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Remembering the unwanted: Klaas Motshidisi (1932-2015)

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

We continue with the series where we remember those of our heroes and heroines who, though unwanted by government, made immense contributions to the legacy we will be celebrating this year. This week we remember Klaas Motshidisi who passed away in 2015.

According to his obituary published in the Botswana Government Face Book page on 15th March 2015, “Rre Klaas Kebotse Motshidisi was born on the 3rd April 1932 in Serowe… He did his primary schooling in Serowe, completing in 1950. He first went to Masokola Primary School, then Central Primary School and finally Middle School – later renamed Simon Ratshosa School…”

It continues to say “… from 1951-1955 Klaas … did his secondary education by long distance with South African correspondences schools, first with Lyceum and then with Tran-Africa. For his tertiary education he went to High Trade Union College in Moscow in the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1965-66…”

“… After joining the public service … he was placed on a professional development programme that saw him being enrolled on a trade union programme at Harvard University in the United States in 1969-70. Some eleven years later, he did an advanced labour administration course at Oxford University in the United Kingdom…”

“…He also did several short courses in labour administration and labour relations in such institutions as the Kennedy School of Governance (Harvard University), International Institution of Labour Studies (Geneva, Switzerland) and the Institute of Development Management (Mbabane, Swaziland and Gaborone, Botswana).”

Writing in Mmegi on 6th March 2015, Dr. Jeff Ramsay said “Motshidisi began his career as a pioneer nationalist politician, labour organizer and human rights activist, while working at the Palapye Garage owned by a certain Tom Shaw… He was a founding member of the Bechuanaland/Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) in 1961, becoming a member of its Executive. In this capacity he travelled with Motsamai Mpho and Phillip Matante to Ghana to secure international support for the fledging movement.”

Dr. Ramsay further writes that “following the Party’s 1962 split he emerged as the Secretary General of the BPP faction led by Mpho, that subsequently contested the first, March 1, 1965, general election as the Botswana Independence Party (BIP). He subsequently found his long term political home in the Botswana National Front (BNF).

Motshidisi served his country in the public service.  Pako Lebanna, in his article published in the Daily News edition of 3rd March 2015, quotes Professor Monageng Mogalakwe as saying “… although he was one of the independence-era opposition pioneers, he temporarily quit party politics and took to the civil service, serving in the Department of Labour, rising through the ranks to become the Commissioner of Labour in the 1970s.”

According to his obituary, “…he rose from Assistant Labour Officer to Chief Industrial Relations Officer, to Assistant Commissioner of Labour, to Commissioner for Workmen’s Compensations to Under-Secretary for Labour, and acted as Deputy Permanent Secretary and Permanent Secretary numerous times…”

Motshidisi was also a pro-labour rights activist. Lebanna quotes Prof. Mogalakwe saying “…Mr. Motshidisi bequeaths upon future generations a legacy in the field of labour rights… He served his country diligently, asserting workers’ rights; he was present when the trade union movement of this country was being established.”

According to Dr. Ramsay, “It was … in the early 1960s that the late Motshidisi first became involved in trade unionism as the Secretary-General of the short lived Bechuanaland Trade Union Congress.”

Motshidisi proved that being an Opposition political activist does not mean that one does not love his or her country and cannot serve it in the public service, when he, after being in Opposition politics for most of his life, rejoined the Public Service under the Tribal Administration Department as deputy Chief in Palapye.

During the apartheid era Motshidisi played a pivotal role in the liberation struggle. It is on record that he assisted Southern African liberation activists, including former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, who used Botswana as transit to and from exile as well as going for military training in such countries as neighboring Zambia.

Dr. Ramsay supports this by stating that “… besides his domestic activism, during the 1960s, Mr. Motshidisi also played a key role in securing the movement of political refugees through Botswana. In November 1962 he, along with Mpho, secured the release of Thabo Mbeki and other freedom fighters who were being deported via train from Southern Rhodesia to the apartheid Regime.”

