Kazungula Bridge evokes nostalgia for Kgosi Mmualefhe
When Rhodesian Forces ambushed the Botswana Defence Force soldiers on February 27th, 1978, in Lesoma and 15 soldiers were killed, Kgosi Mmualefhe Mologasele Mmualefhe of Kachikau was a new recruit.
Remembering his baptism of fire into the army, Mmualefhe told of his involvement in the defense of the republic against foreign attacks.
Speaking at the occasion of the commissioning of the magnificent Kazungula Bridge, Kgosi Mualefhe said,”I joined the Force in 1977, just after its formation. The Lesoma team was platoon two and I was platoon four. I have seen the BDF develop into a formidable and respected Force it is today,” said Kgosi Mmualefhe.
The royal who was deployed by Kgosi Sekgoma Letsholathebe of Batawana after his retirement from the BDF to lead Batawana living in Kachikau could hardly hide his excitement at the recently opened Kazungula Bridge.
He calls it a magnificent piece of engineering at a place that holds so much history for both Botswana and Zambia.
“It is no coincidence that this bridge was built. It has been long time coming,” he says.
In fact Kgosi Mmualefhe believes if it wasn’t for the visionary leadership of Kgosi Letsholathebe, Botswana could’ve lost a huge chunk of land in the Chobe area.
“It was him, Letsholathebe and his counterpart from Zambia Kgosi Lute Lewanika of the Lozi people who decided on the boundary, and continued to support and encourage trade between the two countries,” said Mmualefhe.
The trade integration that’ll be brought by the bridge is a culmination of relations fostered over many decades, says the chief.
“Cattle from Central and Ngami regions used to trek past here to be sold in the then Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), and this trade exists to this day,” he adds.
Walking down memory lane he reminisces about how during their time, teachers in schools were predominantly of the Lozi and Sotho origins.
“Today I looked at the invited guests from other countries and I realised its still the same make up of people. Nothing much has changed, we’re leveraging on a foundation that was built by traditional leaders a long time ago,” he said.
Kgosi Mmualefhe speaks with passion and conviction concerning the role played by the founding traditional leaders of Botswana.
“What I’m trying to put across is that trade between Zambia and Botswana was cultivated many years ago, and its beautiful to see the completion of such a big structure that I believe will have so much impact on this region. It was a dream of our late Member of Parliament Duncan Mlazie. He always talked about this bridge and the Airport. He should be happy where ever he is,” Mmualefhe said before winding down the clock a few decades back.
Mmualefhe retired from BDF in 2002 at the rank of Lieutenant and reckons the army owes its strength from experiences gained from their patrols of the Rhodesian borders.
“We were inexperienced but we held our own against unprovoked attacks from the Rhodesian army,” he said.
“I remember at one point we were attacked four times in one day. There was so much shelling and explosions that a lot of us became temporarily deaf,” he said.
Soon after the Rhodesian “experiments” as he preferred to call them, BDF had to face the South African aggression as Mkhonto We Sizwe used the same conduit to go for training in Tanzania.
“The BDF had to learn how to walk before they could crawl to defend Botswana’s territory,” said Mualefhe.
“Kazungula and Chobe in general is where BDF earned their stripes and learnt everything about deployment,” said Mmualefhe, solemnly adding, “Its a pity that most of what could be monuments were not preserved. I’m talking about buildings and property riddled with bullets,” he said.
Mmualefhe further said the area is a special place that deserves such a beautiful bridge.
“It’s a bridge erected over what used to be troubled and violent river, but those days are long gone. This bridge for me symbolises the long standing relations between the Zambians and Batswana,” he said.