The most regrettable thing about the standoff between government and Kgosi Kgafela of Bakgatla is that the clash was hardly inevitable.
With a little bit of common sense, a bit of tolerance, more honesty, less self-righteousness and less megalomania on all the parties concerned, the showdown could easily have been avoided.
Circumstances, one has to point out, are making both Kgosi Kgafela and government bullies in their own different ways.
On the one hand Kgafela feels terribly slighted and undermined by a government that has relegated chieftainship to the backburners.
On the other hand, government feels his ambitions represent a dangerous throwback to an age long gone and, more importantly, best forgotten.
The tragedy of the whole thing is that neither side is talking to the other ÔÇô if anything they are talking at each other.
I have never in my life attended a single law class. And as a matter of fact I have always been repelled by law as a subject, but from the bottom of my heart I must say I find some of the Kgosi’s assertions, which he wants to pass as legal facts to be rather baseless in as far as I interpret them to be based on fiction.
Perhaps owing to my aversion to law, not to say of my illiteracy to the subject, I have often found some of his legal arguments eccentric, to put it politely.
But the government response has, in my opinion, been unfair, disproportionate, unwise and dishonest in its treatment of Kgafela.
Even the anti-traditionalist republicans, with a passionate disdain for all that which chieftainship stands for have found themselves with no option but to sympathise with the Kgosi who they rightly perceive, at least this time around, as a victim of an executive minded, control freak government that wants to run roughshod over everything under the sun.
It may well be that derecognising Kgafela was entirely correct and legal in terms of the law, but practically just what has the government of Botswana achieved?
The derecognition has become extremely counter-productive.
Government action to derecognise Kgafela has had the unintended consequence of making him look and appear like a victim ÔÇô no longer an aggressor many have always perceived him to be.
Just why did government decide to pick a fight with a man who, from the beginning, they knew so well he was spoiling for one with them? Tactless can only be the word that comes to my mind.
Just why did government risk uniting all Bakgatla behind Kgafela when there was such a high possibility that leaving him to frolic on his own would eventually isolate him, including from his circle of most ardent loyalists. Vindictiveness can only be the plausible answer.
Perhaps most crucially, just why did this government deny itself access to whatever little leverage that remained over a man who has since become uncontrollable? Here I am lost for words!
As we speak, it is clear that even as they say they have derecognized him, government has come to a painful recognition that they still have to engage him one way or the other hence the use of back channels as when Minister Ndelu Seretse visited the chief in the company of one Parks Tafa, one of president Khama’s trusted aides and advisors.
When all is said and done, the derecognition has been an exercise in matchless incompetence.
It was a decision taken in anger, not so much to protect the people in Kgatleng, as to save the faces of two embarrassed cabinet ministers who only a few days earlier had been howled out of the Mochudi main Kgotla by a mob sympathetic to Kgafela.
The tragedy of the whole thing is that at a practical level, the derecognition has left Kgafela now more ensconced as the indisputable supreme leader of his father’s tribal territory, enjoying a much stronger position and greater popular approval than was the case only a few weeks ago, when at the time he was an isolated, wandering soul that bordered on the outskirts of irrelevance.
While before the derecognition a groundswell of people were beginning to feel Kgafela was frolicking towards irrelevance, the government’s ham-fisted handling of the dispute has now lent him a new lease of life.
In the eyes of many, he is a martyr who is capable and willing to risk all he has by taking on the heartless goliath that is our government.
At an official level, the derecognition has created a dangerous power vacuum, the filling of which will not happen at no cost to the Government of Botswana. From the look of things, it would appear like no Kgatleng royal is willing to take a bullet for the government to help them totally banish Kgafela.
While the government is clearly looking for a replacement, nobody has been confident enough to raise their hand as a possible replacement.
Even if there was somebody in the royal family who was willing to risk their integrity by siding with a seemingly ruthless Government , from the look of things making that person acceptable to a majority of the Kgatleng tribesmen would prove yet another insurmountable task.
As we speak, Mochudi is in a volatile position, gripped by awesome uncertainty and awkward misinformation campaigns. Should anything go wrong, you can rest assured that the nation will not blame Kgafela for it, but rather a government that went full force to shorn him of what his tribesmen think is his by birthright ÔÇô forget circumstances that led to derecognition, whatever the word means!
I am not sure if, by custom, it is a crime for commoners like me to give advice to royals.
But for all it’s worth, I think Kgosi Kgafela should for the sake of sanity cease being high-minded.
He should listen to other people, including non-royals.
I have listened to him countless times over the last few days and have come to a conclusion that his crusade to change the constitution of Botswana – whatever the merits of his campaign – is actually a guise for deep-seated megalomania.
After all he is not the only one who wants a constitutional review. I for one am among people who would celebrate if the current constitution was overhauled.
But then, I am not a royal.