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By Kwapeng Modikwe
Last November, the Sunday Standard newspaper, carried an opinion article under my byline on the role of a Kgosi’s brothers on chieftainship matters. The article was a sequel to utterances by a Mochudi group commonly known as the “Matlhoakgosi” to the effect that culture did not permit a kgosi’s brothers space on issues relating to bogosi. Quoting authorities on the subject, the article contradicted the “Matlhoakgosi’s” version. Somewhere in the body of the article, reference was made in passing to the effect that much of the “Matlhoakgosi’s” activities happened at the time Kgosi Sekai Linchwe was stuck in limbo after government had refused to employ him on contract following his retirement from the service due to compulsory retirement age of 60.
Following the publication of the article, I received overwhelming encouragement from readers, most of them spreading the gospel about it. It was clear from the feedback received that many had innocently believed the misleading version of the “Matlhoakgosi”. A journalist from the official media described the article as a scoop and wished it could have been carried out by them adding that, the good thing about it was that it was educative. That article was a masterpiece. It relied heavily on Professor Isaac Schapera’s hand book of Tswana Law and Custom. In the book, Schapera discusses among other things the role of a Kgosi’s brothers and uncles on chieftainship matters. He concludes that the Kgosi’s brothers are pillars of the kgosi. Without them, the kgosi’s leadership becomes weak. The contents of that book were not imagined. The book was based on interactions with the likes of Kgosi Isang. Schapera’s works have been in some cases, used as reference point to assist courts in South Africa and Botswana. In South Africa, it was cited as reference point in the case of Tidimane Pilane versus Kgosi Linchwe II at the High Court in Mafikeng. In Botswana Pandu Skelemani relied on that book when he argued Kgosi Kgari’s case against his uncles who had claimed the Bakwena’s bogosi. So if there is anybody who wants to challenge Schapera’s work 85 years later, that individual should be armed to the teeth. He must consider himself exceptionally good.
On the contrary, Kgosi Sekai was unimpressed by that article. Perhaps all his lieutenants in the regiment were not pleased as well. He expressed his displeasure about the article at a kgotla meeting in Mochudi in December claiming that the article was “full of lies” and that the reporter should stop writing about him without his consent. He repeatedly appealed to his audience to warn the writer of the said opinion article to stop doing that.
Sekai was mentioned in one sentence in that article. The sentence reads, “Again when Deputy Kgosi, Sekai Linchwe’s life seemed stuck in limbo following government’s refusal to hire him on contract after he retired due to compulsory retirement age of 60, some blamed them claiming that the royal brothers were eying the positions of Kgosi and deputy”. It is not very clear where Sekai’s problem with the article centres. Since he has used the phrases to “stop writing lies about him and “stop writing about him without his consent”, it is reasonable to conclude that he was specifically worried about the mention of him in the article. This is the only area of the story he can try to dispute and not the entire story because he is not qualified to question Schapera’s work.
However, a closer look at what Sekai sees as “offending” in that article will reveal that instead, the article put him in a more positive light. It exonerated him from any blame regarding malicious and unwarranted attack by the “Matlhoakgosi” group on Kgosi Kgafela’s brothers because he was out of the scene at the time and could not have been a participant. What was said about him in that short sentence is a fact. It was lifted from his speech of 6th July, 2013 at the Mochudi kgotla. An audio tape recording of him and its transcript are available. He can be heard saying, “ jaanong ne ke re ke le bolelle go re erile mo matsatsing a a fetileng, January a simologa ka kwala mokwalo ka re ke tla a bo ke digela 60 years ka di 17 tsa kgwedi yona e re leng mo go yona e. Mme ka thulaganyo ya tsamaiso ya puso, ga o tshwara 60 years go a twe o ka bereka mme o bereka ka konteraka e o e nchefatsa ngwaga tse tlhano tse dingwe le tse dingwe. Ke sa le ke kwala ka di 15 tsa January, banna ba, ba bo ba sa mphetole mme ebile ga go a tlwaelesega go re ga motho a kwala, a tsewe nako e e kalo”. (I thought I should brief you that I have written to the government informing them that I will be reaching the age of 60 on the 17th of this month and that I will be retiring. Consequently I applied for employment on renewable contract but these men have since not replied. It is unusual for them to take such a long time without replying).
On the strength of that audio tape recording, the writer of the “offending” opinion article states that he stands by his article. However, he awaits he who has a different version of the July 2013 audio tape recordings of the proceedings of that meeting which Sekai addressed to submit them so that corrective measures could be taken and close the issue. Similarly, the writer wants it known that, as a professional journalist, he writes objectively without intent to diminish. Admittedly, factual mistakes may occur in the course of his work and if such mistakes are pointed out to him, he is always ready to correct and apologise. The motive of his writing is driven mainly by the desire to inform, educate and entertain. In fact he is a product of a media house whose motto is to inform and educate. He welcomes advice from anybody but he will decline it if such advice on journalism ethics comes from non professionals on the field, especially from those non professionals who do not seem to care about their limitations. In communication theories we learn that if your fields of experience do not overlap, you cannot engage in a meaningful discussion. Thus any attempt to try to engage Sekai on journalistic ethics will not bear fruits.
Again, Kgosi Sekai is a public figure and he should learn to accept that whatever he says or does attracts the attention of the public. More importantly, he should know that he is personally responsible for his own history-making. If he wants it look positive or negative it is entirely up to him. Upon writing stories that concern him, there may be occasions where his comment may be needed and there may be times where background material will be sufficient to the story being told. For instance, in the yet to be published book, provisionally titled, “Chieftainship is my Birthright”, Kgosi Sekai’s conduct during the initiation of the Malomakgomo in 1980 and the initial reaction of Kgosi Linchwe II and that of the headman of Morema Ward, Moreme Rammala, have seen the light of the day, but not out of malice. That incident revealed the other side of Kgosi Linchwe to those who had not known his demeanour fully. It had been provoked by Sekai’s unprecedented action.