Regrettably, however, Motshidisi is one of those who contributed to the fragmentation of the Opposition. According to Prof. Mogalakwe “…when the BPP split, Motshidisi worked with Motsamai Mpho when he founded the Botswana Independence Party (BIP) in 1964…”

Motshidisi was also to later leave the BIP and join ranks with the late Dr. Kenneth Koma when he founded the Botswana National Front (BNF) in 1965. Motshidisi, however, deserves credit in that he never defected from the BNF, even after the turbulent BNF congress in 1998 in Palapye which led to the BNF split giving birth to the Botswana Congress Party (BCP).

The history of the BNF would be incomplete without Motshidisi’s name. He served as the party’s Secretary General (1993-97) and later as Chairman before retiring from active politics and rejoining the public service under the Department of Tribal Administration.

According to Dr. Ramsay, “… after retiring he re-entered politics in the 1990s. In 1994 he unsuccessfully stood as the BNF candidate for Palapye against Festus Mogae. During the BNF infighting in the late 1990’s he supported Dr. Kenneth Koma and subsequently the 2001 leadership of Otsweletse Moupo, serving on the 2001-04 BNF Executive.”

After retiring from active politics Motshidisi served his people through the civil society. According to his obituary, “…following his retirement from active politics he became a community activist and leader and participated in several non-political community based organizations…”

It continues to say “… In 1999 he co-founded House of Hope Trust, a Palapye based safe haven, which provides comprehensive family care orphaned and vulnerable children and their caregivers. House of Hope was formed in direct response to the HIV scourge…”

“From 2010 he was patron of Kopano Rehabilitation Foundation, which was founded by his daughter and son-in-law (Leokana and Phemelo Bogatsu respectively), which provides advocacy, economic empowerment and social integration for people with disabilities…”

“His other patronage was of a Palapye choral musical group called Palapye Voices. In Palapye alone, he held chairperson stints at the Village Development Committee, the Palapye Development Advisory Trust and the Palapye Hospital Advisory Committee…”

“At the time of his death, he was involved in a project to preserve the archives of the BaNgwato and Palapye and was a resource person for the 2016 Independence Committee (Bots 50), which he ably assisted with all the relevant historical information needed.”

As is the case in our tradition, Motshidisi’s life was not celebrated when he was still alive. It was only after his death that he was celebrated. Lebanna quotes the then BNF Publicity Secretary, Moeti Mohwasa, after Motshidisi’s passing, saying “… he was a firm but fair man…. We have lost a valuable assert, an embodiment of the history of the BNF at a time we needed him as we are planning to commemorate our 50th anniversary.”

In the Daily News edition of 16th March 2015, Leungo Rakgathi reported that during his funeral many speakers said Motshidisi was a man of unique caliber who believed in himself and he proved this in the first general elections of1965 when he stood against the first President Sir Seretse Khama in the Serowe constituency. They said even though he lost dismally, he was not discouraged but remained firmly committed to Opposition politics.

Rakgathi continued by saying, “…former BNF leader, Otsweletse Moupo, said Motshidisi was a disciplined and dedicated Opposition leader who was always willing to share his knowledge… He was a down to earth mentor and a great teacher who served as a resource person for party seminars and workshops… He was a man of admirable political honor who strongly detested hypocrisy and intrigue and always strove to practice what he preached.”

According to Rakgathi, Moupo also said “…Motshidisi was overly fastidious in organisational matters, insisting on strict and consistent adherence to the party constitution, rules and principles …. I am thankful to have been one of the people who benefited from Motshidisi as he had a very good memory and was always willing to share with others and respected them despite their age difference.”

Motshidisi’s blemishes notwithstanding, he is no doubt a hero who deserves mention as we celebrate our country’s 50th anniversary of independence. I cannot put it better than Veteran Labour Unionist, Johnson Motshwarakgole, who, according to Rakgathi, during his funeral, “… hailed him as Botswana’s pioneer trade unionist, song writer and accomplished public servant who has inscribed a glorious chapter to the history of the country.”

