SHARE   |   Monday, 18 May 2020   |   By Ricardo Kanono

Mid 2010 , large number of BLLAHWU members clad in their red, black and gold colours converged next to bus rank at Annie Adams Park of Selebi Phikwe. Its a pleasingly  and admirably developed park where you feel at ease , sighting at the charm and beauty of nature. 

The picturesque yet revolutionary occasion was celebration by Selebi Phikwe Branch for having been voted Branch of the year at a conference of the Union the preceding year. 

Activities of the delightfully designed programme of the event , had among the line of speakers then Branch Chairman CdeJohn Morobolo , a light skinned and short fellow, then Town Cleark Kutlwano Matenge, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa as Francistown Branch Chairman, the assertive and militant Cde Pelotshweu Baeng then President of the Union, the then Secretary General of Botswana Mine Workers Union seasoned and adept Trade Unionist Cde Jack Tlhagale . The message of Trade Union speakers had something in common “that Government is ill treating workers and for that workers must rise up for themselves in demanding better conditions of service and welfare“. The essence of the message got popular with members . This was a time when DIS was barely two years old and any word anti Government easily caught their attention as they will still itching for relevance. It occurred that the message of speakers somehow inspired and instantly revolutionarised members who got invigorated, it was electrifying . They chanted slogans of workers agenda , sang and danced jubilantly. It became a grand and legendary scene so good for the revolutionaries but distasteful for the Government . Unbeknown to us there were intelligence officers mingling and hovering around.  Perhaps they spent whole day devising means of stopping the rally . 

At around 8 p.m a swarm of intelligence officers , police and BDF officers invaded and seized the venue of revolutionary theatre,  with all sorts of threats , confiscating the sound system and thereby disrupting the event. As this was unfolding , the leadership was seated few meters away next to some car . In response to intrusion , members got vexed and confrontation with police ensued. Cde Baeng then suggested that we address members. The only nearby elevated structure convenient to be climbed for address of the meeting was a parked BDF vehicle , a lazy stone throw away from us. So we reached at top of the bars of the vehicle. As per protocol the address commenced with myself, then in the middle of address by Cde Baeng we got arrested , for inciting members and addressing meeting in a BDF vehicle, we were threatened with words such as treason.  An intern journalist for the Union Jimson Kemoreile irked the security officers with his camera as he was taking photos , so he too was arrested , but when police were still distracted we pushed him to disappear with the camera. The police and BDF officers faced a complication because members had blocked roads with some big stones and their own cars. 

So we were escorted to the police station on foot, where we were to be put in a police cell and charged the following day. It was a striking experience of babtism for me , and that moment it seriously sank in my mind that i will be spending a night in prison . In a calculative craftsmanship , Baeng swiftly conceived a strategy , he whispered to me , that he will hand his phone to me to secretly send someone a message to cause alert that we have been arrested . The strategy was that he would distract the police and deflect their attention from me while i send the message . The name scrolled for this police ambush was Cde Taolo Lucas , an opposition activist and lecture at University of Botswana . We really don’t know what Cde Lucas did but , in a short time the police had a call that visibly to us disarmed them. The police officer in charge of our detention  angrily turned to us and asked “who are you exactly , that we have been called by the Commissioner of Police with instruction to release you on message that imprisoning Trade Union leaders will cause trouble for the Country “ .  The police commissioner was Thebeyame Tsimako, a Molepolole native . At that moment , sensing that now we have an upper hand Baeng got agitated , loosed show laces, took off his shoes , unbuttoned his shirt and shouted , “cell e kae bo rra , le sale le rile la re thathela , re thatheleng , rona e bile ra otsela re bata go robala , re sieleleng metsi ruri, ka gore e tla re , re le bitsa re le mo cell le bo le itira ba le sa re utweng “. The officer spranged to Baeng apologetically and pleadingly saying “no no Mr Baeng please dont do that , we are still devising how we can address this matter and resolve it amicably”. Meanwhile members of the Union were roaming inside the police station having came to give support and solidarity. 

Finally at around 2 a.m we were released . We went back to the Park to address members to give them courage , which was a necessary inspiration for the struggle so that their spirits don’t get consumed by fear. I and Cde Baeng lodged at Cde Tlhagale ‘s place . The whole night we have discussion about matters of the struggle . I was in the company of veteran Trade Unionists who somehow influenced me with their dedication and selflessness to the workers agenda. Around 11 a.m we then drove back to Francistown. 

Sadly that day we lost some of our comrades who were traveling to Gaborone for a union task force meeting at Ministry of Local Government , as their car caught fire at Dibete gate.  They were at police with us that night, and early morning they departed for Gaborone  and unfortunately met their demise (may their souls continue to rest in revolutionary peace ). 

*(This will form part of the book that i am to write very soon ) . 

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