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Jeff Ramsay

Builders Of Botswana


We last left off in 1921 with the British Resident Commissioner for Bechuanaland (1917-23), James Macgregor, establishing a new Tribal Council in Molepolole to act as his "herdboys".


This action was justified in the context of his having received a petition from the Borakalalo faction complaining that they were being ignored by Kgosi Sebele II.

The new Council was led by Kebohula and Moiteelasilo, Sebele's uncles who had served on the previous council in Sechele II's time, and Gaashugelwa Kgosidintsi. All three were prominent critics of the Kgosi.


When MacGregor confirmed the Council at a kgotla meeting held in Molepolole in May 1921, he also gave Sebele a final warning to resettle in Borakalalo along with the other residents of Ntsweng.

Sebele, however, remained put while augmenting his overwhelming local support by recruiting allies in the European and Indian business community.


The most prominent of these B.I. Vickerman, who in addition to his business interests, was as influential member of the "European Advisory Council" (EAC).

Vickerman (commonly known to Batswana as "Bigman") convinced several of his fellow EAC councillors to support him in protesting against the proposed forced removal of Ntsweng residents.


Together they claimed the Protectorate administration had no authority to tell a Kgosi where to live and no business interfering in Sekwena politics by backing a "rebel faction."

Perhaps more pointedly Bigman questioned whether the Protectorate regime was in a position to financially and materially compensate both Ntsweng's indigenous and non-indigenous residents for the great expense in moving; with the then considerable figure of twenty-one thousand pounds calculated as the amount that would be due the traders alone.

MacGregor was further reminded that Sebele's father, Sechele II, had been authorized by the previous Resident Commissioner, Charles Garraway, to resettle in Ntsweng.

In the end MacGregor had to back down.


The High Commissioner in Cape Town further sent instructions that any future attempt to depose Sebele must have the backing of a "substantial majority" of the morafe. This was something that neither MacGregor nor any of his successors would ever have. In the wake of the turn of events MacGregor's Tribal Council quickly collapsed, with the Molepolole Magistrate describing it a "broken reed".

Finally free from Macgregor's threats Sebele confidently remained in Ntsweng, where he built a new "Bakwena National Office" next to his kgotla.


It's now crumbling remains, often referred to as Mmakgosing by Bakwena, are adjacent to the royal cemetery.

With the Borakalalo faction humiliated, Sebele was also free to identify himself with bogwera.

In 1901 the Christians had pressured Sebele's grandfather into abolishing the rites of initiation. In 1917, Sebele's father revived bogwera while Sebele was doing his military service in France.

Sekwena tradition had heretofore been that a Kgosi must pass through initiation before the leopard skin can be placed over his shoulders.


So, in 1922, Sebele put aside his duties in order to submit to the rigours of bogwera, the last thing that stood in the way of his becoming an effective ruler.

After several months at bogwera camp at Botlhapatlou, an absence which further annoyed the British, Sebele's mophato was graduated as the MaThubantwa. This name, also taken by Sebele's grandfather Sebele I's regiment, was chosen on honour of the many World War I veterans who underwent bogwera with Sebele.


Domestic conflict over the revival of bogwera and bojale and continued for years after. Missionaries and Bakwena Christians claimed Sebele had forced people to go to Botlhapatlou, and they punished those who went willingly by refusing them admission to school and church. They even excommunicated parents suspected of sending their sons.

Supporters of traditional initiation were indeed known to coerce their sons and nephews. Sebele, himself, is said to have pressured his own brothers, including Kgari, into initiation.


Because of such controversy, Kgari's own mophato was graduated in 1924 as MaYakathata.

For Sebele's Christian opponents, bogwera was not simply a religious issue. Many of them, already elderly, had not been initiated themselves. The revival of bogwera was thus a threat their prestige.

While bogwera continued, Sebele consolidated his authority. His financial problems, which at one point had led to threats of civil imprisonment, had been reduced.


His public image was further enhanced by the return of a group of dissident Bakwena under Jacob Kgari, who had fled Kweneng during the time of Sebele I. With public backing, the Kgosi was also able to get the British to replace a troublesome Magistrate.

From his position of relative strength, Sebele took a number of steps to advance the welfare of his people. He was an active promoter of municipal improvements.


He imposed strict standards on the building of houses and fences and had streets kept clean and well maintained. Rubbish pits replaced garbage heaps. He told his people to bury their dead in the graveyard rather than in their lolwapa. New roads were built, and dam construction was attempted (though unsuccessfully).

Sebele also sanctioned youth programmes in the form of Life Brigades for boys and girls.


Aware of the pioneering public health efforts then being done by the SDA medical mission in Gangwaketse, he further welcomed the establishment of the Scottish-Livingstone Medical Hospital by missionaries of United Free Church of Scotland, who agreed to work under the auspices of the their fellow LMS Congregationalist.

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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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