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Two opinion articles by retired radio personality, Mogatusi Kwapa; one in The Telegraph (April 3rd) and another in the Sunday Standard (April 7th) provide a hint of the undercurrents which have been going on among royal uncles in Mochudi . The worst thing is that these undercurrents are beginning to play themselves out in the public space. Had he wished, he would have gone deeper in his stunning revelations, he is in procession of audio tape recordings of a meeting which took place at Moruleng on March 24 between representatives of Mangana regiment and Morena Ramono Linchwe who is Kgosi Kgafela’s senior uncle in exile. The delegation conveyed to him the wishes of the Deputy Chief Sekai Linchwe without necessarily saying so. But the whole thing they said was about Sekai versus the rest of the royal uncles with whom he is not in talking terms.
Kwapa’s revelations are frightening. He mentions a member of the Mangana who it appears has violent tendencies to the extent that he at one stage threatened others with violence in full view of the public. More disturbing is that, the particular individual appears deriving pleasure from his alleged previous murder case. One can only say that the individual’s conduct is unfortunate.
Prior to Moruleng visit, Sekai had a meeting with regiments at the secluded Molapong/Kgogometsong around March 16. That is where regiments assemble upon return from the initiation in the bush to complete the ritual before dispersing at the kgotla. It is also where regiments assemble when there is something extraordinary the Kgosi wants it discussed privately. Traditionally, decisions reached there are not binding on the morafe. If the intention is to make them a tribal issue, the resolution is presented to the morafe assembled at the Kgotla for it to be interrogated and adopted. It would be a travesty of culture if anyone was to claim that a decision taken at the March 16 meeting and conveyed straight from there to Moruleng represented the position of Bakgatla in Mochudi. As it stands, it is a regimental resolution with no bearing on the morafe.
The message the Mangana Regiment conveyed to Ramono on behalf of Sekai was about Kgosi Mothibe, Kgosi Segale and Mogatusi Kwapa. They say Mothibe should no longer introduce Kgosi Kgafela II at any gathering. That role should be the monopoly of Sekai. They argue that proximity to Kgafela during meetings should also be the monopoly of Sekai. Furthermore, they are suspicious about Segale’s private visits to Moruleng. They want such private visits to be undertaken with the knowledge and approval of Sekai. They are concerned that Kwapa is occasionally assigned to be motsamaisa tiro at meetings in Moruleng. They say this should come to an end because Kwapa does not associate with them in Mochudi. In fact they have demanded that programmes for Kgafela’s engagements be drawn in Mochudi by Sekai. Their problem with Mothibe is that he is not in their clique and never attends Sekai’s meetings.
This type of thinking is either amateurish or childish. Just imagine Segale having to seek permission from Sekai to visit relatives in Moruleng or Mokgalwaneng. Just imagine Mothibe being accused of not attending meetings he knows nothing about. Anyway this clique who has captured the tribal administration sees nothing silly about this. This is why Mochudi now has two types of funerals. The first type is that of those who are said to have been in the struggle for Sekai’s bid to secure government employment contract (the king-makers). The second type is that of the “ordinary man” who has got nothing to do with tribal politics. The king-makers are seen as “true sons of the soil”. Those who did not engage in the struggle are discriminated against even if they have been to the initiation school. The “sons of the soil” funerals are always punctuated by chanting of regimental songs. Michelle Obama would characterise this as “them versus us”.
Strange enough, the Molapong meeting was selective in its approach to the problems currently bedevilling Mochudi . It did not discuss the relationship between Sekai and the staff of the judiciary at the Mochudi kgotla which is at its lowest ebb. Deterioration of working relationship between the boss and his subordinates is counterproductive, considering the fact that the core business of the tribal administration is judicial case management. This function is what was left for the tribal administration when the Republican Constitution came into being. Can this case management system be attained when subordinates are being sidelined and are almost not in talking terms with the boss and when the boss has been captured by regiments? This needs the attention of the Director of Tribal Administration.
This supervisor-supervised confrontation played itself in the open recently when a kgotla meeting had to be delayed while Kgosi Segale was being persuaded from his office to go and attend. He had stayed away deliberately because Sekai had not formally informed him of it. Not him only. Kgosi Modise Pilane was also unaware of it. Headmen, Ivor Kgamanyana and Kgabotshwene Kgamanyana succeeded in bringing Segale to the kgotla that day. By staying away, Segale wanted to demonstrate that enough was enough and also that he is not a push-over. At their meeting on April 3, headmen uncovered evidence of side-lining of the lower staff of the tribal administration at the main kgotla by the supervisor. Instead of them asking Sekai to give reasons for that state of affair, they recommended to him that “this should no longer happen”.
