South Africa’s North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo’s decision to recognise Merafhe Ramono as the chief of Bakgatla in South Africa has worsened Bakgatla’s chieftainship woes with some senior tribal leaders gathered at the weekend refusing to endorse the decision.
A gathering in Moruleng heard that a commission signed by Premier Mahumapelo on 18th December 2015 recommended that Ramono be recognised as a chief of Bakgatla in South Africa with immediate effect.
Mahumapelo is expected to visit Bakgatla in Botswana to consult them on the latest development. The main aim of his visit is to ask Bakgatla in Botswana whether they endorse his decision to recognise Ramono as chief of Bakgatla in South Africa.
Kgafela’s supporter Rampho Pheto told the gathering at Lesetlheng ward in the outskirts of Moruleng which comprised of Bakgatla senior tribal leaders from both countries that Mahumapelo has erred and misdirected himself.
Pheto who is a lawyer by profession referred the gathering to a 1994 resolution which he said was a court decision. The resolution of 3rd April 1994, Pheto said, stipulated that Ramono’s father Tidimane Pilane is not the paramount chief of Bakgatla therefore he has no power to appoint anyone including his sons as the chief of Bakgatla in South Africa.
He said the resolution only allows the Paramount Chief of Bakgatla in this case Kgafela II to appoint a chief in South Africa.
“Tidimane was not installed as a chief by birth. He was installed by Kgosi Molefhi Pilane when he relocated him from Botswana to South Africa. The government and its servants should give recognition to this resolution. It is legally binding because there was a court decision on the same. This resolution is binding and should be considered when some people think of installing Ramono as a chief,” said Pheto.
He accused the premier of usurping the powers of the paramount chief.
“The Premier has stated that he is going to install Ramono as senior traditional leader on 17, February this year as a way of honouring the wishes of Tidimane,” said Pheto.
It was at this stage that he asked the gathering if they endorsed the premier’s decision.
“Do Bakgatla agree that Merafhe Ramono should be recognised as chief of Bakgatla,” he asked to a resounding “no.”
Going down memory lane, Pheto said following some skirmishes between Merafhe and Nyalala Pilane over who was the rightful heir to the Bakgatla throne in South Africa, the former instituted a commission of inquiry to prove who was the rightful heir to the throne.
He said in the report some government authorities recommended that Ramono should be the chief. The report states that Nyalala was accidentally installed as chief.
“They state in the report that they are correcting that abnormality. They state in the same report that Ramono’s father Tidimane was a chief and therefore Ramono should succeed him. They are currently campaigning so that Ramono could be installed a chief,” said Pheto.
He said the Premier told Bakgatla that he was under pressure from Ramono to release the report. The premier suggested that the royal family should go and discuss this matter and then give him feedback.
He reiterated that the recommendation of the commission is that Ramono should be recognised as the senior traditional leader of Bakgatla in South Africa. It also recommended that Nyalala should be disregarded as the senior traditional leader of Bakgatla in South Africa.
“The Premier said that we should consult Bakgatla in Mochudi regarding these recommendations. I’m wondering why he is sidelining Kgosikgolo Kgafela in South Africa and says Bakgatla in South Africa should consult their tribesmen in Botswana,” said Pheto.
He added that Ramono’s supporters have made it clear that they are not going to consult Bakgatla in Mochudi because South African laws are different from Botswana laws.
“They said what they would do is communicate to Bakgatla in Mochudi by way of a written letter,” he said.
Pheto charged that Mahumapelo will only install Merafhe Ramono as a chief of a certain tribe somewhere but not as a chief of Bakgatla ÔÇôba- Kgafela II in South Africa.
For his part, Kgafela’s former deputy in Botswana Bana Sekai told the delegates that he met recently with Kgafela in South Africa and the former instructed him to ask some council of elders in Mochudi to attend the meeting in Moruleng at Lesetlheng village.
“I told them that Kgafela has instructed me to inform you that you should attend a meeting in Lesetlheng to discuss Ramono issue. We should treat this issue with the seriousness it deserves and the meetings by the premier,” he said. Sekai also used the meeting to remind those in attendance that he had been banned by Botswana Government from setting his foot at Bakgatla kgotla or addressing a meeting there.
“This was after the government had written to me informing me that it has derecognised me as chief representative. But following instructions by Kgafela to relay his message to Bakgatla in Mochudi, I called a meeting at the kgotla and relayed the message. I do not know what charges await me in the near future,” he said.