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National Museum: Wildlife or People?

Kanye Museum
Hopefully Rre Segadika has now run out of words and invective. But that is the problem with long rejoinders which tend to ramble, which refute comments that were never made, subtly adjust points that had been made, and overdo the personality stuff.

He deploys character despoliation, a deft mix of raising up and pulling down, and perhaps in desperation, describes me as a smoker of the Kgatla weed, a night time wizard, a lamenting, prejudiced, arrogant, doubting Thomas, a jealous, rabble-rouser, a manic pessimist, ignorant, melancholic, self promoting and, subtly suggested over and again, a closet racist.

Presumably he recognised that his case was so shaky that he had to resort to such intemperate language? It is not so surprising though that there should now be Segadika’s acrimonious and not very honest response to my criticism of the National Museum.

But at least he has shown why the Museum is in need of a drastic overhaul. Segadika attacked my comments prepared for the recent Panel discussion which I was told by the Organiser were, in her opinion, not particularly shocking and had been approved, not least by Rre Segadika himself.

Doubtless he will deny - but it is in writing!  So what sent him off on this prickly uncontrolled rant? Firstly, he makes it clear that he (and presumably the museum) resents criticism and unwelcome ideas but will never respond.

It does not need to do so because it is not a peoples’ museum. Unlike the National Library, National Archives and the NGO museums, it has never had a Board, being answerable only to three people, the elected Minister and the appointed Permanent Secretary and Director. 

Segadika makes it clear that the Minister and the Director are above criticism so that it was ‘audacious’ of me to suggest that any Minister in 1966 may not even have entered an Art Gallery!  I assume that many of today’s Ministers would readily agree that they too had never been in one. But then Segadika is also appalled by my suggestion that, pre Segola, the country was without a named artist. Rre Segadika omitted to provide his name. 

But then he also insisted that I had ‘glorified’ Alec by maintaining that he was the founder of the National Museum whereas ‘the establishment of museums stemmed more’, he claimed, from Kgosi Bathoen’s vision.

Segadika may be more comfortable with a genuine local founder than one who was a pale faced Western immigrant. But neither Alec nor Doreen in their memoirs (BNR 43) allude to this influence – there being no suggestion that his Kanye Museum should be seen as the progenitor of the National Museum.

How could Segadika know what they didn’t? But then Segadika again went off at a tangent to describe Alec’s failings at Tsodilo and then the situation at Capricorn. Because visitors there have told me about its garbage and lack of hygiene, I am glad to have Rre Segadika’s assurance that all is well there.

Segadika describes the success of the recent museums anniversary celebration. I am delighted that all went well. Had I been invited, I might have shared his enjoyment.  I had done what I could to help as, the Museum’s Deputy Director might confirm, just as I had helped the museum to prepare for its official opening fifty years earlier.

Segadika, ingenuously, suggests that ‘we need the support and advocacy of persons like Sandy’. Why then did he deny me the opportunity to provide that advocacy by contributing to his anniversary edition of the lapsed Zebras Voice? But now there

is the seemingly approved multi million pula Ivory Museum. Prompted by Chase, the poaching issue has popularly come down to the question, ‘elephants or people’? Unsurprisingly Segadika and colleagues have come down on the side of the elephant. 

The proposal is inappropriate and certainly ill timed. Gaborone, as its City Council would surely agree, has long needed a peoples’ museum that would illustrate how the country achieved its independence, how the new capital was created and its democratic achievement. But was it asked? The NGO museums led by Mochudi, followed by Serowe, opted instead for people rather than wildlife and art. And possibly for this reason, paid a heavy price. For 30, perhaps 40 years, the Ministry and the National Museum have done their utmost to undermine all the NGO museums. Incredible it may be, but it is all documented. In 30 years, Ministers generally and repeatedly said that there was nothing they could do. Some Museum Directors were more helpful than others but none could change the Ministry’s regular reduction of its support for the NGO museums.

At a meeting in 1998 the National Museum Director told the Phuthadikobo Board that ‘the government has no policy for Non-Government museums, has absolutely NO obligation to provide any assistance at all and that the level of government support would NEVER increase’. She wondered if the museum might be anti-government? It still doesn’t have a policy. And would Phuthadikobo have been the first museum in the world to be anti-government?

In early February 2007, the minutes of a meeting of the Botswana Museums Association noted that ‘members complained that some colleagues at the National Museum have reduced them to a level of beggars with their destructive and rude comments.’ In June 2002, I noted in an information note that whilst Phuthadikobo and the National Museum are ‘only 45 kilometres apart, the two museums might as well be in different countries.’

Repeatedly those of us in Mochudi were told by a Museum Director that, ‘we are government and you are not.’ The experience of Serowe and the other NGO Museums was no different. The people involved with those museums battled to save what they could of local history, heritage and culture but against the Ministry and the National Museum which professed to share these same concerns but without any wish to cooperate for the benefit of the country.

It is a remarkable story of the have nots battling with the comfortable haves. The one had pain, heroic commitment and great personal commitment and sacrifice. The comfortable other had good salaries, salary adjustments, promotion and pensions.

If Pastor Segadika could begin to understand how he and some of his museum colleagues have contributed to this culture of antagonism and division, he will be welcome to share a cup of tea at my office. But will the day ever come when he and others understand that all of us should be working for the good of the country?In essence, this all comes down to the right to be involved and the right to freedom of expression, the right to differ and to criticise, ideals which I have spent much of my life trying to secure. Clearly, Moruti Segadika cannot make a similar claim?

Opinion & Analysis



DPP Botswana

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