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02 Sep 2019

By Kwapeng Modikwe

Monday (26th August 2019) was a busy day for Mochudi. Scores of people undertook the journey across the Notwane River for different reasons. The river runs through the village as it meanders on a journey which ends where it is swallowed by the Limpopo River some 150 kilometres east of Mochudi. Some people’s journey ended as far as Molefi Secondary School where the debate for Mochudi West parliamentary candidates was taking place. Others undertook the long journey to Rustenburg, South Africa to witness the release of the commission of enquiry report by the North West Premier. For Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela, both events were important. The debate at Molefi Secondary School was important in the sense that it will help constituents as they decide in choosing a political representative at Mochudi West during the forthcoming general elections. The Commission’s report was equally important for Bakgatla of Botswana in the sense that it reaffirmed Mochudi’s hegemonic control over Moruleng. Mochudi’s Bakgatla originated from Moruleng before settling in this country in 1871.

For the purpose of clarity, the starting point in this article will centre on the parliamentary debate which featured the incumbent, Gilbert Mangole of BMD, Mmusi Kgafela of the BDP, Tona Mooketsi of UDC, Steven Linchwe of AP and independent candidate, Mosweu Pilane. As expected, the issues surrounding construction of the hospital, Kgosi Kgafela’s relocation to South Africa and the reconstruction of the ten kilometre-long Mochudi/Malotwana road featured in the debate. The debate itself was electrifying with Mooketsi and Mangole openly exchanging heated remarks. It was clear that rivalry that exists between their parties is far from over. They exchanged heated debate on the issue of the hospital with Mooketsi telling electorates to forget about a new hospital for Mochudi because “it does not appear in the current national development plan”.

Mangole contradicted him explaining that as a member of parliament, he was present when parliament voted funds for the construction of the hospital and further that voters should take the cue from former President, Ian Khama Seretse Khama’s apology which he tendered at the Mochudi kgotla when he retired last year. Khama had admitted that parliament had voted funds for the construction of the hospital but the funds were later diverted to other areas. Mangole made it known that Mooketsi had been the council chairman but was later rejected by councillors as he was unfit to lead them.

An hour after the debate which ended at 9.00 pm, a voter sent this message to my cell phone number, “kgang ke eo ya moruthutha, Tona kanaMangole ke mang o maaka regarding DRM Hospital?” This was an interesting observation by the young and female voter who registered in the constituency. My response was like this “I have been a parliamentary news reporter for many years and as far as I am aware, the Committee of Supply cannot vote funds for a project which does not appear in the development plan, therefore Mangole is correct”. I continued, “I was present at the kgotla when Khama confirmed that funds had been allocated for the construction of the Mochudi hospital and made the apology on behalf of government”.

There were more harshly framed questions directed at Mmusi Kgafela by opposition supporters than to the rest of the candidates. The purpose was to dehumanise and degrade his esteem in the eyes of the public. He was more on the receiving ends that the rest of the candidates.  But that turned out to be a blessing in disguise for him because in the process he got sufficient time to present himself to the voters and put the political issues of Mooched in their perspective. Thinking that they were embarrassing Mmusi Kgafela, opposition supporters ended up giving him more time to market himself. Steve Linchwe of AP had to complain that he was being overlooked as questions were one sided.

For instance, he was asked to apologise to the Bakgatla for his role in the 2009 infamous public flogging of people by regiments to which he replied that he owed nobody an apology because he had had a problem with only one person and they have since reconciled. He was also asked to respond to accusations that the BDP were the ones who sent Kgosi Kgafela to exile and therefore they did not deserve to be elected, again Mmusi gave a carefully crafted answer to the satisfaction of his supporters and the undecided. The answer was that the official position given by Kgosi Kgafela was that he left Mochudi saying he was going to Moruleng to ensure the people’s properties were being safeguarded and that he would be there for six months. Anything to the contrary was gossip, he said.  The BNF and a section of Mangana have always been telling the people that “Kgosi Kgafela o kobilwe ke goromente” Mmusi said the political leadership of this country was not in favour of Kgafela being arrested anytime he arrived in Botswana. Looking at the type of questions directed at Mmusi, somebody else would have been vindictive faced with such embarrassing questions.

