Saturday, June 15, 2024

Criminal past haunts future Bangwato regent

In a past when he was young and less inhibited, Seretse Peter Khama experimented with hard drugs in some fashion, was caught, tried and found guilty. Decades later, as paperwork to appoint him Bangwato regent is still being shunted back and forth between the Serowe kgotla and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, that past has come back to haunt him.

When President Mokgweetsi Masisi visited Serowe kgotla this past Tuesday, the man that Seretse would be replacing as regent, Kgosi Sediegeng Kgamane, took to the podium to welcome the guests and members of the public. In his very short speech, Kgamane, who retires in June next year, implored the government to bring the matter of processing Seretse’s candidacy to finality. He made a revelation that not too many people in the village and district are familiar with: that Seretse has had to seek presidential pardon for his criminal past from Masisi and that such pardon was granted. Kgamane called Seretse with his full names, possibly to differentiate him from the founding president, Sir Seretse Khama.

Pardoning Seretse is a hurdle that had to be removed from his path to the regency because of administrative procedures that had to be followed. At the conclusion of a criminal case, a magistrate issues an order for suspects found guilty to be fingerprinted. The fingerprints go into the national fingerprint database and for some jobs, one’s employability is compromised when their names pop up in that database during background check. Thankfully for those concerned, there is administrative process through which one can ask the president to pardon them. That was the process that Seretse followed and officially, he no longer has a criminal record.

However, the youthful royal still has a criminal past that resides in the memory of some and as last Tuesday showed, will be the subject of discussion at the most inopportune moments. Now is when Seretse’s future subjects should be learning about his full biography but other than the fact that he is the son and grandson of former regents, Leapetswe and Tshekedi Khama respectively, they are learning an embarrassing detail. Some members of the royal family have actually attempted to use this history to block Seretse’s ascent.

Seretse is not the only royal who has to contend with an inglorious that some will remind him about.

During a parliamentary debate last year, the Leader of the Opposition, Dumelang Saleshando, reminded the Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development and Mochudi West MP, Mmusi Kgafela, about his own criminal record. Alongside some other Bakgatla men, including his younger brother, Bakgatla Kgafela and President of the Customary Court of Appeal (South), Kgosi Mothibe Linchwe, Kgafela was found guilty of vandalising a Mascom Botswana cell tower which he alleged was the source of radiation that caused the brain tumor that killed his father, Kgosi Linchwe II. As Mmegi reported in 2012, Kgafela was part of a contingent of a Bakgatla tribal age-regiment regiment that “climbed up [Phuthadikobo] hill to inspect the Mascom tower so that they can properly equip themselves with the right tools to bring it down when the time finally comes.”

In 2020, when MP Kgafela quoted some sections of the law to pre-empt a motion Saleshando, had planned to table, the latter remarked on the irony of being quoted the law by someone who had enlisted the services of a tribal age-regiment to vandalise public property.

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