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When We Were "Mad", You Stood With Us

Rasina Winfred Rasina
Events Review

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim! Quite often when we mention the bad things, we forget to mention the good that has been done by those who wanted nothing out of the Creative Industry, but for it to simply flourish.

Those who have always on behalf of the organisations, their families and themselves been there for the Arts Sector. Today I take a break from the ordinary events review purpose of this column to thank those organisations, individuals and families. These are those who have been there for the growth of the Creative Industry, particularly theatre….kelapisitswe kego leboga batho ba kaname mo makesing….I am aware that many more organisations have silently and in a subtle manner contributed to this growth.

I am only here mentioning those I have had direct interaction and access to. Those I can say we have troubled, though for the good, in our journey of the Creative Industry development. But they listened, and saw what we meant by developing the Arts Sector. Many of us are products of the work, support and understanding of these organisations, people and families. Yet whenever trophies are raised, credit is usually apportioned to some new comers….koore ba bahitlhetseng pitsa ebudule sabone ele gotshola hela….legone batlatsa poleiti okare badirelapuso ko di workshopong….rona realeba….hakere rebadiragatsi….lotlaa intshwarela ditsala!

Whenever I think about some of these organisations, people and families, I recall with respect, gratitude and Godly love; Mr. Falcon Sedimo. I remain indebted to his legacy as one of the few individuals who served at the Department of the then Youth and Culture and understood his mandate well. Above all, he understood artists.

And yes, he understood me as he still does today. Falcon Sedimo was then the District Youth officer 1 for Jwaneng and Mabutsane, I don’t even know what the 1 stood for, or stands for…. haele gore gosantse gona le babadumelang gobitswa jalo etlaabo ele ntshenatshe….nna nka lesa….hankake ka bitswa ka dinomore maina aleteng….I though remain assuming it meant he was senior than some youth and Culture District officers around the country….gape hakere gotswa hela gore oberekela hakae… gaokake wa tlogela Jwaneng hela obo oya goberekela ko Nhabe obo obatla gobitswa senior….nyaa….you are junior….

Mr Falcon Sedimo was to rise above the ranks to reach the position of Director of Sports & Recreation in the Ministry now called Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development. He has now elevated to be the Chief Executive Officer of Botswana National Sports Commission….oseka wa wara bra yaka…nako nngwe otlaa nna tona….mathata kegore kaha otletseng tshiamo le bonolo kateng….ko polotiking baka shaba kawena motsotso le motsotso….Falcon Sedimo gave us a chance to be understood when we most needed such and understanding.

Had it not been for him, Abronia Theatre Productions Family will have never became what it was. And had Abronia Theatre Productions Family never became what it was, I would have left the Creative Industry then. Falcon Sedimo was in constant communication with the Department of Youth and Culture officers in all Districts nation wide, to offer us all the needed support, resources and parental care wherever Abronia Theatre Productions Family had a branch and or whenever we had an event of whatever nature.

I must thank profoundly the Botswana National Youth Council to have been the first institution to offer us all the support we needed. Minimal as it was, by those standards, it was massive. I still recall my many meetings with the then Botswana National Youth Council Executive Director, Reverend Mpho Moruakgomo, trying to reason our way through him….akanya hela kaha moruti asekeng atsietsega kateng….keha keitsaya tsia tota kebona hela kemo kgonne….owai….kae reye teng….!….Many stories have already been told about Moruti Moruakgomo! One of those is when the BNYC was terribly broke and he opted to buy himself a lavish official car.

When we enquired at a heated Annual General Assembly he simply remarked that….”hakere loaomana bagarona lware gake tlhole dikgaolo ebile ke tshabelelwa ke gotla thari….kene kere ketle keitlhaganele kogolona ka bohetshwana….”….owai yabo ele jaaka ehedile….he was right, comfort and convenience were and remains key in bring in touch with structures.

One such person who never pretended to understand what we would be presenting as an idea was Phillip Makgalemele who came in after Reverend Moruakgomo to be the Botswana National Youth Council Executive Director. I observed then, that he was only interested our passion. He will give our time to discuss our arts issues, rather to rant and bubble about. He will guarantee and offer all the needed support. He will immediately move to discuss his issues.

How he thought the BNYC should be shaped, and where he thought militancy of the young people in structures were not helping the situation. Soft spoken as he has always been, he always got his way though….kana okile aya goretseela koloi mahala ko Hyundai etla gorafolelwa godirela BNYC madi…legompieno gakeitse gore ohitile aba raya areng….!

