Motsamai Mpho turns 90

Staff Writer
MAUN: Veteran politician, Motsamai Keyecwe Mpho, celebrated his 90th birthday on Thursday. Mpho, one of the founders of politics in Botswana, was born on February 3, 1921 in Maun. He is now retired from active party politics.

Anne Clifton Hill, one of the organisers, says they decided to host the event for Mpho in honour of the contribution he has made, not only to the country's politics but also for his contribution for the development of Botswana and its people.

Mpho is one of the founding fathers of the nation. He was a founder of the country's first political party, the then Bechuanaland People's Party (BPP). The other founding members included Klaas Motshidisi, Kgalemang Motsete and Philip Matante. Due to internal strife within the BPP, Mpho left to form the Botswana Independence Party (BIP).

Historians opine that Mpho gave Botswana its name because by calling his party the Botswana Independence Party (BIP) he was the first to introduce the name "Botswana" into formal political vocabulary replacing Bechuanaland.

Mpho, Motsete, Motshidisi, Matila Tlale and Onalenna Mpho became the first Motswana to sing the national anthem (Fatshe La Rona) while on a return flight to Botswana after attending a pan africanist conference in Accra, Ghana, 1962.

Mpho said K. T. Motsete's national anthem was in fact influenced by revolutionary songs in Ghana. "Motsete drafted the song in Ghana and when we were coming back to Botswana he made us sing it," said Mpho.

Mpho became the first MP for the Okavango constituency in 1969 up until 1979 when he lost

to Bailang Salepito of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). Since the 1984 general election, he has been unsuccessfully contesting the then Maun/Chobe constituency until he ultimately resigned from active party politics.

Mpho said opposition unity has always been his dream. He is happy that the Botswana Congress Party and the Botswana Alliance Movement merger to form the new BCP were done successfully.

At the fifth BCP congress in July last year in Maun, Mpho was remembered for declaring to the newly elected BCP President, Dumelang Saleshando, that "the emancipation of Botswana is now in your hands. It is now your duty to fight for the rights of not only Batswana but all the Africans".

Mpho attended Moremi Primary School in Maun and proceeded to Tiger Kloof, nearVryburg, in South Africa, upon matriculation in 1944. He returned to Bechuanaland that year, and was offered a job as telegraph operator.

Instead he took a job at Crown Mines in Johannesburg in South Africa in 1948, as secretary to the Reverend Dante Anderson.

Mpho also worked with the Reverend Arthur Blaxall, secretary of the South African Council of Churches, who introduced Mpho to African nationalist movements. The South African government awarded him the 'Order of the Companions of Oliver Tambo', an honour awarded for his role in the battle against apartheid.



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