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L.D. Raditladi and the federal party

Publishing Date : 05 June, 2018

JEFF RAMSAY
BUILDERS OF BOTSWANA


This week’s photo shows Leetile Disang Raditladi (1910-71) addressing a 1959 meeting of the Bechuanaland Protectorate Federal Party.  At the time Raditladi and his followers were concerned about negotiations to determine the nature of LEGCO, which they feared would be dominated by Europeans and Dikgosi aligned with Tshekedi Khama. The Federal Party also called for liberal democratic reforms at both the local and national level. Federalism was put forward as a means of achieving national unity among the merafe.


Other members of the party included several future national party founders, including Philip Matante, Archelaus Tsoebebe, and K.T. Motsete. While the party established branches in the Protectorate and among migrant workers in South Africa, its growth was stunted when Raditladi accepted the position of Subordinate African authority in Mahalapye.  The party was thereafter eclipsed by the rise of the Bechuanaland People’s Party and Bechuanaland Democratic Parties. 


A pioneering Setswana playwright, poet, and journalist as well as political activist, in 1937 Raditladi was exiled, following allegations that he had impregnated the wife of Tshekedi Khama and conspired with her to bewitch Tshekedi’s mother.  Thereafter he became an unbending critic of “chiefly autocracy.”


In 1938, he joined the civil service as a clerk and interpreter.  In 1944 Kgosi Moremi III requested his services in the Batawana tribal administration.  Following Moremi’s death his widow-cum –regent, Elizabeth Moremi, retained Leetile in office.  With her support, though much to the chagrin of local elite, Raditladi supported Wayeyi autonomy in 1948 while regularizing Batawana administration generally.  


In 1953, Raditladi moved to Francistown from where he helped found the Bamangwato National Congress as a pressure group for the then exiled Seretse Khama. In 1954, he revived the Bechuanaland Protectorate African Workers’ Union, and in the same year founded the Francistown African Cultural Organisation.  The latter served as a forum for educated township dwellers.  Following the return of Seretse Khama, Raditladi was finally allowed to move back to Serowe. 

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