Racial discrimination, segregation and apartheid insinuations came to the fore last week at a heated full council meeting in Francistown during a presentation by representatives of the Department of Archives and Records.
What had initially been a presentation on the functions, needs and shortfalls of the Francistown Records Centre, based on the history of Botswana’s second city, deteriorated into a revolutionary meeting as councilors demanded that the history of the city be corrected to reflect the segregation and discrimination that was prevalent at the time.
The councilors slammed representatives of the Department of Archives and Records for their biased documentation and recording of the city’s history. They unanimously dismissed the peddled history of the city, saying that it does not reflect the true socio-political circumstances of the past.
First to shoot from the hip was former mayor and veteran Botswana People’s Party Councilor, Motlatsi Molapisi, who poured water on the generally known fact that Francistown was founded by one Daniel Francis.
Molapise, with the support of other councilors, like Peter Ngoma and Tabengwa Tabengwa, shot salvos at this contention, saying that Daniel Francis only discovered gold mines in Francistown.
“It is a fact that Francis found Kalanga settlers when he arrived here. Those people called this place Nyangabwe then,” they said.
Immediately, other councilors supported Molapisi and clamored for the city’s name to be changed from Francistown to Nyangabwe.
The name of the late Phillip Matante was also suggested as an alternative to Francistown, which the councilors denounced as they said that it perpetuates the stigma and shame of colonialism.
“It is a pity that the history of Francistown idolizes white settlers than political emirates like Phillip Matante, who set the political foundation that defines the very spirit of this city. We have named our city after a colonialist who came to steal our gold and left us with environmental problems of underground mine shafts that bedevil our city today, instead of honouring the true representatives of Batswana,” said ┬áMolapisi.
He continued, “Who is this Daniel Francis? What has he done to benefit this city? Where is he buried?”
There were claps of agreement from other councilors.┬á
The councilors also said that it should be exposed that there was a lot of segregation and racial discrimination in Francistown, the remnants of which are still evident to date.
“It must be known that Batswana were not allowed to drink alcohol in Francistown, and they were segregated to shanty areas like Kgaphamadi, Somerset and Bluetown, while white settlers retained prime land around the city centre,” they said.
Councilor Ignatius Moswaane also countered a presentation by the department representatives, who had displayed photos of black people drinking, while seated on the ground, at a place that they said was called Tati Beer Hall, saying that it should be known that the beer hall was, in fact, called Kaffir hall.
“That beer hall was opened because of tireless efforts by men like Matante. It is also a fact that there was segregation as blacks and whites did not drink in the same bars,” he said.
The councilors also challenged the department to visit elderly people who have lived in Francistown so that they can get the true history of the city.
In the end, an agreement was made that an arrangement would be made between the Department of Archives and Records and the FCC Public Relations Office, with a view to seeking avenues through which the true history of Francistown can be documented.