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Needing a great deal more public attention

SANDY GRANT
David Magang was recently lamenting that there has been so little reaction to his three large, recently published books and that he had hoped for debate, an exchange of views and where necessary, correction.

With similar justification, he might also have lamented that a similar absence of debate and sensible critical comment followed the publication both of Ray Molomo’s book on the ins and outs of the National Assembly, and 

General Merafhe’s autobiography, if such it was. The one book which did achieve an unusual degree of publicity was Margaret Nasha’s revelations, also on the National Assembly but with a bit more thrown in – but publicity is not the same as debate and serious comment.

I have not read any of these books but I do suggest that for our own better understanding we would do well to study the Molomo and Nasha books to get a better understanding about today’s apparently emasculated and poorly functioning National Assembly.

What has really surprised me however has been the total lack of reaction to the late General Merafhe’s memoirs. 

 As with everybody else, the General will have to take his chance with posterity but the eulogies at his funeral did emphasise over and again that he had been a great statesman, foreign minister and servant of country and people.

It would have to follow that his biography, autobiography or memoir, on release, would have become an immediate best seller, in demand here and far beyond. 

Because the late General had been such a key figure over such a long period during the country’s glory years it was only natural to expect that he would leave behind, for everyone’s benefit, a record of the major issues with which had been involved, the highs and lows, some insights about the world’s great with whom he had involvement, the right and wrong decisions, the regrets, the country’s long term problems and needs as it was understood and prioritised, the people with whom he had worked, his party and governmental colleagues, and something about his life and involvement with the Mahalapye and Serowe communities. Instead there is nothing; just silence.

With all that in mind it may appear presumptuous to bring Dr Jeff Ramsay into the frame because, over the last twenty years or so, he must have contributed a million plus words to the press without, as far as I remember, prompting even a single published response. 

But let me take the plunge and refer to his article in the WeekendPost of 8-14 August entitled, ‘Roots of Botswana Nationalist Politics Part 21:MK, M.16 and The Pipeline’ in which he states without elaboration that the pipeline was a

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covert operation that informally linked agents of the British Special Intelligence Service  (M16), and elements of the ANC  including the embryonic Umkonto we Sizwe (MK), he further states that, ‘within the Protectorate, covert British involvement in the pipeline was under the personal control of the Resident Commissioner, Peter Fawcus’ who was able to trust, ‘only a handful of subordinates’ to be involved who included Brian Egner, DC Kasane, Phil Steenkamp DC Francistown and Shepherd, Head of the Special Branch, Lobatse. 

Who, I wonder, were the others? It would follow therefore that the decision to establish this pipeline was taken at the highest level of Macmillan’s Conservative government in London. Ramsay makes no attempt to explain what seems to me the significance of this extraordinary initiative which deserves far more attention than he is now giving it.

If ever there was official involvement in a refugee pipeline through this country the assumption would be that it would have been an initiative of Seretse’s post Independence government. Instead, the one and only officially sponsored pipeline was set up by the colonialist Conservative government in London whose leader, inly a few years later, was to describe the ANC as a terrorist organisation! Clearly this needs a great deal more explanation. 

Ramsay states that Fawcus concluded in mid-1962 that part of his pipeline had been compromised in Serowe as Mandela had been arrested in South Africa soon after he had visited Seretse there and after he had ‘landed’ (by plane?) in Kanye. 

Ramsay further adds that, ‘ Egner and Shepherd were thus hurriedly transferred out of the Protectorate to prevent their potential kidnapping.

The latter statement surprises me. The kidnapping of Dr Abrahams by South Africa in 1963 received unwelcome worldwide press attention and the apartheid government must have recognised the folly of abducting senior civil servants in the Protectorate Administration, let alone the head of its special branch. But for their personal safeties, were Egner and Shepherd ‘transferred’ or simply got out of the way for a short time?  

If so, why not Steenkamp? Shepherd was very much present in Lobatse in 1963 to give Hilda Bernstein the creeps whilst Brian Egner was editing Kutlwano in Lobatse in 1964 having completed a masters degree in Canada the previous year.

None of this makes much sense to me because kidnapping would have been, perhaps, as much a threat in 1963 onwards as it had been in 1962.



Etcetera II

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