Saturday, July 20, 2024

Bakgatla celebrate dikgafela in style

It is unfortunate that the name Bakgatla is now synonymous with Bakgatla ba ga Kgafela when there are Bakgatla ba ga Mmanaana residing in Gangwaketse and the Kweneng areas. The Bakgatla ba ga Mmanaana settled in the BaNgwaketse Reserve around 1880. They are probably the only ethnic group in Botswana that is today found in two administrative areas of the Southern and Kweneng District. The split of the Bakgatla ba ga Mmanaana from those of the Bakgatla ba ga Kgafela is a substance of legends. It is believed that what caused a split between the Bakgatla ba ga Mmanaana from the Bakgatla ba ga Kgafela is that the Kgafela group was excessively dominant and the fact that the Kgafela kgosi, Kgosi Pheto (1775-1807), the son of Molefe-a-Kgwefane was reluctant to give the Mmanaana the kind of independence they needed. The Mmanaana group under Kontle II split from the rest of the Kgatla groups at a place called Sefikile around 1799. A story is told that Kontle II and his people left Sefikile in a legendary fashion. On the night of their departure, Kontle II ordered that a calf be tied to a pole in the chief’s kraal to create the impression that there was no planned escape as no one can leave behind a prized domestic animal. As planned, the red-white calf (naana) bellowed throughout the night concealing the noise of departure of the Bakgatla ba ga Mmanaana as they left Sefikile. They made it into the land of the fierce Makaba of the Bangwaketse.

The Bakgatla were allowed to build a village, first at Mogopyana and later at Gamafikana near Kanye. Bakgatla were required to give occasional tribute to BaNgwaketse in return for protection in case of an enemy attack. However, BaNgwaketse allowed BaKgatla chiefs to retain their traditional powers in administering their merafe. Kontle married one of the daughters of Kgosi Makaba and gave birth to a son called Mosielele who remained in Kanye during the rule of Sebego while Kontle took the rest of the morafe back to South Africa. Much has happened since then and the relationship between Bangwaketse and Bakgatla ba ga Mmanaana have since stabilized.

I was contemplating this history at the Bakgatla ba ga Mmanaana kgotla in the company of Kgosi Kgabosetso II Mosielele, Kgosi Oscar Mosielele, Kgosi Mosielele of the Bahurutshe, Kgosi Masunga of the customary court of appeal and many other dikgosi who had come for dikgafela at the Moshupa kgotla. Dikgafela is a harvest celebration where the different makgotlana gather at the main kgotla. One by one, from the most senior of the makgotla, they bring bojalwa jwa Setswana, sometimes they would be carrying sorghum on their heads. The harvest is brought to thank God and the ancestors for the past harvest. But they also come bearing the branches of the moologa tree in anticipation of the coming rains. They sing rain songs; they tell how they are being soaked wet by the coming rains. The celebrations are therefore also times of prayer and hope for the coming rains. The hope for rain was expressed more poignantly by Kgosi Kgabosetso II who said: “The rains are coming!” It was a shocking statement of faith and hope about the impending rains. Rain lies at the heart of the Tswana life. Botswana lies on the verge of the Kgalagadi desert. Rains are rare. Good rains signal a good season. Without rain the land is dry and desolate. The animals die and there is no food in the barns.

Disease spreads across the land and wild fires rage supreme. With rain, there is life for the crops, wildlife and human life have something to eat and drink. Food is plentiful, the animals multiply and the land is healthy again. Grazing is abundant. Milk flows in the land.

The Bakgatla ba ga Mmanaana’s return to dikgafela is a return to an important celebration of their culture. It is a celebration that recognizes prosperity lies in the divine. Though human effort may lead to a bountiful harvest, finally the rains come from above and no human has power to bring the rains. In the past there were the baroka ÔÇô the rain doctors, who were famous for causing the rains. These are now rare. It is almost impossible to meet one who claims to have the power to make it rain these days. Dikgosi therefore appeal to God directly. They ask for rain from above, in many ways in recognition of their inability to cause it to rain as those of old. The dikgafela celebrations were therefore most impressive as they demonstrated the unity of the morafe in their ability to work together as well as to celebrate together. Increasingly persons in a morafe are individualistic and stay away from the morafe’s collective efforts. The Bakgatla ba ga Mmanaana opened a small door that showed me that people still have a passion to achieve much as a collective. What impressed me most as well is their work with the private sector to help aid in the village projects. At the dikgafela celebrations there were also representatives of Majwe Mining who had come to see the loobo project of the Bakgatla. The Bakgatla are hoping that Majwe Mining will help finance the roof of the loobo.

From the excellent social responsibility contributions made by Majwe Mining that I have seen in Jwaneng, one hopes that Majwe Mining feels excited about the Bakgatla loobo project and gives generously towards its completion. If they do, when one returns to the 2014 dikgafela celebrations, one hopes to be in a spectacular loobo.

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