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Birth of nation

Thursday, September 29, 1966. Windy spring conditions that brought a slight chill to the National Stadium could not dampen the spirit of the multitudes who gathered to witness the historic occasion of the birth of modern Botswana. Excitement punctuated the air; suitably captured in a pictorial in the October 1966 special edition of Kutlwano, and a story featured in the November 1966 issue of the government magazine.
The longer the night wore on, the greater the excitement as the dream of independence became ever more tangible, even as the winds grew stronger.
As the clock struck midnight, ushering in Friday, September 30 1966, the transfer of power was symbolised by the lowering of the British flag, the Union Jack as a band sung God Save the Queen! Then, as Fatshe Leno La Rona! Kgalemang Tumediso (KT) Motsete’s melodic composition was played, and a new flag was hoisted, Botswana became an independent republic. At 950am in the morning of September 30, Chief Justice Laurence Weston presided over Sir Seretse Khama being sworn in as the Republic of Botswana’s first president. Sir Seretse Khama had been elected the prime minister of Bechuanaland Protectorate after his party, Botswana Democratic Party won the March 1965 general elections, ushering in a transitional year (1965-66) of nominal self-governance.
Part of the task of the transitional government was to adopt national symbols for the country. On September 30, 1966, Sir Seretse Khama was now assuming the mantle of both head of state and government as president of a fully independent republic, with its own national emblems - coat of arms, flag and anthem. A local composer, teacher and one time politician, KT Motsete composed the national anthem.
The anthem and its composer are well known to most Batswana. However, lesser known is the designer of the national flag, George Winstanley, and his wife Bridget, who worked on the coat of arms, perhaps because unlike Motsete, they had come to the country from Britain to work for the protectorate government, but Motsete is a local.
Perhaps theirs is a similar anecdote to that of Enoch Sontonga, the composer of the South African national anthem, Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika! who is well known for playing such a significant role in his country but the apartheid-era‘s Frederick Brownell, who designed both the modern flags of South Africa and Namibia is less acknowledged, perhaps because he was on ‘the wrong side of the fence’ when those two countries embarked on bruising liberation battles.
George Winstanley came to the country in 1954 and served as a District Commissioner and then clerk to the pre-independence Legislative Council and senior civil servant after independence.
The flag has a dominant sky blue colour representing water, a precious resource in a country that frequently suffers from drought.
The sky blue dominates the flag as it appears on the top and the bottom; cut horizontally in the centre by a large black stripe with two thin white frames on either side of the black. In his book Under Two Flags in Africa, Winstanley writes that the open invite for submissions for the coat of arms drew entries from Isabel Fawcus (wife of resident commissioner, Peter Fawcus) and Shiela England. But the cabinet was not impressed with either, instructing Winstanley to blend the best in both.
His wife Bridget made the alterations to the coat of arms and submitted them to the College of Heralds in the UK, who made the final alternations to the design. Second president, Sir Ketumile Masire in his autobiography, Very Brave or Very Foolish: Memoirs of An African Democrat corroborates George Winstanley’s account.
The coat of arms was adopted on January 25, 1966, with a large shield at its centre, supported by two zebras that both symbolize the country’s wildlife and racial harmony. The black and white stripes represent racial harmony. The zebra to the right holds an ivory tusk, symbolic of the fact that the country has one of the highest herds of elephants on the continent and the other zebra is depicted with an ear of sorghum, an important national crop. On the top of the shield three cogwheels are depicted to represent industry, with three water waves corresponding to the national motto, Pula (rain) that appears at the lower end of the coat of arms and symbolises the importance of rain in semi-arid Botswana. In the lower end of the centre shield is a depiction of a bull, symbolizing how cattle herding is important to the people of Botswana. The anthem, coat of arms, flag and ‘presidential standard’ (the variant flag which is sky blue with a white circle at the centre containing the coat of arms) have remained unchanged since independence, becoming 50-year-old enduring national symbols. ends

Source : BOPA

Author : Pako Lebanna

Location : GABORONE

Event : BOT50 Feature

Date : Sep 27 Tue,2016

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