I think the people of ’65 went to vote either to spite their heavy handed chiefs or antagonists who followed parties led by noisy Opposition people, beyond that they didn’t know what they were doing.
Everyone wanted the big Chief’s party to win the election. That much we know. In fact, we hear stories that people were told that the world would end if they didn’t vote the Chief’s party. Over and above that, many people would not have had any concept of how life was meant to change from the way it was hundred years before. The future and how it was talked about was too distant a country, too dreamy a tale to bet one’s last cockerel on.
I really won’t be surprised if some people who went to vote in 1965 had a big problem understanding the concepts Democracy and Independence. Sure, you had a handful of people who were educated who would have understood the politics of the region to know ’65 was their big opportunity for self actualization. But I don’t think people who came from far off villages really had a full understanding of these wild things people were saying about the future.
You see, Batswana are legendary for being slow when it comes to understanding alien stuff. By slow here we don’t mean stupid. No, Batswana are as smart as any nation on the face of earth. I know there are ungrateful Africans who come here to make money, who when their bellies are full, turn around and call us stupid. But the Africans don’t bother me. I mean, these are people from countries where a civil war can break out starting in a village where two people had a small quarrel because one called the other Cockroach! Whole populations wiped out for nothing, and you tell me we’re not sharp? Please.
So, let’s agree that the people of 1965 woke up with a dark cloud in their minds wondering about this Independence and Democracy stuff. Many people were not educated. No newspapers to read, no radios telling them about anything; how were they to understand all these things when they’d always lived their lives in the middle of nowhere?
I can imagine a conversation between an election officer and someone who expected democracy to be a physical, tangible thing. An individual might have entered the election venue, enthusiastic and confused in equal measure, proceeding to drop the ballot in the box after long winded explanations by the election officer. The individual may have then looked at the election officer briefly wondering what all that gibberish about becoming a nation was all about;
Where is it, he might have asked; Eng Rra the officer may have replied, Yone Temokerisi kana lware Intiphentense eo ya lona? A ga se gone fa re tsileng go di phaka teng fa? To which the officer may have responded amused, telling the mystified individual, you have just acquired democracy and independence by voting, that noble act of dropping the ballot in the box is your key to independence.
So, from initially expecting Independence and Democracy to be something that would be brought in the country by huge lorries or the trains, to thinking that it’s stuff every homestead would be given a cup full of, the people of ’65 may have understood these things much later in the evolution of the republic. For the same reason it took the people of today ten years to understand HIV and AIDS, it had to take the people of 1965 several years to realize that democracy and independence, while confusing, were things for which everyone had to come to the party and play their role for some kind of common future; I’m sure many would have been captivated or baffled by the idea that in this Democracy and Independence thing, everyone would be equal in something called the eyes of the law. This would have excited those who disliked heavy handed Chiefs.
I’m also certain some people would have wondered how the country would manage without the whites. History teaches us that our people had a cordial relationship with their whites. Colonial whites were liked and looked up to by many people here, unlike down South where every black person wished every white person dead. Everyone was happy to be led by folks from Miss Small Woman’s Country, that’s what everyone here called her the United Kingdom back in the day. Besides the little matter with Seretse marrying a white girl, people here didn’t really want to serve every last white person poisoned tea.
That said, the folks of 1965 must look at us today, always running our mouths about this and that and realize the mess they started in that fateful morning. Everything must be starting to connect, making them realize that the very things they had a hard time understanding back in the day, this Democracy and Independence, have come back to haunt them. The whole business of children returning words to adults and saying anything they like must make them wish they could go back to that morning of 1965 and scoop out that poisonous old ballot and return to normality.
Back in ‘65, you couldn’t open your mouth against leaders, except only in praise. Full stop! Today things are so ruined that people can even tell the president how to comb his hair! Is this what things have come to?