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Jeff Ramsay

We left off in August 1944 with Batswana APC companies engaged in allied efforts to overrun the German 10th Army’s last major defences in the mountainous terrain of central Italy, the Gothic line. A million German troops, reinforced by diehard Italian fascist units manned the line, which resisted sustained allied assault until March 1945. Keeping such large numbers of the enemy pinned down, while the allied invasion of France proceeded was, however, a major strategic objective.

For their part the ranks of British Empire and American forces had been depleted by the withdrawal of units to fight in southern France. The services of the Batswana, along with Basotho, British Indian, and Mauritian, Pioneers were thus in especially high demand all along the frontline.

In August the renaissance city of Firenze (Florence) fell in bitter fighting to the 5th Army's South African division. Within days the Pioneers of 1969 (Bakwena) Company had erected Bailey bridges across the Arno River.

Elsewhere Batswana Pioneers were busy manning ammo and petrol dumps, unloading ships, cutting roads and servicing RAF bases. By the end of 1944, with the decline of enemy air activity, many of the Batswana H.A.A. gunners were once more assigned field firing roles, taking part in long running artillery duels.

Apparently writing on behalf of his unit, APC Sergeant Sampson sent a letter with enclosed picture to the British Resident Commissioner in Mafikeng expressing his pride weapon and esprit d ‘corps:

“This is a picture of our friend that we are proud of “Mobile Gun”. With the aid of this machine, the enemy can hardly succeed in shooting or capturing us then it is his last day…today we are calm and collected under all circumstances, burning only with the desire to get a grips on the enemy and so great is our ardour that we feel like tearing him with our teeth.”

The arrival of the Brazilian 1st Division and US 10th Mountain Division at the end of 1944, as well as increased activity by anti-German Italian partisans, helped turn the tide of battle.  In February-March 1945 the Americans and Brazilians pushed through the centre of the Gothic Line, while to the east the battle hardened 1972 (Bangwato), later joined by 1974 (Bakgatla, Balete, Batlokwa), Company assisted the Americans in pounding German coastal positions near Pisa.

Further inland 1976 (Bangwato) Company helped provide cover for the New Zealanders, Poles, Americans, Indians, and allied Italians of the 5th Army's right flank.

In April 22-23 1945 Batswana were among the multinational forces that crossed the river Po to rapidly advance across northern Italy. Sweeping across the northern Italian plains, while taking the city of Venice; by the end of the fighting in May 1945 Batswana were among those who had reached the Austrian and Yugoslav borders.

With the end of the war the white officers who commanded various colonial African troops in the allied armies recognized that “native affairs” would not return to its pre-war pattern. In August 1945, the Officer Commanding the 1974 (Bakgatla, Balete, Batlokwa) H.A.A. Company, G.J.L. Atkinson, thus informed the Protectorate's Government Secretary, Gerald Nettleton, that there had been no instances of mass disobedience among the Batswana gunners, however adding:

"But elsewhere there was a lot. It is one of the most important aspects of the behaviour of African troops in this war. The Depot Commandant had a very interesting talk on this subject, and asked the OCs [Officers Commanding] for their views on how things might be improved- for the next time! He says that mass disobedience occurred among all African troops. It is not being hushed up now- it cannot be- and indeed it is the most important fact to be faced. Successful African mass disobedience is a product of this war."

Back in Botswana the young men who spearheaded the post-war resistance of the BakaNswazwi, as well as many of those who in June 1949 proclaimed Seretse as their true Kgosi, whore their APC uniforms. Elsewhere such dikgosi as Kgari and Bathoen II recognized a new spirit of assertiveness among the veterans.

Yet only a few former APC soldiers, ex-Sergeants Philip Matante and Amos Dambe being notable examples, ultimately played leading roles in the subsequent emergence of the nationalist political parties. Most of the leading nationalist politicians of the 1960s, individuals such as Mpho, Masire, Nwako and Koma, as well as Seretse, were in school during the war years.

Batswana troops came back with new skills that, due to the lack of opportunity at home and racist job reservation across the borders, proved to be of little subsequent benefit to them. The same is true of those blacks who rose to more skilled occupations in Gauteng's war industries only to be pushed back down the ladder with peace. Local Batswana participated in the great, brutally suppressed, strikes of 1945-46.

Then there is the most overlooked of all local veterans, the women who maintained the nation, nurturing its post-independence leadership. In Molepolole, when their men folk returned in 1946, they sang a song which roughly translates: "Hail Kgosi Kgari, Our men have come home through the grace of God, Bakwena, Bangwaketse, Bangwato, we are one nation!"

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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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