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The Bantu Soviet

Jeff Ramsay

"I found among the more intelligent men as unexpected interest in the course of English political history, in the passage of power from crown to aristocracy, from aristocracy to the bourgeoisie, from the bourgeoisie to the proletariat; and they were frankly speculating about the possibility of tribal development following comparable lines." – British journalist Leonard Barns, reporting on his 1931 tour of the Bechuanaland Protectorate.

Last week we noted the existence by the 1920s of local interest in the Basotho Commoners Association or ‘Lekhotla la Bafo’ (LLB), which agitated for popular self-government on the basis of what they insisted should be the restoration of indigenous democracy through dikgotla and a Basotho National Pitso. In this respect LLB ideas are known to have been communicated by Basotho serving in the Bechuanaland Protectorate Police, as well as through contacts in Gauteng.

Beginning in 1928 the LLB forged a lasting alliance with the South African Communist Party, which among other things opened the door for its members to become regular contributors in party periodicals such as Usembenzi and Inkululeko. The LLB international profile was further raised by its association with various Comintern sponsored international front organisations, beginning with its October 1929 affiliation with the League against Imperialism and League for the Defence of the Negro Race and Africa Bureau of International Trade Union Committee of Negro Workers, the latter two being then headed by George Padmore.

Between the World Wars the LLB Secretary-General, Maphutseng Lefela, took the lead in affirming through the communist press that the Sotho-Tswana Kgotla, along with similar indigenous institutions in the region, should be understood as the ‘Bantu Soviet’. In this context, traditional leaders who operated within what were conceived to be indigenous democratic norms, i.e. “morena ke morena ka batho”, would continue to have a political role.

Alternatively, a prominent Motswana Communist at the time, L. Leepile (who apparently originated from Kanye) called in the same publications for the ultimate overthrow of bogosi through the formation of a worker and peasants “Republic of Botsoana”, which could eventually take its place aside similar polities in what he envisaged would become a post-revolutionary Soviet Union of South African Republics.

While some copies of Communist periodicals were smuggled into the Bechuanaland Protectorate, as well as mining compounds in Gauteng, before the Second World War, specific interest LLB’s radical neo-traditional ideology among at least a handful of Bakwena can rather be traced to the presence of Basotho policemen posted at Molepolole.

Beginning in 1926, the LLB also took the initiative in what were ultimately unsuccessful efforts to forge a wider Lekhotla or League of Protectorates that would provide a common platform for Batswana and Swazi as well as Basotho to resist incorporation into the Union of South Africa, while also seeking the repeal of the Foreign Jurisdictions Act, which was the legal basis for Britain’s claim of sovereign jurisdiction of the three territories.

LLB efforts to promote the League of Protectorates and other joint initiatives inside the Bechuanaland Protectorate were principally directed towards winning over the support of the Bangwato regent Tshekedi Khama. Basotho authorities in this context intercepted and copied a 12th April 1930 letter addressed to Tshekedi by H.M.D. Tsoene on behalf of LLB pleading that the regent:

“…join hands with us in the matter of collecting the necessary funds to enable us to send our representatives to England to voice and represent the interests, wishes and desires of our respective protectorates and to establish a permanent office of the representative of our respective protectorates in England.”

In his letter Tsoene accurately observed that Tshekedi’s father Khama III had agreed to accept British Protection during the 1885 visit of General Sir Charles Warren “as a step against German encroachments upon your country” and with “the assurance that “England would protect Bechuanaland for Bechuana people to enjoy the blessings of peace under their hereditary chiefs”; further adding:

“It was never made a condition by Sir Charles Warren to Chief Khama that England would afterwards dispose of Bechuanaland and hand it other European Government in South Africa, whose cruelty is unparalleled and even worse than that of the Germans on account of whom Sir Charles Warren asked Chief Khama to throw his country into British protection.

“Again in 1895, Mr. Chamberlain wrote letters to Chiefs Khama, Bathoeng and Sebele after their visit to England to assure them that Bechuanaland would always remain the property of Bechuana people…the contents of these letters are in the Blue Books in England. But it would be our folly to let our countries slip out of our control while England has given us sound pledges for protection and it is up with us to stand up and organise our people against incorporation of our respective countries into the Union Government…

“We can only come to this position through hard work on our part being done by us to protect our rights and countries. For this reason we earnestly beg you to make a united front movement together with us against the imminent danger of incorporation of our respective protectorates into the Union Government.”

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020

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.

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”


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.”


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.


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)


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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