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26 May 2019

By Kwapeng Modikwe

Shortly after lunch on Monday, while watching the Jacob Zuma corruption trial on a South African television channel, my cell phone signalled an incoming message.  I ignored it for a while because the lawyer representing Zuma was making an important and interesting legal point and I wanted to follow his argument on that point to its logical conclusion. When I was studying theories of mass communications, my lecturer, Professor Tafataona Mahoso told me that, such a signal which came in when I was deeply concentrating on something I did not want to lose track of, is called channel noise. It is like when one is watching a football match on TV and somebody knocks at the door when there is a goal melee at the opposition goalmouth, you cannot open the door for the visitor until that ball has been cleared away or has been scored. This is also channel noise.

The sound button continuously indicated presence of unread message in my phone. So when I grabbed the phone to read the message on my whatsapp page, I found out that it was an audio clip. It did not have caption. The spoken words were as follows “a lot of tribal leaders were not happy with us. One of them is in South Africa, Kgabo. And you know our country is not complete if our chiefs are away, that we must accept. I will not rest until Kgafela is back home. I will not, I will not. And we will do everything we can at the pace that is permissible to try and get him back home. At least he must accept that this is his first home”.  I recognised the voice as that of His Excellency, President Mokgweetsi Masisi. I started trembling with euphoria. More messages from some Bakgatla poured into my whatsapp page. “Kgabo, have you received Mmanaana’s audio clip, if so, what do you think about it”, asked one sender? Mmanaana refers to the President who is a member of the Mmanaana Kgatla.  “We can now look forward with optimism”, said another. Another simply wanted to know if I had received it so that he could forward it to me if I hadn’t. I understood that some of these messages were actually an invitation to me to comment as I usually do. I had planned to go to the cattle post the following morning. Because I did not want to disappoint people who enjoy reading my articles, I delayed my departure to a later date in order to write this piece because in my view it was by popular demand that a comment in a newspaper as was necessary. I also took the view that it was nicer to comment on Masisi’s pronouncements when it was still fresh in the minds of people.

Masisi’s words are those most of us who are further-up with the capture of the tribal administration by a small click of people calling themselves “Matlhoakgosi” have been waiting for. Hopes of Kgafela’s return were first raised in 2017 when Rre Slumber Tsogwane told Bakgatla in a kgotla meeting in Mochudi that “Kgosi Kgafela o kwaletse tautona lekwalo mme ebile tautona o re boleletse re le matona a gagwe go re  e tla a re mo malatsing a a tlang a fetole lekwalo la ga Kgosi” mme ga ke ka ke ka lebolelela go re Kgosi o ne a kwadile a reng ka go re ga se se ke se romilweng fano gompieno”. Tsogwane’s words left many pondering as to whether the return of Kgafela was in the horizon. Since then nothing has been heard publicly concerning exchange of those correspondences. Now that Masisi has made a public pronouncement on this issue, there is no reason to doubt that sooner or later, we will be with our Kgosi in Mochudi not in Moruleng. 

But it seems that after playing a leading role in persuading government to offer Sekai Linchwe a job as deputy kgosi on contract, for the group that was so vocal, it has now become the issue of  mission having been accomplished. Before then, the fate of Sekai and that of Kgosi Kgafela were intertwined. They no longer see the need for Kgosi Kgafela’s return. There is no longer mention or a call for the withdrawal of the warrant of arrest that was issued against Kgafela. They are no longer occupied with the thought of calling for the dropping of criminal charges against our Kgosi. They are quiet on these issues because they want to continue as his “eyes and ears” indefinitely. Maybe this is for their political advantage. That’s it. They are not making noise as they did before also because they benefit immensely from his absence politically or otherwise. It may be that his return will interrupt their harvest time. They are now like a dormant volcano.

Three weeks ago, a Mokgatla man who has the interest of Kgosi Kgafela at heart, spoke to me about the need for the Kgosi to come back home. The man I am talking about is Monty Letshwiti. I am mentioning him because I dislike writing stories which have unnamed sources. People tend to regard such stories as lies. He appears genuinely concerned about Kgosi Kgafela’s absence from home. If I understood him very well, he has made an attempt in trying to make the climate conducive for the Kgosi’s return. He wanted to rope me in with a view to adding spice to his efforts. I declined for the time being on the grounds that he must approach Kgosi Kgafela first to find out from him if he embraces the idea. I said should Kgosi show interest, I will participate because after-all the plan falls within the scope of what Kgosi Linchwe II asked me to do.

Should Kgosi Kgafela come back, expectation is that divisions among the people will cease and the kgotla will see more people coming to it for meetings. Presently, many people stay away from kgotla meetings. Others go there only if meetings are addressed by government ministers or officials. The Mochudi kgotla used to be a dignified place. But of late, it resembles the ruins. The fact that both Kgosi Linchwe I and Kgosi Molefi were buried inside the kgotla kraal, no longer has impact on passersby nowadays.

After listening to the audio clips to hear what Rre Masisi, affectionately called Sis Boy said at a BDP meeting in Gaborone on Saturday and having seen the headline, “Masisi wants Kgafela back” in the Patriot online , I have come to the conclusion that the Monty Letshwiti plan has been rendered redundant. It was a brilliant idea but Masisi’s word carries more weight more than anything else in this episode. Masisi is trying to do what that man in Serowe whose government de-recognised Kgosi Kgafela has failed to do. In de-recognising Kgosi Kgafela, Khama’s administration acted within the law but contravened the long standing established tradition in dealing with matters whose intention is to reprimand a kgosi.

For instance, when Kgosi Neal Sechele of Bakwena was seen by government as a problem, Englishman Kgabo went to Molepolole to address Bakwena before taking action as minister of Local Government and Lands. Again when Kebatlamang Morake had an issue with Kgosi Seepapitso at the beginning of the seventies, he consulted Bangwaketse at the kgotla in Kanye. Lesedi Mothibamele was following that tradition when he came to Mochudi in 1985 to reprimand Kgosi Linchwe at the kgotla. I travelled to Kanye in the late eighties with Patrick Balopi when he had gone there to reprimand Kgosi Seepapitso.

In the case of Kgosi Kgafela, that tradition was not followed. It was simply ignored. Even the royal uncles were not consulted privately. De-recognition was irrational although Kgafela said at that time that it was inconsequential. This is why the decision has become so unpopular among the people of Mochudi. Those who insist on always providing sensible case if you want other people to take you serious, feel Masisi is doing a commendable job and must be supported, not only in the Kgafela issue but in everything that he is doing for Botswana.  If Kgafela has made up his mind that South Africa is now his permanent home, he should however, be made easier for him to visit his people, mother and sister, brothers and the in laws at Kalamare without fear of getting arrested.

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