With absolutely no fanfare, no public campaign programme and parallel to the political election, dikgosi across the country are quietly lobbying for support to be either elected or re-elected to the lower house of parliament, Ntlo ya Dikgosi.
Following the amendment of the law to expand membership of Ntlo ya Dikgosi, the tenure of office for some members is linked to the dissolution of parliament. Therefore, these members cease to be members of Ntlo ya Dikgosi on Friday when this house, like parliament, is dissolved. Those whose tenure is not affected are traditional leaders of what used to be called “major tribes”: Batlokwa, Bakwena, Bangwaketse, Balete, Barolong, Bakgatla, Bangwato and Batawana. That means that dikgosi Puso Gaborone, Kgari Sechele, Malope II, Mosadi Seboko, Lotlamoreng II as well as regents like Sediegeng Kgamane and Kealetile Moremi.
At least from the perspective of the government, Bakgatla don’t have a supreme traditional leader following the “de-recognition” of Kgafela II by the then minister of local government, Lebonaamang Mokalake, in 2012. That aside, before his de-recognition and eventual relocation to South Africa, Kgafela had not sat in the house. He had instead nominated a royal aide in his place, but government would have none of that.
The eight dikgosi exempted from the election are holdovers from the old dispensation when the constitution didn’t recognise other tribes. The offending provisions (sections 77, 78 and 79) were repealed during President Festus Mogae’s administration. In terms of a white paper that was part of the process, everybody else was to be elected to Ntlo ya Dikgosi but opposition from the eight tribes was so fierce that the government was forced to backtrack. The result is that leaders from the eight tribes retain their superiority. However, the new Bogosi Act (which replaced the Chieftainship Act) requires that all members of the house should be mentally fit. The latter only made such requirement for specially elected members from Gantsi, North East, Chobe and Kgalagadi.
The regions for which members will be elected are Bobirwa, Boteti, Mahalapye, Serowe, Tonota, Tswapong, Tutume, Ghanzi East, Ghanzi West, Kgalagadi North, Kgalagadi South, Letlhakeng, Molepolole, Thamaga, Maun, Ngami, Okavango, Kanye, Moshupa, Ngwaketse West, Chobe and North East.
Five members are specially appointed by the president. Candidates are elected by a regional electoral college made up of paid dikgosana (headmen), tribal authorities, deputy dikgosi and the eight dikgosi who are already members of Ntlo ya Dikgosi.
The electoral process is supervised by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. Bogosi (traditional leadership) is viewed as an institution that unifies the community and a political-style campaign would work against such perception. For that reason, candidates campaign quietly by lobbying members of the electoral college. When the election is over, the ministry sends a list of the new members to the secretariat of the National Assembly which makes arrangements to induct them into service.