Saturday, January 16, 2021

National Archives receiving many donated documents

Very little is known about Reverend William Charles Willoughby. This was the man who, in 1895, organised the three chiefs’ trip to England. There, Kgosi Khama, Kgosi Bathoen and Kgosi Sebele sort the support of the British people in helping protect what would soon be named Bechuanaland Protectorate from the clutches the Union of South Africa and Cecil John Rhodes who were threatening to take over the land to build a grand railway track from Cape to Cairo.

Rev. Willoughby’s great grandson, Dr. James Wilkinson, donated to the Botswana National Archives and Records Services (BNARS) three photo albums that document Willoughby’s experiences at old Palapye and Serowe from 1893 to 1902. Featuring pictures taken of his wife and children and the Tswapong community going about their every day business in Sifara, Cwapingland (Sefhare and Tswapong, as spelt by the missionary in his photo album).

Also donated by Willoughby’s descendants, are two leather bound volumes that were compiled by the Reverend on behalf of Khama. They contain unpublished photographs of the chiefs, including one that pictures the three chiefs and three chiefs aids whom history has overlooked but who accompanied their rulers to England. Newspaper clippings documenting the chiefs’ visit to England and invitation cards to the occasions they attended are also included.

The records have been in the possession of the Willhoughby’s for just over a hundred years. The family, who live in England, made the decision to ‘return them to Botswana where they belong’ in 2006. They handed them to BNARS where they are placed in the Private Archives, and can be perused through by the public.

BNARS’ have mainly been archiving information that has bearing on Botswana’s history from public records, and in an effort to look beyond collecting records created by public agencies, they invited individuals, private organisations and non governmental organizations that carry information that has bearing on the historical development. The programme was formalised in the Botswana National Archives Act of 1978 as amended in 2007 to include the new Private Archives.

Moses Mafatlhe, an Archivist at BNARS, told Sunday Standard that these records may carry the individuals or organisations agendas but they bridge the gap between public archives and individuals in giving all recounts of Botswana’s history.

“For instance, we have letters documenting Dr Kenneth Koma trying to convince Moutlakgola Ngwako to join him in forming a new political party,” informed Mafatlhe. In the letters between the two deceased politicians, Koma condemns Ngwako’s bourgeois intentions of settling into a well paying job rather than joining the struggle to free Africa from colonial masters. Ngwako, who was a member of the Botswana Democratic Party and served in Botswana’s first Cabinet, answers that he is amazed that Koma, who was a member of the Pan African Congress in South Africa, would rather fight for the freedom of other Africans than those in the land that gave birth to himself.

Koma and Ngwako’s letters are part of Ngwako’s donation to the Private Archives. Other politicians who have donated records to BNARS are George Kgoroba, Mr. Motsamai Mpho, Paul Rantao and Peter Mmusi.

Mukani Action Campaign (SPIL) have donated books written in Ikalanga to the Archives while Kamanakao Association have donated the associations constitution, records and correspondence on the death of their leader, the late Shikati Kamanakao.

Other donors include missionaries, dikgosi and eminent individuals who have played a pivotal role in the development of the country. Mafatlhe says BNARS welcomes more historic documentation from potential donors. While having the records open to the public, BNARS safeguards the material in temperature monitored storages.
“The records remain the property of the donor and an inventory is created, that both BNARS and the donor keep,” Mafatlhe said.

BNARS is located at the Government Enclave and is open daily from 0730hrs to 1630hrs from Monday till Friday and 0900hrs till 1200hrs on Saturdays.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper