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Roots of Botswana Nationalist Politics Part 23: The 1965 election and formation of the BNF

Jeff Ramsay

With the unveiling of the “Fawcus Plan,” Botswana was set on an accelerated path of self-government through a new constitutional framework based on popular sovereignty. The nationalist parties were thus locked in a struggle for political supremacy.

In the months that followed the BDP was able to successfully undertake campaigning throughout most of the territory. The BPP, however, continued to suffer from factionalism. While Motsamai Mpho’s followers rebranded themselves as the Botswana Independence Party (BIP), the remaining BPP were once more split after Phillip Matante succeeded in usurping the party’s leadership from K.T. Motsete.

Motsete was rebuffed when he initially tried to form a new alliance with Mpho. With but a few followers, he thereafter claimed to lead yet a third faction of the BPP, which by the time of the 1965 election had faded into virtual insignificance.

In early 1964 the colonial administration announced that the Protectorate's first non-racial one-person one-vote elections would be held in March 1965; maintaining that a full year was required to count and register the population. Alec Campbell was commissioned to carry out what may be seen as the territory’s first comprehensive census or population survey.

The administration also mounted an information campaign to explain to the people the new electoral system. The BDP cooperated wholeheartedly in the exercise, while Matante's BPP charged that the registration process was being rigged. The letter stance ultimately resulted in the BPP’s Secretary General, Peter Maruping, being sentenced to six months imprisonment under a section of the penal code that made it an offence to make false accusations against registrations officers.

With elections approaching, the campaigns of the parties continued to stand in sharp contrast. The BDP were well prepared by the day of the poll with candidates and organized supporters in every one of the then thirty-one constituencies. The other parties struggled to nominate candidates in the rural areas and in many places failed. A belated attempt to forge an election pact between the BPP and BIP to shore up their flagging support came to nothing.

By 1964-65 organization, rather than finance, accounted for the differences between the parties. The BPP (Matante), BDP and BIP each had sources of internal and external support, with the first two at least being relatively well financed in the months leading up to the election.

Indeed the executive members of each of the parties travelled widely. Seretse visited the United States, Europe and countries throughout Africa. Matante and Mpho visited Socialist bloc countries in Europe and Asia, as well as many African states.

In the final weeks of the campaign, political activity was concentrated in the south-east, which appeared to contain the most marginal constituencies. The BDP was unassailable in Gammangwato, the BPP had consolidated its stronghold in Francistown, with the BIP hopeful (albeit ultimately unsuccessful) in Ngamiland. Government officials, who watched the contest with interest, predicted that the BDP would take twenty-four seats.

When the results did come in, the BDP won by a landslide, capturing twenty-eight seats, with the remaining three going to Matante's BPP. Of the 140,286 votes counted, the BDP received 113,165 or 80.6% followed by BPP (Matante) with 19,964 or 14.3% and BIP with 5,991 or 4.3%. Motsete received a mere 377 votes in Lobatse, while other independents garnered 789 votes.

The aftermath of the election saw the birth of the last major political movement to come out of the colonial era- the BNF. In early 1965, Kenneth Koma finally returned from Moscow, via Beijing and Dar-es-Salaam, having been away for a decade and a half. He arrived just in time to witness the BDP's triumph.

Thereafter, he immediately set about the task of building a united front among the opposition parties and other disaffected elements, including such veterans Motsete and Raditladi and younger traditional leaders upset at their loss of power following the constitutional reforms.

Prominent among the latter were Linchwe II, who provided Koma with an office, and Seepapitso Gaseitsiwe, then heir to his father Bathoen II. Seepapitso had already flouted the idea of forming his own party, the Botswana National Union, which he hoped could take part in independence negotiations.

In April 1965 Koma managed to gather the various elements together for the first time. On and off talks continued for six months, with participants usually meeting in Mochudi under Linchwe's patronage.

In the end neither Matante nor Mpho proved willing to work with either Koma or each other. But, many of their followers had joined the Front by the time of its inaugural conference in Mochudi on October 3, 1965. The first meeting was opened by Linchwe, who thereafter withdrew on the grounds that his position as a member of the House of Chiefs barred him from active participation in partisan politics.

Among those who did join were Fish Keitseng and Klaas Motshidisi of the BIP, almost the entire Molepolole branch of the BPP, Ikalanga champion Daniel Kwele and Seretse Khama's uncle Serogola Seretse.

Thus it was that whereas in 1956 Botswana had no active, internal political parties. A decade later, with the restoration of independence, it had given birth to four parties and an electoral pattern that would define its political culture for the next quarter century.

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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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