With the 50th anniversary on the horizon there must have been many of us who have been drawn into discussions about the most notable events and achievements of those 50 years.
Inevitably, there would have been differences of opinion as to what is worth remembering today. One difficulty relates to age. Someone in their mid-40s today will have a memory span of say, 25 years which would take him/her back to 1991.
Someone in their mid-50s, might well have a reasonable recollection of events back to 1981. If, however, such people are taking decisions about those 50 years there is bound to be a problem.
Because who will be able to advise about the key achievements and events in those first 15 important years. So let me have fun by throwing my 50-year, possibly less, obvious offerings into the ring. First off has to be van Rensburg’s Swaneng, coupled with his Shashe and Madiba Schools.
Then must come the Brigades. After them, I would go for the Coops which had a brilliant start, disintegrated and may now be back in business. The National Museum, begun as an NGO, should be included with an emphasis on its many, varied exhibitions. The publication of the first volume of Botswana Notes and Records has to be included – bearing in mind that 47 other volumes have been subsequently published. The key figure here was Pierre Landell-Mills. The Botswana Society’s seven major symposia organised in the 80s and 90s ought to be routinely included – key figures were Alec Campbell and Gobe Matenge. The development of the Selebi/Phikwe mine can hardly be left out – the Shashe Development Package Plan being one of the largest, it was claimed, to have been stitched together.
Now, taken for granted, but nevertheless important to include was the rescuing of the handmade basket - which like so many other items, was endangered and mostly consigned to the garbage bin by the arrival of plastic substitutes. The key figures here were Mike Joffe (UNDP) and Malcolm Thomas. Bearing in mind that the government has submitted an application to UNESCO to recognise the two Kgatla bojale drums as sacred artfects, it would be logical to include their re-discovery in 1971. Key figure here, sorry. It was me.
I would most definitely include the publication in 1968 of the country’s first guide book – Alec Campbell again! Also its first post independence novel – Andrew Sesinyi with his Love on the Rocks.
High up on most peoples’ list must be the challenge to the Constitution and its recognition of the seven major tribes which resulted in the admission that there are also lesser tribes. The take over of the railway and the first appearance of the blue train, its demise and later re-emergence, would have to be included. I would argue for the inclusion of the new IEC, and the lowering of the voting age, the increase in vehicle ownership, and the establishment of urban customary courts. I would exclude the catastrophes - the SSK terminal, Morupule and the various stadia but would include the new dams and now widespread water reticulated systems.
Even with a deficiency of supplies, the new network of clinics and health posts has to be in, as has to the advent of old age pensions, the HIV/AIDS programmes and the networks providing a degree of care for the handicapped and disadvantaged . The development of tourism, from an astonishingly slow start, squeezes in, as does the development of Kasane and its hotel belt, and that bridge. The creation of the new towns is invariably overlooked – but shouldn’t be. Slip in somewhere those remarkable, usually disregarded, people who hold or have held major posts abroad - Sanjay Monageng, Joy Phumaphi, Patrick Gabaake, Memooda Carsten Ebrahim and Mmasekgoa Masire. Overlooking the development of the media in all its forms would be ridiculous. Unlikely to be overlooked by anyone has been the overall development of Gaborone and Francistown.
Fewer might realise that Gaborone’s most iconic building is undoubtedly Orapa House with Trinity Church coming up as a notable second.
The introduction of a pay first system for electricity comes high on my list whilst the upgrading of the border posts should certainly come into consideration. The Unity Dow case has to be in – although I am ambivalent about Emang Basadi, as I suspect they should be.
The recent LeGaBiBo decision is another momentous legal break through. Given that this has been the one issue which has remained unresolved during the entire 50-year period, it would be strange, if diplomatic, to omit any mention of the Basarwa, But if the Bayei, the gays and the lesbians have achieved a degree of legal recognition, the San may wonder when their turn will eventually come.