Wednesday, July 17, 2024

August: An eventful month in the Mochudi calendar

This month, August, marks 152 years since a section of Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela fled the Transvaal arriving two years later in the present day Mochudi. It was on 1st August 1869 when the trip across the Madikwe or Marico River started with another section of the morafe remaining. When they left, they knew their destination but camped at a place called Tshwenetshwene for two years. They had the Promised Land in the kgalagadi at a place belonging to the Bakwena led by Kgosi Sechele. The Promised Land was offered to them a few years previously when they had assisted Sechele’s Bakwena against Bangwaketse to recover their cattle from the latter. The cattle had been hidden at a place called Segeng near Kanye.

Following the victory against Bangwaketse, Bakwena offered Bakgatla land which stretches from Sebele, Mmopane, Kopong, Lentsweletau up to Lephephe. Bakgatla did not immediately take up the offer. However, when Sechele heard that Kgamanyana had been flogged at a public square by the Boers, he reminded Bakgatla of that offer assuring them that it was still valid and they were free to occupy the land.

So when they left Moruleng, they were aware that they had the Promised Land waiting to be occupied. It was almost like the children of Israel having been offered a promised land to move out of Egypt where they were being persecuted. For the children of Israel, the Promised Land was Canaan while for the Children of Bakgatla, the Promised Land was Mochudi. Unlike Canaan which was the land of milk and honey, Mochudi was the land of peace. Of course the rivers of Notwane and Madikwe offered plenty of water for the people and cattle.  That was why Kgamanyane refused Sechele’s instruction to go further than Mochudi to go and settle at what is called Semarule near Molepolole.  Under Kgosi Linchwe I, Augut 1st has since been declared a day to be celebrated annually. In fact, it is their freedom day. It is the day when they said good bye to persecution.

This week, the Phuthadikobo Museum reminded people of the importance of 1st August in their face book page.  Quoting from Professor Isaac Schapera’s book, ‘Ditiragalo tsa merafe ya Batswana, the museum said “in August 1892, under the leadership of Kgosi Linchwe I”, Bakgatla started celebrating the day by giving out dikgafela to their kgosi. This day is therefore also an important one in the calendar of the people of Mochudi. The Museum plans to celebrate this day every year. Their plans are however, disrupted by the Convid-19 pandemic.  Looking at the whole history of Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela, it appears that the month of August is pregnant with its historical events than any of the 12 months of the year.  This does not mean that all the historical events fall in August. There is the Anglo/Boer in which Bakgatla participated, the expulsion of Kgosi Molefi from the area, you name it.

 Other impotent events of this month are rarely remembered yet they are very important. For instance, fewer Bakgatla remember the destruction of Kgoi Linchwe II’s famous Datsun car registration BL 1 which also took place during the course of the month of August. It was in the evening of 28th of August 1975 that after arriving from a football match from Lobatse where his team, Mochudi Rovers had walloped Maletamotse football club that he parked at a local bar in Mochudi unaware that he was using it for the last time. It was set alight while he was busy drinking and talking to other patrons. Evidence led in a subsequent trial of a local man confirmed that the destruction of the vehicle was politically motivated. If the Leabua Johnathan Government in Lesotho had not nationalized the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland (UBLS), Kgosi Linchwe’s vehicle would not have been destroyed. Its destruction followed the events in Lesotho because following the nationalization of UBLS; he was one of those high profile individuals to support the Botswana University Campus Appeal (BUCA) which was driven by the government with the main opposition BNF not supporting it.  The people who were linked to the destruction were all BNF activists and one of them had vowed at a political rally at Bontleng that they would fight Kgosi Linchwe until he made his position very clear as to whether he was a BDP MP or a Bakgatla kgosi.  The story as to what happened next is too long to narrate. It involves court hearing both at the magistrate and high court level where the Chief Justice, Heyfron Benjamin held that a wrong charge had been preferred and upheld the applicant’s appeal.

Twenty first of August 2007 is yet another date which is of historical importance, a painful one for that matter. On that day, Kgosi Linchwe II died in a hospital in Johannesburg, days after he had undergone a procedure to remove a tomour from his brain. Linchwe was a dignified Kgosi, admired by many throughout the country. Even in government he commanded a lot of respect within the members of the government and the opposition alike.  His death was heard of and shocked many in and outside Kgatleng. A week before he died, Kgosi Mothibe accompanied by a few of his uncles, travelled to Johannesburg to see Kgosi Linchwe on his hospital bed. On his return, he told me that “we saw him even though he did not see us”. These are words I had to hear and yet I did not want. The funeral on 25th August was yet another significant event recorded during the eighth month of the year.

It is not yet clear if it was by coincidence or design that Kgosi Kgafela’s younger brother, Mmusi Kgafela this week made an impassioned plea to his brother to come  back home. His plea was carried by a local weekend newspaper which said as part of his 50th birthday, Mmusi wished that Kgosi Kgafela could come back home to see his father’s people. He is quoted as saying the family and the morafe would be grateful if he returned home because they “are missing him dearly”.  Indeed Kgafela II is gravely being missed by his people in Mochudi.   President Mokgweetsi Masisi has offered him a safe return. He has also demonstrated his sincerity that he would not rest until the Bakgatla Kgoi was back among his people by publishing in the government gazette, recognition of Kgafela by his government. Kgafela had been derecognized by the Khama administration shortly after his installation in 2008. Relationship between Kgafla and Khama had broken down to a point where Khama would refer to Kgafela as “that man in Mochudi” instead of by name. Masisi’ administration seems determined to make peace with Kgafela. It would be a good thing if Kgafela would also show willingness to gestures from Masisi. That way, things would flow smoothly. It would be a matter to be ironed out by the prosecuting authority and Kgafela’s attorneys from the behind- the- scene- negotiations.

What is worrisome is the insinuation that there are royal sources who say Mmusi is under pressure from Masisi to urge his brother to come back as if Kgafela is not mature enough to fend for himself.  By so saying, they are undermining Kgafela II’s intelligence. Kgafela will decide his family’s destiny. The unfortunate thing is if the people of Moruleng who are historically part of his try to secede from their parent tribe. In that eventuality, Kgafela would either have to return to Mochudi to either be registered in the government pay structures or return to the bar whilst running the affairs of the morafe through a deputy. The other option would be for him as a South African citizen obtain what it requires of him to be admitted into the South African bar and practice there. Quiet  interesting. The writer of this article is also an August birthday boy. He is due to turn 70 on August 27 and is seriously thinking of retiring from active writing at the end of the year to enjoy his few remaining years of his life with the family without anything to worry about deadlines.

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