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26 Aug 2019

By Kwapeng Modikwe

Quiet often, journalists speak of scoop. The Oxford Dictionary describes the word scoop in journalistic terms as a piece of important or exciting news that is printed in one newspaper before other newspapers know about it. For example, the Sunday Standard newspaper broke the story about   recent meetings involving South Africa’s Motsepes, Motlantle and Molotlegi. Such meetings were wrongly or rightly seen as critical for the survival of Khama’s political life from Masisi’s total onslaught on the former president on the one hand and his associates on the other. The story was a scoop.

Scooping is not confined to competing media houses. Even journalists working for the same news organisation scoop each other. Way back in the seventies, at the time when the Daily News had nobody to compete with for scoops because it was the only newspaper in the country, its journalists competed among themselves. I was a cub reporter when Paul Rantao, Andrew Sesinyi, Keboeletse Nkarabang, Batshane Ndaba Samuel Moribame, you name them, competed for scoops amongst themselves. You would see them all on the phones asking their sources to give them tips. Besides that, their ears were always put to the ground hoping and expecting to get an exciting tip from their respective news sources. It was exciting and encouraging because they kept the newsroom alive. Andrew Sesinyi was the most daring. I can still vividly remember the sale of the Mafenyatlala Hotel in Molepolole and the story on Via Africa saying it was owned by the apartheid National Party as some of the scoops he came out with. For cub reporters it was a learning exercise. Nowadays, competition for scoops is stiff within newspapers.

Of late the nation has seen President Mokgweetsi Masisi scooping opposition parties by adding a new dimension on the Kgosi Kgafela II’s factor in politics. The Kgafela factor has been the opposition’s baby and it helped them win the two Mochudi constituencies in the last general elections. That time, they were very strong on it. They used it effectively even tough occasionally deliberately distorting facts on circumstances surrounding Kgafela’s relocation to South Africa. Yes there were other factors which played significant role as election issues, but in Mochudi, the Kgafela factor was more prominent than the General Ian Khama Seretse Khama scoring own goal. Khama’s own goal came in the form of the formation of the BMD and the prolonged strike by public sector unions after he had declared that even if they could strike for ten years, they would not get what they wanted.

After becoming the leader of the BDP, Khama who had struggled to adapt to a civilian life because he grew up in a military environment, thought he was instilling discipline in the party when he scored own goal. He met resistance from the party’s sufficiently educated elite who were able to interpret things better than him. His style of leadership therefore, collapsed the BDP which ended up securing a mere 46.7 percent in the elections, the worst in its history. Khama would have gone in history as the first BDP leader to lead the party to defeat had the BCP joined UDC at that time. 

Now Masisi is in-charge of the party. He is reinvigorating it. He appears to be living no stone unturned using everything that can bring the party’s fortunes back. In the process, he has caught opposition off guard by using the Kgafela factor against them. Whether they were still preparing to use the kgosi’s name to canvass for support this time like they did in the last elections, is not clear. What is clear is that Masisi is giving them the taste of their own medicine. They are the ones who started politicising the Kgafela factor. During the 2014 election campaign, they promised to bring Kgafela back home by March 31st the following year. To now turn around and say the other party should not politicise the issues affecting Bakgatla chieftainship is hypocrisy.

Masisi’s plan is to fill the vacuum in the Mochudi’s office of the tribal administration which has since been created by the departure of Kgosi Kgafela. In doing so, this president is not looking at anybody to fill the space other than “KK” himself. Is this not a wonderful try? Without Kgafela, this morafe has no dignity. The first time Masisi went public about the traditional leadership of the Bakgatla was at a BDP function in Gaborone. At that gathering he said he would not rest until Kgafela was back. The second time was at the recent BDP congress in Mochudi. People want Kgafela back. They express their wishes at various forums. If you go to the funerals, night vigils and wedding celebrations, you will hear ordinary people who have nothing to do with Mangana or Matlhoakgosi speak in favour of Kgafela’s return. Others express their wishes through social media platforms. This is an indication that the silent majority of Bakgatla embrace Masisi’s utterances.

