Sunday, September 27, 2020

Do we appreciate Independence Day or just the day?

We all just came back from the Independence Day Holidays; some of us are still tired from all the hectic partying, others are surprisingly relaxed and eager to get back to work.
I know students are dreading the thought of going back to classes tomorrow, Monday.

I am quite sure that most of us have overspent on luxurious items that are of no use to us now.

Holiday time for the working community means a time to go back to the villages and towns to visit relatives we haven’t seen for quite some time.
For some, it means a break from the fast lifestyles that people in cities lead.

But what exactly is the significance of the Independence Holidays? Are they just like any other holiday or do they hold more interest because of the history associated with them?
Have we, as a country, lost track of how or why they came about in the first place?

September 30th 1966 was the historic day when Botswana first gained its sovereignty from former colonizer, Britain.

It has been 43 years since Botswana started practicing own leadership as a democratic republic.

It has since flourished into a diamond rich, peaceful and shining example of good governance in Africa.

‘The pride of Africa,’ they call it.
As one takes a drive around Gaborone, especially the areas near State House and Gaborone’s first mall, the Main Mall, you are likely to come across decorations made with the colours of the Botswana flag.

These decorations were, of course, the initiative of the government or City Council, not the people, per se.
Sunday Standard took to the streets to find out what today’s Batswana make of the Independence Holidays; how they spent them and what was memorable about them.

Meet Mpho Balisi, a 23-year-old university student, who had been looking forward to the holidays because school was getting on her nerves.
Mpho says she was getting assignment after assignment every week, with the normal hectic daily class attendances really becoming a nuisance. She complained about not coping.
Because of the Independence Day Holiday, her school would be out for a week.

In that week she went out with her friends, had a lot of fun dancing at clubs and meeting new people. She called it “re-fueling”.
But for her, holidays are all the same, be it Christmas, Easter or Independence Day.

She celebrated her independence holidays the same way she would her festive holidays or her birthday, noting that there is no difference except the fact of not having to go to school or waking up early.

Meagan Ryan, on the other hand, is a 32-year-old working mother, whose children live with her parents in Serowe.

To her, independence holidays mean having to travel to Serowe to see her family, or them coming over to visit her.
She appreciates what her country has now turned out to be but doesn’t really dwell much on history.

“I have spent a lot of money, traveling and buying food and clothes for my family. I am also not happy because Friday was not a holiday so that meant I had to come back for one day of work before the weekend,” said Ryan.

Tiro Molemi, a 40-year-old social studies teacher at a primary school in Gaborone, says that he is disappointed at how there are no clear efforts being made by government to celebrate and keep the spirit of independence alive.
“We should all be taking this as a moment to reminisce and appreciate what our forefathers have left for us.
Botswana has come a long way; we should be proud of ourselves,” said Molemi.
Independence holidays instill a sense of pride in him and he makes sure that the children he teaches understand the sacrifices that we made for them to be where they are.

“At our school, we do plays, class presentations and we post flags at the back of our class, a week before the actual celebrations,” said Molemi.”
For some, September 30th 1966 is the day they were first welcomed into the world, they too go to the kgotla to celebrate both their birthdays and the country’s day.

For Obakeng Ragele, this year’s Independence Day was her 21st birthday; therefore it was what she termed the most important day of her life so far.
Ragele stayed in Gaborone even though her parents were in Maun.

“My friends took me out clubbing for the first time in my life and it was an amazing experience. I was celebrating the most important day in my life and the most important in my country’s history too,” said Ragele.

Countrywide, especially in villages, the residents usually spend the day at the main Kgotla listening to recited poems, traditional dance music, and the speeches made by their relatives, chiefs and important people within their societies.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.