Botswana: Choice and Opportunity: A Memoir 1963 to 2018

BG Reporter
Monday, 06 April 2020
Botswana: Choice and Opportunity: A Memoir 1963 to 2018


With his latest book, ‘Botswana: Choice and Opportunity: A Memoir 1963 to 2018’- Sandy Grant has certainly entrenched himself within the country’s literary treasure trove.  Sandy, a Motswana citizen and holder of a presidential honour award, lives with his wife Elinah, and two sons in Odi, a village midway between Mochudi and Gaborone. 

Among his other books are Botswana and its National Heritage; Decorated Homes; People of Mochudi and Mochudi Around the Time of Independence as welll as a collection of essays from his newspaper column, Etcetera (1991-97). 

Sandy has also edited and published Sheila Bagnall’s Letters from Botswana. He has been a part time lecturer at the University of Botswna and at Limkokwing (Gaborone) where he pioneered a new course in the history of building in Botswana. This latest addition to his collection, ‘Botswana: Choice and Opportunity: A Memoir 1963 to 2018’, is described by John Speed, Former Director of the European Court of Auditors and Planning Officer (Land) in Government as “a structured and eclectic collection of reminiscences”.

Speed finds in it, bits that are funny, many that are inspirational, and others which are disturbing, but above all, he says Sandy has provided many insights into the “human condition, culture, and the political situation in Southern Africa”.

The Amazon Website from which the book can be sourced, describes it as a “fascinating and timely look” into a period of history that is “woefully under-documented”, and which has a fresh, observer's eye feel.  Sandy clearly lived every moment of this period (1963 – 2018) and documents it both thoroughly and valuably, so much so in fact that this reads almost like a historical novel more than a simple memoir. It is packed with “astute observations, real-time social perception and wonderful personal touches” that takes the reader right to the time and place. 

Amazon Website contends that Botswana historians should find the book essential research, while those looking for a genuine 'feel' for Africa of the immediate past will also be enthralled. It says while Sandy has already written extensively on Botswana and its historical background, the latest book is by far his “most comprehensive and downright entertaining” work to date.

Yet another reviewer, Professor Dr. Jan-Bart Gewald, Director Africa Studies Centre, Leiden, observes that Sandy has championed the cause of history, and in particular the lived history of people in the everyday throughout his career in Botswana. “It is this humanity and eye for others and appreciation for humility and magnanimity in others that forms a central theme in his study of Botswana,” he wrote.

When Sandy Grant arrived in late 1963 after escaping a desk job in a London publishing house, Bechuanaland was a Protectorate administered by the British from a base in Mafikeng, South Africa.  In Mochudi he found a community in the midst of a famine, one whose lifestyle had changed little during the previous 20 or 30 years and where the ox-drawn sledge and wagon were commonly in use.  Mochudi is in the Kgatleng District, where novelist and campaigner Naomi Mitchison was the adopted mother of Chief Linchwe II.  Mochudi, the ninth biggest town in Botswana, is also the home of the fictional Mma Ramotswe, of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. 

In the book Sandy describes the beginnings of his 43 years working understanding with the young Kgosi Linchwe II and the oppressive weight of apartheid South Africa. When Independence came in a rush, the government of the new Botswana was technically bankrupt, and its very survival seemed in doubt. 

In its newly created capital, Gaborone, Sandy worked to provide relief and to foster local development initiatives and combat social injustice. In the book, he comments on the country’s efforts as it emerged from poverty. Sandy worked to provide relief and to foster local development initiatives and combat social injustice. As a long-standing newspaper columnist, he comments on the country as it emerged from poverty. 

His account gives insights of tribal life, rain hills and rainmaking, the initiation of young males and his conversion of an abandoned hilltop school into a multi-faceted museum. As a hands-on participant, he describes with a deft hand, his involvement with the democratic process, a range of intriguing personalities and events, amusing, personal, perplexing and disturbing. Sandy Grant has an MA in History from Cambridge University and an MSc in the conservation of the built environment from Herriot-watt University, Edinburgh. He arrived in Botswana in late 1963 and has been involved in development at both local and national levels and with refugee needs.

He is renowned for establishing the world regarded multifaceted Phuthadikobo Museum (the former BaKgatla National School) in Mochudi, as part of his conviction of the need to ground the present in the past.



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