BDF Camps: Where the streets have no names

16th April 2018


By Ernest Moloi -

Once in a while I join my friend Michael Kgosimore as he picks his son from a relative at Sir Seretse Khama Barracks (SSKB) in Mogoditshane. But what always strikes me is that although the camp has a good network of roads, the streets are not named! It got me thinking out loud on my latest trip there, why these roads can’t be named after our men in uniform – dead and alive – who have distinguished themselves in their respective disciplines and roles. For example, since the Botswana Defence Fore was founded in 1977 at the insistence of Botswana People’s Party’s leader Patrick Matante, we have had five Commanders – the late Lt. Gen Mompati Sebogodi Merafhe; Lt. Gen Seretse Khama Ian Khama; Lt. Gen. Matshwenyego Fisher; Lt.

Gen. Tebogo Carter Masire and now Lt. Gen. Placid Segokgo. I don’t know of any camp that is named after these distinguished men. Others like Brigadier Iphemeleng Kgokgothwane and Major General Pius Mokgware, who have since joined opposition politics, acquitted themselves admirably in snakes handling and commanding Ground Forces, but their legacy goes unrecognised in our country’s historical annals. It gets even worse when they join opposition politics, which in our warped political thinking is as good as consigning oneself to the dustbins of history.

Yet when our Commanders join the ruling party they are hailed as heroes and even elevated to the highest political offices in the land. Merafhe was Vice President; Khama President of the country while Masire is a member of the BDP and will soon be considered for a post in government. Fisher has now become an accomplished diplomat serving the country first in Nigeria and now in Zimbabwe. Although the Honours Policy is silent on naming monuments, landmarks, streets and other edifices or places of importance after military and police, I say it is high time we reviewed it to include this very special group of service men and women who place their lives at risk to protect our lives.

Not only should the Honours Policy change this anachronistic system by which deserving candidates are recognised and honoured posthumously, it must also include other deserving candidates like the diplomatic corps. The BDF Command structure is huge as is its personnel hence the military is regulated by its own peculiar set of laws (BDF Act). The BDF command structure comprises the Ground Forces Command, the Air Arm Command and the Defence Logistics Command all these under respective Commanders. To immortalise these men and women especially the founding Commanders, it would be fitting to name streets in the camps at Glen Valley; Village; Thebephatshwa; Donga and Area S in Francistown after these towering figures.

Who said politicians are the only people worthy of acclaim? I mean so many national roads and monuments are named after the Khama’s, it’s so dull and unimaginative as much as it devalues the role played by other people in the development of this nation. The BDF has carried out international missions to Somalia (1992), Rwanda (93/94); Lesotho (’98) and also to Darfur in Sudan. The men and women who risked their lives in those missions must be honoured. I also challenge President Mokgweetsi Masisi, whom I saw at the weekend’s funeral of our founding resident Ambassador to Germany H.E Tswelopele Cornelia Moremi, to honour her in the best way she would have loved, by getting your Government to build a National Rehabilitation Centre in Gaborone and naming it after her.

This was one of Connie’s wishes post-service, to set up a rehabilitation centre, perhaps to assuage a personal hurt or to help the nation deal with the scourge of drugs and substance abuse. Our response to this plague –Nnunu Lesetedi, Boots and all- is myopic in that it disregards the social causes and perpetrates crime in other manifestations, to wit, house breakings, robberies and heists. We must first deal with the captured mind, to emancipate it, then and only then can we hope for a safe and secure nation, but for as long as people still see drugs as an outlet to vent their despairs and frustrations at their state of existence, you can bet you last Thebe, no black dog can save us. Only rehabilitation centres will do. Drugs are feeding a time bomb, the sooner we deal with them the better. We are losing the nation’s best minds – engineers, accountants, lawyers, journalists, scientists, teachers and all to drugs. Let’s do the right thing and honour H.E Moremi, the founding executive secretary of Southern African Customs Union (SACU).

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