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By Kwapeng Modikwe
Recently, a small number of people of Mochudi took to social media responding to my opinion article headlined “Strange things happening in Mochudi” (Sunday Standard April 28). The response was a mixed bag. This is not surprising. It has been proved scientifically that people never respond uniformly to mass media messages because the society consists of people of different background.
Those who took to social media are Kabelo Moswetsi, his wife Mosire Moswetsi, Betty Phalaagae, Lebotse Kgope and MmaDombenase Mooketsi. Others reacted directly to the reporter. They are happy that the ills of Mochudi are finally being exposed. On the other hand, those who chose to go to social media feel stories appearing in newspapers about regiment meetings are unprecedented and therefore a departure from the norm.
I intend dealing with Betty Phalaagae at length. Before I do that, I must state that I admire a man called Kabelo Moswetsi. I have never interacted with him but I know him of being a level-headed man. In 2010, I was not at Molapong but I know there was a discussion on how to deal with certain bars which were identified as hot spot for unruliness. The tribal leadership was threatening to deal with them in a manner that would result with criminal investigations being carried out. Those attending were afraid to advise our Kgosi to the contrary. I am told that only Kabelo Moswetsi stood up and warned against the consequences of the route being contemplated. Fortunately Mochudi still had Kgosi Kgafela II. He usually listened to everybody’s advice and as such troubles were averted. Kabelo might have been sarcastic in his Facebook message, but he demonstrated maturity. Perhaps this is why he fits well at one of the country’s higher institution of learning where he works.
I was Kgosi Linchwe II’s confidante for 34 years. That period was not a whale of time. I used that association as a learning period. He too ensured that he imparted a lot in me. Whatever he imparted was not meant for my personal benefit. I understood it to be for the benefit of the people. This is what I am doing. During that time, he told me a lot about chieftainship matters. He even introduced me to several traditional leaders like Kgosi Lebone Molotlegi of Bafokeng, Kgosi Bathoen II of Bangwaketse, Kgosi Leapetswe Khama of Bangwato, Kgosi Seepapitso IV and Kgosi Monare of Batlokwa to learn more. For the benefit of those who don’t know, Kgosi Lebone stayed at Gaborone Sun for about three years after he had fled his country due to persecution by Lucas Mangope of Bophuthatswana in the mid-seventies.
During one of my visits to his hotel room, he lectured me on a wide range of issues concerning chieftainship. One of the things he discussed was how to protect the kgosi from getting into troubles. His view was that a kgosi as a human being, was not immune from making mistakes. He said a kgosi normally has people who accompany him on official or private visits. According to him, his associates should ensure that the kgosi avoids pitfalls by giving him proper advice. They should not just dance to the kgosi’s music. He said letting the kgosi get into troubles was dangerous because it would be very difficult to rescue him.
I interacted with Kgosi Bathoen when he was a member of parliament for Kanye. This is the view which he agreed with. He said the one year suspension that was imposed on Kgosi Seepapitso by government in 1973 came about because his son had no advisers. His travelling mates led him into temptation. He said “kgosi e tshwanetse ya gakololwa mme ga e sa amogele dikgakololo, e bo e felela e tsena mo mathateng, go tla a bo go tswa mo go yona ka e gana go gakololwa”.
Mochudi needs the calibre of people both Kgosi Lebone and Kgosi Bathoen were talking about. I played that significant role when I was with Kgosi Linchwe. I advised him accordingly. There were occasions when we differed. We disagreed to agree. Kgosi Linchwe enjoyed that difference of opinion. In some cases he would come back to where we usually met and say, “monnana...... I think you had a point. MmaSeingwaeng agrees with you”. In the process he entrusted me with tribal tasks which I performed to his satisfaction. Around June 27 in 2007, I was in Vienna, Austria attending Global Forum on Reinventing Government. Kgosi Linchwe called to ask when I was returning home. He did not want to leave for Johannesburg for an operation before seeing me. On my return, he gave me the task to perform in case he did not return home alive. I have since performed that task which for the time being, I am not ready to share with the public before sharing it with Kgosi Kgafela. But it was for the benefit of this tribe.
At the time when public flogging was at its peak in Mochudi, a very top government lawyer, Nchunga Nchunga shared the stage live on Botswana Television with Kgosi Sekai and another. The discussion was on public flogging. Nchunga explained the legal position on the subject and the consequences that were likely to follow if the law was not adhered to. Kgosi Sekai was unmoved. He said “mme ko go rona moretlwa o tsile go lla (despite the law, for us flogging is going to continue). Many Bakgatla who supported public flogging, congratulated our deputy kgosi for adopting that uncompromising and illegal position. But when he stood trial for the offence, they did not accompany him into the dock. They did not even contribute in kind to his legal costs which were very high considering a multiple of lawyers who appeared in his defence even though most of them withdrew either in the middle or at beginning of the trials. Poor Sekai. He had to fend for himself.
Had he not been misled by these gangsters who have now captured the tribal administration, he would perhaps have been offered free legal representation by the attorney generals’ chambers in his trial. As a government employee then, the attorney general chambers would probably have stepped in and argued that as a government employee, the offence he was alleged to have committed were committed while performing his official duties and therefore he was immune from prosecution because of the privilege he enjoyed. In Kanye around 1997. Kgosi Seepapitso had while addressing a kgotla meeting, angrily abused and uttered defamatory words directed at the district officer for Mabutsane who took offence to the kgosi’s utterances and sought legal recourse. The attorney generals’ champers represented Kgosi Seepapitso arguing that whatever he might have said at that meeting was privileged because the meeting was official. I am almost sure that had Sekai listened to Nchunga Nchunga, he would not have been in troubles.
