Now, more than a hundred years later, they have been made to wait, before they could explain themselves to visitors at their new abode at the Central Business District (CBD) in Gaborone. The trio, who now stand seven metres high at the Three Dikgosi Monument located at the (CBD), beside being identified by names, there is little information on why they deserve such a prime space in the nation's capital.
Perhaps it is only those who go on a guided tour who stand to benefit in terms of information. Otherwise for the passersby, or those who drop in outside working hours, the P12 million statutes leave much to imagination.
For instance, two folks from Old Naledi were overheard referring to the three dikgosi as those "mauti ane aile go kopa itshireletso kwa ngwanuzee wa lekgowa ko Lontone." (guys who went to beg for protection from some white girl in London). The 5.4 metre bronze statutes were marred by controversy since their inception. Mmegi learns the idea was actually mooted about 10 years ago. Initially there was wrangling over the tender award, with some local sculptors crying foul when the North Korean company, Masundae Overseas Projects (MOA) got it.
As it turned out, the Korean outfit was lucky as it also got the Big Five (wildlife statutes) contract at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport, which they subcontracted to the local firm, Manila Investments. They even got to put up the Southern African Development Community (SADC) landmark at their proposed headquarters also in the CBD. The construction of the statutes, that were made in Korea and shipped via Namibia, started in January last year. But at the opening of the monument on September 29, 2005 by President Festus Mogae, the date inscription at the entrance was wrong. And it is draped in a sisal rug apparently awaiting correction.
In regard to accompanying information on the significance of the three dikgosi, the Botswana National Museum site manager, Sewelo Fane said they "are planning to put more information at the back of the statutes. We also plan to publish some brochures at least by September." Fane nevertheless, took Mmegi through a quick historical background to the three dikgosi.
He explained that the famed visit was actually embarked upon 10 years after Bechuanaland was proclaimed a protectorate in 1895. It appears the British attached little value to the resource-poor protectorate. The visit was instigated by a major threat from Cecil Rhodes' imperialistic intentions on the country. Rhodes' British South Africa Company (BSAC) wanted to take control of Bechuanaland in the similar fashion they had taken Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).
Fortunately, the London Missionary Society (LMS), the predecessor to the United Congregational Churches (UCCSA), was also suspicious of Rhodes' intentions. "The LMS missionaries were scheduled to go to London to attend the society's centenary celebration, and the three dikgosi decided to join them on this journey, to lobby the British against Rhodes' machinations," Fane elaborated. While waiting to meet the British secretary of colonies, Joseph Chamberlain, the three dikgosi reportedly went around lobbying that country's public.
Their message was simple: we want no incorporation into either Rhodesia or South Africa. "It was at those talks (with Chamberlain) that the agreement was reached to divide the country to give Rhodes' BSAC what came to be known as stateland (blocks), leaving aside tribal land under the dikgosi," said Fane However, while the talks were ongoing in London, Rhodes clandestinely sent Jameson on a military adventure into Bechuanaland resulting in their humiliating defeat - which led to Rhodes being reduced to being given only a strip of land for the railway in the eastern part of the country.
Fane noted that the outcomes of the dikgosi's visit, then proved favourable to them, which included: the establishment of local police force, collection of hut tax, and the indirect rule by the British (which on the other hand gave the dikgosi the right to continue ruling their people.
"In Bechuanaland, it seems the British's motive was pure empire building, not necessarily for material gain as was case in South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe," observed Fane. On the issues of how representative was the dikgosi's visit to the country's other tribes, Fane maintains that before the London trip, "there were joint petitions from most of the other dikgosi that included Linchwe of the Bakgatla and Montshioa of the Barolong.
"The three dikgosi, therefore were representative of other local dikgosi or tribal groupings." Obviously, the visiting public will do with this kind of information. By Fane's own admission, the Three Dikgosi Monument has been doing fairly well in terms of visitations. The highest number to have recorded was when they had about 800 visitors a day, and that was during the period when it newly opened. He said most people visit on weekends, public holidays and after work.
But he disclosed that the monument site, which is under 24-hour security, is open for use by the public for events, with prior arrangement. Fane contentedly concluded that the site "is being patronised appropriately for the purpose that it was meant : and that is the promotion of tourism and national identity."