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Jeff Ramsay


The last few instalments of this extended series have focused on some of the traditions surrounding those Bakalanga communities in Botswana who identify themselves as belonging to either the Balilima or Banyayi sub-groups. Collectively these two groupings have often been referred to as the "Bakalanga Dumbu" or "original Bakalanga".

It would perhaps be more accurate, however, to understand these so-called dumbu communities in terms of the genealogy of their ruling lineages. As we have seen such historical figures as Mosojane, Makulukusa Wumbe, Dalaunde (Ntalaote), Men'we and Wange are remembered through oral traditions as junior members of either the Chibundule (Balilima) or Nichasike (Banyayi) dynasties.

Wider patterns of patrilineal or paternal, as well as matrilineal or maternal, descent within various modern Bakalanga [and indeed other local ethno-linguistic communities] are undoubtedly much more complex. The longstanding reality of migration, intermarriage and assimilation in the region ultimately renders any rigid notions of ethnic purity implausible.

There are in fact many Ikalanga speakers whose patrilineal descent is of non-Bakalanga, often of either Bapedi or Batswana, origin. Although communities traditionally led by such lineages are sometimes labelled by ethnologists as "assimilated groups", their members generally consider themselves to be true Bakalanga based on their mother language and cultural practice.

Some prominent examples of such groupings include the BakaMathangwane, Nswazwi, Selolwane and Tshizwina (Sebina) lineages. Assimilation across ethno-linguistic boundaries is not an exclusive phenomenon. Many Batswana can trace patrilineal descent to what were once non-Setswana communities.

The fluid nature of ethnic identity in the past as well as the fast moving present underscores the absurdity of those who incite inter-ethnic paranoia through the ethnic and/or geographic labelling of individuals. In this respect it might have been both more accurate and progressive if the Vision 2016 document had put forward as a collective ideal the notion of "Unity in dynamic diversity."

As what some would negatively refer to as tribalism, in this context perceived as the perversion of ethnic pride to diminish others at the expense of national unity, accountability, and equity, one is reminded of the Setswana proverb: Lomao lo lo ntlha pedi lo tlhaba kobo le moroki. Bigotry is always a two edged blade.

Perhaps the most prominent example of a historically Ikalanga group that has to a greater extent been integrated into Setswana society are the Batalaote of the Central District, who as we have previously seen are of royal Banyayi origin.

Another example is said to be the Senape (Chenaba) ward of Serowe, who according to a monumental survey published in 1952 by Isaac Schapera, are also said to be of Banyayi origin. The lineage's founder, Nthele, is said to have settled at Domboshaba after Mambo Nichasike took exception to his desire to marry a certain princess. It was Nthele's great-grandson, Mari the son of the ward's namesake Chenaba, who subsequently fled to the Bangwato. This was during the mid-nineteenth century as a result of Amandebele raids.

One can also find among the traditional wards (dikgotla) of Serowe descendents of such legendary Bakalanga as Wange and Sosoma. The latter figure is said to have been a powerful Banabiya traditional doctor.

Of course exploring such origins can become quite sensitive. One of the larger wards in Molepolole has claimed descent from Bakwena royalty in modern times (certainly justified in matrilineal terms), notwithstanding its nineteenth century founder's identification in a number of sources as a Mokalanga.

The Bakalanga bakaNswazwi community, best known for their defiance of Tshekedi Khama's overrule during the reign of their leader She John Madawo Nswazwi VIII (ruled 1912-60), are a prominent example of an originally Bapedi community that has become integrated into Ikalanga culture.

An exception to the above is a branch of the BakaNswazwi who settled in Mochudi during the reign of Kgosi Linchwe I (ruled 1876-1924). This group had apparently found refuge in Kgatleng after their headman, Ramotswetla, remained loyal to the Bangwato Kgosi Matsheng. In 1872 Khama III ousted Matsheng in a battle at Shoshong with armed Bakwena support.

Such historical complexities make any estimation of the percentage of the population who belong to this or that ethnic group problematic, notwithstanding the listing of people in colonial era censuses according to their supposed tribal affiliation.

The 1946 Bechuanaland Protectorate census, for example, gave total population of Bamangwato Tribal Reserve as 100,987 of whom 22,777 were listed as "Kalaka" and 17,850 as "Ngwato".

A closer examination of the data, however, reveals that the Kalaka count excludes some Ikalanga speaking communities. The BakaNswazwi, recorded as numbering 1014, are listed under "Pedi", while other groups such as the Baseleka of Bukalanga, 1184, and Banabiya, 844, etc. (in other words many non-dumbu communities) are also separately listed.

By the same token its not unlikely that the "Kalaka" count may have included a few folks who did not at the time have Ikalanga as their mother tongue.

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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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