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Founding fathers or Builders of the Nation?

The Weekend Post (8.10.16) treated us to an unusual, ambitious initiative ľ a listing of 150 builders of the nation before Independence, no less which was unfortunately un-authored.

These listings can be great fun.  But they are also bound to be personalised and subjective. This one having been compiled in a hurry was inevitably a little bizarre and certainly a touch eccentric.

By failing to limit his selected nation builders to the period ‘before the Republic’, the author caused his readers no end of confusion.

Self evidently, Alec Campbell, Z. K. Matthews and Ruth Khama were put in the wrong box – in fact, they should never have been included in a pre-Republic 1966 listing.

It follows that the post-1966 individuals need to be quickly set aside. But go to the other end of the spectrum and another problem immediately presents itself.

How could anybody have been a nation builder before the nation/the country, as we know it today, came into existence?

Thus, a glance at the names listed for the period before 1885 includes not only Robert Moffat and David Livingstone but a bevy of Dikgosi who were variously killed or who did the killing. My favourite is undoubtedly, no. 91, Kgosi Motshudi d. 1770, who is apparently remembered for his kind and just ways. Amen.   It is unclear, however, who, apart from the author, is doing this remembering! But then, there were other observations in this list which may raise the odd eyebrow.

Was Bessie Head, no. 24, a provocative writer? Or was Victoria Namane, no. 96, really one of those who designed the new Gaborone? But then dispose of those almost biblical figures from the distant past – one, no.9. being a 15th century ruler! -  who had nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment/creation of the modern state.

And we are then left with a mixed bag of supposedly relevant individuals who are scattered amongst the many others who are not.  The next problem is to come to grips with the term, ‘nation builder’ and to decide if it carries exactly the same meaning as ‘founding father’? Are they one and the same thing?

A quick glance at other countries suggests that the two terms have very different meanings. Only few countries, and then only those of more recent creation, can name their nation builders with any real confidence. Turkey, most obviously, Germany, Italy, maybe Sweden, and the South American countries, and maybe the USA. 

But what about the UK? King Alfred or Disraeli? And France – the France of the Republic or the

France of the the monarchy? Louis XIV or Napoleon? And what of this country? Were Khama, Bathoen and Sebele founding fathers or nation builders?

I suggest that current attempts to run the one into the other are inevitably prompting questions which cannot easily be answered – and thus causing a degree of real confusion.

Let’s agree therefore that they should be taken as founding fathers and leave the nation building part to others. Then let’s turn back to the list of 150 and try and agree how ‘nation builder’ should be defined. Let’s get at this problem by working backwards and by eliminating everyone whose claim to fame was limited to a single tribal nation state.  That particular process would, anyway, seem to remove someone such as Khama III from the list but leave Isang Pilane. Quirky? Not so.  In 1920 Isang drafted a constitution for a national Council of Dikgosi.

Khama did not.  So we have made a start, with one candidate. Then we can easily agree on Tshekedi and maybe Bathoen, then Seretse and Masire for their pre-1966 contributions, and Fawcus – yes, Fawcus.

I would then examine the record of the debates of the African and European Councils and then of the Legislative Council to identify who really made the running and who just hung around. From my limited research, I would immediately add to that list Russell England, George Sim and Haskins. But there were others. With a bit of give and take, it would be relatively easy to work out who should be included and who should be set aside. But then again there is that nasty little question that is implicitly posed by the author with his all-over-the-place list.

When does the process of nation building begin and when does it reach its natural end? Or is the nation building process continuous? But then again, those who build nation states are bound to be few and far between.

They would have to include, I suppose, the great conquerors such as Alexander and Jengis Khan even though both were disposers of previously existing nation states.

Napoleon and George Washington, in contrast, would seem to fit into a totally different category. But the point remains. Will this country still be having nation builders in the next 50 years or will this be an occupation which became instantly obsolete on September 30, 1966?

Etcetera II

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