The first thing that draws passers-by to Bonewamang Sechele’s monument is curiosity, this is followed by a lot of “why didn’t they” suggestions – Writes BASHI LETSIDIDI
On the way to Letlhakeng village, there is on the left, a fenced-in brick and cement structure that sits mysteriously by the roadside.
Its base is obscured by overgrown weeds and there is not a sign or plaque in sight that tells curious passersby what it is doing in the middle of the bush.
However, if you talk to the right people, it is only then that you would learn about the structure and a bit of Bakwena royal history.
On a fateful morning in January, 1978, Bonewamang Sechele, tribal authority in the Bakwena Tribal Administration, was travelling in a vehicle with a group of people to attend the official opening of a recently-completed development project in the village.
Far ahead of them was a vehicle carrying the assistant minister of local government, Willie Seboni, who was to officiate at the occasion.
It may have been premonition because when he woke up in Molepolole that day, Bonewamang was not terribly enthusiastic about making the trip but there seemed little choice than to just go and get it over with.
Some minutes before the convoy rolled into Letlhakeng, tragedy struck.
Bonewamang’s vehicle collided with a Kweneng district council truck going in the opposite direction and a pregnant council employee died on the spot.
Even though he had sustained visible head injuries and was bleeding, Bonewamang gallantly helped pull the injured from the wreckage and into vehicles that would rush them to the hospital.
Because of his condition Bonewamang himself had to be taken back to Molepolole for medical attention at the Scottish Livingstone hospital.
He landed on the operating table of Dr Alfred Merriweather. Finally, those who had taken the chief to the hospital could heave a sigh of relief.
He was in good hands because in addition to overseeing operations of Scottish Livingstone Hospital, Merriweather was also President Sir Seretse Khama’s personal medic.
But it was a desperate situation. Merriweather was only a doctor and Bonewamang’s condition, which was worsening by the minute, required divine intervention.
“Doctor, it is too late.”
Those words, as former Bakwena regent Kgosikwena Sebele recalls, were the very last uttered by Bonewamang when divine intervention did not come and he prepared to meet his maker.
“Soon after he passed away, Dr. Merriweather phoned to tell me the bad news,” Sebele says.
Upon receiving the news, Sebele rushed to the hospital where he met Molepolole MP, Daniel Kwelagobe.
So shocked was Kwelagobe that Sebele said that he had to hold him by the hand and guide him into the mortuary to see Bonewamang’s corpse.
That brings us back to the roadside structure near Letlhakeng.
Before being promoted to traditional leader of all Kweneng district, Bonewamang had worked in Letlhakeng as headman.
Some years after the death, Letlhakeng youth erected a monument to Bonewamang at the spot where he had the accident that led to his death.
The project was undertaken by the Kweneng West Youth Council, the Village Youth Council and the Letlhakeng Sub-district Council and was initiated in the International Year of Youth in 1984, six years after Bonewamang’s death.
Thomas Gaonewe, then treasurer of the Kweneng West Youth Council at the time, says that the entire work was carried out by volunteer youths in the village.
“Except for the building materials, we paid for nothing. Construction of the monument was carried out by members of the Village Youth Council who were builders. The work was done on weekends,” says Gaonewe who at the time was a teacher at Letlhakeng Primary School.
By erecting the monument, the Kweneng West youth obviously wanted to tell the world something but as everyone admits, there is a huge information gap that needs to be filled.
“There are people who think that is where Bonewamang died. It is not so. He died not at the spot where the monument is built but at Scottish Livingstone hospital hours after the accident had happened.
Something definitely has to be done because people who pass by need to know why the monument was built. The physical appearance of the monument also needs to be spruced up,” Sebele says.
By Gabonewe’s account, an engraved stone that tells Bonewamang’s story was bought in the same year that the monument was built. He personally went to Gaborone to collect the stone and delivered it to the community development office of the sub-district.
“Thereafter, some of the people involved in the project were transferred to different places. That is what may have caused the project to fall apart.
The Village Youth Council was also moved from the community development department (in the ministry of local government) to the department of culture and youth (in the ministry of labour and home affairs).
There may be need to refer the matter to officers in the department of culture and youth because they are the ones who are now in charge of affairs of village youth councils,” Gaonewe says.
Though he is not privy to any plans, Bonewamang’s son and current Bakwena paramount chief, Kgari III Sechele II also agrees that it would be a good idea to put up some information at the monument in order to demystify it. He was only four years old when his father died.