It was clear what purpose President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s kgotla meetings that were held in the run-up to the 2019 general election and broadcast live on state media was meant to serve. Following the election, the Botswana Patriotic Front says that beyond abuse of power, Masisi was politicizing a place that should never be sullied with party politics.
“We are still startled at this denigration of an apolitical cultural institution,” says party spokesman, Justice Motlhabani.
While that point may be valid, the problem is that the party’s own patron, former president Ian Khama, has never had a problem mixing politics with bogosi. After falling out with Masisi, he called a public meeting in Serowe in his capacity as “Bangwato Kgosikgolo” and the only item on the agenda was the factionalism in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party, which he was a member of at the time. Motlhabani’s view prompt the most obvious question which Sunday Standard put to him: How do you reconcile this view with your own patron’s involvement in partisan politics while he retains his position as Bangwato Kgosikgolo and has called a political meeting in his capacity as kgosikgolo? Is he nothimself denigrating an apolitical cultural institution?
In response, the BPF spokesman says that Khama joined politics in 2008 and served in the highest structures of the BDP while retaining his position as Bangwato Kgosikgolo.
“Why was it okay then?” poses Motlhabani, adding that “It would seem the only thing Khama is being accused of is his decision to continue as an active political actor in the opposition.”
A related point he makes is that since Botswana’s first election in 1966, the BDP has been assured of victory in all constituencies in the Central District (Ngwato tribal territory) because its founder and General Khama’s father, Sir Seretse Khama, was the Bangwato Kgosikgolo.
“If indeed the BPF is a tribal party, then the BDP has been a tribal party since its inception,” says Motlhabani, alluding to the widely held belief that support for Khama’s party is limited to his subjects.
Beyond the BDP having been only too happy to leverage Khama’s royal pedigree for political gain, Motlhabani says that all other parties have no problem mixing bogosi (inherited leadership) with politics. To buttress that point, he says that in a manner no different from that of the BDP, the Umbrella for Democratic Change recruited Kgosi Tawana Moremi of Batawana and Kgosi Lotlaamoreng of Barolong who went on to represent the party in parliament. Additionally, the BDP has just recruited a member of the Bakgatla royal family, Mmusi Kgafela, who is now an MP.