Ransome visits the ‘Three Chiefs’

Kgosi Malope, Ransome and other elders touring BSAP graves PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
Kgosi Malope, Ransome and other elders touring BSAP graves PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO

British High Commissioner, Katherine Ransome recently completed a quest to visit descendents of the original Three Chiefs, to learn more about the historic 1895 trip that paved way for Botswana’s independence. Staff Writer, MPHO MOKWAPE joined the quest on its last leg in Kanye

In the decades that Botswana has enjoyed self-rule, the country has undergone a remarkable transformation from the then Bechuanaland Protectorate.  The constant over the decades among the tribes has been the culture, traditions, norms and values that still define the country and its people. In the midst of the excitement around the Golden Jubilee, British High Commissioner, Katherine Ransome’s embarked on a quest to learn first-hand about the legendary three Dikgosi who took a life-changing journey to her native country in 1895 in search of independence.  Having already gone to Serowe (KhamaIII) and most recently Molepolole (Sebele I) Ransome on Tuesday travelled south to Kanye, the Bangwaketse capital of Bathoen I, the last of the Three Chiefs.

The tribe’s leader and Kgosikgolo, Kgosi Malope II, son of Kgosi Seepapitso IV gave Ransome a warm welcome and she was ushered into the Bangwaketse main kgotla by village elders clad in traditional attires known as megagolwane and german print.

In his introductions, Kgosi Malope II told Ransome that settlement in the area began in 1853 and Kanye was originally called Ntsweng Hill.

“We have to date preserved our culture including being one of the tribes that still conduct traditional weddings in the Kgotla. This is something that seems to be dying among other tribes.” Ransome was taken to the great statue of Kgosi Bathoen II, the most decorated Bangwaketse leader. “The statue is of a great man. He was installed as Kgosikgolo ya Bangwaketse on April 13, 1928 and he ruled until he joined politics in 1969. Bathoen was a gifted man who united the nation and the Bangwaketse tribe and that is why this is a historical monument for all,” village elder, Basiamang Ramokone said.

The British ambassador’s next stop was Mmakgodumo Dam, the historical dam, which is Kanye’s richest natural resource and a growing tourist attraction. The evergreen eucalyptus forest in the area caught Ransome’s eye and she asked whether the tree was native to the area.

Ramokone explained that the trees were exotic and were designed to beautify the dam and possibly bring tourism revenue to the village. “When Bathoen II built this dam it was only meant to be a daily source for the villagers and their livestock. Tourism was far from anyone’s mind, but now with so many activities happening here, it has become a popular spot, especially since it also hardly ever dries. It needs to be developed and preserved,” he said. Ransome was clearly impressed by the dam, even chipping in that it would be an ideal picnic and braai spot away from the hustle of urban areas. The comments were met with contented laughter and the nodding of heads among villagers. From the impressive dam, the ambassador and her entourage also visited the historic burial sites for dikgosi and other prominent members of the village including British trader, Richard Rowland who was buried there in 1947. From the look of things, the sands of time have been harsh on the burial sites as many showed signs of deriliction due to lack of care. It was revealed that a committee had been selected to look and care after the sites for their posterity.  The final stop was the Office of the National Archives and Records Service where the cream of history is stored.

Kgosi Malope II explained that the archives were mainly those of Kgosi Bathoen II and the office is where one can learn at length about the life of the former Kgosikgolo. The reception office is adorned with photographs of the late Bathoen II, his personal letters, some from his son dating as far back as 1969, his academic certificates and a lot of articles detailing what transpired during the colonial era. Ransome could not stop thanking the leadership for the warm welcome and appreciated having been accorded the opportunity to learn about Bangwaketse history and its place in Botswana.

“I have been really impressed by this tribe and their dedication to preserving their culture.  The country has made strides in being the best while at the same time holding on to its cultural values,” she said.

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