In a rare turn of events Batawana royals experienced the unbridled ire of their subjects at the Maun main kgotla last week as the two parties clashed over the appointment of Pringle Dingalo as the new Deputy Chief. Tempers flared at the Maun main kgotla as Batawana clashed with their tribal leaders, accusing the royal family of making unilateral decisions without following traditional protocol and repeatedly undermining the authority of the village headmen, who had all claimed ignorance of the royal family’s decision. The position of Deputy Chief fell vacant after the passing of Kgosi Pitsoyabosigo Moremi early last year. Moremi had been in that position for only two years after succeeding the late Kgosi Mathiba Moremi who died in 2010.
When the meeting started, Kgosi Kealetile Moremi told attendants that after deliberations the royal house had decided that Dingalo was the right man for the job, and that he should assume office immediately. “The royal family has decided to appoint Dingalo as my deputy. To those of you who might not know him, we are close family friends. His father, Dibolayang Dithapo, and my father were very close friends. They used to visit us when we stayed in Gaborone and that is how I got to know him. I hope you will have good relations with him as he is also a well known village elder,” said Batawana paramount chief Kgosi Kealetile Moremi.
Villagers laughed nervously at the announcement, apparently amazed that she did not bother to explain how and why the royal family came to that decision. They later expressed their exasperation, saying Kgosi Kealetile had been too brief and ambiguous as they had expected a more through explanation. For starters, they said, Dingalo, does not have any relations with the royal family.
“We expected you to explain why and how you chose him. You should have followed protocol because it is very wrong for you to appoint a tribal leader based on your friendship with him,” they charged.
One of the village elders, Kgato Motai, said the royal family had erred as it failed to consult with the people before imposing a leader on them. He urged them to reconsider their decision and initiate consultations. “This is a very sensitive issue and you need to be very careful. I urge you to reconsider because you did not follow the proper procedures,” he said.
He demanded an explanation as to why the royal lineage was not followed, as both the late Kgosi Mathiba and Pitsoyabosigo Moremi had children. Most villagers nodded in agreement as he asked why their children were not considered for the position of Deputy Chief. Kgosi Maoloso Bendu agreed, saying Kgosi Mathiba had children who should not have been overlooked. He reasoned that though Kgosi Mathiba’s children were born out of wedlock, the fact remains that they were his and they carry his surname. He challenged the royal family to show cause as to why these children should not succeed their father. He further asked the royal family to explain why they have distanced themselves from Kgosi Mathiba’s children.
“Dingalo is not the rightful candidate and you are all aware of that. As Batawana we know that you have turned your backs on his children for reasons better known to yourselves, but that is dishonorable and intolerable. We ask you to do the right thing and correct your mistakes,” he said. Allegations abound that relations between the royal family and Kgosi Mathiba’s children have not been cordial since his demise. The royal family has allegedly kept Kgosi Mathiba’s children at arm’s length. The two parties are now embroiled in a bitter legal battle in which Kgosi Mathiba’s children are demanding their inheritance.
The whole issue has bred bitter divisions within the royal house and tensions between the royal family and its subjects. Some say the royal family should be fair and give Kgosi Mathiba’s children what is rightfully theirs, other say the royal family is right in sidelining Kgosi Mathiba’s children because they were never traditionally adopted. Batawana demanded that the meeting should be postponed until the matter is resolved and that Kgosi Tawana Moremi should be summoned to come and explain. But his uncle, Kgosi Charles Letsholathebe stood to rubbish the accusations leveled against the royal family, insisting that proper procedures were followed.
“In the 52 years that I have been in this kgotla I have never been called upon to explain myself to my people. This is shocking. Our leadership style is noble, so you need not derail us. I can assure you that we consulted all the relevant stakeholders before coming to this decision. I cannot comment on the issue of Kgosi Mathiba’s children save to say that as tribal leaders we have a duty to preserve our culture. In any case, this not the right forum to talk about such things,” he said.
But Batawana were not deterred, they hit back ferociously and told Kgosi Letsholathebe that his 52 years in the throne should have taught him better than to make unanimous decisions without consulting the people. Kgosi Kealetile was also advised to introspect and improve her leadership style to avoid embarrassment, where even her subordinates question her decisions in a revered forum like the kgotla.