Tribal jingoism is well and alive among us; and the meeting in Serowe was sufficient evidence

05 Mar 2019

The meeting called in Serowe last weekend, purportedly by so-called ruling party elders felt, looked and sounded like a summons from the royal court.

There was a lot of tribal breast-beating, a lot of tribal bigotry all of it mixed with unhidden tribal nostalgia about an era gone by.

After a series of defeats, the royal court, replete with its courtiers and hangers-on had called the meeting clearly to rally the troops; and what better place than to gather at their tribal capital – their shrine of pride and seat of supposed superiority.

The meeting was a true reflection of how a dynasty facing obscurity is as yet unable to come to terms with that painful reality.

For now the dynasty is fighting for relevance - a painstaking undertaking, fought using all unconventional means. They are fighting a losing battle. All dynasties and empire finally come to an end.

The elders had wanted to understand how in their backyard an outsider was endorsed in a contest they felt should have gone their way. Quite rightly for the elders an endorsement of an outsider against their own spells chaos, or at the very worst, betrayal.

For the elders there is no denying that something awfully wrong is brewing up. They are right.

The final end of the dynasty is nigh.

There is a lot of idle over-confidence in the air, all of it intended to deny the fact that the dynasty’s best days are gone – and from the look of things, for good.

“We were swindled, we were ambushed,” was the rallying cry the elders got for an answer.

The meeting, presided over by the local chief turned Serowe, a once proud capital of Bangwato into a latter day fortress where all those with imaginary grievances against national government had converged for joint confessions that often sounded like therapeutic shouting matches.

The Head of State was from beginning of the meeting to its end depicted like a ragamuffin – a Johnny comes to town.

Ruthlessly enforced throughout the meeting was a mob-like code to squelch speakers and also guide them to express  deep feelings of nostalgia for the gone by era when the local chief was also the Head of State.

It was a choreographed scene.

For the remnants of the chiefdom still clamouring for the good old days, the meeting and its conduct was a sight to behold.

It inflamed the egos of ethnic supremacists, stoked the embers of tribal jingoism and set ablaze the furnaces of feudal chauvinism.

After a long spell of disorientation, they finally had something to rally around.

Speaker after speaker took turns to berate the current administration.

The current Head of State was spoken of like he was a usurper, an illegitimate regent who was on the throne not only by default but temporarily, and whose time will soon be up.

Another speaker from far away outside Serowe asked the chief how it came about that he had to retire to start with.

He asked the chief to immediately come out of retirement.

“There is no time for retirement,” he said, clearly goading the chief to reclaim the throne that he had wrongfully lent to someone so unworthy of it. 

When it was finally time for the chief to speak, he expressed remorse and regret to his subjects for having wronged them so badly. He told them he took full responsibility for all the mistakes he made when choosing his successor who as the meeting unanimously agreed was a man not worthy of their crown.

The succession has been an outcome of deceit on himself, the chief told his subjects.

The chief pled for patience and forbearance as this mistake, grave as it has been, he will soon personally correct.

The good times will be back soon, he kept saying, as a correct and pliant regent will with time be crowned.

“I do not want to rule from the grave. But then I do not believe I am in a grave,” he assured his army of excited followers.

The chief said the current Head of State had betrayed his trust, adding that he was behaving in a strange way because not being one of them, he is not used to power.

In Serowe, as indeed was the case in all of Botswana until recently, it was generally accepted that adopting a position that opposes the chief is not a smart way for those who want to get ahead in anything.

There is also a price to be paid for keeping away from the chief. Thus everybody fell over themselves to be seen in smooches with the chief.

Quite predictably the hall was packed, with his supporters, admirers, free-loaders and also with pretenders who did not want to be caught on the wrong side of the mob law.

People holding or aspiring for public office were literally blackmailed to come to the top table where the chief was seated as a way of declaring allegiance to him and with that support for his latest acolyte  Pelonomi Venson.

Proximity to the chief has been a source of wealth, patronage and largesse.

Looking at reactions from many present at the meeting, in Serowe it seems like there is still a significant majority who still firmly believe there is still much left to be materially milked from the chief.

To these, it does not seem to matter at all that Khama has been spreading malign activities – to both their party and also to the country.

For many of them relations with him remains a warts-and-all. He may no longer be Head of State, but in Serowe the chief is still a Tsar – giving orders and dispensing largesse.

And there is a lot to be gained by sitting next to him which is why even as she said she wished the chief and the Head of State could fight each other far away from her campaign, Venson was too happy to be seen dancing with the chief.

This is because the chief’s support and patronage are like mother’s milk to Venson if she is to stand any chance in the grand and ego trip she has elected to take.