The Molotwana graveyard – Who is responsible?

Kgosi Kgafela Linchwe at Malotwana graveyard
Kgosi Kgafela Linchwe at Malotwana graveyard

Within this small graveyard are buried two people whose presence there is bound to prompt surprise and inevitably speculation.

The first is William Harbour who died in April 1919 whose remains are marked with an obelisk style headstone. Was he the person who owned and ran the hotel which used to provide a meal for passengers whilst the train was slowly taking on water?

Was he buried here so that he might perhaps be more comfortable with white than with black – this being, in its way, a segregated graveyard.  The other individual, about whom I have previously written in Mmegi (27.9.09) is Tpr. Bard Pendeleton Schenck from Baltimore aged, surprisingly, 36, who died on the 10th March 1900 ‘at Mochudi, Bechuanaland’.

Schenck lies with 15 other colleagues who were probably all considerably younger than himself.

How did Schenck, a native of Baltimore, get himself involved in the South African War of 1899-1902 and end up dying, as is likely, in the field hospital that was located at Molotwana? Self evidently, Schenck could not be given the standard ‘For King and Empire’ marker which served to identify the graves of his colleagues who also died in that field hospital. It is not known, however, how he ended up with a very distinctive,  ornate cast iron marker.

Regrettably this marker has been smashed and the upper half removed, presumably to be sold as scrap metal.

Some years ago, the National Museum told us in Mochudi that it was responsible for all graveyards in the country on the grounds, I suppose that all were regarded as historical monuments.

The idea did not sit well with Kgosi Linchwe partly because he could not visualise the Museum taking over responsibility for the ‘royal’ graveyard in Mochudi and partly because the St George’s Society was, at the time, offering to help upgrade the Molotwana graveyard, as it had previously done with the Village graveyard in Gaborone.

In the event, nothing was done by anybody because whilst the National Museum backed off, the St George’s Society felt that it was wiser to withdraw its offer.

I now understand, however, that the National Museum’s was only a one off diplomatic retreat and that it very much maintains that it and it alone – not VDCs, not District or Town Councils, not headmen and not Dikgosi - is responsible for all graveyards in the country.

Personally I cannot see how this claim can have any real meaning.  Even in the Village graveyard in Gaborone there is a fallen grave stone which it is failing to re-position and at least one other which will soon be totally illegible.

It had no capability to protect Schenck’s grave from that scrap metal thief so how can it claim to have meaningful responsibility for the many ‘historic’ graves at  somewhere like Fort Matlapula near Bobonong where it would never even know if anybody had even dug up the lot!

The only solution is for the National Museum to establish working partnerships with those local authorities who are positioned to meet this particular problem and need. But when will it start doing so?

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