Balete are not letting their liberal values, which saw them install the first female paramount chief in their history, render their culture backward ÔÇô they are bringing back bogwera (male traditional initiation).
Deputy paramount chief, Tsimane Mokgosi, has reacted to growing calls from the uninitiated tribesmen who yearn for the traditional school. The first traditional initiation in three decades takes place the beginning of August this year.
It was not until recent years that the Bakgatla ba Kgafela resurrected bogwera.
The last male initiation rite in GaMalete was conducted in 1981 and its graduates were named Mafitlhakgosi. Regiments are named according to their age groups. Their names usually signify and mark important events in the tribal history.
“By reviving Bogwera we [tribal authority] are merely reacting to growing interest from Balete who want to be initiated. I am one of those people. Bogwera is part of our culture. With Bogwera, we can deal with and address challenges such as HIV/AIDS and social ills and instil responsibility amongst the tribe,” says Mokgosi.
Mokgosi said in line with the government’s safe male circumcision, prospective students are advised to visit medical practitioners to have themselves circumcised as no such will be performed in the bush.
The Deputy Paramount Chief says the interest came last year during culture day preparations when a regiment went around compiling songs, known as dikoma, that the tribe identified themselves with and for singing during the culture day. He says there was realisation that it was culturally a taboo to sing certain songs as they were strictly sung at initiation schools.
The challenge, he said was to find out if people were interested in bogwera so we called a meeting. “We met at Boatle dam on January 8 this year where we registered an overwhelming number of people without publicity.
“We urge employers, both government and private, to release employees on study leave for a month to attend the initiation. We are also urging security forces not to invade our privacy at our initiation schools. We are not going on hunting expeditions,” says Mokgosi.
According to one Diau Mosienyane, a headman of record who qualifies as a traditional instructor, there will be no age restrictions, meaning a father may go to the same school with a son.
┬á“What will differentiate them is that the father will maintain the regiment of his age mates who have graduated from the traditional school and so would the son. An appropriate name for the graduates will be announced by the Paramount chief when they arrive from school at the main kgotla,” says Mosienyane.
The GaMalete tribal authority says any Motswana with interest is allowed to go for the rite. According to the tribal authority, the media will be allowed to capture the ceremony when the initiates leave and arrive upon graduation but is barred from getting anywhere near the schools.