The statue of Cecil John Rhodes, a prominent British mining magnate and African coloniser has been pulled down at the University of Capetown after a prolonged protest by students.
Black students found the statue offensive, and resented its preservation as it brought brutal memories.
The removal sparked debates and mixed feelings in many quarters including our own Botswana. With some questioning the rationale behind the removal as the statue is an embodiment of the history of RSA. While the other perspective is that, such heritage figures only serve as a reminder of a horrid past of the blacks at the hands of white supremacists.
Closer to home, an unfortunate racist attack played itself out in one of Botswana’s popular tourist centres of Kasane. The narration goes that a middle-aged white man threw a beer bottle towards a table occupied by these three black ladies and in the process hit a nearby pillar, which smashed and splashed its contents and pieces of bottle on the ladies.
Shocked and dismayed by what might have attracted that fury to be visited on them, upon enquiry, they were ignored by the perpetrator as if nothing grotesque happened. Bringing the whole fiasco to the attention of the Lodge management didn’t help at which point the victims had no choice but to involve the police.
The perpetrator in this melodrama is alleged to have uttered the following words “ ba yaka mabelete a ithekesang a ke tla le bolaya”.
To add insult to injury, he is alleged to have further said because of the colour of his skin, he would kill them and still get away with it even if they involved the police because they were his pals.
It unfolds that the police were reluctant to register the case and press charges against the perpetrator, but instead sought to downplay the seriousness of the case knowing very well the severity of the case that not only defames and maligns the victims, but also carries a threat to kill.
Now, what is on record is that cases of this nature are prevalent mainly in Botswana’s Tourism sector. Blacks are subjugated and predjucised on the basis of their skin colour.
Local black employees, who mainly provide semi-skilled to unskilled labour are on the receiving end of degrading, sub-human/slavery treatment at the hands of their white ‘masters’.
Would-be black guests don’t from escape the frustration of being turned back under the guise of the lodges being full, while real the intention is to lodge only in whites.
This is the reality in the lucrative, money-spinning tourism business in Botswana. This situation has been allowed to happen under the noses of our authorities and powers-that-be pretending to not know or deliberately adopting a see-no-evil hear no-evil attitude at the suffrage of our people who are forced by socio-economic status to accept the worst employment conditions that can only be found on war-torn countries.
This kind of treatment meted against the less empowered and disadvantaged black groups is as old as mankind.
The interaction between the rich, extremely racist whites supremacists on one hand, and the poor disadvantaged black people still resembles the master and slave relations during the colonial days. I remember, during the past Parliament, adopting a fact-finding mission to tour tourist destinations in the north to establish the extent of racism and related human rights abuses, including but not limited; to verbal, sexual, physical and industrial abuse.
From my observation, such a noble exercise was met with a lack of support from the Executive arm of government for reasons known to itself.
For some of us who originate from these tourism centres, we know the full extent of these barbaric acts perpetrated against a fellow human being, who is taken as lesser being.
We are at a point where we have accepted our fate and are at the mercy of our more fancied white brothers. We have to make a clarion call to our government saying we are tired of being taken as second class citizens, while our “white visitors” are accorded prince and princess stature.
We’ve, in the past, watched in disbelief as indigenous peoples, were trampled upon willy-nilly by the perceived “God-chosen race”. In some extreme cases, we have been deprived of land we grew up on, only for the same land to misappropriated to our favoured white cousins. There are living examples in Maun, Shashe, Sexaxa and Ditshipi; including the river banks of Thamalakane River which has been made a white reserve by design. We all know of many Batswana who were turned down when applying for land along the banks of the beautiful Thamalakane River and being told plainly that the plots are reserved for the whites. This is by no account an exaggeration, but a description of how things turned out to be.
Our call to our government is that we might be disadvantaged economically, but we have our full five senses as a gift from God that we will use discreetly to judge and protect ourselves at the injustices visited on our people.
We resent greatly unequal treatment visited upon ourselves by the “settlers” in cahoots with our very own government that should be protecting us.
The recent scuffle culminating in an assault case at Matsaudi near Shorobe between a white man and the community over a field (masimo) conflict along Thamalakane River should ring a bell that local communities are tired of watching white people re- possess their land with the aid of government establishments cannot be allowed to continue unabated.
Government as a legitimate custodian should not abdicate its responsibilities of ensuring there is a harmonious and symbiotic relation between communities inhabiting it by acting clandestinely in furtherance of one group at the expense of the other.
Such a move is unfortunate and has potential to sow seeds of discord and polarize already strained relations between races. We all know what that can breed and incidences of this nature including the infamous Berry Heart Incidence cannot be allowed to happen on our soil.
As descendants of Maun Shashe, we are still traumatized and smarting from the 2012 evictions and demolitions from the land of our birth, while we watch the settlers occupying our ancestral land, and as if not enough suffer emotional, verbal and physical abuse. We do not want to “pull down a statue” from its plinth in Botswana. God have mercy!