A day in the spirit of Khama

Ground zero: The house in Serowe where many believe Khama was born. PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES
Ground zero: The house in Serowe where many believe Khama was born. PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES

As Batswana and others across the continent and the world continue to pay tribute to Botswana’s founding president many decades after his death, Staff Writer SHARON MATHALA recalls the day she first encountered the spirit of Sir Seretse Goitsebeng Maphiri Khama, during a visit to his home village.

While chasing an investigative story late last year, my colleague and I embarked on a road trip that took us through Serowe where I had the inimitable opportunity to visit one of the country’s most safely guarded and invaluable sites.

Although I had been to Serowe a couple of times before, I had never explored GaaMmaBesi as the site is affectionately called.

We drove through the capital of the Central District and onwards to the main Kgotla, which is known locally and officially as Kgotla-Kgolo-Yaga-Mmangwato.

As one would assume, at the time of the day, the Kgotla was empty. Sunset was drawing near and seated on the foothills of Serowe Hill, for the first time, I felt close to the late president. It was a surreal feeling because here I was, at the place where he held his Kgotla meetings, where he had his lunches.

I had read about him extensively and even had the opportunity to watch his ‘reincarnation’ through local performer, Donald Moalosi’s Blue, Black and White play.

In the play, Moalosi re-lives Khama’s life and travels; it is these images that danced through my mind as I soaked in the Serowe sunset.

Adjacent to the Kgotla is an old run-down two-bedroom structure, which at first glance, I overlooked believing it to be one of the abandoned missionary houses scattered in the village.

Little did I know that the unassuming structure actually held historical treasures beyond measure because it is in this house where the late founding president was born. The nondescript structure was once beige in colour, before the ages caught up with it.

Its corrugated iron roof appeared to be actually holding the brick structure together. A deep crack ran from the roof to the ground on one side of the house, while an air of mystery and intrigue hung about the entire area.

I walked over to the house and peered inside. From what I saw, I realised that it needed a few active helpers to run about with broomsticks cleaning it, cemented by a coat of paint to restore its lustre.

A stone’s throw away from the house was the gravesite of the founding president, well preserved and lush. The green manicured lawn of Khama’s gravesite and the resplendent tombstone standing next to Lady Ruth Khama’s, are in stark contrast to the neglect ones a few metres away at the house, where the late president was reportedly born.

I have great conviction that the house where Khama was reportedly born is essential to our history and heritage as Batswana. I was disappointed that it took a work trip for me to uncover all this historical glory because prior to visiting Serowe, I had gone to South Africa and paid a nominal amount to see the house in which the late icon, Nelson Mandela, grew up.

My disappointment was heightened the next day when we left Serowe and continued in the direction of the Makgadikgadi Pans to the village of Mosu.

Another heritage shock awaited me as we came across another neglected cultural landmark: the gravesite of Khama III’s mother who was affectionately called MmaKgama. Khama III was the father of Sekgoma II and grandfather of Seretse Khama. After a long and illustrious reign over Bangwato, Khama III died in 1923, and left the throne to Sekgoma II.

Sekgoma II was, however, unpopular as Kgosi of Bangwato and only ruled for two years before dying under mysterious circumstances in 1925, leaving his son, Seretse Khama, as the legitimate heir.

As Khama was too young to rule at the time, Tshekedi Khama, a younger brother to Sekgoma II, was chosen as the heir’s custodian.

I was interested in finding the gravesite of the Bangwato Queen Mother, but people in the area give conflicting reports of its exact whereabouts.

Locating the MmaKgama’s gravesite at Mosu was a challenge. There was no tombstone or rocks to help locate it.

Frustrated, we went to a homestead a few kilometres from Mosu and enquired about the gravesite.

“Tsamaela golo gongwe ka kwa, go bapile le sesana sengwe hale,” was the response as the man who answered our queries pointed to an old tree stump.

We eventually found the Queen Mother’s grave, but it beats me why to this day we still fail to preserve our heritage.

Happy Birthday Sir Seretse Khama


Editor's Comment
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