And I must confess that Phillip Makgalemele’s then right hand man, my brother and my friend, Mr. David Mosweu, who was the BNYC’s District Officer for Jwaneng and Mabutsane always put in a good word for us. Mr. Mosweu also ensured that at a District level, we had all the support. He did all the venue bookings we needed and guaranteed through BNYC. It was Mr.

David Mosweu who facilitated the first ever bank account opening for Abronia Theatre Productions Family with First National Bank when the bank wanted us to produce documents that we did not have, he issued a guarantee letter in support of Abronia Theatre Productions Family. It was David Mosweu who ensured that in all the BNYC Districts where Abronia Theatre Productions Family had branches, we were allowed office space and all the resources applicable. It was under Mr. David Mosweu at BNYC, that Abronia Theatre Productions family and many BNYC were never to perform for free.

Then came in Debswana which did not see a reason of denying Abronia Theatre Productions Family financial funding whenever we needed such. Debswana did not only provide financial assistance for Abronia Theatre Productions Family to pursue its cause, Debswana provided resources for our Annual Drama Clinics. Botswana National Youth Council provided transport for those attending the Drama clinics and then, the Department of Youth and Culture provided feeding, stationery and parental support.

I recall clearly individuals at Debswana who made it happen; Matshidiso Kamona, Grace Mosinyi, Charmaine Revaka and the forever humble Christopher Motsholapheko….yogotweng Chris ene keipotsa gore keeng atswa kgakala anna hela adumalana le nna leha reharologana ka merero ya sepolotiki….

I need to move further and appreciate Professor Martin Mokgweetsi, who took care of Abronia Theatre Productions Family – University of Botswana branch. My interaction with Professor Mokgweetsi began when I was still at UB’s Ngwao Boswa Cultural Ensemble with the likes of Phuthego Benson Phuthego, the late Boemong Tshosa, Motshereganyi Sefanyetso, Kabelo Modubeki, Moshabi Ikanyeng, Gorata Huku, Moratiwa Habana, Thato Seleke, Farmer Bagayi and Mooketsi Malibala and other splendid practitioners that had it not because of space I would have all mentioned. Whenever I entered Prof Mokgwathi’s office, he had that look that seemed to be saying “….monna Winnie….oabo obatlang….ke busy….” He looked and sounded a snob. He knew how to simply rubbish issues off. But interestingly he always provided what was needed.

Prof Mokgweetsi will together with Dr. Masego Sedisa ensure that we had transport, attire and props to use in all our theatre productions. Some of these theatre productions where quite expensive as they were specifically written and rehearsed for cross border theatre shows, in particular Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa. This is where the department of African languages at the University of Botswana came in. We will explain how were were going to promote Setswana and hence inevitable that we are entitled to their support.

And it was Dr. Masego Sepias who allocated Abronia Theatre Productions Family – UB Branch an office at the University. He ensured we had accommodation and meals for Drama Clinics and ensured that we had a regular and reliable venue for our rehearsals. One day, space and time allowing, I will mention those who throughout these processes pulled us down, those who are responsible for those who fell off along the way….dilo tse gare dibuiwe….gare retswe ka tsone….! This week my task was to simple be grateful and to be thankful for those who stood with us in their silent love and subtle support. On behalf of the Creative Industry, I profoundly thank you. Allahur Akbar!

The Journey Continues,

Rasina Winfred Rasina
Mobile: +267 71886794
Facebook Page: Rasina Winfred Winnie Rasina
Twitter: Rasina_W_Rasina

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Parricide at Herod’s Court

25th January 2021

A wife, uncle, and two in-laws fall at the hands of Judah’s despot

The pre-eminent Jewish chronicler, Flavius Josephus, said of Herod the Great that he was “blessed with every gift of looks, body, and mind” but he was a “slave to his passions”. This was in the context of a gloating bloodlust.

His sword knew no sacred cows: neither his own kids, wives, in-laws, next of kin, nor bosom friends were immune from it. He is on record as pestering Caesar Augustus with a barrage of letters seeking permission to execute his own flesh and blood, prompting the Roman emperor to at one time quip that, “It is better to be Herod’s pig than his son”, which was apt: as a “Jew”, Herod did not eat pork and therefore in the event that he kept any pigs, they would never have to be killed.

You are by now well-apprised of the death of Hyrcanus II by the same Herod, General Atiku, in 30 BC. Hyrcanus, a Hasmonean ruler of Judah twice over, was actually the grandfather of Mariamne I, Herod’s most beloved wife and his second of up to 10 wives. It was Mariamne’s own mother Salome, who dreading Herod’s pathological savagery, pitched Mariamne to Herod in the hope that that would insure her family from Herod’s murderous caprices.

