1985 Gaborone Raid documentary in the works

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The story highlights Botswana’s role in the anti-apartheid struggle


Local documentary filmmaker Mpho Dintwa is currently working on a film tentatively titled, “The Gaborone Raid” in remembrance of the raid on struggle activists and refugees by the apartheid government of South Africa on 14 June 1985. Dintwe says it is important to document the historical moment to understand and appreciate the role Botswana played in the anti-apartheid struggle.
“We are lacking in telling our own authentic stories. It’s surprising how we don’t keep our records when we should be investing in re-telling our experiences. This documentary will be a reference as to what exactly happened that day,” Dintwa said, adding that it was important to remind ourselves that the injustices of apartheid affected not only South African citizens, but also those of Botswana.
The documentary features interviews by Gaositwe Chiepe who was the foreign affairs minister at the time and struggle stalwart Michael Dingake who had just been released from prison at Robin Island in 1985 and was a resident of Bontleng, one of the areas attacked.
“We are still looking for families that were affected and we recently put out a social media post to try to get more relevant content for the documentary. We are also currently looking for funding for the film,” he explained saying the documentary is expected to be released in 2019.
The June 14, 1985 raids were carried out by Apartheid government commandos at Ginger and Bontleng areas in Gaborone. According to research, at around 1.30 am on June 14, 1985, South African soldiers crossed the border into Botswana to carry out targeted bombings of homes where anti- apartheid freedom fighters and exiles were hiding. To carry out the strike, the South African defense force (SADF) hired the infamous Selous Scouts, a special regiment of the Rhodesian Security Forces. Leading the attack was notorious SADF General Viljoen who recounted that the soldiers used megaphones to urge the residents of Gaborone to stay in their houses while the raid was executed.
According to Manuel Olifant, a policeman involved in the raid, the SADF had fifty (50) tanks, helicopters, and jet fighters on standby in Zeerust in case Botswana retaliated. These tanks were however never deployed and what remained was the destruction and trauma which left an indelible mark on Botswana’s history.
Filmmaker Dintwa previously released a documentary tilted, Tiger Kloof; Symphony In stone last year which follows the story of the famous Tiger Kloof, established in 1904 by the London Missionary Society. The documentary includes tours of the current school and interviews with notable former students such as the late Sir Quett Masire. He says the story of Tiger Kloof is the story of a school with a history of raising ethical and principled leadership in Southern Africa.
In closing Dintwa opined, “Botswana has potential and there are a lot more stories that need to be told. The problem is funding more than anything and I guess we need to put more pressure on the law makers to see the importance of investing in this industry.”