Talk of a controversial topic that evokes high mercurial temperature from both protagonists and antagonists. But you know what; it is very healthy sign that all of us are keen on this topic. It is far better to jaw, jaw, than to go to war on matters that affect all of us.
Now what are we talking about? I would throw about many issues to spur and guide us in our discussion. At the heart of this discussion is the role of chieftaincy under modern democratic governance and best practices. Is chieftaincy a relic of the past? Is it meritorious and democratic?
Over the past few years, a ravaging debate over the relevance of the institution under our present democratic governance became prominent triggered more especially by the Bakgatla ba Kgafela Chieftaincy under the reign of Kgosi Kgolo Kgafela Kgafela II, who was “De-Recognised” by the Botswana Government.
It is worth noting that actions taken by the Khama administration against Kgosi Kgolo Kgafela Kgafela II is nothing new. The abuse, disrespect and manipulation of Magosi can be traced to Sir Seretse Khama.
Seretse later teamed up with Sir Marquette Joni Masire to build what was later to become a successful brand in Botswana’s political landscape ‘The Botswana Democratic Party’ (BDP). At the time of the party’s formation Masire served as its Secretary General and Khama became its President. The two were later to enjoy the leadership role of the country with Masire serving as vice president for 14 years. Unfortunately Seretse’s presidency was cut short by ill health and death in 1980. At the time of his death Seretse had only been in power for 14 years.
Masire’s meeting with Seretse in the 1960s marked the beginning of a rosy relationship, culminating into Joni’s dis-respect for his Chief, Kgosi Bathoen II. Joni Masire could not contain his excitement, his new found relationship with the BDP godfather (Seretse), clouded his judgment so much so that he even thought Bathoen II was jealous of him. He sidelined Bathoen, arrogantly belittled him and ditched him for Seretse Khama. To him Bathoen II was a nonentity; a mere village chief of the Bangwaketse and together with Seretse Khama went on a deliberate crusade to ensure that they crumbled the institution of Bogosi. Khama did not bother about Chieftaincy either, even though he himself was a chief of the Bangwato. His main interest was to hold a higher political office where his superintendent role over chiefs would be felt.
In 1969, Kgosi Bathoen II of Bangwaketse was compelled to quit his chieftainship to follow a political career on an opposition political ticket. Similarly Kgosi Tawana Moremi II of Batawana just like Kgosi Bathoen had to trade off his leopard skin for politics and was not accorded the special dispensation given, HE, King Khama IV of the Bangwato.
In 1970, Kgosi Neale Sechele was compelled to resign as Chief of Bakwena following a two-man commission appointed by Sir Seretse Khama to look into alleged negligence of duties and abuse of alcohol levelled against the Kgosi. In 1973, Kgosi Seepapitso IV was suspended for one year because he was purported to have behaved on several occasions in a manner deemed as unbecoming for a chief and was also perceived as a poor performer in the execution of his chieftaincy roles and functions. In 1977, Sir Seretse Khama dismissed Kgosi Besele II of Barolong for dereliation of duty.
In his interview with Donald Seberena of Duma FM on the 6 May 2010, President Ian Khama castigated and portrayed King Kgafela Kgafela II, his counterpart as a problem. Khama’s reaction prompted the late Sociologist guru from the University of Botswana, Log Raditlhokwa to state that the ‘State’s principal’ reason for pursuing Kgosi Kgolo Kgafela II was not inspired by human rights violations as we were hoodwinked into believing but rather some significant politicians had surreptitiously pushed for litigation against Kgafela.
Kgosi Kgolo Kgafela II has seen them all. His plan of uniting and bringing together his tribe for a common goal and purpose was hijacked and crumbled. This is because his project rubbed some jealous politicians the wrong way and some even went to the extent of making reckless and insensitive remarks with deliberate intension to sow seed of discord more especially against the Bakgatla ba Kgafela.
The Bakgatla ba Kgafela Chieftaincy has in the past and now become the toast to many researchers and scholars, just to name but a few Isaac Schappera, Distinguished Professors, Fred Morton and John C Makgala. For his part, Professor Morton’s whose research work on the Bakgatla ba Kgafela dates as far back as 1880s to 1980s gave expert account by assisting the Commission in the traditional leadership dispute in respect of the Bakagatla ba Kgafela, commissioned by the Premier of the Northwest Supra Obakeng Ramoeletse Mahumapelo.
It is important to emphasise that the Premier of the North West, Supra Obakeng Ramoeletse Mahumapelo in December 2015, presented findings of the North West Provincial Committee on Traditional Leadership Claims and Disputes to the Royal Family. The Premier issued a statement that he had decided to set aside the outcomes of the committee in favour of judicial commission of enquiry to investigate Bogosi of Bakgatla-Ba-Kgafela and hence the current commission, Chaired by Judge Maluleke.
Professor Morton assisted the Commission in answering the fundamental question as to whether Chieftaincy in Moruleng is hereditary and as to who has been responsible for appointing all the Chiefs in Moruleng right from Kgamanyane’s reign to his son Linchwe I, to the regent Isang and to Kgosi Linchwe II’s father a warrior and un-sung hero who fought in the World War II, Kgosi Molife Kgafela to Linchwe II, King Kgafela Kgafela II’s father.
Not only did Professor Morton assist the Commission in the appointment of regiments in Moruleng but also provided an account as to how Bakgatla ba kgafela accumulated their wealth. All the farms that were bought in Moruleng about 40 of them excluding small private farms bought By Isang and Molife were financed and bought by money from Mochudi.
The regent Kgosi Isang later passed on the farms to his twin sons, Mmamogale and Mokgatle, while Kgosi Molife sold only two farms to Bakgatla ba Kgafela and remained with some. That the current land where Sun City holiday resort is sitting belongs to Bakgatla ba Kgafela and that Regent Kgosi Tidimane entered into business deal with the partners without notifying Headquarters and his superiors, Kgosi Linchwe II in Mochudi.
One key witness Dikgapetlana Pheto representing Thipe Pheto a decendant of Tshomankane, who was Kgosi Kgamanyane’s half brother also a claimants of Bogosi ba Kgafela caught everyone one by surprise including Chair of the Commission Judge Maluleke as well as Thipe Pheto when during cross examination stood up and recited a poem praising and acknowledging Kgosi Kgolo Kgafela II, is King of Kings and that no one had ever been draped with a leopard skin since taking over from his father, “ o ne a thubega ka poko, a tsatsanka Kgosi Kgolo ya gagwe, KK KK II.
In a surprising twist of events, another key witness stated that there was no way Merafhe, Tidimane’s son could lay claims to bogosi ba Kgafela because Merafhe “Ke letla le anya”, “o tsile a gogiwa ka lobogo” and that there was never any wedding ceremony and the Dutch Reformed Church did not even solemnize the marriage for his mother who was the second wife to Tidimane.
For his part Nyalala’s claimancy has long been thrown out and has also been disappointed by the withdrawal of his key lawyer Advocate Lebala when the commission is still ongoing. There is a high likely hood that by the time this piece comes out, already a judgement would have been passed to detain him for his continuous contempt of the commission.
I must state dear reader with all that has been unfolding at the Commission it is very clear as to whom the King of the Castle is. All well wishers, haters, royal wannabe’s , pretenders and sell outs must just embrace themselves for the final day, a long walk to freedom, victory at last for today, tomorrow and future.
Thabo Lucas Seleke writes from Seleme Farm, Rasesa