- Beaver Shaw
- Nairobi, Kenya
- I an ex member of both 7 and 8 Squadron's of the Rhodesian war spending most of my operational time on Seven Squadron as a K Car gunner. I was credited for shooting down a fixed wing aircraft from a K Car on the 9 August 1979. This blog is from articles for research on a book which I HAVE HANDED THIS MANUSCRIPT OVER TO MIMI CAWOOD WHO WILL BE HANDLING THE PUBLICATION OF THE BOOK OF WHICH THERE WILL BE VERY LIMITED COPIES AVAILABLE Contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org The latest news is that the Editing is now done and we can expect to start sales and deliveries by the end of April 2011
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Thursday, July 22, 2010
More than 30 years ago, a young Motswana soldier, Sergeant Ompatile Tswaipe caused a storm when he ordered the shooting of three white men in the Tuli Block.
As expected the shooting of the white men by a black soldier made headlines internationally.
According to the Daily News of Monday, April 3 1978, a Botswana Defence Force (BDF) patrol led by the 30-year-old Tswaipe went to a game farm in the Tuli Block on March 28 of the same year after a tip off, to investigate reports that Rhodesian soldiers had been ferried across the Shashe River into Botswana. This happened during the tumultuous times when the blacks of Southern Rhodesian (now known as Zimbabwe) were fighting against the white government of the notorious Ian Smith and there was general animosity between the young nation of Botswana and their northern neighbours.
The Daily News further said that these reports were confirmed by some employees at the farm and during their investigations, the BDF contingent decided to detain two white males for questioning. The two were Michael Arden, a farm manager and Nicholas Love, a young British tourist and the detainees spent the night in a police cell in the village of Bobonong.
According to media reports back then, the following day, the BDF patrol took the detainees back to the farm as they were also looking for the manager of Gilfillan Game Farms, Willem De Beer whom they found travelling towards the village of Points Drift still in the Tuli. The suspect was arrested and duly informed that he was going to be taken to Selebi-Phikwe for questioning.
De Beer was denied a rather curious request of contacting South African police before proceeding to Selebi-Phikwe.According to the Daily News, 'the three detainees, who were all wearing military type clothes, were placed in the back of an open Landrover under the guard of two armed soldiers'. They were duly warned that they would be shot if they attempted to escape.
The party then proceeded towards their temporary base near the Tuli Circle which was the Botswana/Rhodesia border. It would appear that a scuffle ensued and one of the detainees (De Beer) managed to snatch a rifle from the soldiers while his friends attempted an escape. Tswaipe, the patrol commander ordered his men to fire and all the three detainees were killed on the spot. A search of the property of the dead men revealed that one of them was in possession of an unlicensed rifle, an automatic pistol and 7.62 calibre ammunition made for automatic rifles.
Military equipment was also found
There is no doubt that the killing of the three white men at the command of a black soldier shocked many and as mentioned before, made headlines not only in Botswana but internationally. Perhaps under international pressure, Tswaipe was charged with three counts of murder contrary to section 207 of the Penal Code (Cap. 08:01).
According to the Daily News of November 6, 1978, on September 8 of the same year, the then Chief justice RJ Hayron-Benjamin dismissed Tswaipe's application for bail.
The then Principal State Counsel, Phandu Skelemani (the present Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation) led the prosecution while J Mbeki and another defended Tswaipe. The trail of Tswaipe started on November 6 in 1978 and it attracted multitudes as reported in the Daily News. According to the Setswana version of the Daily News of the day, it had been clear in the morning that the courthouse would be full so the number of chairs was increased. By 10 am, the courtroom was full and some people were forced to sit outside, while others had to peep into the courtroom in order to see the defendant and hear what he had to say in his defence.
The late Kgosikgolo Linchwe II of the Bakgatla was among those who attended the proceedings and he had brought his own chair to the courtroom. Tswaipe's parents army veteran Motlhokakgosi Tswaipe and his wife Khumanego came all the way from Tonota to support their son. The Daily News of November 10 shows a picture of a crowd of people gathered to witness the trial of Tswaipe.
The crowd was mostly made up of the youth and interestingly the people were stylishly dress which suggest they were urbanites. A policeman is shown smiling at the camera: was he one of the officers brought to bring order at the court? On that day, the possessions of the deceased white men were shown as exhibits at the court. The exhibits included some arms of war and ammunition, military wireless equipment, and military gear.
The trial of Tswaipe became somewhat a circus with a large majority of the Batswana youth supporting him and demanding his immediate release. Students and lecturers from the University of Botswana (UB) staged a demonstration march to the Office of the President to protest against the arrest and the subsequent detention of Tswaipe, who was most certainly a hero to many blacks in the region. A month before the shooting of Arden, Love and De Beer, the Rhodesian army had crossed in Botswana and massacred 15 soldiers in a surprise attack in Leshoma. So it is not surprising that many Batswana supported Tswaipe because they saw him as somebody who showed the hostile neighbours of Rhodesia and South Africa that Botswana was a sovereign country that could accordingly deal with hostile elements within its borders.
According to a source, after a lengthy trial, Tswaipe was acquitted and promptly promoted by the then president, Sir Seretse Khama, the first president of Botswana. Mmegi recently caught up with Peggy Tswaipe, the first-born child of Tswaipe who said that her father died in a car accident on May 6, 1994 while returning from the funeral of a relative up north,. By the time of his passing, Tswaipe, who had retired from the army a year earlier in 1993 was forgotten by most people.Unfortunately, Peggy, who is in her early forties could not say much about her father's trail because it happened when she was very young. "All I can remember is that we used to see my mother crying a lot but we were too young to understand what she was crying about,"" she told Mmegi. According to Peggy, Ompatile Tswaipe was a disciplinarian, who hardly interacted with his children.
In fact she said that she had never seen him smiling.
But it is obvious that she holds him in high regard as she believes that the Botswana government has not done enough to honour the 'hero'. "His grave in Tonota does not have a tombstone and I think he deserves better than that. If somebody could only step in to erect a tombstone on his grave I would be happy," she said. Tswaipe and his life Boipelo had five children namely Peggy, Esaleone (deceased, Keitumetse, Odirile and Tshoganetso).