During their meeting at Moruleng, some of them gave incriminating evidence of how they obstructed Segale from performing his official duties at the time Sekai was unemployed. Obstruction seems to be in this group’s vocabulary. Three years or so ago, they attempted to do that to Mme MmaSeingwaeng. Some of them wanted to disrupt a meeting she had organised for female regiments and UNESCO representatives at the Phuthadikobo Musium saying “o ithaya a re ke selo mang”( (what does she think she is). One wonders why Segale did not file a case with the police. Obstructing a public officer from performing his official duties is a criminal offence.
Ramono was blunt in his response. When I listened to the recordings, I could recognise the voice as his but the message that he conveyed sounded like it was someone else. I have not known him to be that tough. He has developed a reputation of blunt speaking, something he is not known of. He has matured with time. He minced no words telling the Mangana that they should know that when Mothibe is around, he takes precedent over everybody by virtue of him being the most senior among the kgosi’s uncles. Not only that. They should learn to know that Sekai despite being the deputy chief, “I am his senior and he is my junior”. He is “required by culture and tradition to surrender his seat to me whenever I arrive. This is God created”, he said, adding, “if you are not happy with it, hard luck I can’t change it”. Ramono told the group in no uncertain terms that the position of deputy chief which Sekai currently occupies is not hereditary. “It is on loan to him”, he said.
Ramono confessed that he and Sekai were not in talking terms. He told them, “kgabo ga go na kgolagano magareng a me le Kgosi Sekai. Nna ke bona go re le tlogetse mathaka ka kwa (Mochudi) la bo le tla kwano. Ga le batla go itse mathata tsamayang le ye go botsa Kgosi Sekai”. Ramono’s uncompromising stance caused consternation among the delegation. They had gone to that meeting without reserving space for disappointment. One of them can be heard saying, “karabo ya ga ntate Ramono e tletse go re latlhella, ya re, re tla bona go re re ya kae”.
Interestingly, Mangana went to Moruleng to discussion protocol matters, but they themselves were in breach of their own protocol when they were there. Radikolo Kgamanyana who has been acting as cater-taker leader in the absence of all his seniors and is from the most senior ward of Kgosing and was supposed to be the head of the delegation, abdicated his leadership responsibilities in favour of a Matshwenyego Ramotswetla from the most junior ward of Manamakgote, Instead of him introducing the delegation and the purpose of the visit, the task was performed Ramotswetla. Admittedly, Ramotswetla did it in a more dignified manner, selecting his words carefully and composed himself well for the occasion. Again, uncharacteristic of it Morema ward which is number two in the hierarchy of traditional ward settlements spoke third instead of second,
After reading Kwapa’s articles and listening to the audio tape recordings from the Moruleng meeting, I was tempted into taking over from where he left. In doing so, I depended largely on memory and any available document that could shed light into what the position was under Linchwe II who was considered expert on customary law. Before I introduce documents that I have relied on, let me state that as far as I am aware, Kgosi Kgamanyana who led Bakgatla into Bechuanaland in 1871 did not have a deputy. Kgosi Linchwe I, who succeeded in 1875, did not have a deputy. Regent Kgosi Isang did not have a deputy. Kgosi Molefi was installed in 1929 and he too did not have deputy. Kgosi Mmusi served two terms without a deputy. The first was in 1937 following the expulsion of Kgosi Molefi from the Kgatleng. The second occasion was in 1958 following the death of Molefi. In Professor Isaac Schapera’s “The Ethnic Composition of Tswana Tribes”, a chief “is helped in the performance of his duties by several grades of council, one of which embraces all the adult men”.
This should be clear to all right thinking Bakgatla that, the position of deputy chief therefore does not exist in our culture, custom or tradition. To suggest that Ramono is in breach of Sekgatla culture is therefore nonsensical. The post of deputy chief was created during Kgosi Linchwe II’s reign. It was created by independent government to ensure service delivery in the absence of the Kgosi.
