Sunday, March 1, 2009

Unsung Heroes

Reading Botlhodi Jwa Nta Ya Tlhogo, a novel by T. Pheto, a Motswana writer, I realise how Batswana may have had so little knowledge or no knowledge at all about World War 2. A rather funny character by the name Mogami tells some of his own regiment at a drinking depot that this war is between the Germans, Mageremane and the British, Maenglishmane. Rumour has it that cheif Hitler, Hitlelera is fighting cheif Churchill, Tshatshahili because the latter is in love with a beautiful young woman called Queen, George descedant, so necessarily these two guys are fighting over the Queen.Because Hitler is so powerful, he therefore wants to forcifully take the Queen.In silence the men who had flocked a drinking depot look on and listen attentively to a rather bitter Mogami, Why should we then be involved in a war of love and again we are so far away from this war saga,it is far beyond Bamangwato area(a region in Botswana for which Mogami had never been to).To make such an estimation of the distance between where the war was and where Mogami is makes me feel so sorry of these men for some of them never came back, there is a ship called MMendi which never came ashore from World war from which some African men died.One man who survives from drowning lets us know through a poem entitled, Go nwela ga Mmedi, The Sinking Ship
Sadly later in the book Mogami is hunted by a group of strong regiment (to which Mogami subscribes to)sent by Kgosi so that he goes to war.He runs to hide and a couple of women who have infact seen Mogami play ignorant in an attempt to protect and safe him from going to war.Seeing the intent of these men, he runs as quicly as his feet can carry him and fortunately finds a food storage nearby and hides.While the rest of the regiment search for Mogami ensue two men remain for a while because of fatigue and decide to sit ontop of the storage because of fatigue but unfortunately Mogami alerts them, he farts.The two men investigate but they cannot match Mogamis speed.A young woman in confinement with her baby in hand is run down by Mogami who as quick as lighting assumes this breastfeeding mothers role, he finally finds refuge. The men pass for a man can never go in near a confinement hut, inside the hut was and is an outright taboo.This belief is still prevalent even today although some urban elite do not observe this practice nowdays.
For the record, Ten thousand Bechuana (Batswana) men from Bechuanaland served in the British Army together with Basuto (Basotho) and Swazi from Basutoland and Swaziland during World War II; lesser numbers served in the Union (of South Africa) Defence Force in World Wars I & II. For general discussion of this literature see Jackson in Journal of Military History (2002) . For a succinct account of Bechuana soldiers in World War II see Ramsay articles.


Louis said...

The book is a great reading to all those who love Setswana. It shows though some Batswana did not go far in terms of Education, they had a grasp of what was happening in the outside world.

I can encourage those who have not read the book to do so.

Louis Moroka

Anonymous said...

Hi there what interesting anecdote, indeed i dont think many people around the world really understand nor acknowldge the contributions made by soldiers from the colonies if I may put it that way. My own granddad was a corporal during this war hence when he came back he was known as simply Korpole. he sadly passed away early 1990s but he used to regaily us with memoirs of the war. what makes me sad is that living in diaspora as I do when commemoration day comes no one remembers these brave men from Africa who perished in this war. there needs to be some effort made to push this agenda forward so that our children and great greatchildren of these brave men do not forget or erase their contributions.well reading this book is a start for many.

Anonymous said...

hi Anonymous for sharing your story about your granddad and for sure we appreciate his goodwill.It is however unfortunate that Africans and its media is preoccupied and obsessed by and large with reporting news from elsewhere rather than their own.It would be nice to commemorate and pay tribute to such heroes in Africa.