Thursday, May 23, 2024

History of the Bangwaketse Part 14 ÔÇô Two Princes

“Sebego opelo, ofa mapiritlwa, kebonye athelesetsa Matebele; oneile baba mmala wathebe. Kemmoditswe ke Thupa aMoleta, ke Makaba RraBarekwakang; bare ngwana waga Matshadi oetsa thwadi, oetsa thalabodiba, Sekokotla. Lomoreetseng lware moabi? Loko lorile motlhasedi, gongwe lware sebuabogale!”

Translation – “Sebego is kind, he feeds cruel people. I saw him provision the Matebele; he showed the foes the colour of his shield. I was asked about him by the Rod of Moleta, Makaba II, the father of Barekwakang; they said, Matshadi’s son acts like a leader, he acts like an elusive water beetle, Sekokotla [name of Sebego’s maternal grandfather]. Why do you call him the distributor? Let us praise him as the attacker!”

In the aftermath of the Bangwaketse victory at Dultwe, the Matebele did not launch another major expedition into the Kgalagadi interior. Sebego was for the moment militarily secure. But, given his subjects needs, not the least of which being the need to maintain their livestock, prolonged residence in the central Kgalagadi was environmentally unsustainable.

As the Matebele were still too much of a threat to contemplate any immediate return to the east, Sebego cast his eyes towards new opportunities in the lands to his west. He, therefore, prepared to move his headquarters to Monnyalatsela, near Ghanzi, while a segment of the morafe would remain behind at Dultwe under a royal cousin named Diatleng

Before the migration took place, two incidents occurred that would shape the region’s history.

To this day Sebego is described as a great schemer as well as talented warlord. According some accounts he long coveted the crown that was not rightfully his by birth; he having been born of Matshadi, a junior wife of Makaba II. Some even allege that he was associated with the death of his own father, having conspired with Moruakgomo in the battlefield betrayal at Losabanyana.

While we cannot be certain about the veracity of his plotting against his father, there is little dispute that while still at Dultwe, Sebego was behind the poisoning of the milksacks that were set aside for his two nephews, Tshosa’s sons Ralekoko and Gaseitsiwe. Ralekoko died but Gaseitsiwe survived after vomiting the poison.

At this point Sebego, feigning concern, pressed Gaseitsiwe’s mother Mojankunyane about returning with her surviving son to her own people, the Barolong, while he sorted out matters in the west. Already fearing the consequences of staying more than the danger of the wilderness before her, MmaGaseitsiwe then decided to immediately set out on a hazardous journey through the arid sandveld, accompanied only by her elder sister, Mojanko, and Gaseitsiwe. The closest Barolong settlement was then over three hundred kilometres to the south, via terrain filled with danger in the form of both human and wildlife predators.

After several days on the run the trio eventually came upon a “Kgalagadi”, possibly Basiwane, settlement located at Sita, which is about half way on a straight line between modern Jwaneng and the Molopo River. There they were welcomed by the local headman named Kgano who unbeknownst to them had already received instructions from Sebego that Gaseitsiwe be killed.

In the end, Kgano ignored the order, as he was haunted by his Mongwaketse wife, Mma Sentswelakae’s, visions of severe retribution should he go ahead with the deed. She had specifically warned her husband of a premonition in which he was consumed alive by worms after murdering the prince. And so fate once more spared Gaseitsiwe.

Departing from Sita, the trio fortuitously encountered a Mongwaketse named Tlagae, who may have been sent to rescue them, but otherwise guided the party to Mosita, which was located about a hundred kilometres further to the south, not far from Moffat’s mission station at Kudumane.

On their arrival at Mosita, MmaGaseitsiwe’s party found a mixed community consisting of Barolong refugees and the remnant of the Bangwaketse who had previously joined Tshosa’s rebellion and had since remained in exile under his brother Segotshane.

A year earlier the Barolong and Bangwaketse had been together at Khuwana when it was attacked by the Matebele. But, while the majority of the Barolong had ultimately escaped to the south-east, eventually reaching Thaba Nchu, Segotshane’s Bangwaketse and the accompanying Barolong had turned south-west finding refuge among the Batlhaping.

