When the full council of Gantsi District meets for the first time in a few weeks, one of those sitting around the table will be a man who has been a thorn in the government’s side for decades ÔÇô Jumanda Gakelebone.
Gakelebone, who coasted to victory in the October 24 general election on an Umbrella for Democratic Change ticket, is the new councillor for New Xade, the main resettlement village of Basarwa communities that were controversially relocated from the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve. He is better known as a Basarwa rights activist and over the years has been serving as interpreter for Roy Sesana, the leader of the now defunct First Peoples of the Kalahari.
This responsibility took him around the world, bringing him into contact with both European royalty and Hollywood A-listers who are sympathetic to Basarwa’s cause to live and hunt freely in the CKGR. However, Gakelebone’s own CKGR credentials came under controversial focus in 2011. Non-CKGR residents are required to obtain a permit to go into the reserve and in January 2011, police arrested Gakelebone because he did not have such permit. A senior police officer told Sunday Standard then that Gakelebone was born in Gantsi and not the CKGR. This turned out to be false because he was born in the Metsiamanong settlement inside the reserve.
The electoral victory was second time lucky for Gakelebone in 2014. Lately he has been sporting Sesana’s trademark Steenbok horns and the explanation he gave is that this is a cultural symbol of ascension to supreme leadership among the Kua. He said that the headband is the equivalent of the leopard shoulder wrap that Batswana traditional leaders are garbed in upon investiture or its crown equivalent in western societies. According to him, the difference is that while these cultures are monarchical, leadership among the Kua is based not on accident of birth but meritocracy. He made this point to explain why he is the one inheriting the Steenbok’s horns and not Sesana’s son. “Wearing this pair of horns is a symbol that one has come of age as a leader and can lead his people. The horns are worn on very special occasions; you will never see me wearing mine in Gantsi on a normal day,” said Gakelebone, who wore it to an environmental group meeting in Germany earlier this year. “Mine were made by Roy for me – that is the way it is supposed to be.
I could never make my own pair; instead it is made for me by the person who is transferring power to you. Likewise I will make my successor’s pair.” In April this year, he went to London to lobby Prince Charles to support Basarwa campaign to be given hunting rights. Another notable Basarwa victory is that of New Xade headman, Lobatse Beslag, who will be returning to Ntlo ya Dikgosi after winning elections on Friday. Beslag, who received a presidential certificate of honour on independence day this year, will be representing the Gantsi West constituency. He first served in the house between 2004 and 2009.