Now, Mariamne, General, was as much a stunning beauty as her younger brother Aristobulus III was breathtakingly good-looking. Having tied the knot with Herod in 37 BC, Mariamne had prevailed over her husband to install Aristobulus as High Priest. The post had fallen vacant on the death of Antigonus in 37 BC and Herod had appointed one Ananel, who had no ties whatsoever to the Hasmoneans, the first such in more than a century, in his place. Unable to resist the spirited entreaties of his beloved wife, who had also lobbied Queen Cleopatra of Egypt and her beau Mark Anthony, Herod gave in and replaced Ananel with Aristobulus, who was only 16 years old, in 36 BC.

Because of his enormous charisma and overall affability, Aristobulus was a hit with the masses despite his tender age and Herod was envious of the young man’s rock star-like popularity. To make doubly sure the young man did not harbour a seditious ace up his sleeve, the morbidly paranoid Herod had his spooks watch on both Aristobulus and his mother round the clock. Sensing imminent danger, Aristobulus contacted Cleopatra, asking for a pre-emptive safe passage to Egypt and there enjoy absolute freedom. When Herod got wind of this, he decided to get rid of Aristobulus as he did not wish him to be a perennial thorn in his flesh from the utter safety of self-imposed exile.

The opportunity came at a banquet in Jericho which was organised by Aristobulus’ mother. There, Herod had one of his henchmen cause Aristobulus to drown during a dusk time horseplay in a swimming pool. Of course Herod would forever maintain the drowning was accidental when everybody knew it was in truth a tactical elimination. Poor Aristobulus was only 17 years old having been born in 56 BC. He was the last Hasmonean High Priest and was replaced by the previously deposed Ananel, who was to remain in that position till 29 BC.


It need not be over-emphasised, General, that Mariamne and her mother Alexandra did not take Herod’s line over the all too untimely demise of Aristobulus lying down. If he had reckoned that with the death of Aristobulus he had gotten rid of potentially the most potent threat to his omnipotence, he was totally mistaken. Herod had actually simply fanned the flames of intrigue against him, for mother and daughter confronted him and accused him of murdering their boy in cold blood.

Nor did the two Iron Ladies end matters there: Alexandra wrote a lachrymal letter to Cleopatra to get her to bring her influence to bear on Mark Anthony so that Herod paid dearly and likewise for his nefarious act. Anthony, who at the time was the Roman colossus in charge of the whole of the Middle East, was persuaded and during a visit to Laodicea (in modern-day Turkey, though some accounts say it was Rhodes in Cyprus), he commanded Herod to report to him forthwith and exculpate himself over the affair.

Although Herod put a brave face on the matter, General, he was rather unsure of his eventual fate after the trial. He also suspected rightly or wrongly that Anthony had a thing for the voluptuously beautiful Mariamne and the last thing Herod wanted was for any other man to bed his beloved Mariamne even in death. So before he set off for Laodicea, Herod instructed his uncle Joseph, who was married to his sister Salome, to make sure that in the event that Anthony sentenced him to death, he should immediately put her to the sword. He also detailed a certain Sohemus, a most trusted aide, to stand sentry over the entire womenfolk at the palace.

Herod, however, had the nine lives of a cat, General. Using his immense rhetorical skills and the time-honoured palm greasing, he won himself an acquittal. Meanwhile, the Judean rumourville was abuzz with chatter that Herod had been summarily executed by Anthony, as a result of which people became spendthrifts of their tongues.

Both Joseph and Sohemus disclosed to Mariamne the instructions Herod had left them with in relation to her fate once he was no more. Mariamne was both livid and distraught that her husband regarded her as so easily expendable when outwardly he cherished her beyond words. To her mind, his arrangements with Joseph had nothing to do with love but sprang from sheer monstrosity. She probably thanked God that he was dead, but the fact of the matter was that he was not and when he at long last turned up, she did not want to have anything to do with him, including the conjugation which he so eagerly pined for after such an extended absence.


Now, if Herod had a kind of Svengali, General, it was his youngest sister Salome. Salome (65 BC-10 AD) was the most powerful woman at Herod’s court. A sly, scheming, and manipulating vixen, she arguably more than any other living being had the most sway in a negative sense on her brother, who took practically whatever she said as gospel truth.

