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Remembering the unwanted: Klaas Motshidisi (1932-2015)

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

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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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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