Even before January could settle into 2023, supporters of former president Ian Khama and Bangwato kgosikgolo, Ian Khama, have already fired the first shot over control of the tribe’s main kgotla in Serowe. His regnal name is Khama IV.
At press time on Friday night, a public meeting was scheduled at the kgotla for the following morning. The official purpose of the meeting, which was called “by the uncles of the Bangwato Kgosikgolo, is to consult the tribe on the state of your bogosi [inherited tribal leadership] and update you about the circumstances relating to your Kgosikgolo.”
The bogosi is in a state of flux because Khama has already announced that he doesn’t recognise the Acting Regent, Kgosi Serogola Seretse, as his representative at the kgotla. On the other hand, the government does and is keeping Serogola in post. Khama has instructed his subjects to derecognise Serogola and seek tribal administrative services from other dikgosi. His choice for the position of Regent is Peter Seretse Khama – whom the government has yet to recognise as such.
Khama’s circumstances are an even more intractable issue. He fled to South Africa in November 2021 and has been living there since. Received wisdom is that he did this to avoid imminent arrest by the Directorate of Intelligence Services and Security because he was refusing to surrender some firearms in his possession. Conversely, he has maintained that he fled because his life was in danger. All along he has been an exilee but a recent development (issuance of a warrant of arrest) changes his status to fugitive from the law.
The royal uncles’ notice says that the meeting will be held at “Kgosi Seretse Khama IV’s kgotla.” Culturally, the kgotla does indeed belong to Khama but on account of maintaining this forum and paying staff who work in it, the government has also staked claim to ownership of the kgotla. This was the case even during Khama’s administration. On the basis of what it believes to be its rights over the kgotla, the government has denied Khama’s supporters access to the Serowe kgotla. This is motivated by another belief – that Khama is using the kgotla to pursue a political agenda that is centred on ousting President Mokgweetsi Masisi from office.
After falling out with Masisi, leaving the ruling Botswana Democratic Party and forming the Botswana Patriotic Front, Khama has indeed waged a ceaseless campaign to achieve such aim. The edict that Khama’s supporters can’t hold their meetings at the Serowe kgotla goes back to 2021 but has been met with fierce resistance. Late last year, a contingent of riot police was despatched to the kgotla to stop the supporters from holding a meeting there. Among these supporters was Brigadier Iphemele Kgokgothwane, a retired and highly decorated soldier who can be heard in a video from this incident telling riot police to “shoot me.”
The 2021 edict on use of the kgotla still stands and it is almost guaranteed that there will be some kind of altercation at the Saturday meeting.
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