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The Fighting Becs Pat 2 – Not Ahain

Jeff Ramsay


When, on the 3rd of September 1939, Britain declared war on Nazi Germany, the Bechuanaland Protectorate automatically became part of the imperial conflict. Although Batswana had no say in the matter, within days of the declaration most of the Gazetted Chiefs in the territory had forwarded letters pledging their loyalty and readiness to support the war effort.

The stance of the local dikgosi stood in immediate contrast with the political divisions being played out across the border among the dominant white Afrikaners in the then minority ruled Union of South Africa.

Motivated in part by the fact that South Africa’s participation the First World War a quarter century earlier had led to a civil war within his own community, the Union Prime Minister, J.M.B. Herzog, favoured a policy of neutrality.

Hertzog’s stand resulted in his replacement by Jan Smuts, who was thereafter able to secure a narrow majority in the all white Parliament for joining the British war effort. Afrikaner opinion, however, remained deeply divided with some anti-British extremists joining the Ossewabrandwag, a pro-German armed resistance movement.

Notwithstanding the Dikgosi’s expressions of imperial solidarity, they along with many of their subjects also harboured reservations about any active participation in the war. As with blacks, as well as Afrikaners, elsewhere in the region, Batswana opinion was influenced by still raw emotions arising from the previous World War.

Memories of the earlier conflict were brought into focus by the death in Ghanzi on the 2nd of October 1939 of the Protectorate’s most prominent political detainee, the Bakwena Kgosi Sebele II. His body was returned to Molepolole, where tens of thousands, including many from outside Kweneng, attended his funeral.

The extent of public outpouring came as something of a shock to the British officials who reported that his burial was the biggest event in the Protectorate they had ever witnessed.

The fact that Sebele had served as a Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) in France during the conflict against the Kaiser was a reminder of the ambivalence many Batswana felt towards participation in another “white man's war.”

Lured to Mafikeng in June 1931 on the false pretence of attending a meeting to discuss water works, Sebele had been indefinitely detained without charge and confined to Ghanzi.

As a “British Protected Person” rather than colonial subject, he like all “Natives” in the territory was denied the basic right of habeas corpus in accordance with the Bechuanaland Protectorate Proclamation no. 15 of 1907, the notorious “Expulsion Law” whose colonial era victims also came to include, among many others, Sekgoma Letsholathebe, John Nswazwi, Gobuamang Mosielele and Seretse Khama.

Sebele had cited his war record in his ultimately futile challenges to his detention.

On the 10th of July 1917 he had been among a handful NCO’s from the 21,000 strong South African Native Labour Contingent (SANLC) who were selected to meet with King George V and Queen Mary, accompanied by Edward Prince of Wales and General Haig, in Abbeville France.

On that occasion the King had assured the men that: “You are also part of my great armies fighting for the liberty and freedom of my subjects of all races and creeds throughout the Empire.”

Sebele became the Kgosi of the Bakwena on the very day of his return from the Western Front, which happened to coincide with the death of his father Kealeboga Sechele II.

Thereafter, it was his stubborn rejection of his and his people’s subordinate position within their own homeland that led to his downfall.

800 Protectorate Batswana enlisted in the Fifth (High Commission Territories) Battalion of the SANLC, of whom at least 555 served in France during 1917-18.

About 1,500 also took part in the conquest and occupation of German South West Africa (Namibia), while perhaps a 1,000 had been deployed under South African command in East Africa. In this respect, negative feelings arising from the conflict went beyond the fate of Sebele.

Some three million blacks from the Diaspora as well as Africa had served in various military formations during the war.

While racial barriers had been a common experience among virtually all of these troops, only those under South African command had not been issued with firearms or otherwise recognised as combatants.

In France the SANLC had, in fact, been treated more like prison labourers than military volunteers. When not used as beasts of burden, its members were confined behind barbed wire.

In the words of one of their white commanders: “The camps occupied by our men and the prisoners of war are identical in every respect, except as regard to the locality those occupied by prisoners are more favourably situated.”

The SANLC, itself, was prematurely disbanded in 1918 as a result of South African Government concerns about growing unrest in its ranks. Up until 1986 successive Pretoria regimes ignored the veterans, denying them service medals and other forms of official recognition.

In 1928 some embittered local veterans turned down a belated British offer of medals for the Batswana, Basotho and AmaSwati who had served in the Fifth Battalion.

Thus it was that among the Batswana in 1939 there was consensus that any active participation in a Second World War had to be different.

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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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