The way Mmusi handled questions did not only impress his supporters in Mochudi. A member of the Bangwato royals sent this message from Gaborone. “Nna ke tsaya a buile sentle le thaloganyoya go didimala ka mogololwe go fitlhela ba mo lebaganya le dipotso mabapi. He nka mo tshwantsha le ba kileng ba thophelwa go ya palamenteng e le ba bogosi ntheng tse dingwe tsa lefatshe go ne go iponatsa ge ba bone thopho ka baka la go tsalwa

For those who had travelled to South Africa for the release of the report of the commission of enquiry into among other things, the relationship between bogosi of Mochudi and that of Moruleng, it was jubilations. The long awaited report  favoured Kgosi Kgafela II as the commission reaffirmed his position as the Kgosi of both sections of the tribe and that the tradition and custom of the tribe was such that the Kgosi based in Mochudi could appoint and remove the kgosi in Moruleng since that position was not hereditary. Not only that, the commission also recommended that the present kgosi at Moruleng, Nyalala Pilane resign all the positions he holds within the tribe within 30 days. This clears the way for Kgafela to appoint a representative of his choice to rule the people of Moruleng on his behalf like the tradition of the tribe requires.

Kgafela’s victory had all along been expected. At least to those who have been following the history of the two sections of the tribe as well as the 1994 court case held at the High Court in Mafikeng and the subsequent appeal case at the Supreme Court in Bloemfontein where Kgosi Linchwe II prevailed over his uncle, Tidimane Pilane. Tidimane had taken the matter of chieftainship of Moruleng to court arguing that he was the kgosikgolo and should be succeeded by his son, Merafe Ramono upon his retirement. Kgosi Linchwe opposed Tidimane’s application arguing that the Moruleng chieftainship was not hereditary and that he remained the Kgosikgolo of both sections of the tribe in Botswana and South Africa.

But be warned! While it is nice to celebrate this time, people should however, reserve space for disappointment. The celebrations maybe short lived as the aggrieved party may take the enquiry report on review. If that happens, it will delay Kgosi Kgafela’s plans of installing a regent there if he had such plans.

Again the attitude of the tribe at Moruleng will determine their destiny. In the worst of things, the Moruleng people may decide to break away from Mochudi to become a separate and independent tribe. This is highly possible. But it happen only if the community is not happy with the commission’s recommendations and also if Kgosi Kgafela is unacceptable to them. In 1994, Moruleng people overwhelmingly declared their loyalty to Kgosi Linchwe and dismissed the thought of breaking away from Mochudi. Even though the community pledged their loyalty to Kgosi Linchwe, he did not rule out the possibility of a split within the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela empire occurring.

We were travelling from a meeting in Moruleng sometime in 1995 when Kgosi Linchwe, myself and his legal advisor, Sidney Pilane discussed the possibility of a split between Mochudi and Moruleng. Pilane even put it so bluntly saying that the relationship between Mochudi and Moruleng could last for as long as it was still Nyalala in control.  Recently, I made Kgosi Kgafela aware that by the time of his father’s death, he was more concerned about Moruleng more than anything else. He knew that after his death, the small group that was opposed to his leadership would regroup and pursue their bid to split. That group was lobbying for Moruleng to cease from being part of Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela. They wanted the people of Moruleng to become Bakgatla-ba- Tidimane. 

At that time, it was clear that Kgosi Tidimane and a few of his followers were hell-bent at breaking away from Mochudi’s control. These sentiments are still being expressed to-date. They are being fuelled by fears that Mochudi wants to reap from Moruleng’s mineral wealth without them getting anything from there in return. They have said in the past that Mochudi’s desire to be more closer to Moruleng than ever before was driven by greed than anything else. It is most likely that calls for breaking away from Mochudi will gain the momentum as Moruleng’s powerful groupings lobby each other in the aftermath of the commission’s report to join forces to fight the common enemy. The common enemy in this case is Mochudi. The success and failures of that bid will depend on the strength of Kgosi Kgafela in terms of the support he holds within the tribe. If he enjoys the support of the 32 villages that form Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela in Moruleng, he will prevail over his opponents. But, if not, it will be too bad. \As a lawyer, Kgafela has proved himself as a tough negotiator. What is not clear is how he would fare in handling a political problem which needs a political solution. The only thing left is to pray unto God to ensure that the split between Mochudi and Moruleng does not occur.

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