#BOT55 in search of the Independence Monument

Three Dikgosi Monument PIC. THALEFANG CHARLES
Three Dikgosi Monument PIC. THALEFANG CHARLES

Botswana does not have an Independence Monument five decades on. Since the country attained independence in 1966, a monument that best symbolises the sovereignty of Botswana is yet to be chosen, writes THALEFANG CHARLES

Fifty-five years into Independence, the 16-year-old Three Dikgosi Monument in Gaborone is undoubtedly ‘the’ national monument. The 5.4-metre statue of Khama III of the Bangwato, Sebele I of the Bakwena, and Bathoen I of the Bangwaketse at the CBD are usually used as the image that symbolises our nationhood. Most Independence memorabilia bear the image of the monument as if it is the actual Independence monument.

But according to Phillip Segadika from the Department of Museum, “Botswana does not have a specific Independence Monument”. So, in the absence of such, which available monuments could be considered for the Independence Monument? The following have been suggested by historians and members of the public.

Three Dikgosi Monument

It is the largest monument in the country and was unveiled on the eve of Independence on September 29, 2005, by the then President Festus Mogae. The monument pays tribute to the three Dikgosi who went to Britain in 1895 to lobby the British government against surrendering the Bechuanaland Protectorate to the notorious Cecil John Rhodes’ British South Africa Company (BSAC).

It should be noted that the chiefs went to London 10 years after Bechuanaland was proclaimed a Protectorate. And it should further be noted that the protectorate was initially not sought by any chief, but was imposed by the British to stop the German expansion in 1885 during the Berlin Conference.

“The idea that Britain established the Bechuanaland Protectorate in 1885 at the request of the Tswana chiefs for ‘protection’ originated from British government officials as a cover story for their annexation,” explain historians Jeff Ramsay and Barry Morton in their paper published in Academia titled The Invention and Perpetuation of Botswana’s National Mythology, 1885-1966.

“The story sought not only to achieve a British takeover of Tswana territory with a minimum of military force but also to perpetuate it afterwards with a classic Gramscian lie that masked the true nature of events.”

Speaking to Mmegi this week Ramsay highlighted that although the history of the Three Dikgosi’s visit is not clearly explained because “[Botswana] history is not taught and history is not taken seriously, the chiefs’ visit is some kind of the first struggle against incorporation [into South Africa]”.

So even though they wanted to preserve the protectorate, not seeking independence, their move contributed to modern-day Botswana. In the latter years when the threat to incorporate Bechuanaland Protectorate into the Union of South Africa was more imminent, younger chiefs, like Tshekedi Khama and Bathoen II used the myth that the British and the Queen promised the Three Chiefs protection to protest against incorporation.


Sir Seretse Khama Statue

The statue of the first President of Botswana who led the birth of the nation from the Bechuanaland Protectorate until he died in office, is a prime candidate for the Independence Monument.

Located in front of the Parliament Buildings, Seretse Khama Statue is lately apparently being sidelined. The statue was turned around to face Parliament in 2008 just days before Ian Khama’s first inauguration as president.

An installation of columnar rocks depicting a kgotla setup has been put behind the statue.

Historian Professor Fred Morton picks Khama’s statue as the more fitting monument for Independence. “The [Khama] statue is more apt and fitting, even his marriage, because of their significance on the events around Botswana’s Independence,” said Morton. He said more people are choosing to use the Three Dikgosi because much is not known about them unlike Khama who was relatively a recent politician and so was well documented.

Contenders: Some of the “hopefuls’ for an Independence monument PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES
Contenders: Some of the “hopefuls’ for an Independence monument PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES

Parliament Buildings

The Parliament building is also a candidate for an Independence Monument. The building itself is not much documented to explain the entire design inspiration and the contractors. It is reported that the arch-like designs of the Parliament balcony were inspired by ‘Mapako-a-kgotla’. The arch-balcony is protected as a national monument and cannot be destroyed when there are any developments on the buildings, according to officials from the Department of Museums.

A similar arch was built in 1976 at the east end of the Main Mall in front of the Civic Centre. This has also led to some people to point to the Main Mall arch as the Independence Monument.


BDF Monument

Still in front of the Parliament buildings, there is a Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Monument that pays tribute to the fallen soldiers who the country lost while defending the country. Morton argues that the BDF’s contribution in defending the country’s borders while it was still a relatively weak army was crucial in Botswana’s Independence.

First Flag

Other historians are saying that the actual first flag that was hoisted after the lowering of the Union Jack must be the Independence Monument. Enquiries to ascertain whether that specific flag is still available were futile at the time of going to print.

Dimawe Hill

Some Batswana are taking the Independence Monument to a time when Batswana were free, long before the white settlers imposed protection. Dimawe Hill, located near Manyana is where Kgosi Sechele effectively stopped the Boer Trek by resisting the Transvaal invasion and this is another suggested Independence Monument. Although Dimawe Battle happened when the groups of Batswana were not yet united, it is regarded as the birthplace of modern-day Botswana.

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