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Celebrating our heroes and heroines: Michael Dingake

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

I have hitherto decried the practice where we fail to recognize our heroes and heroines during their life time only to sing them praise and adulation after their death. This, we often do in eulogies whose genuity is, in my view, doubtful.

In my view, such eulogies are about us the living, not the dead; they are about showing the world how good our English is, not about the departed for if they were about the departed such exaltations would have been sung when the departed were still living. What good is exaltation when its ‘beneficiary’ can no longer relish it? Granted, the living would get inspiration from the tributes, but should it be all about the living? I may be wrong, but I believe it should be more about its progenitor.

In preparation for the funerals of such heroes and heroines, we spend lavishly, not for the fallen hero or heroine, but to show our wealth and cement our status in society. We would rather spend extravagantly on the funeral when we failed to contribute to their medical expenses when in hospital. We would rather call our roads and streets by disparaging names than name those roads and streets after our heroes and heroines. How can we have our roads and streets named after foreign heads of states, some of whom were dictators, when we have so many heroes and heroines?

Why don’t we have a heroes and heroines’ Acre where we lay our heroes and heroines to rest after a life well lived? Why don’t we have a Hall of Fame where the names of our heroes and heroines are etched on marble for future generations to learn about them? In this series I pay tribute to many of our heroes and heroines who have made their God, their country, Botswana, and their families proud. I start with Michael Kitso Dingake, whose last public position was that of president of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Member of Parliament (MP) for Gaborone Central.

Born on 11th February 1928 in Bobonong Village, he went to Bobonong Primary School between 1936 and 1941. He then went to South Africa where he did his secondary schooling at St Ansgars Institution, Roodepoort, in the then Union of South Africa from 1942 to 1943. Still in South Africa, he studied at Pax College, in Pietersburg (Polokwane), in 1946. He obtained his senior certificate through private studies from Damelin College in Johannesburg. True to his name ‘Kitso’, which means knowledge, his yearning for education did not end there.

Yearning for more knowledge, Dingake, while serving his jail term on Robben Island, to which he was, in 1966, sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment, obtained his BA (Political Science and Economics), B. Admin (Public Administration and Local Government Accounting) and B. Com (Business Economics and Accounting). It is these qualifications that would later gain him employment at the University of Botswana. Dingake joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1952 during the Defiance Campaign after which he went on to serve in various capacities in different structures of the ANC. In 1957, he was elected Secretary of Alexandra Branch Six.

In 1959, he was elected chairperson of Johannesburg Northern Region; and in 1960, he was appointed member of the State of Emergency Committee for Johannesburg Region following the declaration of the State of Emergency. At the end of 1960, he was co-opted into the underground ANC Transvaal Regional Committee; in 1962, he served in the ANC National Secretariat as Publicity Secretary and was responsible for the production of propaganda material for the liberation movement.

Dingake later assumed the chairpersonship of the ANC National Secretariat, after the Rivonia arrests when the National Secretariat essentially served as the underground National Executive Committee of the ANC. In 1960, he was recruited into the South African Communist Party (SACP) during the State of Emergency. In 1961 he was co-opted into the SACP District Committee. He served on the  Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) Johannesburg Regional Structure, responsible for the recruitment of trainees abroad. After Wilton Mkwayi’s arrest, Dingake assumed all responsibility for MK operations, including the infiltration of trained MK cadres.

As a member of the ANC Volunteer Corps, Dingake participated in such campaigns as Against Bantu Education,  Congress of the People, We Stand by Our Leaders, the Alexandra Bus Boycott of 1957, Potato Boycott, Sophiatown removals, One Pound-a-Day, the Women Anti-Pass Campaign of 1959, the Pass Burning after the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 and the Anti-White Republic Protests.

In 1962 he narrowly escaped arrest by the notorious Security Police when he went to a hideout under the misapprehension that Mac Maharaj would be there.  He had gone to warn him to escape from that place following the arrest of several of his comrades. After Maharaj was arrested Dingake had to leave South Africa. He was sent on a mission to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.  Upon his return, many more of his comrades had been arrested, and because of their tips smuggled from prison he learnt of the arrests and he came back to Botswana in February 1965.

Back home, he, between February 1965 and December 1965, served as the external contact with the ANC underground machinery in Johannesburg in which capacity he organised infiltration routes for MK guerrillas from Zambia via Botswana.
Shortly after the establishment of the infiltration route, and only after the first trainees had used it, he was, on 8th December 1965, arrested on his way to Lusaka via Zimbabwe which was then under Ian Smith’s regime. Following his arrest, he was transferred to Pretoria, where, after torture, he was charged for membership and participating in the activities of banned organisations – the ANC and the SACP – and for statutory sabotage. He was, on 6th May 1966, sentenced to a total of fifteen years imprisonment in Robben Island.

That Dingake, an immigrant, rose to such heights in a foreign land is indeed remarkable. He risked his life in defence of democracy. To him, democracy had no boundaries; democracy knew no citizen; it was simply a universal concept for the enjoyment of all humans. The ANC could not have been more right when it, in its profile, wrote, ‘Dingake saw himself first and foremost as an African, duty-bound to fight for the liberation of Africans on their continent.’ Few men can have such a trait ascribed to them for their contribution to a foreign country.

Dingake’s defence for democracy continued when he came back home. In 1992, he entered national politics, becoming vice-president of the BNF in 1993. He was elected to the National Assembly as Member of Parliament (MP) for  Gaborone Central in 1994. Some regard as a blemish to his political career the fact that he was at the center of the BNF split following the infamous Palapye Congress in 1998.  The result was the formation of the BCP for which he became president.

Dingake led the BCP from 1998 to 2001. During his tenure, the BCP, despite its formation from turbulent circumstances, enjoyed admirable peace and stability. He served as Leader of the Opposition in Parliament until Parliament was dissolved in preparation for the 1999 general elections. Electorally though the BCP did not do well under Dingake’s leadership. In the 1999 general elections, it won a mere 11.9% of the popular vote and retained only one seat out of 40. Admirably, when time for his departure came he did not cling to his position. He left the party leadership in 2001.

Dingake is a prolific writer who has contributed to political literature not only through the insightful newspaper articles he has published under his column titled ‘As I See it’ in Mmegi newspaper, but also through the books he has published. He has used his column to right about the plight of such marginalized groups as Basarwa, something which attracted the attention of the international community, resulting in assistance from such international organisations as Survival International (SI).

Obviously inspired by his political activism while in South Africa, he, in 1987, published a book titled ‘My Fight Against Apartheid.’ His incarceration at Robben Island motivated him to, in 2015, publish a book titled ‘Better to Die on One’s Feet: One Man’s Journey from Robben Island to Freedom.’

People are prone to relent to such evils as infidelity, corruption and boastfulness when in positions of power. That has not been heared of Dingake. I am not aware of any scandal in which he was involved. His has been a life of selfless service.
South Africa has recognized his contribution to its struggle against apartheid. On 24th April 2007 he was awarded the Grand Companion of Oliver Reginald Tambo (GCOT), an award reserved for heads of government, ministers of state, supreme court judges, presidents of legislatures, secretaries of state, ambassadors and commanders-in-chief. What about Botswana the land of his birth?

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

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.

POSITIVITY
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”

UNDERSTANDING

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.”

COMMITMENT

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.

ACCEPTANCE

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)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

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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