Beating the Dusty Trail


Gaborone – “Mandela’s Gun”, a film on the late South African apartheid icon Nelson Mandela’s life will be shot in Botswana this year, Botswana authorities have revealed.

It will be shot on location in Lobatse, 70 kilometers from the capital Gaborone, where Mandela was accommodated during the liberation struggle at a house belonging to the Keitseng family.

In a recent interview, the Head of Archaeology and Monuments at the National Museum, Phillip Segadika, said the British Production Company has submitted an application for a filming permit to the relevant authorities.

“Remember that other than South Africa, the story of Mandela to and from Ethiopia starts and ends in Peleng, Lobatse, which is why we are convinced that the story of Mandela is always incomplete without acknowledging the role of Botswana and, among others, Lobatse’s Fish Keitseng family,” said Segadika.”

He added, “We trust that the application will be successful and that the recent feasibility study will convince the company to invest its resources to undertake the filming in Botswana and on site.”

Segadika said the benefits of this would be twofold. Firstly, part of the story of the role of Lobatse in the liberation of Southern Africa will be told. Secondly, this particular story will help bring attention to Lobatse as a destination in the liberation route.

“We accomplished the task of simulation and identifying where the filming action could take place.

“And under the leadership of the National Museum team, we continued to excavate a section that has a midden (ash and rubbish pit) and found very interesting artefacts that will be essential in presenting the site and representing well the history of occupation of the site,” said Segadika.

Mandela is believed to have hidden a gun while in exile in Botswana, but his host, the late Mr Fish Keitseng and Mr Joe Modise, a former ANC member, reportedly dug up his ammunition 48 hours after he returned to his native country where he was arrested upon arrival in the 60s.

Segadika explained that “legend has it that Mandela was given a gun by Haile Selassie after his training and last visit to Ethiopia just prior to his eventual arrest.

“We know from the book by Fish Keitseng that ammunition was excavated and is reported to have been handed over to Joe Modise.

“Most sources, including Mandela himself, say it was buried at Lillie leaf, the secret headquarters of the ANC during the struggle. In my understanding the film crew never expected to find the gun but we know the gun passed through Lobatse.”

Last week crowds gathered at the Keitseng family’s compound and spoke in hushed tones about how ‘white people’ had come all the way from Britain to dig up the hidden Mandela treasure.

However, it later turned out the people were a crew from British film production company, Dearheart Productions doing preliminary research on a documentary film on the life of Nelson Mandela.

Production Manager, John Irvin, explained that their film “Mandela’s Gun” would be shot on location in Lobatse next month with a whole crew comprising international actors expected to converge on the dusty town.

South Africans were keen to turn the late Keitseng’s anti-apartheid transit and ‘safe house’ into a monument.

Historians say Keitseng and his family epitomise the part played by Batswana in South Africa’s liberation struggle during the apartheid era.

Several freedom fighters were hosted and sometimes nestled in this safe house en route to and from training camps and other strategic visits to the North – mostly Zambia.

Political leaders sheltered in the Safe House include Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, both who became presidents in independent South Africa.

February 2014
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