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“The Fat Which is Begged for Does Not Make the Hair Pretty”: K.T. Motsete and the Margins of Self-Determination in the Bechuanaland Protectorate


Previous scholars overlooked the contention in this dissertation that African intellectuals in 1930s Botswana accommodated British imperialism as a strategy to encourage African self-determination. These scholars alleged African intellectuals existed in ideological or relational ambiguity when they actually developed a profound political and socio-economic strategy to advance African communities. This lapse transpired because previous scholars applied insufficient and misleading historical frameworks. They claimed that African intellectuals were socially and culturally convoluted, isolated from the majority of people, and either collaborators in or flawed resistors of colonialism. Consequently, their accounts lacked a depth of understanding, especially regarding the astute rationale underpinning why and how African intellectuals engaged with key issues. In the 1930s, African intellectuals employed liberal terminology and appealed to the notion of multi-racial cooperation and partnership. Nonetheless, a reading of the clandestine subtext African intellectuals embedded in their writings shows that they prioritized advancing various forms of African self-determination. This dissertation focuses on intellectual, educator, and nationalist, K.T. Motsete, and his English-speaking colleagues in the Bechuanaland Protectorate (now Botswana). Motsete founded the Tati Training Institute, the first secondary school in Botswana, in partnership with Kalanga communities living in the BuKalanga borderlands. The school was a profound example of realized self-determination. Motsete inspired Africans to take advantage of the developing opportunities in European-style education and bolstered the ability of Kalanga communities to preserve their vitality. Still, despite Motsete’s immense education and tactful political and educational strategy, he was ultimately frustrated by the inherent inadequacies of African liberalism and unable resolve the dilemma of the African liberal within the context of British imperial rule.

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