A combination of truth, fiction and contradictions

19 Aug 2019

By Kwapeng Modikwe

In the recent past, some local newspapers carried stories about a certain man called Naledi Mosiga of Moshupa claiming the chieftainship of both the Kgafela and the Mmanaana Kgatla. Before dealing with the issue, it may be helpful to briefly discuss the origin of the Bakgatla as captured in the history books and also orally passed to us by our grand grandparents. There are five groups of tribes called Bakgatla. These are the baMosetlha, baKgafela, baMmakau, baMocha and baMmanaana. History shows that all these tribes were at one stage under one roof. The founder was Kgosi Kgatla, after whom they were named. After the leadership of Kgatla, Malekeleke succeeded. He was succeeded by Botlolo who had two sons, Mogale and Tabane. The first split within the Bakgatla occurred under Mogale’s rule with Tabane moving away with a section of the tribe. Mogale was succeeded by his son, Matshego.

Now back to Mosiga’s story. This is a somewhat running story. It refuses to die. It keeps on cropping up in the Botswana Guardian and its sister newspaper, the Sun. It was first published in the Botswana Guardian in September 2015 under the heading “Mosiga stakes claim to the baKgatla throne”. The newspaper reported Mosiga as laying claims to the chieftainship of both the Kgafela and Mmanaana Kgatla stating that he is the rightful heir of all Bakgatla in Botswana and South Africa.  Three years down the line, at the time when those who had been monitoring the event had thought it was over, the Sun newspaper carried a follow-up story at the end of May headlined, “Kgafela Won’t Return”. The message was the same except that the latest outburst was addressed to President Mokgweetsi Masisi urging him to address Mosiga’s concerns. 

But who is this Mosiga? He is said to be the son of Motshubelwe who is the son of Mosiga Molefi, a descendant of Kgosi Kgatla who is the son of Kgosi Matshego. Kgatla was said to be the elder brother to Kgafela, Kau and Mocha and a younger brother of Mosetlha.

The Mosiga’s story is both irritating and annoying. It is a combination of truth, contradictions and fiction if one looks deeper into the history of the Bakgatla. In doing so, I will rely heavily on a few authors to punch holes into Mosiga’s version and later show that some of the people who back his story cannot be relied upon. Their version should be received with a pinch of salt. I will begin with Professor Isaac Schapera, an anthropologist who has written extensively about Bakgatla and other tribes of Bechuanaland at the beginning of the 1930s. In July 1942, he wrote “A Short History of The Bakgatla-baga Kgafela of Bechuanaland Protectorate”, and made no mention of a human being called Kgatla among the sons and daughters of Kgosi Matshego. Schapera states, “on the death of Matshego, there was a dispute about the succession to the chieftainship. Some of the people wanted Mosetlha to succeed since she was the child of the great house. The others refused to be ruled by a woman, and said that Kgafela should become chief for he was the senior son”.  But Mosiga disputes this claiming that there was Kgatla who was senior to Kgafela. He cites no sources of his information.

There is our own, Professor Christian Makgala, author of the book, “History of the Bakgatla-baga-Kgafela In Botswana and South Africa”. He also makes no mention of a man called Kgatla in any of Matshego’s houses. He only mentions Mosetlha as from Matshego’s great wife and Kgafela being the eldest in the junior house.

In the book, “History of Botswana” by Professor Thomas Tlou and Alec Campbell there is still no mention of an animal called Mokgatla in the house of Kgosi Matshego. They state, “Matshego, the son of Mogale, died about 1650 leaving a daughter in the first house and a son in the second. Some Bakgatla followed the daughter, Mosetlha, while others followed the son, Kgafela.”  If there was Mosiga’s Kgatla in existence, why was he overlooked?

In South Africa, there is a man called Jacob Mohlamme. He was professor of history at Vista University, Soweto campus. He had  graduated at the University of South Africa (UNISA) with BA honours in history plus Master of Arts in African history, the degree having been conferred upon him by the University of Wisconsin, USA. He also has degree of doctor of philosophy in African history. In his affidavit in the High Court in Mmabatho, during the Kgosi Linchwe II/ Tidimane Pilane’s case over the chieftainship of Moruleng in South Africa; this is what he had to say on matters of chieftainship, “succession to the chieftainship of the tribe is hereditary in the male line, that the eldest of a monogamous marriage is the lawful successor and that no person can succeed to such chieftainship.”

The question is where Mosiga’s Kgatla falls if all history writers make no mention of him. He remains fictitious. If he ever existed and was Kgosi Matshego’s biological son, perhaps he was born outside marriage. In a situation such as that, he would not have been taken seriously by the tribe. He was not the son of a monogamous marriage. Even in Mochudi there are such people who are Kgosi Molefi’s biological sons but because their mothers were not married to the kgosi, they have never attempted to lay claims to the tribe’s chieftainship. They know that even if they have royal blood, it does not entitle them to receive royal treatment.

