Following in the lead of the former Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Lebonaamang Mokalake, the Premier of the North West Province in South Africa has removed a senior Bakgatla-ba-ga-Kgafela kgosi from a plum position that he has held for 24 years.
“By virtue of the powers vested in me under section 14(3) of the North West Traditional Leadership and Governance Act, 2005 (Act No. 2 of 2005), and pursuant to the decision taken by the Bakgatla Ba Kgafela Royal Family in terms of section 14(2), read with section 14(1)(d), of the North West Traditional Leadership and Governance Act, 2005, and subject to affording Kgosi John Nyalala Pilane an opportunity to make written representations in terms of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, 2000 (Act No. 3 of 2000), I Tebogo Job Mokgoro, in my capacity as the Premier of the North West Province hereby, with effect from the date of publication of this notice, withdraw letter of designation as Kgosi of the Bakgatla Ba Kgafela, issued in favour of Kgosi John Nyalala Pilane,” reads an Extraordinary Provincial Gazette of the North West Province issued by the premier, Professor Mokgoro.
Section 14 of the North West Traditional Leadership and Governance Act deals with the removal of kgosi – or kgosigadi for female traditional leaders. Section 14 (1) says that a kgosi or kgosigadi may be removed from office on the grounds of conviction of an offence with a sentence of imprisonment for more than 12 months without an option of a fine; mental infirmity which, based on acceptable medical evidence, makes it impossible for that kgosi or kgosigadi to function as such; wrongful appointment or recognition; or a transgression of a customary rule, principle or code of conduct that warrants the removal from office. Section 14 (2) says that whenever any of the grounds referred to in the latter provision come to the attention of the royal family and the royal family decides to remove the kgosi or kgosigadi, the royal family must within a reasonable time inform the premier of such decision and the reasons therefore.
Section 14.3 says that upon receipt of such decision and reasons, the premier shall withdraw the certificate of recognition of such a kgosi or kgosigadi by publishing a notice of withdrawal of recognition of such kgosi or kgosigadi in the Gazette. This section also mandates the premier to inform the royal family concerned, the kgosi or kgosigadi concerned as well as the Provincial House of Traditional Leaders of such removal.
Bakgatla-ba-ga-Kgafela have a peculiar tribal territory that straddles two countries. After he was publicly flogged by the future Transvaal president, Paul Kruger, Kgosi Kgamanyane of the Bakgatla fled into Botswana with some of his people, leaving a few behind in a place called Moruleng. Years later, his son, Kgosi Linchwe I, made the fateful decision of siding with the British during the Second Anglo-Boer War. The British, who had already established the Bechuanaland Protectorate, won the war and rewarded Linchwe by recognising his authority in the Protectorate and South Africa. The Union of South Africa kept this arrangement intact and in subsequent years, mineral wealth was discovered in Moruleng. Through the Bakgatla-Ba-Kgafela Traditional Authority, the Bakgatla have invested in the mining industry and have shares in large companies such as Anglo Platinum.
The late Bakgatla kgosikgolo, Kgosi Linchwe II made Pilane Moruleng kgosi in 1996 but questions have been raised about how the latter managed the tribe’s vast wealth generated from one of the richest platinum deposits in the world. South Africa’s Mail & Guardian has reported that “Not only did Pilane fail to deposit and account for the Bakgatla’s monies, but the private companies he established did not submit audited consolidated financial reports or — frequently —annual financial statements.”
It was Pilane’s handling of tribal finances that brought Pilane into conflict with the current Bakgatla kgosikgolo and leader of the tribe’s royal family, Kgosi Kgafela II. Pilane’s de-recognition is the direct result of a campaign that Kgafela has been waging for a long time now. Ironically, Kgafela was himself been de-recognised by the Botswana government as the supreme tribal leader of the Bakgatla.