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Jeff Ramsay

The Bakgatla bagaMmanaana are the only branch of the Bakgatla who reside almost exclusively inside Botswana.

Their dikgosi, who all trace their descent from great nineteenth century Kgosi Mosielele I, are the traditional authorities of Mosopa, Thamaga and Gamafikana.

All Bakgatla traditionally claim "kgabo ya molelo le phologolo", that is both fire and the monkey, as their totem. According to BagaMmanaana traditions, past Bakgatla warriors were praised as the "flames" because they consumed their enemies like wild fire. The monkey was then adopted as a totemic homograph for flame.

BagaMmanaana had split with the Bakgatla bagaKgafela by the mid-seventeenth century.

According to some traditions this secession was precipitated by the refusal of three dikgotla led by Kgatle, Kalaota and Sua, to accept a female regent following the death of the BagaKgafela Kgosi Mokopu aTshukudu.

Led by Kgatle, the faction secretly left at night, taking many cattle with them. In order to avoid detection they are said to have tied a red-white (naana) calf to a tree, which bellowed throughout the night reassuring the remaining Bakgatla that the cattle were safe.

It is from various versions of this story that the name BagaMmanaana is said to originate.

For decades, the BagaMmanaana lived in different places in the north-western South Africa and Botswana, e.g. Kgabodukwe, before settling at Maanwane (near Dinokana) where they gained a reputation as ironworkers.

Kgatle was succeeded by Mosiga, who begot Mphele, who begot Kowe, who begot Kontle, who begot Kalaota I, who begot Mphele II, who begot Kalaota II.

Under Kalaota II, the BagaMmanaana lived in what is now the Lehurutshe region as independent allies of the dikgosi at Kaditshwene.

But, during the first decade of the nineteenth century, they were defeated by, and became vassals of, the expansionist Bangwaketse Kgosi Makaba II, who settled them for the first time at Gamafikana.

Kalaota II was succeeded, c. 1820, by his son Kontle II, who married Makaba's daughter Berekonyane, the mother of Mosielele. Kontle had earlier taken as his Mogumagadi a woman named Mogatsauaka, daughter of Diale aKgogo aSau, who had begot a son and heir named Pheko.

The BagaMmanaana fought alongside the Bangwaketse and Bakwena against Sebetwane's Makololo at the battle of Losabanyana in 1825, which ended in defeat and Makaba's death. A few months later Kontle joined Makaba's son Sebego in his successful 28 August 1826 attack on the Makololo stronghold at Dithubaruba, which resulted in the latter groups expulsion from southern Botswana.

Thereafter the BagaMmanaana returned to Maanwane, where, c. 1835, Pheko succeeded Kontle.

When in c. 1840 Pheko died without issue, dikgosana were sent to Gangwaketse to bring back Mosielele, who had remained with his maternal in-laws.

In accordance with the custom of seantlo, Mosielele, as regent, entered the house of Pheko's widow, Kganyane aMongala aDiale, to raise sons on behalf of his late half-brother. Thus Pilane (1843-89) and Gobuamang I (1845-1940), along with four daughters, were born. Mosielele also begot male heirs from his sixth wife Ikalafeng, the daughter of Balete Kgosi Mokgosi I.

Under Mosielele's able leadership, the BagaMmanaana prospered throughout the 1840s. Maanwane became a major stopping point for hunters and traders following the 1842 establishment there of an L.M.S. mission.

The mission, which was the first in the region, was located at the adjacent Mabotsa hill. Its members were the Rev. Robert Edwards, his assistant the Rev. Dr. David Livingstone and a Motswana evangelist named Thomas Mebalwe.

After years of rising tension, BagaMmanaana peace and prosperity was broken on the 17th of August 1852, when Transvaal Boers attacked. Seeing that the situation was hopeless, Mosielele retreated to Dimawe, the fortified stronghold of the Bakwena Kgosi Sechele I. There, on the 30th of August 1852 the BagaMmanaana joined the Bakwena, Bangwaketse, and Bakaa in resisting the Boers in an all day battle.

This fight occurred after Sechele refused to surrender Mosielele to the Boer Commandant-General Pieter Scholtz, saying:

"Wait till Monday.I shall not deliver up Mosielele: he is my child. If I am to deliver him up I shall have to rip open my belly; but I challenge you on Monday to show which is the strongest man…"

In the immediate aftermath of the Dimawe battle the BagaMmanaana joined the Bakwena in falling back to Dithubaruba.

There they were subsequently joined by other merafe: the Balete of Mokgosi, Batlhako of Mabe, Batlokwa of Semele and Matlapeng, and the Bahurutshe of Mangope and Masega. In the months that followed Mosielele's mephato, took part in Batswana raids into the Transvaal, which by January 1853 had driven the Boers back to Rustenburg.

After the restoration of peace, in February 1853, the BagaMmanaana remained with the Bakwena at Dithubaruba. There, Pilane married Sechele's daughter Gagoangwe, who begot a son Baitirile.

In 1863 they resettled at Mosopa, coinciding with the resettlement of Bakwena at Molepolole, and the Balete and Bahurutshe at Mmankgodi, Manyana and (subsequently) Ramotswa.

In 1870-71 the BagaMmanaana were divided when Pilane claimed the throne from his ailing biological, but not customary, father Mosielele.

Mosopa was temporarily abandoned when the larger faction accompanied Pilane to Kgabodukwe, while the loyal followers of Mosielele took refuge with the Bangwaketse Kgosi Gaseitsiwe. Mosielele died in 1873 at Gamafikana, where a branch of the BagaMmanaana has since remained.


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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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