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Technology saves Lions from angry Okavango villagers

22nd November 2022

Villagers in the eastern Okavango region are now using an alert system which warns them when collared lions approach livestock areas. The new technology is now regarded as a panacea to the human/wildlife conflict in the area as it has reduced mass poisoning and killing of lions by farmers.

The technology is being implemented by an NGO, Community Living Among Wildlife Sustainably (CLAWS) within the five villages of Seronga, Gunutsoga, Eretsha, Beetsha and Gudigwa in the eastern part of the Okavango delta.

A Carnivore Ecologist from CLAWS, Dr Andrew Stein explained that around 2013, villagers in the eastern Okavango were having significant problems with losses of their cattle to predators specifically lions, so the villagers resorted to using poison and shooting the lions in order to reduce their numbers.

He highlighted that as a form of progressive intervention, they designed a programme to reduce the conflicts and promote coexistence. Another component of the programme is communal herding, introduced in 2018 to reduce the conflict by increasing efficiency whereby certified herders monitor livestock health and protect them from predators, allowing community members to engage in other livelihood activities knowing that their livestock are safe.

They are now two herds with 600 and 230 cattle respectively with plan to expand the programme to other neighbouring villages. Currently the programme is being piloted in Eretsha, one of the areas with most conflict incidences per year.

Dr Stein explained that they have developed the first of its kind alert system whereby when the lions get within three or five kilometers of a cattllepost or a homestead upon the five villages, then it will release an alert system going directly to the cellphones of individuals living within the affected area or community.

‘So, if a colored lion gets to about five kilometers of Eretsha village or any villagers in the Eretsha that has signed up for, the system will receive an SMS of the name of the lion and its distance to or from the village”, he stated. He added that this enables villagers to take preventative action to reduce conflicts before its starts.

Dr Stein noted that some respond by gathering their cattle and put them in a kraal or put them in an enclosure making sure that the enclosure is secure while some people will gather firewood and light small fires around edges of the kraal to prevent lions from coming closer and some when they receive the SMS they send their livestock to the neighbours alerting them about the presence of lions.

He noted that 125 people have signed to receive the alert system within Seronga, Eretsha, Beetsha, Gunutsoga and Gudigwa. He added that each homestead is about five people and this means more than 600 people immediately receive the messages about lions when they approach their villages. He also noted that last year they dispersed over 12 000 alerts, adding that this year is a bit higher as about 20 000 alerts have been sent so far across these villages.

Stein further noted that they have been significant changes in the behavior of the villagers as they are now tolerant to lions. “85 percent were happy with the SMS and people are becoming more tolerant with living with lions because they have more information to reduce the conflicts,” he stressed.

Stein noted that since the start of the programme in 2014 they have seen lion populations rebounds almost completely to a level before and they have not recorded cases of lion poisoning in the last three years which is commendable effort.

Monnaleso Sanga from Eretsha village applauded the programme by CLAWS noting that farmers in the area are benefiting through the alert system and take preventative measures to reduce human/lion conflict which has been persistent in the area. He added that numbers of cattle killed by lions have reduced immensely. He also admitted that they are now tolerant to lions and they no longer kill nor poison them.

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THE IDEAL QUALITY OF A MUSLIM

8th September 2022

A Muslim is supposed to be and should be a living example of the teachings of the Quran and the ‘Sunnah’ (the teachings and living examples of Prophet Muhammed (SAW – Peace be upon Him). We should follow these in all affairs, relations, and situations – starting with our relationship with our Lord, our own self, our family and the people around us. One of the distinguishing features of the (ideal) Muslim is his faith in Allah, and his conviction that whatever happens in the universe and whatever befalls him, only happens through the will and the decree of the Almighty Allah.

A Muslim should know and feel that he is in constant need of the help and support of Allah, no matter how much he may think he can do for himself. He has no choice in his life but to submit to the will of his Creator, worship Him, strive towards the Right Path and do good deeds. This will guide him to be righteous and upright in all his deeds, both in public and in private.

