In 1933, many in Britain were shocked to learn that a Briton named Phineas Macintosh, a white wagon builder, who had been tried before a native Court in Bechuanaland (now Botswana) accused of unruly and drunken behaviour and interfering with native girls, was found guilty and flogged. For a white man, this was an unheard of punishment at this time especially so because there was a law forbidding native courts of dealing with Europeans. The judge was Tshekedi Khama, regent of the Bangwato people who was black. He was briefly deposed and banished to the north of the country by the British, but common sense prevailed and within three weeks he was back in office.
The incident led to the following article appearing in the Market Harborough Advertiser and Midland Mail on 22 September 1933:
WHEN CHIEF TSHEKEDI WENT TO BURTON LATIMER Missionary Work that Forged a Bond of Friendship A MAN OF GREAT CHARM
Tshekedi, the Bechuanaland Chief, whose name at present before the world as being that of the coloured ruler who has been suspended for ordering the flogging of a white man, was a visitor to Burton Latimer four years ago.
Here he was the guest of a local man who is his staunch friend, and who regards him as a “thorough gentleman.”
The friend is Mr. G.E. Gilbert, manager for the past 24 years of the Burton branch of Messrs. Hart and Levy.
Thus, by a strange throw of the dice, is a drama of the Dark Continent in which an African ruler has drawn upon himself the frown of the Administration, linked up with a visit to Northamptonshire.
CAR AS TOKEN OF GRATITUDE
Mr. Gilbert’s sister, Miss F. Gilbert, a Leicester girl, was for many years a medical missionary under the London Missionary Society in Tshekedi’s territory, and was a very close friend of his family. She was known to him personally, and when his mother, Serowe, was very ill Miss Gilbert carefully nursed her back to health.
Chief Tshekedi naturally was extremely grateful and to show his appreciation of the services Miss Gilbert had rendered him and his mother, he presented her with a car a most useful gift considering that her area was a very large one.
Miss Gilbert’s delight with her car was expressed in a letter to her brother at Burton Latimer, who immediately wrote to Tshekedi, adding his thanks, and at the same time inviting him to Burton should he ever be in England.
THE CHIEF’S LETTER
Though naturally only too willing to welcome the Bechuanaland chief to Burton Latimer, Mr. Gilbert never anticipated for a moment that his offer would be taken up. However, four years ago, Tshekedi visited England with his suite to discuss with the British Government the question of railways going through his province. After the Chief had been in England for some time Mr. Gilbert received the following letter:
|Kgotia ea Kgosi
Dear Mr. Gilbert I should very much like to meet you before I sail for South Africa. Would it be convenient for me to see you if i came your way on Friday April 14th?
Only too delighted, Mr. Gilbert replied that it would be convenient, and consequently he and his wife were able to receive their African guest, who came along with his secretary.
TOUR OF THE TOWN
Then commenced a tour of the town. “We went around Whitney and Westley’s boot factory,“ said Mr. Gilbert to our reporter, “and over other places in the town. All the time I was overwhelmed by his charm of manner and courtesy.” He added that Tshekedi was conducted around the factory of Messrs. Hart and Levy, the Rectory, the church and the Council School.
“In this school,” added Mr. Gilbert, “where Mr. A.C. Harris explained matters to the Chief, he was tremendously impressed by the textbooks held by the children, and he wished he could take some back to his people. He spoke English well, and was a thorough gentleman.
“When he went round the Rectory, the Rector (the Rev. L.H. Lethbridge) also was greatly intrigued by the Chief’s personality and afterwards he considered him to be a real gentleman. “In the church the Chief was greatly interested and referred to the reverence in which we hold our dead.”
Hart & Levy, Bakehouse Lane, managed by Mr. G.E. Gilbert
Whitney & Westley, Finedon Street - probably exported to Bechuanaland