Masisi is scheduled to visit Mochudi again on September 14 to launch Morena Mmusi Kgafela, the younger son of Kgosi Linchwe II and younger brother to Kgosi Kgafela. He is likely to reiterate the Kgafela issue. For him to be taken seriously by ordinary Bakgatla, he should go beyond expressing the desire to have Kgafela back in Botswana. This has been a statement of intend and it has been noted. This time, he should go beyond that by telling them how far he has gone in his bid since announcing it. It would be good if he announces that he has already made contact with Kgafela and presented his proposals to him.  In that way, the right thinking Mokgatla will know that even though Masisi did not give them details of the contact he has made, it followed that Kgafela may be considering the offer.

As a lawyer, Kgafela understands that withdrawal of criminal charges and the warrant of arrest can only be done by the court and not Masisi. He knows that if Masisi were to do that himself, he would be guilty of interfering on judicial matters. Likewise, Kgafela understands that matters of de-recognition which he is on record as saying they are “inconsequential” are the only ones where Masisi can lay his hands on.            

Tona Mooketsi, UDC parliamentary candidate for Mochudi West was the first to raise his opposition to Masisi’s “politicisation” of the Kgafela issue.   His objection is understandable. He is a politician and a candidate for that matter. He is aspiring to be a parliamentarian. Anything associated with Kgafela which appears to favour the BDP, puts him at a disadvantage. Therefore those who disagree with him and accuse him of hypocrisy should not judge him harshly. He is playing politics. A politician should always find ways of countering an opponent by all means possible. He is definitely not out of order.

What is mind-boggling is the behaviour of that section of Mangana which finds Assisi’s bid to persuade Kgafela to return to Botswana unacceptable to them. One wonders whether this is a political party hiding its real identity behind the regiment’s name or what. The way things stand; this group is a front for an opposition party. Their utterances are nothing but a statement of political solidarity.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, some of them recently made malignant form of communication in the media about the President. It is not difficult to know who they are. They gave interviews to the media stating that they believed that Masisi should come to their own backyard in Mochudi to dialogue on a number of issues besieging them and the tribal leadership. The article did not identify those issues besieging the Mangana and the tribal leadership. The reader was left to guess.

It is therefore reasonable to assume that such issues include the dropping of criminal charges, the withdrawal of the warrant of arrest against the Bakgatla Kgosi and the de-recognition issue. These are certainly not issues suitable for discussions at the kgotla where the size and complexity of the problem are never taken into account and where the right to speak is reserved for the members of the “Matlhoakgosi” and their supporters only. There is evidence to show that dissenting voices are not allowed at the kgotla under the present set-up.

Give Masisi space to talk to Kgafela without us interfering. He must come back to clear the mess taking place at the Mochudi kgotla where the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. It is open secret that the relationship between Sekai and Segale has deteriorated to a point where consultation on official matters is almost non- existent. These Mangana have done nothing to remedy the situation. Instead it appears they are the ones fueling it. Constant stream of visitors especially by the members of the “Matlhoakgosi” to the tribal administration offices for gossiping purposes is another thing which Kgafela can eradicate within minutes of his return.

Recently, a lady arrived at the offices of the tribal administration in Mochudi carrying documents which she needed signed by the Kgosi. She was denied service in a government department simply because she was wearing trousers in full view of members of the public who were there. The poor woman was so humiliated that she was left in disbelief. The only thing she could say was to ask those who witnessed the humiliation whether “this place is the only one where one can get help?”

It is either he who turned the woman away does not understand government systems or he is deliberately sabotaging government policies for political reasons. The ban on the wearing of trousers by women at work was lifted way back in the seventies when Phil Steenkamp was the permanent secretary to the president. Since then, this is permissible under general orders.

These things should be reported to the Director of Tribal Administration for action. Otherwise this ill-advised treatment of members of the public by people employed to serve them may spread to other areas especially the Kgatleng District. Similarly, the director should not just sit in the comfort of her office in Gaborone waiting for someone to lodge a formal complaint.

Newspapers serve as a link between the employer and employees. It is shameful that after 50 years of democracy, women are still subjected to stone- age practices. These things take place at a time when the thinking was that this country has won the struggle against all forms of discrimination against women.  We are in a global village and we must conform to the standard of civilisation of other nations. She must read the riot act. There used to an organisation called Emang Basadi. They must stand up and speak against traditional leaders in Mochudi who are guilty of discriminating against women. This is where Emang Basadi comes in if still in existence.

It may be that the kgosi who chases women wearing trousers away from government offices relies on culture for his action. Lawyers say “written law supersedes unwritten law”. So his actions are inexcusable.

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