His attitude towards his body, mind and soul

The Muslim pays attention to his body’s physical, intellectual and spiritual needs. He takes good care of his body, promoting its good health and strength. He shouldn’t eat in excess; but he should eat enough to maintain his health and energy. Allah, The Exalted, Says “…Eat and drink; but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.” [Quran 7: 31]

The Muslim should keep away from alcohol and drugs. He should also try to exercise regularly to maintain his physical fitness. The Muslim also keeps his body and clothes clean, he bathes frequently. The Prophet placed a great emphasis on cleanliness and bathing. A Muslim is also concerned with his clothing and appearance but in accordance with the Islamic ideal of moderation, avoiding the extremes.

As for his intellectual care, the Muslim should take care of his mind by pursuing beneficial knowledge. It is his responsibility to seek knowledge whether it is religious or secular, so he may understand the nature and the essence of things. Allah Says: “…and say: My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.” [Quran 20: 114

The Muslim should not forget that man is not only composed of a body and a mind, but that he also possesses a soul and a spirit. Therefore, the Muslim pays as much attention to his spiritual development as to his physical and intellectual development, in a balanced manner which ideally does not concentrate on one aspect to the detriment of others.

His attitude towards people

The Muslim must treat his parents with kindness and respect, compassion, politeness and deep gratitude. He recognizes their status and knows his duties towards them. Allah Says “And serve Allah. Ascribe nothing as partner unto Him. (Show) kindness unto parents…” [Quran 4: 36]

With his wife, the Muslim should exemplify good and kind treatment, intelligent handling, deep understanding of the nature and psychology of women, and proper fulfilment of his responsibilities and duties.

With his children, the Muslim is a parent who should understand his responsibility towards their good upbringing, showing them love and compassion, influence their Islamic development and giving them proper education, so that they become active and constructive elements in society, and a source of goodness for their parents, community, and society as a whole.

With his relatives, the Muslim maintains the ties of kinship and knows his duties towards them. He understands the high status given to relatives in Islam, which makes him keep in touch with them, no matter what the circumstances.

 

With his neighbours, the Muslim illustrates good treatment, kindness and consideration of others’ feelings and sensitivities. He turns a blind eye to his neighbour’s faults while taking care not to commit any such errors himself. The Muslim relationship with his wider circle of friends is based on love for the sake of Allah. He is loyal and does not betray them; he is sincere and does not cheat them; he is gentle, tolerant and forgiving; he is generous and he supplicates for them.

In his social relationships with all people, the Muslim should be well-mannered, modest and not arrogant. He should not envy others, fulfils his promises and is cheerful. He is patient and avoids slandering and uttering obscenities. He should not unjustly accuse others nor should he interfere in that which does not concern him. He refrains from gossiping, spreading slander and stirring up trouble – avoids false speech and suspicion. When he is entrusted with a secret, he keeps it. He respects his elders. He mixes with the best of people. He strives to reconcile between the Muslims. He visits the sick and attends funerals. He returns favours and is grateful for them. He calls others to Islam with wisdom, example and beautiful preaching. He should guide people to do good and always make things easy and not difficult.

The Muslim should be fair in his judgments, not a hypocrite, a sycophant or a show-off. He should not boast about his deeds and achievements. He should be straightforward and never devious or twisted, no matter the circumstances. He should be generous and not remind others of his gifts or favours. Wherever possible he relieves the burden of the debtor. He should be proud and not think of begging.

These are the standards by which the (ideal) Muslim is expected to structure his life on. Now how do I measure up and fit into all this? Can I honestly say that I really try to live by these ideals and principles; if not can I really call myself a true Muslim?

For the ease of writing this article I have made use of for want of a better word, the generic term ‘he’, ‘his’, ‘him’ and the ‘male’ gender, but it goes without saying that these standards apply equally to every female and male Muslim.

