Our nation’s humble beginnings
Remembering the first-ever Bechuanaland General election...from the fireplace
On Friday 26th February 1965 was a normal school day for all the pupils of Bamalete National School in Ramoutsa (as Ramotswa was known then- corrupted by the white men who lorded over Bechuana).
My class teacher Mrs. Lucy Oteng told us of the important Monday 1st March 1965, on which there would be no school. What was good news to us was not the impending activity of the first-ever universal suffrage but to a teenage boy in me was that a free day meant I could join the other boys from Goo-Moeng, Goo-Nare and Kweneng wards on a hunting expedition.
Monday 1st March 1965 came. In the polling stations for the first time-ever in the 80 years of protectorate administration, men and women, Indians and whites together formed long lines to cast their vote. These elections were for the Members of National Assembly. In this contest Domkrag of Seretse Khama was represented by Rre Norman C Molomo who became the first Member of Parliament of the then Gaberones and Ramoutsa Constituency.
The MP came from Mochudi. Bechuana were not worried about where the man came from but in attaining self-government. This had followed a few years of negotiations which had started in Lobatsi and ended in London. As teenagers we were told Philip G Matante had walked out of the negotiation or meeting/conference in London. We were informed that Kgosi Mokgosi III, Kgosi Linchwe II and Kgosi Bathoen II were involved in the negotiations leading to this day and towards internal self-governance and ultimately boipuso.
We learnt for the first time of a Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. We learnt of Gaberones as the new motsemogolo wa Bechuanaland Protectorate. We were taught a lot by our teacher Mme Mmagwe Thuto Oteng. Lobatsi, which had been our nearest town was gradually replaced by Gaberones, which at the time was inhabited by the Manyasa who had come to build the new capital town. We heard of new names like Costain and for the first time we heard of the word Ditakana. Some of our colleagues wanted to visit these slums but were scared of the bad guys supposedly living without any Kgosi lording over them.
This was a drought year in the country and a lot of people survived by the drought packages provided by government. I learnt when I grew up that at the time about half of the population was fed under this programme. As I grew up I learnt that our Bechuanaland Protectorate was amongst the 25th poorest nation in the globe. I learnt too that we had only six kilometres of tarred road in the country the size of France. All these we as young pupils of our beloved Bamalete National School and St Conrad’s Mission School knew nothing of.
We relied very much on our teachers and didn’t they do a good job under the circumstances? Self-governance we attained and everything was done for us by our own. As we celebrate the 50years this week I remembered vividly the good things that came with party politics. We were once a united people who just trusted and respected each. The founders of this nation were very brave to take the risk but were never foolish.
#just dreamt yesterday####