We left off with at the port of Bari, Italy, where the Batswana of 1979 APC Smoke Company lost five men, with another seven critically wounded, while distinguishing themselves by putting up smoke screens credited with saving allied ships. For his personal heroism in rallying “the daring dozen” following the initial Luftwaffe attack, Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal.
It is one of the sad ironies of history that great examples of human productivity have often occurred during the course of wars. This was certainly true of the Second World War, which constitutes an extreme example of humankind’s productive as well as destructive capacity. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that one finds incredible examples of productivity among the Batswana APC. As with any military formation the routine tasks of some of the troops were, in this respect, mundane but vital.
Many Batswana, for example, manned petrol depots during the British 8th Army’s advance up the Italian peninsula. In a 12-hour period one 90-man unit was reported to have washed, filled, stacked and loaded 295,000 litres of petrol. Another 70-man unit did 215,000, while a 120 man group prided itself on a consistent output of 40,000 an hour.
Other Batswana companies took pride in their ability to assemble prefabricated Bailey Bridges, designed with the capacity to withstand the weight of entire armoured columns, in a day. Apparently some of these “Bechuana bridges” were at least until quite recently still in service, as are fortifications built by Batswana in Lebanon.
In 1943 the Bakwena of 1969 Company won special praise for their speedy construction of what was then the world’s biggest ever prefabricated bridge over the Sangro River (a feat that was featured on the cover of Life Magazine).
During the winter of 1944, in the face of bitter cold and often intense German shelling, the same Company joined several other Batswana units in building and maintaining a road across the Apennines Mountains from Castel del Rio to Castel San Pietro. The resulting “La Strada di Bechuana” (“Batswana road”) appeared on Italian roadmaps.
The Batswana themselves apparently called the Apennines route “kapoko” (snow or sleet). When the ice melted the corridor enabled the American commanded multinational 5th Army to seize the great city of Bologna, while finally outflanking the German 10th Army in the Po valley.
Batswana were also kept busy laying and maintaining railway track. One war correspondent could not resist the line that it was now the Bechuana Pioneers (rather than Mussolini) who “kept the trains of Italy running on time”.
It is difficult to generalize about the experiences of those Batswana who served in the African Pioneer Corps (1941-46). Only in recent years has there been a limited effort to collect and record surviving accounts. From the available documentary, as well as oral, evidence it is clear that their experiences varied greatly.
Some Batswana were thrust into combat roles. Others were not. Some forged close, even intimate, contacts with foreigners: Europeans, Arabs, other Africans and (especially black) Americans. To others such men and women remained an alien mystery.
About 40% of the masole participated in the bloody two-year allied advance up the Italian peninsula. There they were often cold and wet; spending icy winters in tents or crude billets in the snow covered Apennines Mountains. Most of the other Batswana spent the war more quietly in the burning sands of Egypt and Libya.
Batswana troops were greeted by such notable figures as King George VI, Winston Churchill, Jan Smuts and top Generals like Montgomery and Mark Clark. On 26th of March 1945 a handful of Batswana joined some Basotho and Swazi in having what was considered the great honour of an audience with Pope Pius XII, a reflection of the Vatican's growing interest in the High Commission Territories.
For many, the experience of war strengthened their Christian convictions. This helped to spur a post-war expansion of independent church movements, as well as a more modest growth in the traditional mission based churches, which then enjoyed the exclusive sanction of dikgosi. Before gaining prominence in the Freedom Squares ex-APC Sergeant P.G. Matante honed his oratory skills as a Pentecostal preacher, at one point launching his own “St. Phillip's Apostolic Church”.
A few veterans were exposed to the alternative doctrines of Communism and Pan-Africanism in semi-clandestine meetings. Cross-cultural contact was, however, often limited by language. Only a few Batswana then spoke English, much less Arabic or Italian. From 1943 existing informal programs to promote both literacy and English were given an official boost with the appointment of Education Sergeants.
Another tool for promoting literacy was a newsletter from back home edited by the Director of the Bechuanaland Education Department, Henry Dumbrell. This publication was inserted as a supplement into copies of the APC weekly newsletter Indlovu/Tlou.
The soldiers were also issued with copies of the self-described “leading South African native newspaper” Umtetli wa Bantu, which was sponsored by mining interests and otherwise contained home news forwarded by the colonial government. In 1944 these home news efforts were expanded and consolidated with the launch a new, officially sponsored, Setswana newspaper- Naledi ya Batswana.
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.
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”
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)
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.
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.