Monuments worth visiting

Staff Writer
During a recent tour of Gaborone organised by one of the tours and safari, someone remarked that there are a few tourist attraction places in the city, which is sadly true.

Mmegi discovered that some of the most controversial statues are found at the University of Botswana (UB).
The most prominent monument at the institution is the 'Motho le Motho Kgomo' statue, which was erected in honour of the 'Motho le motho kgomo' campaign that saw the establishment of the university in 1982.

The statue showcases a man wearing an overall and driving a cow branded UB 6. Like a typical elderly modisa (herd-boy), the man is holding a walking stick and a knobkerrie. It is apparent that whoever came up with the concept then never foresaw the controversy that it would stir in the future. Recently, some women activists complained that the monument does not truly capture the true spirit of the self-help campaign because it excludes women, who have undoubtedly contributed to the development of the institution from early days.

A lot of arguments could be brought forth to debate the issue of the statue and maybe this is not the right platform to do so.

Mmegi also noted with interest that there is another statue of a woman holding a girl-child and showing her something on a laptop in front of the Centre for Continuing Education Research and Development Medical Education building commonly known as CCE. Well one might ask: What is controversial about the statue? For starters it only features female figures only and perhaps those individuals who query the absence of a woman at the 'Motho le Motho Kgomo' monument should have visited this statue first.

Will the critics of this statue say that it portrayed women in a better light than men one day?  As if this were not enough, recently someone decided to rip off the laptop from the hands of the woman and at the time of going to press, the matter was still being investigated by the university security.

While some might successfully defend the presence of the two aforementioned statues at the university, there is one that looks totally out of place.
The statue is of a buffalo erected at the UB stadium. This begs the question, what is a buffalo doing at a sports centre? Someone jokingly remarked that perhaps the person in charge of the sports issues reveres the buffalo and decided to honour his totem.

Again the buffalo is a symbol of strength to some and it might represent the path sports administrators at UB wish their athletes would follow. One would have thought that a statue of an athlete throwing a discus or a javelin would most certainly have been more fitting.

The bronze statue of the first President Sir Seretse Khama is another monument that has had its fair share of controversy. When it was unveiled in 1986, some argued it did not bear true resemblance to Khama.

Again it was erected in such a way that it would be visible from the Main Mall and 'face the people' but in a surprise move, just before the inauguration of the fourth President Ian Khama, who is Sir Seretse's son, the statue was cleaned and turned to face Parliament Buildings.

At that time, the former chairman of the organising committee that oversaw the erection of the statue, Lebang Mpotokwane, said: "It is symbolic that the statue is facing east as that represented the rising of our young nation. Those who are making the changes should have consulted with us first..."   All the controversy aside, the statue of Khama remains one of the most accessible and frequented monuments in the city, as it is not far from the Main Mall.

Not far from the

statue, there are some monumental pillars erected in honour of some of the soldiers and policemen that fell before and after independence including those who died during World War II.

The Three Dikgosi Monument located at the Central Business Centre (CBD) is perhaps the most spectacular monument in the city. The three dikgosi, Khama III of the Bangwato, Bathoen I of the Bangwaketse and Sebele I of the Bakwena are revered for having successfully fought against the incorporation of the then Bechuanaland into Cecil Rhodes' Southern Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe.

The 5.4m high bronze statues of the icons are not without controversy. There were public spats over the way the tender was awarded, with some local sculptors expressing disappointment when the tender was won by the North Korean company, Musandae Overseas Projects (MOA).
However, there is no doubt that the Koreans did a splendid job, as the statues resemble the dikgosi.

At the feet of the statues are six plinths that offer information on the birth of the nation of Botswana. The first plinth called 'Botshabelo' (refuge) gives information about the Difaqane/Mfecane in the 1820s and the 1830s when Batswana kingdoms expanded by attracting refugees fleeing from wars in the southern African region.

The second discusses 'Bogaka' (heroism) of the dikgosi when they 'bravely resisted the Ndebele and Boer invaders between the 1830s and the 1880s'.
The third plinth gives information about the time when the three dikgosi approached Britain's Queen Victoria about the threat posed by Rhodes and his British South Africa Company (BSAC) therefore securing protection from the imperial power.
The next plinth talks about the era between 1900s and 1930s when Bechuanaland endured much hardship because of extreme poverty and it is aptly named 'Boitshoko' (Endurance).

The fifth discusses 'Maikarabelo' (global responsibility) of the 1930s and 1940s when Batswana 'fought alongside the allied forces for freedom and racism'.
The last plinth is called 'Boipuso' (Independence) and is inscribed with the heartwarming words, 'the political independence from Britain was achieved in 1966. The process of nation building and development commences".

The monument was opened by former president Festus Mogae on September 29, 2005.
As mentioned before, the Three Dikgosi Monument is the most spectacular in the country and it is worth a visit.
It is said the highest number of visitors received at the monument was when it got 800 visitors in a day when it opened.

At Tsholofelo Park in Broadhurst, there is the grave of El Negro whose remains were buried amidst pride and pomp after they were retrieved from Fransesc Darder Museum in France. The body of El Negro, who is said to have been a Motlhaping, is alleged to have been stolen from southern Africa by the Verreaux bothers in the 1800s and taken to France where it was displayed in public to amuse crowds in the European country.

Eventually, he was displayed in the museum for decades before he was brought to Botswana after much wrangling between the French and people of African descent. Controversy never seems to be far away from El Negro and recently a correspondent of Mmegi (insert) Naledi wrote a moving story about how El Negro seems to have been forgotten by the same Batswana who fought to have him brought into the country. Those wishing to visit the grave should not expect to see anything fancy because the grave does not even have a tombstone.

Just outside Gaborone, in the village of Tlokweng at the main Kgotla, there is a fibreglass statue of Kgosi Gaborone after whom the city is named and it is also a place worth visiting.



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