Historians hold first conference outside South Africa in 48 years
by Tsaone Segaetsho
Southern African countries’ history of migrations, liberation and political freedom shows that we have been there for each other in the past and we still need each other to fulfil our regional interests, said the Speaker for the National Assembly Dr Margaret Nasha.
She said this at the official opening of the 24th biennial conference of the Southern African Historical Association at the University of Botswana.
The three-day conference was the first one in 48 years to be held by the Southern African Historical Society outside South Africa. Botswana was chosen as the first host in the region outside South Africa.
The theme of the conference was: ‘One For All, And All For One.’
Nasha told historians, who filled the Social Science Theatre to capacity, that countries of Southern Africa stood by each other during the struggle for political independence and self-determination through the Frontline States organisation.
Nasha said that, in the past, Southern African countries accommodated hundreds of refugees and some citizens of this region lost their lives in the process.
She said Southern Africa is happy today that those souls were not lost in vain, adding that, as a region, Southern Africans were their brothers’ keepers in the truest sense.
“That is what makes this conference significant, to keep reminding ourselves that as individual countries in this region, we still need each other,” said Nasha.
She added that, in this region of Southern Africa, there is still a long way to go in efforts to leverage national interests with regional visions.
Among some of the high profile people who attended was none other than Neil Parsons, the renowned author of Botswana’s first president, Sir Seretse Khama’s biography, Seretse Khama (1921-1980), written in 1995.
Parsons gave the keynote address about ‘Towards a broader southern African history: Backwards, sideways, and upside-down.’
He said there are accusations of Southern African historians building up historical walls between countries in the region as separate nation-states. He said in the past, he has been seen as guilty as many, in helping to build up these historical walls.
“Today my task is to help break down such barriers. This is also an opportunity to look forward as well as back,” he said. “Looking back, I recall the struggle to create national histories for Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, first at junior and then at senior secondary levels.”
He spoke in jest that if he could have fictionalised his history, by now he could have been a wealthy man. He said fiction earns more than facts, telling the audience that novelists make a fortune with their fiction stories.
“Fiction earns approximately seven times more than facts,” joked Parsons, leaving the audience in stitches.