Welcoming the still young Gaseitsiwe, Segotshane now assumed the role of his regent. As news spread of the crown prince’s whereabouts more Bangwaketse came to Mosita, some having been previously on their own, while others now abandoned Sebego. As his following grew, Segotshane decided to return to Gangwaketse, establishing his headquarters Tswaneng. The Bangwaketse thus became divided between the followers of Sebego and those of Motswaraledi-Kgosi Segotshane.

Meanwhile, back at Dultwe fortune had also favoured another young prince, Sechele. Following the execution of his father Motswasele II, the Mokwena had had an adventerous youth among the Bangwato and Bakololo before settling with a handful of followers under Sebego’s protection at Moselebye.

Shortly before the defeat of the Matebele at Dultwe, a hunting expedition led by a Scottish trader named David Hume, otherwise known as “Taute”, passed through the region. It was agreed that one of Sechele’s men, Mosimane aMothei, would accompany the party. Taute then headed for the wells at Lophephe, where nearby, at Matsheng, lived the largest faction of the now scattered Bakwena, known as the “Bamosima”, under the authority of Sechele’s hostile uncle Molese aLegwale.

Upon the arrival of Taute’s party outside of Matsheng, Mosimane kept to himself, but he was recognised hiding under one of Taute’s wagons by a headman named Mmupi aSekgatlhanye, who warned him to stay hidden until sunset. That evening Mmupi took Mosimane to another royal uncle, Senese aSeitlhamo, who was eager to know of Sechele’s circumstance. Thereafter, Mosimane maintained a low profile at Senese’s ward, Matlhalerwa, while other notables were secretly consulted.

Without informing Molese, Senese then dispatched two of his followers, Magogwe and Segakisa aRampena, to seek and assist Sechele. The return of Mosimane with the other two to Moselebye, along with the news of Senese’s covert support, convinced Sechele, by now in his early twenties, that the moment had finally arrived for him to begin to take back his father throne.

Accompanied by Mosimane, Magogwe and Segakisa, Sechele stopped at Dutlwe, where Sebego blessed his cause with a gift of royal cattle. These were placed in the care of Segakisa, who was subsequently designated by Sechele to serve as his “mogotsa-molelelo” or “keeper of the fire”. Both the royal herd and Segakisa’s ward, which survives as one of the principal sections of Molepolole, were thereafter called “Difetlhamelo” or “lighters of the fire”.

While at Dultwe, the Mokwena also apparently acquired something else from the Bangwaketse monarch. Following his departure one of Sebego’s junior wives, named Mmakgari, absconded to join Sechele. [NB: Three of Sechele’s wives were known as “Mmakgari” and should not be confused. The other two ÔÇô Mokgokong the mother of Sechele’s son Kgari and his last wife, the widow of Bangwato Kgosi Matsheng, whose first born was also named Kgari.]

Finally arriving at Matsheng late in the day, Sechele decided to wait until dawn before entering the settlement. By sunrise Senese was by his side.

The same morning also coincided with the assemblage of what was to be communal dance. But the gathering was disrupted by the sight of the Sechele coming toward the village with his back to the sun. Soon a crowd gathered around to welcome their long lost prince.

Among the first to greet Sechele was his brother Kgosidintsi, who offered him a goat and a tortoise shell full of milk to signal his acceptance of his younger, but senior, sibling’s authority. Thereafter Kgosidintsi would become Sechele’s lifelong loyal deputy, while presiding over his own ward, Mokgalo, which also survives to this day.

Amidst the jubilation, Molese retreated to his household, where he is said to have remained cloistered for three full days. On the evening of the third day Sechele ordered Rrakobo aSeletlo to climb a tree and call out challenges to Molese and his regiment, the “Mateane” (“Wild Dogs”).

The next morning the Mateane did emerge, massing at the kgotla. But, despite much pushing and shoving on their part, which resulted in only minor in injuries, they found no room for themselves around the fire. Molese also appeared but, with few staunch followers now at his side, he quickly fled. He would remain away for some years before being welcomed back by Sechele to live and die as a respected elder.

The true lion kings ÔÇô Gaseitsiwe and Sechele – had thus finally come home, but it would be another two decades before they would in each case complete the reunification and restoration their respective merafe. For the time being the pair sat somewhat uncomfortably in the twin shadows of the “Hard Hearted Crocodile”, Sebego, living to their west, and the “Great Lion” Mzilakazi, on their east.


Read this week's paper