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The Vilanders of The Mier Country



In addition to the Ovaherero, Ovambandero and Nama there are additional tran-Kgalagadi groups that historically straddle our western frontier with Namibia. These include predominately Afrikaans speaking communities such as Bokspits, Gakhibane and Struizendam in Botswana.

While outsiders have in the past often labelled the inhabitants of these settlements as "Basters", "Coloureds", and "Hottentots", locally they were from the mid-nineteenth century more precisely identified as the "Vilanders", while their lands were known as "The Mier" country.  The Mier communities trace their common history back to the 1860s when, under a leader named Dirk Vilander (c.1810-1888), they broke away from Jan Jonker's "Orlams" Nama of Namibia to first settle along the confluence of the Aoub, Molopo, Nosop and Kudumane rivers.

There, sometime later, they were there also joined by the followers of another leader named Regopstaan Kruiper Mier is the Afrikaans/Dutch word for 'ant'. It is said that when Dirk Vilander's advance party first entered the region they noticed that, at a certain spot, some ants were bringing wet mud up to the surface of what was otherwise arid ground. This led them to dig for water, which was soon found in quantities that could sustain Vilander's first settlement in the area. Alternatively it is said that Dirk Vilander himself discovered an aardvark burrow filled with water that it was also full of ants.

Vilander and Kruiper's followers ultimately settled on both sides of the Nasop River and can thus still be found in adjacent areas of South Africa and Namibia as well as south-west Botswana. Their largest settlement has been Rietfontein in South Africa, which derives its name from what was a fountain surrounded by reed bush, which was previously used by the !Xo, a local Khoisan or Basarwa community who were already in the area. For a generation thereafter the Vilanders shared the Mier country in relative harmony with the !Xo and minimal interference from others.

But, in the 1890s the area was partitioned between the Bechuanaland Protectorate, Cape Colony and German South West Africa, resulting in subsequent German and Boer settler encroachments. In the 1920s the first National Party regime began to seize the Vilander farms inside South Africa, claiming that they were too poor and overused the land. The Land Inspector who condemned the farms was a certain David DeVilliers who, in the name of the newly formed South African Parks Board, manipulated the farm removals for his personal profit. The Parks Board in the process acquired boreholes, dams and other infrastructure built by the Vilanders, who, being non-whites, were at the time denied adequate compensation.

In 1933 DeVilliers began to press the Bechuanaland Protectorate's Resident Commissioner, Charles Rey, for the removal of Botswana's Vilanders. This was proposed as an anti-poaching measure. Although police on both sides of the border described the Vilanders as a "most law abiding people", Rey was swayed. In 1938 the entire population living north of Twee Rivieren within 25 miles of the Nosop were forced to abandon their farms and resettle around Bokspits. Their only compensation was ten pounds sterling per family for building materials.

Speaking earlier this year to BOPA reporter Esther Mmoloi one senior Bokspits resident, Mr Moses Vanneel, thus recalled that: "It was on 11 March 1938. I was only 11 years old at the time. We were told to make way for the trans-frontier park and given 10 days to have packed our bags and left the place." Nearly 10,000 square kilometres of Botswana was ultimately depopulated of both its Vilander and !Xo inhabitants. On the eve of the 1938 removal Jan Bok and T. Mattys, the then recognised Headmen of Boksprits and Kyky, had tried one last appeal to the authorities in Mafikeng:

"In 1867 our forefathers came into the Mier country under Headman Dirk Vilander and the Auob and Nosob rivers were their hunting grounds, later in 1894 the present Bechuanaland Border was fixed as it is now and our people were still living peacefully in these parts under Headman David Vilander and some of the people still alive today were sent by David Vilander down to Upington to assist as drivers etc. in the Boer War against the Boers, at that time also the country south of the Kuruman river was proclaimed a Game reserve and the country east of the Nosob was given to us by Mr. Gordon.

"From this it is evident that we are occupying the country for a long time and after generations are staying so long in a country it is human to love the country and very hard and heart-breaking to leave such a country." All such appeals, however, fell on deaf ears. From 1940 South African Game Wardens, who were given special jurisdiction in the Kgalagadi District, prohibited Vilander and !Xo hunting so as to force them to "work". But, as Tsabong's District Commissioner noted in 1954: "work there is for all; unfortunately it is all across the border."

While the Mier country remains relatively impoverished, to a great extent its current economic prospects are focused on the emergence of more people centred development of the Kgalagadi Trans-frontier Park, whose colonial era genesis once threatened the very survival of the region's distinct local culture.

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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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