Botswana

 

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COLONIAL HISTORY

From the 1820s the Boers began their Great Trek across the Vaal River. Confident that they had heaven-sanctioned rights to any land they might choose to occupy in southern Africa, 20, 000 Boers crossed into Tswana and Zulu territory and established themselves as though the lands were unclaimed and uninhabited. At the Sand River Convention of 1852, Britain recognised the Transvaal’s independence and the Boers informed the Batswana (people of Botswana) that they were now subjects of the South African Republic.

Nationalism & independence

The first signs of nationalist thinking among the Tswana occurred in the late 1940s, and in 1955 it had become apparent that Britain was preparing to release its grip on Bechuanaland. University graduates returned from South Africa with political ideas, and although the country had no real economic base, the first Batswana political parties surfaced and began thinking about independence.

Following the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, South African refugees Motsamai Mpho of the African National Congress (ANC) and Philip Matante, a Johannesburg preacher affiliated with the Pan-Africanist Congress, along with KT Motsete, a teacher from Malawi, formed the Bechuanaland People’s Party. Its immediate goal was independence for the protectorate.

In 1962, Seretse Khama and the Kanye farmer Quett Masire formed the more moderate Bechuanaland Democratic Party (BDP), soon to be joined by Chief Bathoen II of the Ngwaketse. The BDP formulated a schedule for independence, drawing on support from local chiefs and traditional Batswana.

 

Botswana today

Botswana continues to be a shining light among its neighbours, with a nonracial, multi­party, democratic government that oversees the affairs of a peaceful and neutral state. Unlike in so many African countries, freedom of speech, association, press and religion, as well as equal rights, are all guaranteed under the constitution.

The greatest threat to Botswana’s stability is the deadly AIDS virus. Botswana has the highest HIV infection rate in the world, and according to a UN report, 19% of all people and 36% of young adults (aged 15 to 29) are currently infected. There is hope, however. Although discussion of AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases and contraception continues to be taboo in Botswanan society (especially in rural areas), the government increased health spending by 41% in 2001 and established the National Aids Council, which is conducting educational programs in schools and universities throughout the country and highlighting the issue on billboards along the highway. The council is also flooding newspapers with awareness articles. The government has also purchased antiretroviral drugs to treat its infected populace, something traditionally unheard of in Africa.

In regard to malaria, Botswana actually has one of the lowest malaria rates in southern Africa, which is predominantly do to the aridity of the country.

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Paul Kruger

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Paul Kruger is believed to have been born on 10 October 1825 on his grandfather’s farm, Bulhoek, in the Cradock district, near the present day town of Steynsburg. At the age of ten his family set out as part of the Great Trek and he was brought up within the strict tenets of Dutch Calvinism.

Kruger fought in the Battle at Vegkop in 1836, where they fought against Mzilikazi. Paul’s father and uncle were two of the founders of the town Potchefstroom, the first capital of what would later become the Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek(ZAR).

When Kruger was 16 he received his first farm near present-day Rustenburg, as was the custom, and named it Waterkloof, in the Magaliesberg. In 1842, he married Maria du Plessis, who was a Voortrekker girl from Tarka. 

In 1846, he returned to the Magaliesberg, where both his wife and baby died of malaria. A year later, Kruger married Gezina du Plessis, his first wife’s cousin (a suburb of Pretoria is named after her). Together they had 16 children, but some died in infancy.

Kruger began his military career at an early age, and served as a veldkornet during his teens. He also began to have an interest in politics, and accompanied Andries Pretorius to the signing of the Sand River Convention in 1852, where the Transvaal was granted its independence. 

Kruger had an arch-enemy in Cecil Rhodes and his Cape political associates. The latter regarded the western parts of the Transvaal as the ‘Suez Canal’ of Africa. It was the Imperial way across the Limpopo and into the far northern interior. Kruger had, against the terms of the London Convention, proclaimed the area a Transvaal protectorate, and had to withdraw. Later this land became the British protectorate of Bechuanaland.

In 1886, the discovery of gold in the Witwatersrand resulted in a flood of immigrants or ‘uitlanders’ to the area. This was a threat to the new political independence of the Transvaal and the Afrikaner identity. Kruger’s government needed the revenue from the mines and didn’t have any legitimate reason to remove these foreigners, but to grant them full political rights would negate everything he had fought for.

Rhodes, the ‘uitlanders’ and their representatives in Johannesburg, the Reform Committee, increased the pressure on Kruger, but the failed Jameson Raid of 1895-1896 spoiled the possibility of a peaceful resolution. The aftermath of the Raid showed Kruger at his political peak. Jameson and his officers were released to stand trial in London and the ‘uitlander’ leaders, most of who had been convicted of treason, had their sentenced reduced greatly. This afforded Kruger with the moral high ground and for the next six years international sympathy lay with the Transvaal. This also resulted in him defeating Piet Joubert in the 1896 presidential election.

Later Kruger did make some concessions to the British, but Alfred Milner, the High Commissioner, made increasingly difficult demands. Britain was determined to create a unified South Africa and negotiations were no longer about the rights of ‘uitlanders’.

The South African War, or Anglo-Boer War, broke out on 11 October 1899, and Kruger, now 74, remained in Pretoria as a result of poor health until 1900. He left the capital only a few days before Lord Roberts occupied it in May of the same year. On 21 October 1899, Kruger boarded the Dutch warship Die Gelderland, sent by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, at Lorenço Marques, and left for Europe.

There he tried to gain practical support for the Boer cause, but was mostly unsuccessful. He did, however receive a lot of moral support. For a period of time he lived in the Netherlands, but moved to Clarens, Switzerland, where he died on 14 July 1904 from heart failure caused by hardening of the arteries.

Kruger was also instrumental in the formation of the Kruger National Park, the largest and one of the most famous national parks in the country.