Let us nevertheless, General, take stock of the fact that the bulk of what we learn about Salome comes from Flavius Josephus, who himself relied on the writings of Herod’s court historian Nicolaus of Damascus. For one reason or the other, Nicolaus did not see eye to eye with Salome and it is therefore possible that much of what Nicolaus relates of her is embellished to smear her before the court of history.
Upon his return, Herod was told of the rumours of his death and so was surprised to find Mariamne alive when Joseph and Sohemus should in the circumstances have had her killed if indeed they were loyal to him. In fact, Joseph had even put Mariamne and Alexandra into the safe custody of Roman legions stationed in Judea just in case Jewish malcontents who abhorred Herod turned their wrath on them.

But there was more. Salome reported to Herod that Mariamne, who she hated like the plague, had had sexual relations with both Joseph and Sohemus, this being Mariamne’s reward to them for dishing out to her the dirt on Herod, and that she had on several occasions before attempted to poison him. Now, no one would hump Herod’s most beloved wife and get away scotfree. It is therefore small wonder that Herod straightaway ordered the execution of Joseph and Sohemus. Joseph was 61 years old at the time of his death in 34 BC, having been born in 95 BC. In the case of Mariamne herself though, he had her subjected to a formal court trial not on charges of adultery but of attempted regicide.

Herod had hoped that the court would acquit her, whereupon he would make bygones be bygones so great was his love for the woman, but sadly for him, General, she was found guilty and sentenced to death. Even then, Herod tactfully dilly-dallied on signing the writ of execution and simply had his wife detained at a fortress for some time until Salome prevailed over him to execute her at long last. Writes Josephus: “Thus, with the death of the noble and lovely Mariamne ended the glorious history of the Hasmonean High Priest Mattathias and his descendants.”

For a long time to come though, General, Herod was haunted by the death of his wife to the point of even sometimes coming across as if he had lost his mind. “When Herod realised what this meant (the death sentence passed on Mariamne), he tried in vain to have the verdict changed, but Salome did not rest until the death penalty was carried out,” Josephus informs us. “Herod was heartbroken; nothing could comfort him for the loss of his lovely wife.

For seven years he refused to have her body buried, and held it, embalmed, in his palace. Afterwards, he became so melancholy and despondent, nothing interested him or could arouse any enthusiasm in him for living … He was so far conquered by his passion, that he would order his servants to call for Mariamne, as if she were still alive, and could still hear them … He tried hard to forget his trouble by going hunting and banqueting, but nothing helped. Herod built new cities and erected temples and palaces. He also named a tower in honour of Mariamne.”


Mariamne’s death was not the only one which Herod perpetrated through the instrumentality of Salome. There were actually several and included those of her own husband Costobarus. Salome was married four times, to her uncle Joseph (45 BC); Costobarus (34 BC); Sylleus (circa 27 BC); and Alexas (20 BC).

Like the Herod clan, Costobarus was of Idumean stock. It was Costobarus Herod had made governor of Idumea and Gaza and upon Joseph’s death had him tie the knot with Salome, with the couple eventually siring two children, Berenice and Antipater III. Costobarus, though, soon began to harbour monarchical ambitions of his own and wrote to Cleopatra beseeching her to persuade Mark Anthony to make Idumea independent of Herod and install him (Costobarus) as Rome’s client King of the territory.

Of course upon learning of this, Herod was not amused. It was Salome who pleaded with him not to put her husband to the sword. Next time, however, a dumped Costobarus was not so lucky. Seven years after their marriage, Salome and Costobarus parted ways and a possibly hurt Salome decided to exact vengeance. She informed her brother that he had been harbouring two fugitives from Herodian justice for a full 12 years at his own farm.

The two were simply known as the Sons of Baba. Baba ben Babuta, their father and clan patriarch, was related to the Hasmonean ruler Antigonus, who Herod had replaced and killed in 37 BC with the help of Roman legions. Baba and his sons had resisted Herod at the time, with his sons henceforth persisted in insurrectionist activity against Herod. Baba himself had been captured and blinded by Herod but spared anyway as he no longer posed any threat. Writes Josephus: “Now the Sons of Babas were of great dignity, and had power among the multitude, and were faithful to Antigonus, and were always raising calumnies against Herod, and encouraged the people to preserve the government to that royal family (the Hasmoneans) which held it by inheritance.”

Costobarus had provided the Sons of Baba an indefinite lair “supposing that their preservation might be of great advantage to him in the changes of government afterward”. Following the Salome tip, Herod had Costobarus and the Sons of Baba summarily executed “so that none was left alive of the family of Hyrcanus (the Hasmonean), and the kingdom was wholly in Herod’s power, there being no one of high rank to stand in the way of his unlawful acts” per Josephus.


