s world of brand management, the constant consideration should be agility. This means actually listening to customer sentiment, being flexible with your creative design, messaging, placements and budgets.

Here are a few more pointers to discuss in your 2022 marketing strategy sessions.

  1. Budgeting needs to change: Event based budgeting, allocations based on calendar activities rather strategic impact initiatives, is a thing of the past. If the pandemic taught us anything is that uncertainty for people gatherings is something we need to live with. Furthermore, a lot of this type of marketing is barely linked to specific value beyond brand awareness. It’s time to disrupt yourselves by really evaluating value. In a digitizing world, a marketing budget should be reflective of the overall business direction.
  2. Outdoor is not dead, it just needs creativity: As the world was locked downed due to covid-19, one key consequence was that we were forced to spend more time in doors. As such, many of the billboards had no eyes on them. However, as things

open up, it’s time for brands to challenge billboard companies to create experiential advertising. Like ‘the floating cat’ in Tokyo, a 3-D anamorphic outdoor ad, billboards can be engaging and exciting for those who cross paths with them. Outdoor advertising needs to be reimagined to drive brand ‘stickiness’ in a bold manner.

  1. Thought leadership needs to be genuine: The pressure for relevancy has driven many executives into taking up video and word based content to be seen as authorities and subject matter experts. Begs the question, is it genuine? Does the person you are putting in front of the camera genuinely care to be a source of knowledge and consistently share insights. Thought leaders have an intrinsic drive to share information. It is not just based on one’s position in an organisation. So for 2022, look deeply within for talent that have authentic perspectives they can contribute to public discourse for the benefit of your brand.
  2. Influencers, do you really need them?: This is a question many brand managers have to scratch their heads over every time they go-to-market. In an effort to be seen as a cool and relevant, many brands, large and small have jumped on the influencer bandwagon to drive awareness. The world over influencers have presented brands with a new platform for awareness by using their personalities to market to their followers. Think Kim Kardashian, Mihlali Ndamase, Mjamica, they all have legion of followers who engage with their content on their social media pages. As a brand manager, your job is to be discerning and ensure brand fit. In doing research, look beyond the numbers: audit their historic content type, look into the engagements, do their followers actually engage based on the content subject? Is their tone of engagement relevant to your brand? That is what will answer the question… does your brand need them.
  3. It’s time to take the ROI conversation seriously: This is more of a self-preservation tip. Measuring marketing activity and impact has for many brands been a half-baked approach. For greater impact in 2022, marketing teams need to introspect and fully embrace the technologies. Digital and social media platforms have presented us an opportunity to actually measure our efforts. So insights, listening and automation tools need to be added to your technology stack for you to better reports on your impact.  Get closer to sales and service teams, as your efforts often have a direct bearing on their output.

Lastly, remember that visibility needs to lead to action for your marketing to become a value centre.

 

Modiri Mogende is a Managing Director at Launch Comms, with over 10 years’ experience in media, PR and marketing, he holds a BA and a PgD in Digital Marketing.   

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WeekendLife

Coal still King

15th December 2021
Coal still King

More than 40 countries have committed to shift away from coal in pledges made at the COP26 climate summit. Botswana on the other hand has different plans.

Some 850 Kilometres South West of the capital city Gaborone, lies a winding sandy landscape with wind worn- formations on the horizon accompanied by the harsh sun. The Kalahari Desert is conspicuous in the area.  Here one finds BORAVAST a cluster of villages; Bokspits, Rappelspan, Vaalhoek and Struizendum.

Although the desert is expected to be barren and brown, green blobs occupy the landscape. These are Mesquite a Prosopis species locally referred to as Sexanana. An invasive tree species that has successfully colonised the area all thanks to its properties that enable it to release a toxin to suppress growth of nearby competing plants.

This has resulted in the replacement of most of the indigenous vegetation in the area, forming dense thorn bushes. Circumstantial evidence suggests that it may also be lowering important fresh-water aquifers and clogging boreholes with its extensive root system. This has seriously led to degraded rangelands and reduced biodiversity.

BORAVAST has found a loophole by clearing the species. The clearance is to generate income for the community whilst also ensuring rehabilitation of the landscape to increase continued flow of ecosystem goods and services, simultaneously promoting of livelihoods.

The BORAVAST community is on a mission to create a backbone for the national economy through the community project as they believe that they have the potential to scale up and produce opportunities for local businesses to participate in the value chain of the national economy.

According to BORAVAST Trust Vice Chairman Gideon Martin: “The project has been dormant since 2015, however during the 2019/20 financial year, the Trust resuscitated the projects operations under the sponsorship of the UNDP (Kgalagadi and Ghanzi Drylands Ecosystem Project).

Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) has also jumped into the band wagon by presenting machinery, office equipment and branding assets worth more than 1 million pula to the BORAVAST Trust. The Department of Forestry has also chipped in with P464 000.To date there are only two operational value chain business being charcoal and fodder production in BORAVAST. Our charcoal product has been tested and competes with coal from Morupule, our fodder is also of high nutritional quality.”

A member of the trust describes the charcoal making process: “Charcoal is made by heating wood from Sexanana to high temperatures in the absence of oxygen. This is done with ancient technology of building a fire in a pit, then bury it in the ground. The result is that the wood partially combusts, removing water and impurities and leaving behind mostly pure carbon.

