“The evil that men do lives long after them; the good is often interred with their bones” (William Shakespeare ÔÇô Julius Caesar). The essence of Shakespeare’s dictum as encapsulated in the above line is that while it infrequently occurs that some men by virtue of the sheer force of their powerful personalities and exceptional talents, leave an indelible imprint on the historical process, it is by no means easy for their positive legacy to be fully appropriated and emulated by those they live behind. An appraisal of the life of a man (however schematic and partial as hereunder outlined) such as Rre Motshidisi who touched the lives of so many people during his long career is of major public interest.
Rre Motshidisi was together with Rre Motsamai Mpho, a founder member of the Bechuanaland Peoples Party founded in 1960. He represented the party in various Pan ÔÇô African Conferences held in Ghana, Algeria and with other parts of Africa. He played an important role in providing safe haven for and transporting cadres of the African National Congress & SWAPO (Namibia) to the Zambian border to proceed to join their exiled comrades in Zambia and Tanzania. One cadre whom he was at one point assigned to drive to Zambian boarder was Sam Nujoma, SWAPO leader and first President of┬á┬á Namibia. He was therefore one of the unsung heroes of the Southern African Liberation struggle. When the BPP split in 1963 he identified himself with the faction led by Motsamai Mpho initially dubbed BPP no 2 but later called Bechuanaland Independence Party. He represented the BIP in the first 1965 General Elections which led to Botswana self ÔÇô Government in contesting against the late Seretse Khama in Serowe Constituency. He got less than 100 votes as against over 5000 votes for Seretse Khama. He was not however discouraged by this dismal electoral performance but maintained an unflinching commitment to opposition politics.
After the 1965 General Elections Dr Kenneth Koma arrived from his long sojourn in Europe, finding the opposition parties in disarray as a result of deep divisions among them. Through the initiative of Dr Koma, several meetings were held in attempt to unify the opposition. Rre Motshidisi was an active and leading participant in these discussions from mid 1965 to mid 1966. After the collapse of these unity talks, a decision was made by Dr Koma and some erstwhile BIP and BPP members to launch a new Party. Thus the BNF was launched in October 1966. Rre Motshidisi, founder member of the BPP and BIP was yet again one of the first recruits of the Botswana National Front. He attended its inaugural congress held at Mahalapye in 1967, at which there were seven delegates among whom were Dr Koma, D.K Ontumetse, O.K Menyatso, Pretty Molefhe and Frank Marumo.
After the inauguration of the B.N.F one of the tasks facing it was how to introduce itself to and network with Liberation Movements and progressive African Governments. Dr Koma handled most of the publicity work while comrade Motshidisi, O.K Menyatso devised all sorts of ingenious ways of transporting the literature outside the country. They also published the party Newsletter, Puo Phaa to propagate their message to the masses while at the same time educating the members on the party’s ideological line and policies. Puo phaa rattled a few feathers within the Security establishment, leading to the laying of sedition charges against members of its editorial Board and regular contributors, being Dr Koma, O.K Menyatso, K.K Motshidisi and Pretty Molefhe. The charges were however later withdrawn.
K.K Motshidisi together with O.K Menyatso were in 1968 sent by the party to the Soviet Union to study. On his return from the Soviet Union he was unemployed for a while. He played an important role in organising trade unions together with comrade Rex Nzinge, Frank Marumo. Around 1970 he joined the Public Service where he proved his mettle, as an able administrator and steadily progressed until he was appointed Commissioner of Labour, a position he held until his retirement in 1992. Upon his retirement he re-joined active politics and was elected BNF Secretary General at Mahalapye special congress in November 1993. During his tenure as Secretary General he acquitted himself well as an organiser, helping the party to improve its administration by such methods as securing an office and keeping proper records.
As a politician, Rre Motshidisi was a disciplined and dedicated Party cadre with a thorough knowledge of the party policies, politics and ideology. He was a talented propagandist serving as a resource person in many party seminars and workshops. He also represented the party in many extra ÔÇô party conferences both within Botswana and outside the country. He used to lead the BNF delegation to all party conferences convened by former President Dr Masire, and also represented the party at Labour Party conference in the U.K in 1995. He was a man of admirable political probity, who strongly detested hypocrisy and intrigue, and always strove to practice what he preached. He was overly fastidious in organisational matters, insisting on strict and consistent adherence to the party constitution, rules and organisational principles. This did not always endear him to those party members more inclined to adopt easy going, informal organisational style.
I came to work with him more closely after the Kanye congress of 2001, where I was elected Party President. He was elected party Chairman at that congress. He had a very good memory. Like the late Walter Sisulu of the African National Congress; he had an excellent knowledge of the BNF History and traditions, supplemented by a rare skill of collecting, keeping and preserving Party archives. He was a priceless asset to my Executive Committee effortlessly bringing his wealth of knowledge and experience to bear on some of the complex challenges which we faced during our first tenure of leadership. Abundantly endowed with formidable leadership traits as he was, he displayed a remarkably humble and self ÔÇô effacing disposition. He served only one term, retired after the 2005 congress to join a group of party elders who provided a voice of moderation, reason and wisdom to the party even during those when the party was sharply polarised along factional lines.
After his retirement from active party politics he was engaged by the Tribal Administration Department to deputise the Chief at the Palapye main Kgotla, a task to which he applied himself with distinction. Rre Motshidisi an indefatigable veteran of Botswana’s opposition politics, pioneer trade unionist, and outstanding public servant has inscribed a glorious chapter to this country’s history. His departure has occasioned an inestimable loss to the nation at large. May his soul rest in peace.