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25th January 2021

In early January, WhatsApp, part of Facebook Inc., began alerting its 2 billion users to an update of its privacy policy which, should they want to keep using the popular messaging app, they have to accept. Much of the policy, which is about commercialising WhatsApp, states ‘WhatsApp receives information from, and shares information with, the other Facebook Companies.

We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate and market services’. WhatsApp is now reserving the right to share data it collects about you with the broader Facebook network, which includes Instagram, regardless of whether you have accounts or profiles there, claiming it needs it to help operate and improve its offerings. More broadly, almost all of the $21.5 billion in revenues which Facebook generated in the third quarter of 2020 came from advertising and there is currently none in WhatsApp.

The company now wants to be able to serve more targeted ads to people on Facebook and Instagram by also garnering their usage habits on WhatsApp and enabling businesses take payments via WhatsApp for items that were selected on other Facebook sites. For long-time users, the option to share data with Facebook was made available in 2016, but it was just that: optional and temporary. It was now to become mandatory for everybody from Feb. 8 but owing to a massive backlash, the company has delayed that to May 15 to try and persuade users to sign up to the new Ts and Cs.

WhatsApp on Monday attempted to address the uproar over privacy concerns with a post on its website, explaining that the update was designed to aid businesses on its platform, as it reiterated in Friday’s post.

“We want to be clear that the policy update does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way. Instead, this update includes changes related to messaging a business on WhatsApp, which is optional, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data.”

These new terms have caused an outcry among technology experts, privacy advocates, billionaire entrepreneurs and government organisations and triggered a wave of defections to rival services. Elon Musk has urged his followers to switch to Signal and the governments of Turkey and India have threatened to block the app if it insists on proceeding.

‘WhatsApp’s updated privacy policy verges on user surveillance and threatens India’s security’, a petition filed in an Indian court said on Thursday, presenting another legal challenge for the Facebook Inc. -owned messenger. “It virtually gives a 360-degree profile into a person’s online activity,” lawyer Chaitanya Rohilla told the Delhi High Court. Many Indian users have began installing rival apps like Signal and Telegram, pushing WhatsApp to begin a costly advertising campaign to calm its 400 million customer-base, the largest of any country. The change has also met with a challenge in Turkey with the country’s Competition Board this week launching an investigation into the messaging service and its parent company.

Elsewhere too, in spite of Whatsapp protestations, millions of its users are already migrating to alternative platforms. Signal saw 7.5 million downloads last week,  a 4,200% spike since the previous week and large swaths of users also jumped to Telegram, as the platform gained 9 million new users last week, up 91% from the previous week. Both apps are now topping Google and Apple’s app stores,

Facebook could possibly learn a lesson from history here. Every past empire – Aztec, Mayan, Greco-Roman, Sumerian, Mongol, Chinese, Ottoman and more recently British, all saw their star rise, their glory swell, their boundaries grow and yet each eventually fell, often the instigators of their own downfall.

They expanded too far too fast and could not control what they had initially conquered. And now it looks like the same fate might await this large tech giant. Parent company Facebook has also come under fire recently for overt and covert censorship policies with questions raised as to partisanship and curtailment of freedom of speech. Thus one would have to question the wisdom of the timing of this new Whatsapp privacy policy, if nothing else.

To understand its influence and control one only has to check out the un-smart sector of the mobile phone industry which for some time has offered handsets a small step up from the basic starter sets with Facebook and Whatsapp as default screen app settings. These limited internet access options have allowed millions of users to connect with affordable data bundle packages.

And for Google smartphone subscribers, the search engine automatically connects its base to Whatsapp and Facebook – one big, happy family. Facebook is also seamlessly linked to Paypal offering contact-less charges for its boosted post advertising, a somewhat sinister partnership which accesses their Paypal log-in and authorisation details without the need to inform the payee – the transaction is simply deducted automatically from the registered credit card. This is Big Brother with a blue logo.

The bottom line here is that if you have any privacy issues at all – and you probably should – you might as well make the switch now before you are forced to sign away your rights in May. And the plus part is that both Signal and Telegram have the technological edge over Whatsapp anyway, the latter even being accessible on multiple platforms simultaneously, not just on your phone.
Empires take time to crumble and Facebook is not in imminent danger but information is a weapon that can be used in any war, even a virtual conflict, so don’t give this giant any more ammunition than it already has.

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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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