Saturday, May 28, 2022

Botswana buys its way into Mandela’s Gun film

Botswana had to pay P500 000 to host part of the shooting of a documentary film on the early life of former President Nelson Mandela’s preparation as a freedom fighter. Nelson Mandela’s first step outside South Africa during his long walk to freedom landed him outside a shabby incomplete house in the Lobatse township of Peleng. Recalls the owner of the house, the late Fish Keitseng:” One day I was in my room, plastering the walls in the afternoon, and I had not been contacted by the ANC about any people coming. Then I saw Mandela stopping by my house in a car, driving with an Indian chap.”

This was January 1962, a few days after the African National Congress military wing, uMkonto we Sizwe (MK) publicly announced its existence with 57 bombings on Dingane’s Day(16 December) 1961, followed by further attacks on New Year’s Eve. Peleng was also the last town outside South Africa that Mandela visited before he was arrested in South Africa. Producers of the documentary film however felt the Lobatse story was not a big enough scene to justify the costs that would be involved in transporting the film crew to Botswana. Botswana authorities, however, fought tooth and nail to convince South African authorities not to recreate a scene in South Africa simulating events that took place in Lobatse. Information passed to the Sunday Standard suggests that after authorities from Botswana’s National Museum and Lobatse Town Council’s tireless campaign for South Africa to shoot the Lobatse story in Botswana, it was finally agreed that it would be shot on location in Lobatse, at a cost to Botswana.

Speaking at a press conference in Lobatse this week, the Director of National Museum, Gaogakwe Phorano said the South African authorities informed them that a recreated aspect of Lobatse would be at a lesser cost compared to filming the original scene in Botswana.

“They informed us that if we wanted our part to be included we have to bear the costs of the production in Lobatse,” he said. Phorano said Botswana’s contribution to the film is in the region of P500 000. He said Mandela’s Gun is a proudly African story which highlights unity of countries prepared to aid and support a fellow country in its determination for justice and equality. Phorano said by authentically placing Botswana’s role within the story, the country’s proud heritage and culture take their rightful place next to other countries. “We hope that our determination to film this aspect of the documentary authentically in Lobatse (as opposed to recreating a set in South Africa at a lesser cost) will offer many opportunities,” he said.

The film will be filmed on location in Ethiopia, Tanzania, South Africa, United Kingdom and Algeria as these were all important sites of Mandela’s trip of 1992. “Therefore this weekend’s filming in Lobatse is a deserved honour for this town’s huge historical contribution to the liberation and democracy for South Africa,” he said. Phorano said the film is primarily sponsored by the South African Ministry of Culture but because of its compelling story it has had the varied benevolent support of different countries where it is to be filmed. In Botswana, Phorano said, the film has the blessings of the Ministry of Environmental, Wildlife and Tourism, The Botswana Tourism Organization, Brand Botswana and Lobatse Town Council.

“We hope that the presence of “Mandela’s Gun” in Lobatse will leave behind a legacy from which many initiatives can develop. We hope that securing Botswana and Lobatse’s presence in this cinema film will create a sense of national and local pride,” he said.

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