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Jeff Ramsay

As we celebrate the Golden Jubilee of our republic it may be noted that modern Botswana as a whole, and not just communities in the north-east, has its ancient Ikalanga roots.

They run deep in our soil, having nurtured our growth as a united and proud nation.

These roots have, moreover, not simply been grafted on to our nation through the vagaries of colonial boundary making. If one goes back in time to the pre-colonial context, one finds evidence of significant interrelationships between the Bakalanga and Batswana, as well as other neighbouring peoples, to the extent that it is not possible to speak of any southern African community’s history in isolation.

The Bakwena royal names “Sechele” and “Sebele”, for example, are apparently of Ikalanga origin. Does this mean that the Bakwena royalty were once Bakalanga? In terms of patrilineal lineage at least, absolutely not!

But, the convergence of names does suggest more than casual contact, which in local Sekwena tradition can be traced at least as far back as the reign of the mid-18th century reign of Kgosi Motswasele I, who is remembered as a renowned traveller.

In the coming weeks we will look at some of the historical traditions of the Bakalanga focusing in particular on the fall of first the Chibundule and subsequent Nichasike dynasties, which together ruled the Bakalanga and neighbouring communities over some four centuries altogether, that is from as far back as c. 1450 until 1842.

The Chibundule dynasty, which was overthrown during the mid-17th century, is associated with the ‘Balilima’ branch of Bakalanga, while the Nichasike or Changamire dynasty that usurped them is associated with the ‘Banyayi’ branch, which prominently incorporates lineages of the Moyo clan.

More broadly, the Bakalanga will in this series be defined to include any and all communities who have historically identified themselves with Ikalanga language and culture.

We will not, therefore, be confined to the traditions of so-called pure or ‘dumbu’ lineages.

In the past Ikalanga, like Setswana, speaking communities have been distinguished by their ability to peacefully incorporate outsiders into their ranks. In this respect what our immediate past President Festus Mogae memorably referred to as our modern ‘omelette’ of multiethnic identity is a product of many centuries of interaction.

A prominent example of such multiple past identities is Bakalanga bakaNswazwi. For many, the late She (Kgosi) John Madawo Nswazwi VIII, who died in exile in 1960, has become a post-colonial icon of colonial era Ikalanga self-assertion.

This has been the case notwithstanding the fact that the She’s not too distant forefathers were Bapedi. During his reign his followers were thus known to have praised their ancestors in a language that they did not otherwise generally speak.

Unfortunately like so much of our indigenous past, the history of the Bakalanga has been relatively neglected. Even where it is cited in passing its cultural identity is often obscured through the use of such external labels as Butwa, Changamire, Rozwi, and Torwa or Tolwa.

As a result there has been little popular recognition of the accomplishments of either the Chibundule or Nichasike dynasties who for nearly half a millennia successively united and expanded the domain of Bukalanga into what was for many generations southern Africa's largest and most sophisticated kingdom.

 It was a kingdom, moreover, whose power was witnessed and undoubtedly to some extent inspired the young prince Sechele and as well as a generation of Bangwato royals.

Of the glory of the Bakalanga kings, who were known by the title ‘Mambo’, let us begin with a sample of a praise poem from the era of the Chibundules.

The text below was originally recorded by the late Masola Kumile, with orthography and translation by Professor P.J. Wentzel:

"Zwitetembelo zwa Mambo Chibundule":

"Inyike yaChibundule wali! Chipwihe lakapwiha hou nenhema; NaZwikono ungapa mbotana; Vunamukuni unoloba nhema ngeganu, Nyati kakuma ngelupa; NaNkami, nkami wedzisina mhulu, Nkami wamapfumba.

"NdizwakaChibundule wali! Chipwihe lakapwiha hou nenhema. Iye Mangula ngonkaka, vule ina nyungula.

Mayile hou, mhuka yezebe hulu. Mbaki wamakomo asingangin"we ngechita. Iye Chibundule wali! Chipwihe lakapwiha hou nenhema."

"Praises of King Chibundule"

"Indeed it is the country of Chibundule, a refuge which gave shelter to the elephant and rhinoceros, With Zwikono like a calf in comparison. Vunakmakuni strikes the rhinoceros with a big axe and the buffalo he reaches out to strike with is shaft. And Nkami the milker of those without calves, the milker who milks before the calves have sucked"

"They are the praises of Chibundule, indeed! The refuge which gave shelter to the elephant and rhinoceros. He the one who washes milk, Because of the water having tadpoles in it.

The one who honours the elephant, the animal of the big ears. The builder of hilltop strongholds that cannot be penetrated by the enemy. He, Chibundule indeed! The refuge which gave shelter to the rhinoceros and the elephant."

Yet for all of its grandeur the realm of the Mambos was ultimately and completely shattered in the early nineteenth 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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