The Mosiga’s story makes an interesting if  annoying reading. It claims that in August 2004, Kgosi Linchwe II addressed a kgotla meeting in Mochudi telling his people that he had been instructed to  go and look for a man called Mosiga from Kgatla’s lineage in Moshupa and once found, he should be installed as chief so that he could perform his tribal duties as the King of all Bakgatla. In other words, Kgosi Linchwe was abdicating his chieftainship responsibilities to Mosiga since he was the rightful kgosi of Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela and not him.  Furthermore, it is claimed that at that meeting, Linchwe admitted that “all the power of the tribe in Botswana and South Africa is invested into Mosiga as the rightful kgosikgolo of Bakgatla tribe”. Funny enough, Mosiga allegedly attended that meeting in Mochudi without Linchwe knowing. Would Kgosi Linchwe make such a declaration without having consulted extensively with the royal house, his uncles, his people as well as the Mmanaana Kgatla? Linchwe would certainly not do that.

Mosiga’s story enjoys the support of a Moatshe Dintwe, referred into the story as “a prominent” Mokgatla.  He is quoted as having said he recalled that kgotla meeting of 2004 and confirmed that it was true Linchwe made those remarks. The newspaper states, that “in fact”  Moatshe Dintwe was summoned to Washington DC by Kgosi Seepapitso IV in 2004 while he was still ambassador of Botswana to the United States to give him an urgent message. Dintwe is quoted as saying, “when I arrived in Washington, Kgosi Seepapitso told me that I should look for a man called Mosiga of Kgatla in Moshupa and ensure that he meets Kgosi Mmusi Pilane before he dies because he has a message for him”.  Kgosi Mmusi was said to be having “something” which Bakgatla should not lose at any cost and that only Mosiga should hear that thing from Mmusi. Mosiga ultimately visited Kgosi Mmusi at his home in Mochudi to receive the important message. Interesting things happened during that visit. When Mosiga and Kgosi Mmusi shook hands in salutation, it is claimed, “the skies thundered and rain came falling down”. At that time, by strange coincidence, Dintwe who had been unwell and worried that Kgosi Mmusi would die before meeting with Mosiga, arrived unaware that Mmusi was with Mosiga.  

The story leaves so many questions unanswered. It does not say how Kgosi Seepapitso came to know that Kgosi Mmusi had “something” important to say to Mosiga and why he had not discussed that thing with his friend, Kgosi Linchwe. It does not say who was responsible for Dintwe’s travelling costs to the US since that was a private matter. Even if he had wished, government machinery would not allow Kgosi Seepapitse the use of state funds to buy Dintwe a ticket. The next question is, did Dintwe travel to the US around that time or is he just making up a story to attract public attention? The answer is, yes he travelled to the US but the trip had nothing to do with Kgosi Seepapitso. He went there at the invitation of his sister who was a staff member of the Botswana mission in Washington DC. She has since retired from the public service.

By that time Kgosi Seepapitso was no longer in the US. He was in China having transferred there in 2002 at the time the Botswana diamonds were in danger of being classified as “blood diamonds”. He swapped with Ambassador Alfred Dube who had been in China.  In April 2003, I was the Bureau Chief in Kanye. I telephoned Kgosi Seepapitso in China from my office talking about his brother, Kgosi Seatla who had just died. He told me that he was planning to come but the problem was the outbreak of a killer disease called severe acute respiratory syndrome(SARS) which had caused the closure of several airports. I was in Japan with President Festus Mogae at the time of the outbreak of the disease but we returned home before the closure of several airports. To ascertain the correctness of my version about Kgosi’s Seepapitso’s whereabouts in 2003, a register of telephone calls called trunck call register, can be visited at the Kanye BOPA office by anybody who is in doubt.

Similarly, in his weekly column in the Weekend Post, Ndulamo Anthony Morima wrote an article, “Remembering the unwanted Kgosi Seepapitso IV” in 2016 stating that the Bangwaketse kgosi was Botswana’s  ambassador to the United States from May 2000 to August 2002. He was in China from September 2002 to July 2003. Kgosi Seepapitso would normally not have concealed that information to me.  He had been briefed by Kgosi Linchwe that I was not a bad person and that he should trust me, hence me and him used to discuss confidential matters.

For instance I was one of the first people he confided with when he was about to remarry Mohumagadi Neo, Weno’s mother shortly before they left for the US. I was also the first person he told about his opposition to the intended relocation of some wards in the village to give way for developments. Peter Siele was the chairman of the council and I encouraged him to attend the last kgotla meeting Kgosi was to address before his departure. Without being specific, I told Siele that it was in the “interest of the council to hear” what Kgosi Seepapitso was going to say. 

The Mosiga  story in the Sun newspaper, apparently alarmed some people in Mochudi the day it appeared, but they did nothing except to circulate it in their WhatsApp and Facebook pages. For no apparent reasons, the “Matlhoakgosi” group (chief’s eyes) also did nothing to put the issue raised by Mosiga in its historical content.