Tshekedi Khama’s life celebrated

SHARE   |   Monday, 14 September 2015   |   By Phillimon Mmeso
Tshekedi Khama Tshekedi Khama

Bangwato will this weekend celebrate the life of one of the country’s visionary chiefs, Tshekedi Khama, 56 years after his death.

According to one of the organisers of the event, Dr Jaone Sebina, the celebrations will be held in Pilikwe, a village that Tshekedi Khama established when he went for self-imposed exile in 1952. Dr Sebina said President Ian Khama who is also the paramount chief of Bangwato will grace the event together with other members of the royal family. He said that it is high time that they celebrate the life of one of the visionary leaders who shaped the future of Botswana especially in education and mining.

Other dignitaries expected at the ceremony which will mark 110 years since TK was born will include some Baherero from Namibia. TK was instrumental in their settling in Botswana when they were being oppressed by the Germans who occupied their land.

According to historian Michael Crowder, Tshekedi Khama refused to be knighted by the British Queen on the grounds he can only accept the honor if the Hereros of Namibia are free.

Tshekedi Khama was the son of Khama III from his second marriage and late President Sir Seretse Khama’s paternal uncle. Barely 21 years of age, Tshekedi Khama was recalled from Fort Hare University College where he was just about to sit for his Matriculation examinations to assume regency for his minor nephew, Seretse son of Sekgoma I I who had died in November 1925.

According to Dr Sebina, Tshekedi guided the Ngwato through the consequences of transforming events for a quarter of a century. His biographer Michael Crowder regards him as a legalistic political strategist, who did not only address those regional issues not yet resolved in courts of law. Believing that race relations in South Africa had crystallized, he preferred to fight for the independence of Bechaunaland rather than become embroiled in Union affairs.

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He lobbied intensively in Britain against incorporation of High Commission Territories in the Union of South Africa and battled on behalf of a Bechaunaland Legislative Council and an independent South West Africa. The modern state Botswana owes its existence in part to his effort. He is well remembered for sentencing a white man Phineas McIntosh to flogging for assaulting a young Mongwato youth and was exiled in Francistown for that.

According to Crowder, when Tshekedi Khama took over as regent of Bangwato, there were only two primary schools in Serowe and he built more schools within the Bamangwato reserve.
TK, who objected strongly to apartheid in South Africa, built Moeng College to stop children from his territory from attending secondary school in South Africa. The college went on to produce some of the high profile people in Botswana including Botswana’s third President Festus Mogae and real estate mogul David Magang.

According to the paper presented by Dr Michael Crowder at University of Witwatersrand in South Africa in 1985, Tshekedi Khama and mining in Botswana 1929-1959, the Bangwato chief was the true proponent of minerals beneficiary for his people. Crowder  noted that  Botswana owe its minerals wealth and economic success “to the efforts of a remarkable man who died seven years before independence and sixteen years before production began at the Selibe Phikwe copper mine: Tshekedi Khama.’’

The former head of history department at University of Botswana, said that when Tshekedi Khama took over as the chief at the age of 20 he reversed everything that his father signed saying he (father) was tricked by the whites. “The issue on which Tshekedi  Khama really cut his teeth in learning how to deal with the British administration was that of mining,’’ said Crowder in his presentation.

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He is credited for the establishment of BCL Mine the first one to be 100% owned by government. Asked why they are celebrating the life of Tshekedi after more than 56 years, Bangwato Regent Sediegeng Kgamane refused to drawn on the issue safe to say that the event was organized by the people in Pilikwe led by Oreeditse Khama.