Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Clause in Act strongly suggests Khama not retiring to Serowe kgotla

It is no great mystery why the President’s (Pensions and Retirement) Act was introduced just as Sir Ketumile Masire was leaving office.

Likewise, it cannot be a mystery why the Act was amended to add more benefits just as Lieutenant General Ian Khama is about to leave office. However, while the most focus has been on benefits, there is a clause that is very useful for purposes of predicting the future of the bogosi (chieftaincy) of Bangwato. The clause in question makes it lawful for former presidents to find employment elsewhere after leaving office. There is speculation that this clause will allow Khama to work full-time for his countless business interests, possibly Wilderness Safaris.

However, there can’t be speculation about one thing though ÔÇô Khama is certainly not going to take up full-time residence in Serowe, the Bangwato capital, and serve full-time as kgosi. While deputy commander of the Botswana Defence Force in 1979, the 26-year old Khama was installed as Bangwato kgosi at the main kgotla in Serowe. He had joined the army two years earlier at the rank of brigadier – which was unproblematic but for the fact that then the BDF didn’t have the numbers (3000 ÔÇô 5000 soldiers) that are required to make up a brigade. The historic moment of the installation has been memorialised in a portrait picture of Khama clad in military uniform. The picture’s monetary value would have multiplied many times over by now among Bangwato royalists. The ceremony marked one of the few times that Khama has had to spend the entire day at the Serowe kgotla. 

There is a question of how long Khama wants to work in his new job. If he works past 2023, the Bangwato bogosi would have gone for a full 100 years with not a substantive kgosi but a regent. The regency started in 1923 when Khama’s grandfather, Sekgoma, died in post while his son, Seretse (Khama’s father and Botswana’s founding president), was still a minor. Then began a long line of regents from Tshekedi Khama to Sediegeng Kgamane today.

While there is sentimentality about Khama assuming his royal duties, the practical-minded would have serious concerns about a 64-year old, culturally western man who speaks mangled Setswana taking up a position that has traditionally embodied cultural custodianship. The bigger more troubling issue though is that Khama has not yet produced an heir. If the situation stays that way, then the succession rights would devolve to one of his younger twin brothers and his children – it is unclear which one. Interestingly, in a pre-Christianity Ngwato society, twins would not have been part of the equation because, as Isaac Schapera states in A Handbook of Tswana Law and Custom, they were promptly killed at birth.

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