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KLAAS MOTSHIDISI (1932-2015)

Jeff Ramsay
GUEST

On 1st March 1965 Batswana for the first time voted for a national government on the basis of universal, one person one vote, suffrage. At a time when the region lived in the shadow of white minority rule, the day was also notable for being the first truly mass non-racial poll south of the Zambezi (Lesotho followed a few weeks later).

The 1965 election resulted in the formation of the first BDP government led by Seretse Khama, who then served as the Prime Minister of a self-governing Bechuanaland. This was a transition stage to Botswana’s declaration as a sovereign republic eighteen months later.

While the 30th of September 2016 will be Golden Jubilee of our independence, last Sunday thus marked the 50th anniversary of the birth of Botswana’s modern non-racial party-political democracy.  

Given the momentous nature of this milestone this author was somewhat disappointed that last Sunday’s countdown festivities rather focused on such mythical events as our three Kings asking Mmamosadinyana for Protection. As the events leading to self-government and independence are by contrast relatively recent one rather looks forward to the prospect of seeing other members of our Republic’s founding generation joining Dr. Gaositwe Chiepe in reminding us of the bravery and foresight of those who paved the way.

Sadly one such figure left us this week. With the passing of Kebotse Klaas Motshidisi the nation has lost a historical figure, who by the time of his death was also personally active in efforts to record and preserve the memory of the life in times he experienced. In the past year he thus contributed to at least two film documentaries – “Waterberg to Waterberg” which examines the experience of the Ovaherero Diaspora and “Mandela’s Gun” in which he was able to offer fresh insights into Madiba’s 1962 movements in Botswana.

Like Winston Churchill and our own David Magang, Motshidisi was a politician who believed that to know where to lead a nation one should be conscious of where it has been.

The last time this author talked with him was a some weeks ago when he phoned to ask why “Builders of Botswana” was no longer appearing in the Daily News (the editors have other priorities). He was in this respect the last of a trio of comrades that also included Fish Keitseng and Motsamai Mpho who it was my privilege to know as timeless profiles of courage as well as windows to another time.

Klaas Motshidisi began his career as a pioneer nationalist politician, labour organiser and human rights activist, while working at the Palapye Garage owned by a certain Tom Shaw. Having attended primary school in Palapye, he completed correspondence courses with South African institutions before ultimately earning his BA in the Soviet Union.

In 1961 Motshidisi was among the founding members of the Bechuanaland Peoples Party (BPP), serving on its executive.  In this capacity he, along with Mpho and Phillip Matante, travelled to Ghana to successfully secure Pan-African support for the fledging movement.

Following the Party’s 1962 split he emerged as the Secretary General of the BPP faction led by Mpho, which was re-branded to contest the March 1965 general election as the Botswana Independence Party. Along with Keitseng, he subsequently found his long term political home as a founding member of the Botswana National Front (BNF).

It was also in the early 1960s that the Motshidisi became involved in trade unionism as the Secretary-General of the short lived Bechuanaland Trade Union Congress. After independence he joined the civil service for a period, becoming the Commissioner of Labour, where others attest that he was model public servant for his fairness and devotion to duty.

After retirement, Motshidisi re-entered politics in the 1990s. In 1994 he unsuccessfully stood as the BNF candidate for Palapye against Festus Mogae. During the subsequent BNF infighting he supported Dr. Koma and thereafter the leadership of Otsweletse Moupo, serving in the 2001-04 BNF Executive.   

Besides his domestic activism, during the 1960s, Mr. Motshidisi also played a key role in securing the movement of political refugees through Botswana. In this context he, along with Mpho and Keitseng, played a key role in the November 1962 Palapye Train incident, a turning point in Botswana’s participation in the region’s liberation struggle.

In September 1962 Thabo Mbeki along with 26 other ANC members, led by Keitseng, were detained in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) while en-route to Tanganyika.

For six weeks Keitseng, Mbeki and the others, whose numbers ultimately swelled to 39 including SWAPO cadres, were held and tortured by Rhodesian and South African security. Thereafter, they were quietly put on what was then a Rhodesia Railways train to take them back to South Africa via the Bechuanaland Protectorate.

Fortunately, Keitseng managed to smuggle out word of their predicament to ZAPU comrades to contact Mpho and Motshidisi, who quickly organised protests at the Palapye Station to block the train’s onward passage. In the process the local District Officer ordered the prisoners off the Mafikeng bound train.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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