The tricky part is to maintain the heat at a temperature that is appropriate to avoid the wood turning into ash. It is a tedious and risky process as we also have to be on the look out to contain the fire to avoid wild fires. We sit by the pots hours on end to ensure all goes well on the other hand, Charcoal burning produces large amounts of Carbon Monoxide (CO) which is harmful to us when exposed to very high levels.”

In his blog Kobus Venter an activist states that, “these are signs that governments are trying to regulate the industry by introducing more efficient charcoal-making kilns and establishing plantations to ensure sustainability of the timber source. In Namibia, millions of hectares of encroachment bush is being converted to charcoal and sold to neighbouring South Africa as barbecue charcoal.

South Africa itself (according to the most recent South Africa Yearbook) is plagued with alien plant infestations, totalling more than 10 million hectares, about eight percent (8%) of the country’s land surface area. The rate of spread is alarming and their numbers are projected to double over the next 15 years.  More recently Vuthisa Technologies started to convert slashed invasives into charcoal and biochar using Emission Reducing Biochar kilns in a project known as the Vuthisa Biochar Initiative.”

However, charcoal is the primary energy source for urban Africa, but its production is widely informal and unregulated. Consequently, charcoal is entwined with violence against nature through rampant deforestation and violence against vulnerable rural communities, fuelling violent political economies of conflict and extraction.

As they are violently dispossessed of forests and land, communities living in production areas face destruction of their cultural heritage, embodied in nature, and the conditions for economic and political dignity. This undermines possibilities for sustainable peace.

Natural Resource Management in the Kgalagadi landscape is characterized by competition and conflict between conservation goals, economic development and the preservation of livelihoods.

Economic development inevitably leads to trade-offs between land uses, and requires choices to be made between the conversion of forests into anthropogenic land uses such as agriculture, on the one hand, and maintaining natural forests with their inherent ecosystem services.

Botswana to realize its national priorities in environmental management focusing on managing the trade-off between income generation and environmental sustainability. The trade-offs between development and environmental sustainability are becoming more evident in the form of threats to fauna and flora, air pollution and water pollution. Ensuring that sustainable resource extraction levels are within the capacity of the environment to assimilate and regenerate is a key concern.

Global Energy Monitor (GEM) that develops and shares information on energy projects in support of the worldwide movement for clean energy. Has revealed in their 2021 report titled “Deep Trouble; Tracking Global Coal Mine Proposals” that Botswana has 6 Coal Mine Development Projects.

It continues; “The Special Report on 1.5°C by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that CO2 emissions from coal use needs to fall 50 to 80% by 2030 to keep warming well below 2°C. If proposed new mines open as intended, the CO2 emissions from combustion will be equivalent to 4,639 Mt a year, a 14% increase over global CO2 emissions in 2020 (34,100 Mt), barring declines elsewhere.

In addition, the mines will leak an estimated 13.5 Mt of methane each year from broken coal seams and surrounding rock strata, based on coal mine depth and the gas content of the coal seam. Combined, the annual greenhouse gas emissions from proposed coal mines will be between 5,000 and 5,800 Mt of CO2-equivalent (CO2e) each year (for CO2e100 and CO2e20, respectively), comparable to the annual CO2 emissions of the United States (5,100 Mt). The build out of new mines, therefore, raises serious concerns about meeting the Paris climate agreement.”

Science continues to confirm the urgency of climate crisis. The main issue now is that the  ‘super powers’ are now realising their contribution to climate change and are devising means to halt the repercussions. Now enters the matter of climate justice; those who are least responsible for climate change suffer the ,most, Botswana has not fully utilised her coal reserves and coal production from wood yet the world is about to phase them out. What about the BORAVAST Trust trying to make a living?  The question of the day would be whether an energy transition will be possible in the near future considering that Botswana uses her physical wealth ( coal ) to grow her economy?

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WeekendLife

The King’s journal 

23rd November 2021
Kgafela Kgafela II

This book is a true-life story of an African King based in South Africa. The Last Frontier is a resistance stand by Bakgatla Ba Kgafela tribe and its line of Kings from 1885 against a dark force called ‘western democracy’ that is insidiously destroying lives, peoples, nations and threatens to wipe away whole civilizations in Africa.

The story flows through four important episodes of history, beginning in about 1885 when Bechuanaland Protectorate was formed. This section briefly reveals interactions between Kgosi Linchwe 1 and the British Colonial Government, leading to the establishment of Bakgatla Reserve by Proclamations of 1899 – 1904.

The second episode deals with Kgosi Molefi’s interaction with the British Colonial Government in the period of 1929-36. The third episode records Kgosi Linchwe II’s interactions with the British Colonial Government and black elites of Bechuanaland. It covers the period of 1964-66, leading to Botswana’s independence. Kgosi Linchwe ii resisted the unlawful expropriation of his country (Bakgatla Reserve) by Sir Seretse Kgama’s government of 1966 to no avail. He wrote letters of objection (December 1965) to Her Majesty the Queen of England, which are reproduced in this book.

The fourth episode covers the period between Kgafela Kgafela II’s crowning as King of Bakgatla in 2008 to 2021. It is a drama of the author’s resistance to the present-day Botswana Government, a continuation of Bakgatla Kings’ objection against losing Bakgatla country to the Kgama dynasty assisted by the British Government since 1885. The story is told with reference to authentic letters, documents, and Court records generated during the period of 1885-2019. There is plenty of education in history, law, and politics contained in The Last Frontier for everyone to learn something and enjoy.   

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