Ratsie Setlhako, the adoptive son of Palapye

PALAPYE: It is break time at Ratsie Setlhako Primary School in Boikago ward, Palapye and school children are busy playing an assortment of games clearly not oblivious to the fact that their school has been named after one of the greatest man this country has ever produced, Ratsie Setlhako.

"I was the one who helped locate Ratsie Setlhako's grave so that a tombstone could be erected on it and when government wanted to build a new primary school, I insisted that it should be named after Ratsie Setlhako so as to appreciate the contribution that he made in this country," says one of the village elders, Otaata Shashane.

Palapye is undoubtedly, the adopted village of segaba-player, Ratsie Setlhako, whose name is synonymous with Setswana traditional folk music.He captivated both the young and the old belonging to different generations and today, the artist inhabits the lofty place occupied by some legendary folk music artists such as; Gaotswesepe Robalang, Ndona Poifo, George Swabi, Malefho 'Stampore' Mokha, Taka 'Kwataeshwele' Baponi and Andries Bok among others. As with other illiterate people, it is hard to determine Ratsie Setlhako's date of birth, but one can safely assume that he was born in the 1890s because he belonged to the Ngwato mophato (age-regiment), Masokola inducted in 1912.  "When Bangwato left (Old) Palapye for Serowe I was still a young boy," he said in a Radio Botswana interview and this further cements the assumption that he was born in the 1890s. The Bangwato left Old Palapye in 1902. As a matter of fact, the leader of the Masokola regiment, Gasebalwe Seretse* whom the artist mentioned in one of his song as one of his peers was born in 1891. According to author, Modirwa Kekwaletswe, who is also a leading authority on the life of the artist, his parents named him Ratsie after a locust invasion of the area. It is said that the people of GaMmagwato were so repulsed by the invading pest that in retaliation, they crushed the destructive insects and ate them presumably because they had eaten all their harvest. Literally translated, Ratsie means 'a man of locusts,' a fitting name for a baby born during a time of locust invasion.  It has been suggested that he came from the village of Mokgware near Radisele where his family still lives. Ratsie Setlhako spent most of his youthful days herding the Khama cattle in Nata. It is clear that he was fond of the Khama family, more especially Sir Seretse Khama whom he refers to as 'morena Seretse,' (lord Seretse) in one of his songs. Since Ratsie Setlhako belonged to a poor family, he worked for the most part of his life as a herd-boy and it is widely believed that he learnt the art of segaba-playing during his days as a herd-boy.

Editor's Comment
Happy Independence!

We are 56 years old and what do we have to show for it? Looking at where Botswana started and where it is today, there are a lot of developments, but whether the developments match the number of years we have enjoyed as a country is a topic for another day.The fact that cannot be denied is we have seen major developments, but we are still lacking in several pertinent areas.Our beautiful country imports almost everything. We import fuel, food,...

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