This week, my cell phone was inundated with calls and messages indicating that a war of words about the bogosi situation in Moruleng, South Africa is intensifying and may turn ugly anytime from now. The intensity of it was said to be near boiling point. This comes after a group, calling itself “Bana ba Moruleng” previously unknown, gave the South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa an ultimatum to act on their demands or else they will mobilize their people. Although they do not say how people will be mobilized to defend and protect themselves against what they call government sponsored colonialism, this is a serious and worrying turn of events which cannot be taken light. The group appears to be bracing for a showdown with the law judging from the tone of their letter written to Cyril Ramaphosa last week. It went viral on several social media platforms both in South Africa and Botswana.
I am reliably informed that the message from Bana ba Moruleng was widely circulated to the extent of reaching former Botswana Members of Parliament WhatsApp Group, Molefi Secondary School Alumni and several other individuals. The tone of the message in a letter from the Bana ba Moruleng group was aggressive to say the least. They gave him seven days within which to respond to their demands. These demands include the reinstatement of Kgosi Nyalala Pilane as kgosi of Moruleng, the removal of Ramono Linchwe from the position of bogosi, investigate how Kgosi Kgafela II obtained South African citizenship, and investigate what frustrated Botswana’s application for the extradition of Kgafela back to Botswana where he was facing criminal charges. They referred to Kgafela as a fugitive who was attracted to South African by the mineral wealth of Moruleng.
The ultimatum was due to expire on Wednesday August 5th. Should Ramaphosa fail to respond within a given time, Bana ba Moruleng warn him that “we’ll have no option but to mobilize our community in Moruleng to defend and protect ourselves against government sponsored colonialism”. Whatever the envisaged mobilization of Moruleng people entails is not clear. But the tone of the letter opens floodgate for violence. It may mean that personal safety of individuals unwanted in Moruleng is at risk. The emergence of the group may be a sign of impatience on their part that their elders were not delivering as expected in dealing with the unwanted people of Mochudi. This group may also be the remnants of the 1994 pro-Tidimane and anti-Linchwe. Despite winning all court battles against Tidimane, Kgosi Linchwe had always been alive to the fact that the group would one day re-emerge and launch a spirited fight. The group also states that the people of Moruleng are a distinct, sovereign and independent traditional community and that they have their own royal family with statutory power to indentify kgosi amongst themselves. They say they cannot allow Kgafela II to continue his “contemptuous behavior” to Botswana constitution as well as to that of South Africa.
The claim that Moruleng is a distinct, sovereign and independent community is false. The first thing that anyone who knows the history of the Bakgatla- ba- Kgafela can ask after reading the letter from Bana ba Moruleng group is, are these people deliberately being selective to the issues that concern their own history or are they ignorant of that history? If they are ignorant why didn’t they ask the elders in their community to provide them with historical facts which are easily available. For instance, Kgosi Nyalala was second respondent in the case filed against Kgosi Linchwe II by Kgosi Tidimane Pilane in 1995 in the Mmabatho High Court alleging that Linchwe had no authority over him since the later was a foreigner from Botswana. The court was however, informed that Tidimane was himself appointed to the position he had been holding by the paramount Kgosi based in Mochudi and that all his predecessors including his father similarly were appointed by Mochudi. These issues surrounding who the Kgosi of Moruleng is were concluded in favour of Kgosi Linchwe. The court concluded that Moruleng chieftainship is not hereditary. I was present when Justice Handler delivered his finding. To date, I am still in possession of his judgment which was also upheld by the Supreme Court in Bloemfontein when Tidimane had taken the matter on appeal.
I did not accompany Kgosi Linchwe to Taung in South Africa for a meeting with Nelson Mandela on the issue of bogosi of Moruleng but Kgosi Linchwe thoroughly briefed me on his return that he was able to demonstrate to Mandela that Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela in Mochudi and Moruleng were a single tribe under one kgosikgolo based in Botswana and that Tidimane failed to show anything to the contrary following which he Tidimane was asked to apologize to the Moruleng people for bringing their chieftaincy in disrepute. I was present in 1995 when Kgosi Linchwe asked the people at the Moruleng kgotla whether it was their wish to separate from Bakgatla of Mochudi. They replied with a deafening “no”. Bana ba Moruleng are missing the point. A child born in 1995 is today 25. This is the age of maturity. They are no longer children. Some of them are parents in their own right. They are therefore in a position to distinguish facts from fiction. Why they appear to remember what is good for them and forget that which did not support their claim to bogosi of Moruleng is not surprising. It is common knowledge that generally that is how people behave.
Perhaps Bana ba Moruleng should be advising their Moruleng elders to serve Mochudi with divorce proceedings if the marriage between their village and Mochudi has broken down irrevocably instead of fermenting trouble. This is the only way out if they no longer want to be one tribe with their section which is based in Mochudi. As to whether Mochudi will oppose the divorce action if so filed remains to be seen. The legal route is no longer an option. Afterall their elders put Mochudi on notice in 2012 during a meeting between them and the royal uncles in Mochudi. The legal route is no longer an option.
I am glad that upon receiving communication from Bana ba Moruleng, former Member of Parliament for Mochudi East, Isaac Mabiletsa and Advocate Sidney Pilane did not fold their arms and say ijoo re tla a reng ga dilo di nna jaana. They adequately addressed the issue at their respective WhatsApp groups for the benefit of their members. This is what Mabiletsa wrote, “but these claimants are showing the aspect they like which appears too divorced from reality. They are not indicating that they have lost every single court battle they lodged through competent courts of the Republic of South Africa since the time of Nelson Mandela”. Mabiletsa was present in 1995 when Kgosi Linchwe II appointed Nyalala Pilane to rule in Moruleng on behalf of the Kgosi in Mochudi. This was after Kgosi Tidimane Pilane’s bid to be succeeded by his son, Merafe Ramono suffered a devastating blow in the Mmabatho High Court and the Supreme Court in Bloemfontein. Mabiletsa notes that all court determinations including the commission which was appointed to investigate this bogosi dispute were not naïve to the fact that the Kgosi in Mochudi was in another sovereign state and recognized that Bakgatla are one tribe divided by colonial boundaries to all reach the same verdict all the time.
Sidney Pilane was more forthright. He referred to the group as kids who will never make reference to any of the known historical facts because they have no answer to them. “They are a lobby that is being used by those who want to benefit from the wealth of morafe in Moruleng”, he said, adding, Kgosi Kgafela’s rights in Moruleng are beyond the debate. Sidney Pilane recalls that when Kgosi Linchwe II informed morafe at Moruleng in 1995 that Tidimane Pilane had filed a court case against him, moruleng people advised him (Linchwe) to “get the best advocates money can buy and use morafe’s resources to pay them”.
Sidney Pilane is not exaggerating. I was present at meeting and I still have video recordings of that meeting in my shelves. In a WhatsApp post, Pilane mentioned a meeting between Kgosi Linchwe and Lucas Mangope who was the “president” of Bophuthatswana homeland. I still have the minutes of that meeting. It was held on February 1994 at Mmabatho. Mangope is quoted in those minutes recorded by his secretary as saying, “when we discuss chieftainship, the owners of bogosi finally resolve the matter. They introduce the kgosi to me and say, here is the kgosi and I confirm. I knew that Kgosi Linchwe has the final word on chieftainship and all four of you (dikgoro) have confirmed this. This is what I know. It is Kgosi Linchwe who can finally say who is the kgosi and when does he want to install him. I just confirm that”.