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Roots of Botswana Nationalist Politics (Part 18): The BPP Split

Jeff Ramsay

Notwithstanding the BDP's emergence during the early months of 1962, the BPP with its external support, head start, committed militants, and populist appeal, still remained a credible contender for national leadership. But, the Party's future hopes were by then already being undermined by infighting.

A key factor contributing to this breakdown was an absence of sufficient financial control and oversight. The channelling of considerable sums of money through the private bank accounts of Phillip Matante in particular gave rise to allegations of misappropriation. To a greater extent the funds in question were from external supporters, most notably Ghanaian government then led by Kwame Nkrumah.

Questions over financial management soon became intertwined with those of power. Thus when Motsamai Mpho called for the establishment of a central BPP headquarters at his then home base of Palapye, which would coordinate finances, his proposal was apparently looked upon as a power grab by both Matante, in Francistown, and K.T. Motsete, in Lobatse.

By June 1962 dissension had surfaced in the South African press over the local leadership and allocation of party resources at Lobatse, where Motsete seems to have been more respected than followed by the rank-in-file.

The situation within the BPP was further complicated by the participation of political refugees from South Africa and elsewhere in party affairs, more especially at Lobatse and Francistown. The open existence, until 1963, of BPP branches among Batswana migrant-workers inside South Africa at a time when the ANC and PAC had already been driven underground, further tied the party to external forces: prior to the split perhaps one third of the party's membership was based in South Africa.

The early 1962 break-up of the South African United Front, an umbrella alliance between the exiled wings of the ANC and PAC, thus provided further, if not cause, for the growth of tensions within the BPP.

On June 20th 1962, Mpho forwarded the following letter to Secretary of the Lobatse branch, Moses Monakwe, which was copied to all other members of the BPP National Executive:

“Dear Son of Africa, Your branch is informed that the National Executive has agreed to come and investigate your branch organizational difficulties on the 28th June, 1962 in the evening including the 29th June, 1962 if the investigation will not be finished on the night of the 28th June. Hoping that the branch will continue to do its day-to-day branch work. Yours in the struggle for Independence and a free united Africa.”

But when Mpho finally arrived at Lobatse, on the 29th June, he found that Monakwe, along with the branch Chairman, Fish Keitseng, and Treasurer, James Molale, had already been told that they were suspended by Matante, who had arrived on the 27th at Motsete's request.

Also on the 27th of June 1962 Matante, accompanied by five others and with the knowledge of Motsete, is alleged to have briefly abducted an ANC refugee named Maxwell Mlonyeni, who was then active in the Lobatse branch's affairs.

According to Mlonyeni's sworn police statement, he was initially tricked into accompanying Matante with a story that an acquaintance of his had died. He was then driven from his workplace, at Otsi's Bamalete Manganese Mine, to the Zeerust border crossing.

There Matante is further alleged to have made sure that he signed the departure register, while informing the policeman on duty that the refugee was being deported with the knowledge of the District Commissioner.

After crossing without incident into South Africa, Mlonyeni managed to re-enter the Protectorate, by bypassing the border gate, and made his way to Peleng Township. On the following day he filed a police complaint against Matante.

There were thus already considerable grounds for acrimony on Friday evening, the 29th, when Mpho, himself, was approached by Matante, who had just ferried down more supporters from Francistown. Matante now demanded that Mpho turn over the keys to the party Landrover in his charge, but the Secretary-General refused, reportedly sparking "considerable argument that continued on to the following day."

On Saturday morning Matante and Motsete tried unsuccessfully to dissuade Mpho from joining them in attending a scheduled rally at Kanye. The three then set out with their followers, each in their respective party Landrover, to the Bangwaketse capital. There, in contrast to the polite reception that the BPP had received on previous occasions, they were continuously heckled “as a bunch of tsotsis” and bribe takers by a hostile crowd of some 700.

That evening, Matante saw Mlonyeni in the street at Lobatse and publicly abused him, warning that he would be dealt with for having come back after being thrown out of the territory. But no further action took place at that time.

Everything was set for a Sunday morning showdown. It came shortly after sunrise, when some of Matante's partisans briefly toured Peleng in their Landrover, calling on its residents to attend a morning rally. (to be continued)

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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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