The subject of the envisaged book is Kgosi Linchwe but when piecing it together, it is difficult to ignore Masoso and Malomakgomo Regiments. The significant of the Masoso is the rejection of the choice of a leader while that of Malomakgomo is the leader’s disappearance. Many people among them non-royals and royals such as Sekai’s father’s leadership style at some villages outside Mochudi and his entire life may be covered in the book. This is history. It cannot be modified. He who has been convicted of murder, rape etc will always remain a convict and those who have excelled will always be viewed like that. France’s Napoleon Bonapate will always remain a dictator while Nelson Mandela remains a liberator.
If I were an advisor to Sekai, I would impress upon him to adjust a little and begin to see things in the positive light rather than always in the negative. I would also encourage him to read extensively. Since the Mascom and public flogging trials, Bakgatla have remained a divided morafe. His handlers should therefore, help draw up the agenda for him. The agenda should include items on reconciliation and nation building. It is very important for the morafe to reunite and regain its lost glory and move forward. The one thing good about him is that by Mochudi standard, he is a very good public speaker and has the voice that captures the ears of everybody whenever he speaks.
By the way, there is yet another interesting piece of article appearing in the recent Sunday Standard’s sister newspaper, The Telegraph. This one keeps on cropping up from time to time. The story is about the absence of Bakgatla in the Ntlo Ya Dikgosi and the campaign to admit Sekai into the Ntlo Ya Dikgosi. This time the story emanated from Ntlo Ya Dikgosi where Kgosi Galeakanye Modise of the Tswapong region is being quoted as having said “this matter has been in the public domain for a long time. We wonder what is delaying the State to brief us on the matter”. Kgosi Galeakanye is also quoted as having expressed the wish that deputy kgosi, “Sekai Linchwe could be automatically thrust into the House like scores of members” of traditional leaders to represent Bakgatla.
The Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Mrs Botlogile Tshireletso responded in this manner, “the missing of one member of the Ntlo Ya Dikgosi does not collapse the operations of the House”. She added, “in fact the House never collapsed on its whole existence owing to a shortage of one member to form a quorum”. The tone of her response sounds more like an expression of anger or impatience on the part of her ministry. But why would they be impatient? Perhaps because the matter has been explained over and over again to the Bakgatla and the morafe has shown no interest in becoming a member the Ntlo Ya Dikgosi. It was around 2008 when the issue of representation in the House was first discussed. Kgosi Kgafela II had just been installed when he made it clear that he would not be a government employee but would be a member of the Ntlo Ya Dikgosi. This is where matters came to a standstill because the law as it was explained by Minister Margaret Nasha and Attorney General Attalia Molokomme, did not condone such an arrangement. Bakgatla rallied behind their Kgosi agreeing that it was better for them not to be represented in the House if what their Kgosi wished was not granted. Some had even demanded that the law be twisted to accommodate the wishes of their Kgosi. Since that time, it has been a deadlock with the morafe on the one hand showing no interest in becoming a member and on the other hand, the government quietly being a spectator.
It would appear that after voicing out her displeasure, Minister Tshireletso regained her composure as she began detailing the legal requirements for a person like Sekai to be a member. Currently, she said, Sekai is Mothusa Kgosi (deputy) having been appointed in accordance with Section 10 of the Bogosi Act. His position does not qualify him automatic membership or representation into Ntlo Ya Dikgosi. Were he a Motshwarelela Kgosi (regent), Sekai would be a member of the Ntlo Ya Dikgosi because he would be exercising all the duties of a Kgosi.
It is not surprising for the issue to have been raised in the Ntlo Ya Dikgosi. Lobbyists from Mochudi are up and down canvassing for the elevation of Sekai from current position to that of regent. Once that has been archived, he will be assured of automatic membership of the Ntlo Ya Dikgosi. These lobbyists consisting of four headmen have been frequenting Government Enclave making their case. Fortunately or unfortunately, they have returned empty handed.
But why would people engage mercenaries to achieve an objective? Perhaps it is because they have decided not to take the normal route. The normal route in this case would be to involve the most senior among the uncles of the Kgosi with a suggestion. The senior uncle, who in this case happens to be Kgosi Mothibe, would then invite the Kgosi’s brothers and later the junior uncles to interrogate the idea. Mothibe would then approach Kgafela and sell the idea to him. Whatever Kgafele decides after examining the idea, would be final whether he accepted or rejected. However, his word can only be reviewed by the morafe gathered at a kgotla. Kgafela has long made it public that “ga ke tshwarellwe” - meaning that there would be no regent in Mochudi during his reign. In the event of Kgafela changing his mind and agreeing to appoint Sekai a regent, Mothibe would still be the ideal route to convey that to the employing authority, the Government. This is so because currently Kgafela remains derecognised by the Government. The effect of derecognition is that he cannot talk directly to government even if he wished. The Government also cannot. While Mochudi’s external leadership appears comfortable with Mothibe, some among the internal leadership shun him because of egotism.
Kgafela has been away for a very long time. His people need him back. He should consider their plea for him to come back home and stay amongst them. There are people at home who are willing to help him if there are legal obstacles on his way. In the meantime, the need for someone to represent them in the Ntlo Ya Dikgosi cannot be over emphasised. Whether that individual can be Sekai or somebody else it will not matter for as long as the appointee has Kgafela’s blessing. So “Maatlhoakgosi” wake up and ensure Kgafela’s authority is not undermined by greedy people.