Basarwa persecution may come back to haunt us
George Goch a small black township East of Johannesburg nestles at the foot of old mining dumps; there, black families among them the Kolobe family, distant relatives from Bobonong, my home village, resided.
The residents commute to their respective places of work in the city by train during the week; at weekends they engage in various illicit pastimes to augment their meagre wages besides hosting and entertaining a motley of visitors including mineworkers from the nearby mine compounds. Decades ago while at an ANC conference in the township with my comrade-in-arms Adolphus 'Dolly' Mvemve, who was to die (RIP) by parcel bomb, in exile at the ANC Lusaka office years later, while I marked time on Robben Island, I invited him to meet the Kolobe family, hoping for a free lunch.
After introducing Dolly to my sisters and auntie Mma Sofanyana, it was their turn to introduce the few clients we found in the living room enjoying forbidden white man's liquor. The first client whose cheekbone features betrayed his clan fell on his knees, wringing his hands in subservience and went on an incantation, 'mong'ame, mong'ame,' (my master, my master)! Utterly embarrassed, I didn't know where to hide my face from Dolly who only knew me as a militant ANC cadre whose religion was human equality; he was amused and flabbergasted to catch the fleeting telescopic background view of relations out in Khama's country. I tried to cut short the grovelling episode but in vain. Dolly was besides himself, sniggering while watching me squirm in embarrassment and the futility of trying to stop the ritual. A fellow countryman was inadvertently exposing the cynicism of my fight for equal rights in South Africa! As we left the scene, back to the conference hall, Dolly expressed disbelief that while I'd be executed before I addressed any white man as 'baas,' Basarwa were still sub-species, falling on their knees before me! Dolly was unfair to me personally; dad had cured me of the uppity I had held about Basarwa.
I must have been five or six years when we (children): me, Kabelo, younger brother and our kid sister strapped to mom's back accompanied our parents to dad's cattle-post, by donkey sledge. I remember Kabelo and I frolicking across Motloutse dry riverbed a couple hundred metres from the cattlepost, welcomed by the cowbells, mooing of cows and barking of dogs as the herdsmen drove the cattle herd, with shouts and whistles. We had arrived! I had been to the cattle-post before with my uncle, but this trip was to be the most memorable. We went to bed under the star-lit sky listening to hyena and jackal howls through the night. I woke up in the morning in high anticipation of my favourite legala dish (sorghum meal cooked in
Kabelo and I were ordered to join the herdsmen in their milking chores, our duty being to keep calves away (re kotela) while the milkmen played their part. Milking done I was handed the milk-pail to enjoy the fresh milk. I shook my head in polite decline. Kabelo, fond of milk like a cat, mother would say, planted his snout on the pail before asking me why I had declined the milk. 'Basarwa are dirty' I had explained my phobia. When we got to our parents, Kabelo boasted how he had enjoyed the milk in the kraal and without prompting, innocently prattled on that I had refused to drink the milk alleging it was dirty because Basarwa were 'dirty.' Wow! Dad was furious."Did you say that? Who said they were dirty? I know they wash their hands before they milk the cows........" The cross examination was vicious and relentless. Without answers, I could only bow my head in shame and fear of the impending parental wrath. The Mosarwa milkman was summoned and ordered to give me milk in the same pail he had used for milking. "C'mon drink, that milk!" ordered my father barely suppressing his temper. I gulped the milk until I felt my tummy stretch beyond the comfort zone. A plaintive look at dad informed him I had had enough. With a stern warning never to repeat the insolent remark I was let off, but made aware that Basarwa were no different from Batswana.
At George Goch with Mosarwa grovelling at my feet, the spectre of my indignant father haunted me.Twenty years after the demise of apartheid, the most heinous policy begotten of Nazism - which plunged the world into unprecedented bloodbath, the racist policy survives in Botswana as reflected in Basarwa persecution in CKGR and Ranyane where Khama's unconstitutional policies and racist programmes are vigorously pursued by the regime apparatuses - Wildlife officers, Presidential spokespersons and cronies. The saga of Advocate Gordon Bennet playing itself here in Botswana shows how undemocratic, backward, reactionary Botswana government is. Botswana constitution doesn't condone persecution nor discrimination of Basarwa.
Denying them the right to choose own legal representative on the pretext of late visa application by their advocate is tantamount to callous persecution, fabricated on a tissue of lies and authoritarian intrigues. Unfortunately this conduct doesn't reflect on government alone but on all of us, Batswana who look askance at the goings-on.Remember, unlike the time when Basarwa's pathetic subservience made me stew in tribal guilt, they now know their rights and the world, not Survival International, is behind them!