Returning to Betty Phalaagae’s Facebook message, I have this to say; I have troubled all over the world as a member of the presidential press team and also in some cases representing Botswana at international conferences and seminars. The only region I have never been to is the Middle East but I overflew the turbulent countries of Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria during the Iran/Iraq war. At all the areas that I visited, not a single one of them had a school that specifically teaches how to tell the truth. In the courts of law in Botswana, when a witness is about to give evidence he is never asked if he has been to a school of truth. All that is put to him is whether he wants to swear or affirm. Having made the choice, the witness is told to “swear by God that the evidence I shall give to this court shall be the truth, the truth but nothing else. So help me God”. This informs me that you don’t have to go to school in order to learn not to lie.
Phalaagae’s message is long and pregnant with innuendo, lies and assumptions. To begin with, she claims that the writer of the article concerned had “hidden agenda, invents stories, and hides behind his finger” whatever that means. According to her, regimental meetings held at Molapong are never for public consumption, adding that “nna ke itse dikgang tse di public e le tsa ko kgotleng”. Somewhere in her message she says, “borangwane ba itse go re ga go na le mathata amongst them who and what should be done to bring peace”. If it were so why was it necessary for one of them to raise their problems at Molapong and send a team of regiment representatives to Moruleng to confront Ramono Linchwe? Was it necessary for a group of Madingwana to confront Kgosi Segale on April 18 with allegations they failed to substantiate? The allegations they put forward emanated from that March 16 infamous Molopong meeting.
I salute whoever leaked the Moruleng audio tape recordings to the public? He did a wonderful job. We in the journalism profession depend to a large extent on reliable sources in order for us to come up with scoops. Those tapes were an important source of my story. You see even if you try to make things secret in most cases journalists end up knowing about them. Even if a Kgosi can secretly visit the State House, or if Ian Khama holds a meet in Victoria Falls unannounced, journalists will ultimately know.
In the recent past, I made it clear that I write to inform, educate and entertain. Ms Phalaagae is one of those uninterested in learning from what I am offering. She is free to do that. The choice is hers. The good thing about using the media or social media is that you cannot be booed for taking a different view point. Make no mistake, future researchers on Bakgatla will find these articles useful to their work.
In this article I want to make it clear that journalists answer to the people. They are the people’s watchdogs. They are expected to expose wrongdoing where-ever it may occur. Recently, a delegation from one of the wards in Mochudi visited the local tribal administration offices to ask why a certain headman was redeployed to the main kgotla on promotion while theirs and others who were more qualified were ignored. The answer they got was not only shocking but it bordered on corruption. These are actions which should be exposed and if the need be, be reported to the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC). I have in the past turned a blind eye on certain questionable incidences happening in Mochudi. Some of those things would have led to possible conviction of the perpetrators if I had not turned a blind eye on them. This was journalistically wrong on my part. I sacrificed profession for loyalty to royal relatives. Journalists suppress information only if it is of serious national security.
Ms Phalaagae wants people to believe her version that discussions at Molapong regimental meetings are never for public consumption. But she does not support her version with facts. I do not expect her to write like a journalist. Similarly I do not expect her to follow the pattern used by elders when telling stories like “Gatwe erile, e le Tlhole le Mmutla” to children seated by the fire place. She must present a strong argument. What she has said in her Facebook page is nothing but wishful thinking. It is figment of the imagination. I am going to proof her wrong.
Here I start. In 1975, the first group of graduates of the initiation school under Kgosi Linchwe II arrived to a thunderous welcome by ululating and hand waving men, women and children at the kgotla in Mochudi. I invite Ms Phalaagae to visit the National Archives and Records Services in Gaborone and look for the July/August 1975 copy of the Botswana Daily News. It contains a poetic story about the arrival of the Masoso Regiment at the end of their regimentation period. The story was written by Kwapeng Modikwe who had arrived at Molapong in the company of Kgosi Linchwe as early as five o’clock in the morning specifically to cover the event. The intro is something like “Saturday was spectacular in Mochudi. It all started at Molapong/Kgogometsong before sunrise.” I would not have written that intro poetically if I had not been at Molapong that morning.
Twenty years later in 1995, during the Mochudi uprising known also as Segametsi riots, after an unruly mob had proved difficult to control at the kgotla, regiments assembled at Molapong to instil a semblance of sanity amongst themselves. That was at the request of Bishop Israel Motswasele of the Spiritual Healing Church. Interestingly, some people who are in the “Matlhoakgosi group” participated in the riots and used Sarafina film as teaching aid to counter riot police. They encouraged children to disrespect Kgosi Linchwe. After the Molapong meeting, attention was on female regiments at a place called Sethobong. The Daily News of that time is available at the National Archives and Records Services for anybody including Ms Phalaagae to see. The story carries my byline.
Unsurprisingly, Betty Phalaagae is doing what early psychologists and sociologists called selective retention. She conveniently avoids serious issues such as the threat to service delivery if Kgosi Sekai and his subordinates in the judiciary are not in talking terms. And she does not address the existence of two types of funerals in Mochudi, one for the ordinary man and another for the “war veterans”. This shows the type of people Mochudi has to contend with. What the silent majority of Mochudi wants is for someone to reunite the tribe. They are not concerned as to who that person is. Even if Kgosi Sekai could stand up to the challenge and show leadership qualities, they would be very happy.