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Scotty Smith, the Nama and the British


We last left off with the German killing of the Australian Edward Presgrave, who was suspected of smuggling arms to the Nama resistance leaders Jacob Morengo and Simon Kooper via Bechuanaland.

Another more notorious figure running guns from Bechuanaland was the infamous highwayman, illicit diamond buyer, flimflam artist, cattle rustler and horse thief and sometime Chobe elephant hunter, George St. Legar Gordon Lennox, aka Scotty Smith, whose mercenary support for the Nama complimented his other role as a British spy.

The life of the outlaw Scotty Smith has been the subject of romantic mythmaking in accounts that portray him as a white South African version Ned Kelly, Billy the Kid or Dick Turpin. This image is best  reflected in Frederick Charles Metrowich’s classic 1962 biography ‘Scotty Smith – South Africa’s Robin Hood’, which in 1970 was adapted as a modestly popular  ‘Western’ style motion picture. Unravelling the real character from legend and hearsay remains a challenge.

Given his long association with British military intelligence, Scotty’s career is arguably more comparable to the likes of Captains Drake or Morgan, an agile freebooter whose adventurous life dovetailed with his long service to the Empire. The history of imperialism is indeed full of such shadowy figures. In this context there is value trying to separate the man from the myths.

Having supposedly deserted from the British military after fighting the Xhosa c. 1878, Scotty nonetheless acted as a British spy, as well as mercenary, on the side of the Batlhaping during the Batswana conflict with the Stellaland and Goshenite filibusters (1881-83). In this context he is said to have assisted the outgunned Kgosi Mankurwane by organizing night raids on Boer farmsteads.

But, when a large faction of the Batlhaping rose up against the British in 1897 he rendered “very valuable work” as an intelligence agent and scout for the expeditionary force that crushed the rebellion. Scotty continued to serve the British as a secret agent during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). At the end of the latter conflict he reportedly received a full royal pardon for past legal transgression against the Crown.

Scotty’s relationship with the Nama is known to have predated their uprising against the German occupation. In this respect, even before the conflict he had raised German suspicions leading to their rejection of his claims to a farm among the Nama in southern Namibia. It is also alleged that, again before the war, the Germans had on at least one occasion confiscated goods laden wagons belonging to Smith as contraband.

What is certain is that by 1904, Scotty had established his base near the British German colonial border at Leitland’s Pan in the vicinity of Reitfontien, not far from what is now the southern boundary of the Trans-Kgalagadi Frontier Park. From Leitland’s Pan, Scotty not only ran guns to Witbooi, Marengo and Kooper.  He also organised his own private commando, consisting at any given time of 30-40 Nama, originally recruited by Witbooi, as well as a few white partners, who were further assisted by Khoe (Basarwa) trackers. At the same time, besides maintaining his military intelligence connection, he was also appointed as Justice of the Peace for the region, reflecting a not uncommon imperial frontier pattern of appointing outlaws to uphold the law.

From 1904-07 Scotty’s commando profited by provisioning the Nama, while waylaying German supply wagons and rustling cattle. It is said that the German soldiers in civilian dress often ended up crossing into British territory to buy back their stolen livestock. According to Metrowich:

“The one big weakness of the Hottentots [Nama] was their lack of arms, ammunition and provisions. Scotty was their chief source of supply, and with his gang he smuggled a constant stream of commodities to the rebels. In addition he would raid the German horses and cattle during the night and rush them over the frontier, across the Molopo River, and into the Colony. His stock lifting was so well organised and on such a vast scale that he soon found it necessary to establish a chain to cattle posts in various parts of the Kalahari. At these camps the cattle were fed and rested so that they would fetch good prices when they were sold on the open markets in Kimberly, Vryburg and Upington.”

On at least one occasion the Germans struck back by launching a cross border raid against some of the cattle posts operated by Scotty’s syndicate. The Kaiser also put a bounty of 20,000 marks on his head, which was higher than the rewards initially offered for the capture of the leading Nama Kaptiens. Here it should be remembered that Britain was in no way at war with Germany at the time, and therefore could not be seen to have condoned forays of Scotty’s commando. These exploits on several occasions included the ambushing German forces under the cover of darkness.

How did Scotty get away with what at the time would have been officially seen as blatant cross border crimes? Clearly his status and value as an intelligence agent was an important part of the puzzle. In this respect it is of further interest that the known names of his handlers at the time were associated with the Bechuanaland Protectorate, rather than Cape Colony establishment.

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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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