Saturday, October 16, 2021

It could have been Kgari fighting Mosielele over leopard-skin garbing

If the Manyana Bahurutshe were given refuge by the Bakwena after fleeing Boer persecution in South Africa, why are they now living in Ngwaketse and not Kweneng territory? The answer, as offered by former Bakwena Deputy Kgosi, Keineetse Sebele, is that it all has to do with the actions of an embittered officer in the colonial administration.

Led by Kgosi Manyana Mangope, the Bahurutshe sought refuge from Kgosi Sechele I of Bakwena who gave them permission to settle in his tribal territory. Then would follow fierce military clashes with the Boers who were in hot pursuit of a people they had been using as slaves. A few decades later, Kweneng became part of the Bechuanaland Protectorate (BP) and was administered by British colonial officers. Towards independence, Molepolole had become the administrative capital of the Bakwena, Kgari Sechele was the kgosi and the Kweneng District Commissioner ÔÇô who was based in Molepolole ÔÇô was a man call Percival Grant. As was commonplace in those days, the DC and kgosi clashed over administrative matters and the former used words that the tribe deemed disrespectful. The displeased tribe petitioned Grant with the Resident Commissioner, who was based in Mafikeng.

“The tribe complained that Grant had insulted Kgari and he was transferred to Ngwaketse,” Sebele says.

A list of colonial officers that worked in the BP government in its entirety shows that Grant served as Kanye DC between 1960 and 1961. Sebele says that when borders were formally drawn between Ngwaketse and Kweneng, Grant saw an opportunity to take revenge on Kgari and his subjects. The new border put Manyana in Ngwaketse territory and farther up west, transferred Naledi (renamed Jwaneng) to Bangwaketse. (The name “Naledi” ÔÇô Setswana for star, tells its own story about people living in the area knowing about the existence of stones that shone like stars. Decades later, the best gem-quality diamonds are mined in Jwaneng after being “discovered” by De Beers.)

“That is how Manyana came to be part of Ngwaketse. Bakwena were incensed about this appropriation of their land and almost went to war with the Bangwaketse over it,” Sebele says.

Manyana has been in the news the past couple of days following a controversial ceremonial event involving a descendant of Kgosi Mangope. In terms of Setswana culture, only one kgosi within a tribal territory can be garbed in a leopard skin as a sign of authority. In the case of Ngwaketse, that has happened with Bangwaketse kgosi, Malope II. Against this protocol and the wishes of Bangwaketse, Kgosi Kebinatshwene Mosielele of Manyana was ceremonially garbed a week ago. What this means is that if Grant had not transferred Manyana to Ngwaketse, it would be Kgosi Kgari Sechele II of the Bakwena who would have had to deal with Mosielele.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper