In the years of yore, Independence Day was the most exciting, unifying and prized day as it brought villagers together at the main kgotla. This is where the village excitement was expressed through various activities. Mmegi Staffer RYDER GABATHUSE reminisces with nostalgia the craziness of the young people on the special day at Palapye
Pupils would be paraded in military-like rows neatly kitted in their school uniforms. Teachers would be shouting instructions so that the agitated pupils did not mess up the drill to welcome the guests. Teachers would always choose the best dressed pupil to impress the guest of honour. To the best of my recollection, Independence Day was indeed beautiful. It was an occasion to behold.
The kgotla would usually be teeming with villagers leaving the old and young pushing and shoving in an endeavour to get a glimpse of the guest of honour and activities of the day.
Cabinet members of years of yore attracted attention and were accorded deserving respect by the villagers. Even in the scorching summer heat, pupils would be lined up with Botswana’s blue, black and white flags under strict instructions to shout Pula! Pula! which symbolises peace and respect when welcoming an elder of the minister's calibre.
Elderly people would set the scene alight with ululations and whistling. Sometimes the village poets took turns to spew out their very best. As the minister disembarked from his chauffeur driven vehicle, the bespectacled Nwako would shout Pula! Pula! Pula! to the ecstatic crowd. He would normally throw his clenched fists into the air as a symbol of solidarity with the people from different backgrounds.
Momentarily, there would be commotion as people struggled to get a bit of the guests and the activities. Climbing trees and the kgotla poles was a common advantage to elevate those disadvantaged by height.
Independence celebrations normally brought the village to a standstill, shifting the whole attention to the kgotla before the festivities spread to various corners of the village. Food and drinks would be galore. The atmosphere would generally be characterised by peace and giving. As the day progressed, the air would be pregnant with the smell of food.
The District Commissioner, kgosi, senior police officers and other district leadership would lead the villagers in welcoming the guest of honour. Palapye, which was then part of the wider Tswapong North constituency, was a safe haven for the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP. It was not uncommon for villagers from villages around Palapye to join in the main activities at the kgotla before they finally break to their respective villages to complete the day.
As the guest of honour took his/her seat the scout movement from any of the village’s schools will entertain the guests after other formalities. Yours truly was a member of the scout club. I remember it vividly as we jumped onto the stage in style. With dumbbells tightly held in our hands, we would do our entertainment exercises leaving villagers spellbound and literally eating out of the palms of our hands. With the whole village literally watching, it was really a moment to shine for the young boys in particular.
Pupils from the village’s three main primary schools of Central, Serorome and Sebeso would paint the kgotla area with their school uniforms. In the olden days, congregating at the kgotla on the occasion of independence celebrations was more of a ritual hence, a must attend. It was at the village’s kgotla where one could easily make new friends from all the corners of the village or meet old ones.
Usually, at school, Independence Day was different from all the other days due to the festivities on the day. The mood on the day would also go on overdrive as schools competed for attention on that bigger village stage. After a tiring day packed with traditional activities, all roads would lead to the respective schools where sumptuous meals diametrically different from the usual food would be duly served.
It was perhaps, the competing nature of schools’ traditional troupes that set the stage alight, as young boys and girls did their best on the dusty ground and in front of the cheering parents. Talent was galore as schools took rounds to display their best styles of song and dance.
It was a marvel to watch young boys showing off their plates held tightly under their armpits and cups locked up in front of their trousers counting hours before they enjoyed samp, beef and sometimes with Oros drink which were served only on special occasions like the independence celebrations.