Last Updated
Friday 29 May 2015, 18:00 pm.
How the Battle of Dimawe shaped Botswana

Dimawe hill is located on the outskirts of Mmankgodi village and a few kilometres east of Manyana. It might not immediately strike one as an attractive geographical feature, but once someone is enlightened on its historical significance, its real beauty starts to unfold.
By Staff Writer Sat 30 May 2015, 22:24 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: How the Battle of Dimawe shaped Botswana








It was here that the famous Battle of Dimawe was fought.  The battle saw the Batswana tribes of Bakwena, Bahurutshe, Balete and Batlokwa defeat the Boers of Transvaal.

A visit to the battle site is quite an experience.  It gives any local a great sense of pride, because of the victory Batswana had over the evils of that turbulent period when white supremacists abused blacks.

The war was ignited after the Boers followed a group of Bahurutshe who escaped from the farms in Transvaal where they were used as slaves pulling ploughs to cultivate large fields of corn.

Nnyolo Mangope, an elderly Mohurutshe of Manyana narrated to Arts & Culture that Bahurutshe sought refuge with Kgosi Sechele.  They feared attacks from the Boers as the white oppressors "shamelessly followed them all the way to Manyana".

The three dikgosi; Khama of Bangwato, Bathoen of Bangwaketse and Sebele I of Bakwena are heroes of our liberation from the Boers.

Their famous 1885 trip to London, where they requested protection by the British from the superior invaders who wanted to gain total control of land and its people, gave birth to the Bechuanaland protectorate.

The country later changed its name to Botswana, after gaining independence in 1966.

However, few seem to understand the important role the hill (Dimawe) played and how the incident highlighted the need for protection.

According to some historians Bakwena leader Kgosi Sechele, credited with leading the aforementioned Batswana tribes in 1822 to defeat the Transvaal Boers, tried to beat the odds by going on a one-man mission to Britain to ask for protection.  Sadly, he ran out of resources just after arriving in Cape Town. Though many of us may be tempted to dismiss his flopped trip as over-ambitious during those years, it was perhaps this bravery that inspired the three Dikgosi who accomplished the mission years later.

A recent visit to the historical site by Arts & Culture revealed some interesting aspects of both the site and the war itself.  Oral accounts indicate that apart from Rakgobela guns, Kgosi Sechele also had a big "canon" while most of his soldiers used clubs, spears and stones in combat.

Perhaps it was Kgosi Sechele's good planning and wise tactics that  helped him and his troops defeat the enemy.  He seemed to have utilised the location to his full advantage.  Some flat parts on the hill were used as hiding places as they are obscured from a passerby.  Moreover, there are a few peaks which were used by Kgosi Sechele's commanders to spot the enemy from a distance.  Once spotted from this site, they would issue a warning to women and children to take cover thus leaving the army on full alert.

Even today, there are round stone foundations from the residences at the site.  There are also small pieces of smelted metal which was apparently used to make bullets for the guns.

"In fact Bahurutshe were originally from Bruto near Bloemfontein.  But because of the brutality of the Boers, they were forced out.  Some ran east towards places like Groot Marico while others fled this side," says Mangope.

Mangope's grandfather, Kgosi Manyana Mangope led the Bahurutshe who managed to escape to Botswana and sought refugee under Kgosi Sechele.

Some historical accounts claim that he was killed during the war on a nearby hill called Boswelakgosi.  Nnyolo, however denies this saying Kgosi Mangope died from disease - years after the battle of Dimawe.

"Because Sechele was such a selfless leader, he knew that the Boers had come for Kgosi Mangope.  So, he decided to put his own life on the line and decided that, Kgosi together with women and children, would be hidden a distance from where the war was taking place," he said.

Nnyolo also explained how Sechele tricked the Boers in order to catch them off guard.

"I am told when they arrived enquiring about Kgosi Mangope's whereabouts, Sechele said, "I have eaten him and he is right inside me. You have to open me to get him."

He then told the invaders that as Kgosi, one had to take off their shoes before addressing him. Once a group of Boers had done that, Sechele's men attacked.  Because the ground was thorny, they could not run and they were killed," Nnyolo claimed. 

Sechele's army is reported to have rolled large stones from atop the hill to crush those Boers who tried to climb up.  It is not clear how long the battle lasted; with some accounts indicating that it lasted for seven days, whilst others claim it took Kgosi Sechele and his army only three days to defeat the Boers - still, however suffering losses of his own men who died during the battle.

Throughout the period, much caution was exercised as Sechele's wife who some say was pregnant at the time was whisked away to a cave another hill a few kilometres from Dimawe.  It is reported another section of the army was discharged to guard her.

To this day, the cave known as Mmasechele remains one of the protected historical sites and tourist attractions in Manyana.  Once the dust settled, so to speak, Bakwena and Bahurutshe moved to Magagarape near present day Jwaneng as they feared the Boers might return to claim their revenge.

From there, the two groups separated: Bakwena moved to Ditlhakane and later Dithubaruba while Bahurutshe returned to Dimawe.  Some migrated to a nearby Kodisa hill and later started a settlement at Mmankgodi.  Due to water scarcity at Dimawe, the other group of Bahurutshe was later lured to what is today Manyana.  They wanted to capitalise on the free flowing water from the Kolobeng river which runs through the village.



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