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Working ‘with’ instead of Working ‘for’

‘Historians examining the de-colonisation process after World War 11 have shown little inclination to examine the political motives and individual psychologies of those who attached themselves to African causes and leaders in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Africans were often suspicious. Michael Faber and the late Robert Oakeshot were two Britons who appeared as devils incarnate in the eyes of most indigenous Europeans during the run-up to Zambia’s Independence in 1964.’

I have been chewing over this comment since coming on it in an obituary for Michel Faber. I have also been relating it to Tshekedi Khama’s comment, culled from Mary Benson’s biography, that ‘whilst the pre-Independence British Administration had definitely worked for us, it had not worked with us.’ These two comments brought me back to the remarkable number of white/black combinations that were such a feature of mostly the 1960s all of which were notably  ‘with’ rather than ‘for’.

They began with Tshekedi’s own partnership with Guy Clutton Brock, which resulted in the establishment of the Bamangwato Development Project in Radisele. There then followed in quick succession, Naomi Mitchison’s remarkable relationship with Linchwe which was followed by the partnership with him of first, Martin Ennals and then myself, a working ‘with’ rather than ‘for’ partnership which stretched over 45 years. There was also the combination, following Tshekedi’s death, of Leapeetswe with Clutton Brock’s successors at the BDA, such as Vernon Gibberd, and then with van Rensburg at Swaneng. 

There were also the less noticeable but important relationships between Leapeetswe and Seodi with the Ravens who leant them their Sheprith cottage whilst Leapeetswe was doing his one-year land administration course.

There was the backing of the Astor family of the young David Magang, These relationships didn’t happen by accident. And then, as I cast around I come on a whole nexus of relationships of key individuals and key organisations in the crucially important first few years which brought undoubted benefit to the country.

I note that Cannon Collins who later became the founder of Christian Aid which provided significant support, not least, for Swaneng and thus for the Bangwato was earlier a member of the Seretse Khama Support Committee. 

I note too that Cannon Raven and the hugely admirable Peter Kuenstler were bonded as a result of their experiences as  conscientious objectors in England in WW2. Kuenstler, social reformist, was at the BDA in Radisele in 1962 and again here in the middle 1970s when he held office in, I think, the Ministry of Local Government.  A less obvious relationship, but of importance in its own way, was that of Sheila Bagnall, Principal of

Swaneng with the Director of Oxfam, Leslie Kirkley. It is possible that without this relationship, Guy Stringer, later Oxfam’s second Director, would not even have visited this country in 1967.

There was also Jan van Hoogstraten, Director for Africa for Church world Service, USA, an Olympian figure who backed this country, from 1963 to 1976 via Martin Ennals, Linchwe and myself, initially at Mochudi before Independence, and thereafter for the entire country. These were some of the very remarkable people who came to this country’s aid in the immediate post-Independence years when Government to Government aid had yet to occur.

But there were also other more formal relationships of a very different kind which need their own kind of recognition.  Young British economists were very soon on hand in the late 1960s and early 70s pulling their weight in the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.

This country would be sadly ungrateful were it to fail to acknowledge the impact made by Pierre Landell-Mills, Peter Eigen and their successors such as Jan Isaaksen and Professor Clark Leith. 

It can be assumed, I think, that the burst of new, at the time, revolutionary thinking in London was indeed related and prompted by the advent of so many African countries to Independence.

It may have been that the establishment in London and the local expatriate residents in countries such as Zambia were appalled by the immense changes that were taking place. There were others, many others, who saw this as a cause and a need to which they, even as individuals, could make a contribution.

The impulse may have begun in the UK, but it spread very rapidly to other parts of the English-speaking world so that it no time, the American and Canadian young were also here teaching, digging ditches, taking on any jobs that was required.

There are several aspects of those early years, however, which still puzzle me. Why was this remarkable initial opening process limited to Serowe and Mochudi? Why not Kanye or Ramotswa or Tlokweng? Molepolole was a mess so that David Inger and his KRDA was unusual in flourishing without obvious partnerships.

And why seemingly, was Seretse dis-interested in exploiting his earlier contacts until Dean Yates came on the scene whereas Linchwe, Leapeetswe, Magang and perhaps Mogae made maximum use of the help that was made available to them. I can only ask?

Etcetera II



Former BDP members

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