Cheriton Fitzpaine CLEO group hear fascinating talk about Botswana

By Crediton Courier Contributor   |   Crediton Courier Contributor   |
Friday 31st May 2019 10:30 am

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CHERITON Fitzpaine Ladies Evening Group held an open meeting in May, due to the general appeal of the subject matter.

Peter Bainbridge, who lives in Stockleigh Pomeroy, gave us a fascinating insight into the Birth of Botswana.

As an 18-year-old he went as a volunteer to what was then Bechuanaland, a landlocked country north of South Africa, to help with famine relief.

Bechuanaland was then a desperately poor country subjected to the PULA phenomenon where very occasional heavy rain creates so much havoc that animals drown and crops are damaged.

In 1895, three Chiefs came to London to ask Queen Victoria for protection, fearing that they would be taken over by South Africa. Thus, the country became a British Protectorate.

In the 1960’s, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan made his famous "Wind of Change" speech when African countries were seeking independence, and Britain sought to help Bechuana in its struggle.

Peter was initially responsible for organising the distribution of food to feeding stations, where the local people waited patiently for their rations.

He admired and felt sorry for the Bushmen or San of the Kalahari, who were not registered and could not always get help. Generally they were self-sufficient environmentalists, who killed only the game they needed for food, replanted food crops, and using ostrich eggs to store water gained from melons.

After his food distribution experiences, Peter was asked to organise the local elections, even though in the UK, he was too young to vote!

He became friendly with Seretse Khama, a local Chief, who had been orphaned very young and sent to England by his uncle the Regent, to study Law.

At a London Missionary Society Social, Peter met Ruth Williams, and the two fell in love. Despite tremendous opposition from both countries, theirs proved to be a real love match, and one of their sons is now the President.

In 2017, Peter and his wife returned to Botswana on a Saga Wildlife Safari. They were saddened to see, that although the discovery of diamonds has brought wealth to the country, the San bushmen had been displaced, losing all self-respect and initiative.

Peter was thanked by Chairman Julia Sanders.

Our next meeting will be in the Methodist Hall on Wednesday, June 19 at 7.30pm when Elizabeth Fathi will be talking about Tiverton Almshouses.

Mary Nunn

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