Where should the deputy kgosi sit? A closer examination of negatives of photographs taken in the early seventies can help one make a sensible case regarding who should sit where vis-a-vis the Kgosi. Although they are dusty because of neglect due to the introduction of digital cameras and the discarding of still ones as well as the phasing out of developing and processing of photographic films, the negatives offer something useful about the sitting arrangement at the Mochudi kgotla meetings during the Linchwe II era. In one negative Sir Seretse Khama can be seen between Kgosi Linchwe and the District Commissioner, G.M. Lebani addressing Bakgatla on the Tribal Grazing Land Policy (TGLP). On the immediate left hand side of Kgosi Linchwe is Kgosi Mmusi who is not a member of the Tribal Administration staff. Because of his seniority in terms of birth right, he is seated next to Kgosi Linchwe. Phulane Pilane who is the deputy chief has shifted to the far left in accordance with the tribe’s order of precedence.
The other negative of yet another kgotla meeting shows Kgosi Linchwe seated between Kgosi Mmusi on the left hand side and Minister of Mineral Resources and Water Affairs, Motlatsi Segokgo. Again Deputy Chief, Phulane is not next to Kgosi Linchwe. The same is the position when Minister in the Precidency, Bakwena Kgari visited the Mochudi kgotla in 1972. The third negative shows Phulane seated next to Kgosi Linchwe because at that meeting, Kgosi Mmusi was not present. In attendance was Sir Ketumile Masire when he was still the vice president. My memory also tells me that in one incident at Molapong, Kgosi Linchwe was flanked by Kgosi Mmusi and Mokgatle Linchwe who was the next senior after Kgosi Mmusi. Kgosi Phulane stood at the far side after Mokgatle. Whenever in attendance, Kgosi Mmusi relegated everybody present to a lower position. These negatives seem to favour the position Ramono has adopted and rejects the Mangana version. Their version is not supported by historical facts. Therefore, it follows that whenever in attendance, both Mothibe and Ramono must take precedence over Sekai. Yes out of courtesy one can allow him room to navigate his way through.
When Sekai was first appointed deputy chief after the death of Kgosi Phulane, it was the right thing to do despite him not being the most senior. Precedence had already been sat by Kgosi Linchwe when he appointed Kgosi Phulane ahead of Victor Linchwe, Mokgatle Linchwe and Mmamogale Linchwe. However, that never created protocol problems because major decisions were made either by Kgosi Linchwe or Kgosi Mmusi depending on who of the two was in office. Kgosi Phulane had never been left alone for a considerable amount of time.
Sekai’s position is proving to be problematic when it affects protocol procedures. When he was appointed, it was never envisaged that there would be a time when he would be left alone for a considerable length of time in an obscure position like he finds himself in today. It was not also envisaged that in the event Kgafela, unable to discharge his duties would not appoint a regent. As things stand now, it does seem that protocol does not allow Sekai to summon the likes of Bakgatle Kgafela, Mmusi Kgafela, Kgosi Mothibe, Molefi Linchwe, Thari Linchwe and Letshele Linchwe to any meeting. He is too junior to them. Kgosi Kgafela is the only person with the powers to do that.
In the seventies, Bangwato were in that dilemma. There was Mokgacha Mokgadi as their kgosi having been appointed by Sir Seretse. Of course he was highly efficient. His problem was that he was at the bottom of the royal hierarchy and could therefore not issue orders to the likes of Leapetswe Khama, Sekgoma Khama, Modiri Khama, Peto Sekgoma, Mokhutshwane Sekgoma and Sediegeng Kgamane who were the Bangwato kings in their own right. Listening to Mokgadi debating in the House of Chiefs, you would wish he were a king. But his position at the Serowe kgotla was shaky. Things came to normalcy when Sediegeng came into the scene because as a senior royal, he was acceptable to all. Peto Sekgoma even declared on the day Sediegeng was introduced to the Serowe kgotla that “even if I can go to my grave today, I will go there a happy man”.
Barolong were also in a similar situation at the time Kgosi Besele II was out of the scene having been deposed by government. Tshipikgano Motlhatlhedi who was appointed as Tribal Authority was unacceptable to the royals in Goodhope because he was a non-royal in Barolong. However, he too was highly efficient. His contribution in the House of Chiefs was great.
I am convinced that Kgosi Kgafela is a pragmatic leader who is able to deal with difficult situations. He has not been paying much attention to Mochudi for some time. It is time for him to deal with Mochudi. Nelson Mandela disbanded the Mandela Football Club while in prison because it was proving a nuisance to the people. Kgafela too can end this even when in exile.