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OUR BELOVED CHILDREN

29th August 2022

“Homicide and suicide kill almost 7000 children every year; one in four of all children are born to unmarried mothers, many of whom are children themselves…..children’s potential lost to spirit crushing poverty….children’s hearts lost in divorce and custody battles….children’s lives lost to abuse and violence, our society lost to itself, as we fail our children.” “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.” (Quotation taken from a book written by Hillary Clinton).

These words may well apply to us here in Botswana; We are also experiencing a series of challenges in many spheres of development and endeavour but none as challenging as the long term effects of what is going to happen to our youth of today. One of the greatest challenges facing us as parents today is how to guide our youth to become the responsible adults that we wish them to be, tomorrow.

In Islam Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has enjoined upon the parents to take care of the moral and religious instruction of their children from the very beginning, otherwise they will be called to account for negligence on the Day of Judgement. Parents must inculcate God-consciousness in their children from an early age, whereby the children will gain an understanding of duty to The Creator.

 

The Holy Qur’an says: ‘O you who believe! Save yourself and your families from the Fire of Hell’. (Ch. 66: V6). This verse places the responsibility on the shoulders of the parents to ensure that training and guidance begin at home. The goal is to mould the child into a solid Islamic personality, with good morals, strong Islamic principles, knowledge and behavior so as to be equipped to face the demands of life in a responsible and mature manner. This should begin with the proper environment at home that inculcates the best moral and behavioral standards.

But what do we have instead? Believers of all Religious persuasions will agree that we have children growing up without parental guidance, a stable home environment, without role models, being brought up in surroundings that are not conducive to proper upbringing and moulding of well-adjusted children. These children are being brought up devoid of any parental guidance and increasingly the desperate situation of orphaned children having to raise their siblings (children raising children) because their parents have succumbed to the scourge of AIDS.

It is becoming common that more and more girls still in their schooling years are now falling pregnant, most of them unwanted, with the attendant responsibilities and difficulties.

Observe the many young ladies who are with children barely in their teens having illegitimate children. In the recent past there was a campaign focused on the ‘girl-child’; this campaign targeted this group of young females who had fallen pregnant and were now mothers. The situation is that the mother still being just a ‘child’ and not even having tasted adulthood, now has the onerous responsibility of raising her own child most of the time on her own because either the father has simply disappeared, refuses to takes responsibility, or in some cases not even known.

We cannot place the entire blame on these young mothers; as parents and society as a whole stand accused because we have shirked our responsibilities and worse still we ourselves are poor role models. The virtual breakdown of the extended family system and of the family unit in many homes means that there are no longer those safe havens of peace and tranquility that we once knew. How then do we expect to raise well-adjusted children in this poisoned atmosphere?

Alcohol has become socially acceptable and is consumed by many of our youth and alarmingly they are now turning to drugs. Alcohol is becoming so acceptable that it is easily accessible even at home where some parents share drinks with their children or buying it for them. This is not confined only to low income families it is becoming prevalent amongst our youth across the board.

 

It is frightening to witness how our youth are being influenced by blatantly suggestive pop culture messages over television, music videos and other social media. Children who are not properly grounded in being able to make rational and informed decisions between what is right and what is wrong are easily swayed by this very powerful medium.

 

So what do we do as parents? We first have to lead by example; it is no longer the parental privilege to tell the child ‘do as I say not as I do’- that no longer works. The ball is in the court of every religious leader (not some of the charlatans who masquerade as religious leaders), true adherents and responsible parents. We cannot ignore the situation we have to take an active lead in guiding and moulding our youth for a better tomorrow.

In Islam Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “No father gives a better gift to his children than good manners and good character.”  Children should be treated not as a burden, but a blessing and trust of Allah, and brought up with care and affection and taught proper responsibilities etiquettes and behaviour.

Even the Bible says; ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein’. (Mark 10:14-15)

The message is clear and needs to be taken by all of us: Parents let us rise to the occasion – we owe it to our children and their future.

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