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History

 

The first copy of Kutlwano magazine rolled out of the printing press in 1962. A small dull-looking monthly which resembled a school newsletter sold for two-and-a-half cent was published by the Bechuanaland Government’s information branch in Lobatse, and printed by Mafikeng Mail (PTY) Ltd.

The only newpspaper that was read by Batswana at the time was Naledi Ya Batswana which was edited by Kgosi Lebotse and published in South Africa for the South Africans. Before then, there was Lobone Lwa Betswana, a quarterly journal which was published during the 1930s. At the time, there was virtually nothing that one could read about the then Bechuanaland from anywhere. In 1962, the Bechuanland Government set-up an Information Branch in Lobatse and employed Eainsley Gratwick to put out Press Releases and start a magazine for the government.

Under the leadership of Mr Gratwick, Kutlwano took up the difficult task of providing information about government policies and documenting the events leading to the country’s independence. In fact, the name Kutlwano, coined by Mr Daniel Mayisela, a messenger at the secretariat, headquarters of Bechuanaland Protectorate government in Mafikeng, described the mutual understanding which presumably existed between the colonial administrators and Batswana leaders during negotiations for independence in the early 1960s. The magazine became very popular judging from the number of people who wrote in, because it was the only thing of its kind. The only magazine that would tell you about Batswana!

The British news also dominated the magazine. It was another forum through which the colonial government informed the British administrators about the events in Bechuanaland. However, Kutlwano was popular among Setswana speakers because it made people realize that important events were happening in their region and their input was critical. The first editor, Gratwick also produced what was called Legco day-by-day. A daily newsletter which dealt with what was happening at Legislative Council in Lobatse, the magazine was also able to keep abreast of development within government. Mr Douglas Mooketsi helped the Editor to start Kutlwano as a reporter and translator.

When Naledi-Ya-Botswana ceased to exist in 1964, Kgosi Lebotse became Kutlwano’s new editor and under him, this magazine “for the people of Bechuanaland” as it was sometimes called, moved to Gaborone and was the only publication available to rally Batswana to vote for the first time on March, 1, 1965 in the lead up to independence. The other task was to educate Batswana on their important role in electing their government. Education of this nature was a necessity because involvement was new to Batswana. When Botswana eventually got its independence, Kutlwano was there to introduce the new cabinet to the people and later announced the retirement of Sir Peter Fawcus, the resident colonial government Representative who oversaw the transition from the British rule to self-determination.

During those early years of independence, the magazine enjoyed a monopoly on advertising for the new companies in Botswana at the time including Rhodesia Railways, Bechuanaland Book Centre (now Botswana Book Centre) and the Standard Bank Limited. Kutlwano also paved the way for the government newspaper, the DailyNews which was established in 1965. The protectorate government also started a radio station which became Radio Bechuanaland and took away some of the employees of Kutlwano including Mr Douglas Mooketsi. With the formation of radio and daily newspaper, the spotlight shifted away from the magazine and for the following 10 years or so, Kutlwano struggled to survive under the editorship of Mr Lebotse.

A shortage of skilled manpower hampered him. Many times the editor found himself on his own in the newsroom and he eventually was forced to publish at his own pace. But the magazine passed the test of time and in 1970s it became popular again, through a number of well-written profiles and columns by seasoned writers like Kgosi Lebotse, John Charles Ewing and Kgosinkwe Moesi who wrote under the byline of I.M Gakeope.

Kutlwano also provided Batswana with a platform to voice their complaints and to discuss controversial issues which affected their lives. In addition, the magazine played a big role in campaigning for the formation of private press. A good example of this effort could be found in a series of this effort could be found in a series of letters printed in August 1971 calling for the introduction of private newspapers. As a result of the healthy response from readers Mr Lebotse was smug enough to write in the July 1974 issue that the magazine “has striven to live up to its title – mutual understanding – through accurate and informative reports reflecting the month – to – month development of our various people in this young country”. and so he even went on to promise better things: ‘Kutlwano is now setting out to clarify this role. It is the magazine’s aim to reinforce the Batswana both in our culture and traditions and in our communal and individual development’.

Sure enough, the magazine continued to improve as it employed more and better qualified editors such as Paul Rantao, Dionesius Rabantheng and Kgosinkwe Moesi. These journalists also brought in a number of columns which became very popular. One such column was Gakeope’s Corner by Moesi. A relaxed, of-beat piece of writing depicting life among ordinary people! Kutlwano played an important role in grooming future journalists for the time when a private press could come into existence and needed them. When Lebotse eventually retired from his post sometime in 1970s, he was succeeded by a number of editors. These included John Charles Ewing, Paul Rantao, Dionysius Rabantheng, Kgosinkwe Moesi, Samuel Moribame, Batshani Ndaba, Russ Molosiwa and Mishingo Mpaphadzi.

The revival came about through a number of changes. When Moribame took over as editor in 1980, he introduced a pictorial centre-spread known as ‘Society in Action’ which was compiled by Icks Sabone. The introduction of Mmamalome column in 1989 under the editorship of Mr Russ Molosiwa increased the popularity of the magazine. Readers are also able to present their social problems with the hope of being assisted by Social Workers. In Setswana culture, Mmamalome, is the wife of an uncle, who is generally believed to be able to solve social problems affecting nephews and nieces.

Kutlwano also fostered young writers in its short story sections through which readers could submit their fiction to the magazine and received a small monetary compensation. Over the years, Kid’s Corner, the very popular cartoon, ‘Mabijo on the Move’ and ‘Matlhola-a-dibona’ gossip column were added by Mr Molosiwa. Under Molosiwa, the magazine became more national in scope with each issue carrying atleast one village profile depeicting the efforts of Batswana in developing their community. In this way, coverage included the common person, rather than only concentrating on the deeds and saying of the urban elite. Circulation was increased substantially from under 1000 copies per issue to the current 15 000 copies.

Since 1990, Kutlwano has also introduced colour within its pages. The magazine content has also been increased and a regular copy has 72 pages except for special edition with more pages. Currently the magazine is produced under the editorship of Mr Thomas Nkhoma with a team of qualified feature writers.

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