Sunday, June 23, 2024

Why are we not naming spaces after our living legends?

On October 16 I was fortunate to be at Tiger Kloof to witness the institution name five of its buildings after five former students who many years after leaving the institution have become legends. Two of the legends are deceased South African women: Aletha Tutu (The mother of Archbishop Desmond Tutu) and Dr. Ruth Mompati, one of the former leaders of the ANC. The other three Old-Tigers (as Tiger Kloof students are known) who were honoured are from Botswana. They are Sir Ketumile Ketumile Masire, Archibald Mogwe and Dr. Gaositwe Chiepe. Tiger Kloof named the school’s Administrative block the “Sir Quett Masire Building”. The girl’s hostel was named the “Chiepe Hostel” while the boys’ hostel was named the “Mogwe Hostel.” The names Masire, Chiepe and Mogwe join other three Tiger Kloof names with very close ties to Botswana. One such name is the name of CW Willoughby, a former Botswana missionary, who was stationed in Bangwato territory. Willoughby accompanied the three dikgosi to England in 1895 to lobby the British politicians against Cecil Rhodes’ desire to integrate Bechuanaland into South Africa. He established Tiger Kloof and was its first headmaster. The second Botswana name that is remembered in Tiger Kloof is that of David Matthews, the former headmaster of Maruapula School in Gaborone, who led the development of Tiger Kloof after 1991. Tiger Kloof has since named a garden after him. The final Botswana name is that of Khama.  Khama III donated 120 pounds to Tiger Kloof which was used to build a clock tower which exists up to this day. The school dining hall has subsequently been named the “Khama Hall” in honour of both Khama III and Sir Seretse Khama, a former Tiger himself. 

In light of these honours, we must ask ourselves the question: “Why are we not naming our spaces after many of our deceased and living legends?” Botswana has many successful individuals. Yes some of them are no longer with us, while others are still alive and continue to make a significant contribution to the country. I am informed that there is a government policy not to name any road or building after a living individual. Why? Why should we wait until someone has died for us to recognise and honour them for their contribution to our society? Why should we bring the sweet smelling flowers to the grave of one who has passed on and deny them such roses in their lifetime? Why can’t we honour them while they are still alive? Are we perhaps afraid of a despot who may name highways and buildings after himself and his cousins were we to go this route? Is our fear justified? Perhaps it is, but naming buildings after individuals is not the only way that we honour our heroes. Every year we award to various persons in our republic medals of distinction for their service to the country. This is done through a committee. There are those who worry that such honours are awarded unfairly and yet that does not dissuade us from awarding them to those that we judge as deserving. So why are we not naming our spaces after our heroes? There is something that we are missing. So far we have named our institutions after mostly dikgosi and other royals. Naming our institutions, our roads and halls after our finest sons and daughters will mark our spaces with names of persons with the ideals that we promote as a people. For instance the University can name its libraries, auditoriums and spaces in general after its previous Vice Chancellors such as Professor John Turner and Professor Thomas Tou. The names of other contributors to our education such as MLA Kgasa, Ben Thema and TK Motsete could also be used to name some of our spaces. Imagine, Sir Ketumile Masire was the first headmaster of Seepapitso Secondary school established in 1950. There is nothing in the Seepapitso Secondary School that is named after him. Why? In naming our spaces we must not just think about politicians. We must think about individuals who have had a tremendous impact in areas such as sports, business, music, arts, education, commerce, religion, culture, leadership, media and many others. Where is the name of Rebaone Mookodi remembered in our spaces? What about Sidwell Gabatshwane? What about David Magang, Daniel Kwelagobe, Maitshwarelo Dabutha? Have we forgotten Moleleki Mokama? What about Sekokotla Kaboeamodimo and Kgomotso Mokane? Where are the names of Bathoen I and the great kgosi of the Bakwena, Kgosi Sechele remembered in our spaces? What about Kgosi Sebele? What are the structures that honour Khama III, also known as Khama the great? What is honouring Kgomotso Mogapi, that great writer of Thutapuo ya Setswana, who for over a generation redefined Setswana grammar? Have we forgotten Moutlakgola Ngwako? What about the woman of many firsts, Dr. Gaositwe Chiepe? She was the first female MP in the Botswana parliament, the first female Minister of Education, the first female to have a graduate degree in Botswana and many other firsts.  What about the Oxon Festus Mogae? What about Archibald Mogwe? What about Kgosi Bathoen II? Why are silent about Raditladi? Why are we silent about Wookey, Willoughby and Sandilands? What about Kgosi Seepapitso IV? Have we forgotten Motsamai Mpho, Philip Matante and Kenneth Koma? What about Kgosi Lenchwe II? What about Sir Ketumile Masire, our only knight, a man of exceptional talent, humility and leadership? Are we waiting for him and others to die before we could honour them?

Let us prioritise naming our spaces by those who have contributed greatly and meaningfully to our society. We must not wait for them to die before we recognise their contribution to our society.

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