Friday, April 12, 2024

Monument Park proposed for Sechele I

The Kgosi Sechele I Museum in Molepolole has started a project to develop a monument park in honour of the man after whom it is named.

The centerpiece of the park will be a statue of Sechele who is revered as one of the ablest Batswana rulers of his time. The park will be located in Ntsweng, the Bakwena capital from 1864 until 1937 when, with the aid of colonial administrators, Kgari II controversially relocated it to present-day Molepolole.

Born in 1810 to Motswasele II, Sechele I was kgosi of the Bakwena from 1829 until his death in 1892. He was David Livingstone’s first convert to Christianity and also learnt how to read and write from the Scottish missionary. Under Sechele’s rule, Kweneng became a prosperous trading state.
His short bio in the project proposal says that by the late 1840s, Sechele had gained control of the booming trans-Kgalagadi trade in ivory and, later, ostrich feathers. The extract reads further:

“After 1850 many BaTswana, sometimes whole merafe, fled the Boers in the Western Transvaal and took refuge with Sechele. The most numerous of these were the Mmanaana Kgatla of Mosielele. In 1852 a Boer commando invaded the Kweneng, demanding that Sechele turn over Mosielele and accept Boer suzerainty. Sechele refused and an inconclusive battle, at Dimawe, ensued. In 1853 Sechele travelled to Cape Town and petitioned Queen Victoria to disallow the Sand River Convention and permit him to buy guns to defend himself against the Boers. His request was refused, but guns, and even a canon, were later smuggled into the Kweneng. The BaKwena and their allies also moved to Dithubaruba Hill, where stone fortifications were built, deterring a second Boer attack.”

The canon story is even more interesting. Somehow it ended up not at the Kgosi Sechele I Museum in Molepolole but at a similar facility in Mafikeng, South Africa.

Sechele also dabbled in the political intrigue of his time and in one important episode influenced the chain of events that gave Botswana its present-day leader. Having helped place Macheng on the Bangwato throne in 1857, Sechele helped Khama III (President Ian Khama’s great-grandfather) overthrow him in 1872.

Sechele was succeeded by his son Sebele I, who together with Khama III and Bathoen I, made the historic journey to England in 1895 to prevent the take-over of their territories by Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company. The Three Dikgosi Monument at the new CBD in Gaborone honours the trio for this feat.

The second stage of the project started a fortnight ago when a kgotla meeting was held at the main kgotla in Molepolole to brief residents. In as far as this goes, the publicity committee is to brief all tribes in the Kweneng district about the project. Last Thursday, the committee briefed Kweneng people resident in Gaborone at the National Museum. The project also entails developing Dithubaruba Heritage trail map; engaging an archeologist to compile a comprehensive site inventory; identifying and designing tourism- and leisure-related facilities; identifying potential property developers for different facilities; selection of different engineering experts according to the facilities to be developed; and, construction of the facilities according to phases.

Experts needed for this project are an artist to mould and erect the statue; an archeologist to conduct a detailed archaeological inventory of the entire site; and, an architectural conservator to map areas (that include campsites, restaurant, museum complex, car park and water points) to be developed. Other positions are project manager, fundraising manager and executive manager who will act as chairperson.

Inclusive of the 24 months for the construction of the statue, the project is expected to take five years.

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