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Celebrating our heroes and heroines: Dr. Gaositwe Chiepe

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

The week before last we celebrated Michael Dingake. Sadly, last week we lost one of our heroes and heroines, Kebatlamang Morake, for whom we had to, after wiping our tears, write a tribute.

This week we celebrate yet another of our heroes and heroines, Dr. Gaositwe Chiepe, daughter of Moruti Tibe Chiepe and S. T. Chiepe (nee Sebina). Gaositwe Keagakwa Tibe Chiepe was born on 20th October 1922 in Serowe, seventy five years after Dr. David Livingstone introduced Western education among Batswana at Kolobeng in 1847. Writing a celebration for such a giant as Dr. Chiepe is indeed a toll order. Writing for Mmegi newspaper, Jerry Kai-Lewis said “the task seems impregnable when one considers her many accomplishments…”

He continued to say “…How does one do justice to a life and career replete with landmarks at every juncture? One avenue could be to look at her life against the backdrop of the issues and prevailing social attitudes of the day”. Dr. Chiepe’s colorful educational path started at Serowe Primary School. At the end of her primary school she was the best student in the country and was offered a bursary for her secondary education at Tiger Kloof near Vryburg in the Cape Colony, South Africa.

She later studied at University of Fort Hare where she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree and Postgraduate Diploma in Education, becoming the first Motswana woman to earn a Diploma and college Degree.  She, in 1958, went to the University of Bristol, England, for a Master's degree, becoming the first Motswana woman to earn a postgraduate degree. Demonstrating her love for Education, her Masters’ Degree thesis was entitled "An Investigation of the Problems of Popular Education in the Bechuanaland Protectorate in Light of a Comparative Study of Similar Problems in the Early Stages of English Education and in the Development of Education in Yugoslavia and Uganda."

Having started her education the year her father died she no doubt, with only her mother to fend for her, faced an uphill battle in the pursuance of her education. This more so that it was during an era when it was, owing to our patriarchal society, not easy for a girl child to thrive in her educational path. She was awarded an honorary degree from DePaul University, United States. She began her career in the Bechuanaland Protectorate Government in the Department of Education and was one of the first two Africans appointed to an administrative position as Education Officer in the colonial government.

Her granddaughter, Moduduetso Lecoge, was right in asserting through her play, which premiered on 14th to 16th April 2016 at Moving Space (at Maru-a-Pula School), that  her grandmother was a woman of many firsts. She has had an illustrious civil service career. She was the first female Education Officer of Botswana. She served as assistant from 1948 to 1953; Education Officer from 1948 to 1953; and Education Officer (with administration and inspectorate duties) from 1953 to 1962.

From 1962 to 1965 Dr. Chiepe served as Senior Education Officer. She became Deputy Director of Education from 1965 to 1967; and Director of Education from 1968 to 1970. Dr. Chiepe also had time for civil society service. She was National Deputy Commander of Girl Guides in 1953, 1957, and 1963. She, in 1981, became Chairperson of the Botswana Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA). From 1981 to 1983 she served as Chairperson of the Africa Region of the CPA.
She was, in 1973, admitted as a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. In 1982 she served as Honorary President of the Kalahari Conservation Society (KCS). In 1984 she was appointed Patron of the Forestry Association of Botswana (FAB).

Dr. Chiepe was also a woman of many firsts in politics. She was, in 1974, appointed by the late president, Sir Seretse Khama, as the first female cabinet minister, having been elected as a Specially-Elected Member of Parliament (SEMP). Dr. Chiepe proved her popularity with the electorate when she was, in a by-election in 1977, popularly elected to Parliament representing the Serowe South constituency in the Central District of Botswana. Dr. Chiepe is no doubt Botswana’s most decorated career diplomat. She has, from 1970 to 1974, served as High commissioner to the United Kingdom and Nigeria and Ambassador to the then   West Germany, France, Denmark,  Norway, Belgium,   Sweden and the  European Economic Community (EEC).

She actively participated in negotiations with EEC for Lome I, Lome II, and Lome IV and was Chairperson of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Council of Ministers. During her tenure in the Diplomatic service Chiepe traveled widely in Southern Africa, Europe, the United Kingdom, the United States of America(USA), Canada, China, the Caribbean, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and the Pacific Islands. In 1994 she came back home, serving as Minister of Trade and Industry From 1974 to 1977. From 1977 to 1984 she served as Minister of Mines & Natural Resources. In 1984, she went back to diplomatic service but now as Minister of Foreign Affairs, a position she held until 1994.

In 1994 Chiepe went back to the field for which she was trained, Education. She served as Minister of Education between 1994 and 1999 when she retired from the public service after nearly thirty years of country commitment and honour. Dr. Chiepe the Intellectual and Educator, was, together with such stalwarts as the late Kebatlamang Morake, instrumental in the formulation Botswana’s education system. As a diplomat, politician, and cabinet minister she contributed to the development of Botswana’s domestic and foreign policy.

Hers has been a life of selfless service to one’s country. This has not gone unnoticed since she has obtained honorary doctorate degrees from the Universities of Bristol and DePaul. She was also awarded national honors by both Great Britain and Botswana. She was named Chief Councillor of the Royal Order of King Sobhuza II by Swaziland. The Botswana government needs to be commended for acknowledging Dr. Chiepe’s contribution to Botswana’s development. She has been awarded the Presidential Order of Merit and the Presidential Order of Meritorious Service.

Dr. Chiepe has also been acknowledged internationally. Her awards include the Commander of Royal Order of Polar Star from the King of Sweden, Member of the Order of the British Empire, Honorary Doctor of Education from the University of Fort Hare, Honorary Doctor of Literature and Philosophy from the University of Chicago in the U.S and Honorary Doctor of Laws from Bristol University. Few mortals remain in the public service for so long almost without blemish. This is what Dr. Chiepe has been. It is such people we should celebrate during their lifetime, not when they have departed.

Where ever she is, her late mother, whom she says “… was a wonderful woman who always seemed to have an answer for every eventuality and her answer would always be appropriate…”, would indeed be proud of her. It is for such people that our schools, roads and hospitals should be named after. It is for such people that a hero and heroines acre should be established for their burial. It is for such people that a Hall of Fame should be built for their names and contributions to be indelibly inscribed for future generations to learn from.

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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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