I am not a Sangoma nor am I a prophet. I wish to make a simple prediction about the upcoming Barolong by elections. There is absolutely no way Hon Eric Molale is going to defeat Kgosi Lotlaamoreng. I am not prophesying here but rather stating a mere statement of fact, which some people dismiss. BDP is also its worst enemy and its succession plan will haunt it for now and in future, thus, it will be a miracle for Kgosi to lose; it will in fact be embarrassing if Barolong were not to vote for their Kgosi in the by elections. Bangwato have always done it, so much so that it is now very difficult to separate the Khama name from politics.
Although I have always been against Dikgosi participating in active politics my mind set has changed. A precedent has long been set by Bangwato and Dikgosi must now come in large numbers to stand for political office. For far too long Dikgosi have suffered. They have been subjected to ridicule and humiliation by politicians. In order to restore the dignity and pride of their institution, Dikgosi must stand up and defend their rights and positions. They are more powerful than politicians. Once they participate in large numbers in the political arena, they should concentrate more on reforming their institution and ensure that their institution has a role to play in modern day democracy.
Is Lotlamoreng doing the right thing to stand for political office as Kgosi and Motswana? In Botswana politics has been unkind to the institution of Bogosi.
In 1970, Kgosi Neale Sechele was compelled to resign as Chief of the Bakwena following a two-man commission appointed by President Sir Seretse Khama to look into alleged negligence of duty and abuse of alcohol leveled against the Kgosi. Last year in 2010, a team consisting of former Ministers and Speakers of Parliament Matlapeng Ray Molomo and Patrick Balopi together with a Ngwato royal Sediegeng Kgamane and former Police Commissioner and Kweneng native Simon Hirstchfeld were commissioned by President Ian Khama (Seretse’s son) to probe into the troubles of Kweneng District, particularly the factional tussles in the Bakwena royal family. The commission did not impress many people, a situation that compelled Mohumagadi Kgosiemang to caution Kgosi Kgari III that he should have let Bakwena resolve their own problems as opposed to bringing in Ian Khama to do it for them. She reminded him of the 1970 debacle where Neale Sechele was compelled to abdicate Bogosi.
In 1973, Kgosi Seepapitso IV was suspended for one year because he was purported to have on several occasions behaved in a manner deemed unbecoming for a Kgosi and was perceived as a poor performer in the execution of his chieftaincy functions. In 1977, Sir Seretse Khama’s administration dismissed Kgosi Besele II of Barolong for dereliction of duty. Earlier in 1969, Kgosi Bathoen II of Bangwaketse was compelled by law to quit bogosi in order to pursue a political career on an opposition Botswana National Front (BNF) ticket. The poor Kgosi Bathoen had to trade in his leopard skin for politics. Kgosi Tawana Moremi of Batawana suffered the same fate, as he had to live his father’s Kgotla to join politics. However in sharp contrast to this image, Sir Seretse Khama in 1979, appointed his son Ian Khama (then a Brigadier in the army), to be Kgosi of the Bangwato tribal while still serving in the army. By so doing Sir Seretse Khama set up a very bad precedent that inculcated a sense of entitlement and prestige to the young brigadier.
The ceremony took place at the Bangwato’s main kgotla in Serowe, the government owned Kutlwano magazine of this day has a photo of Ian Khama clad in military tunic bringing firewood to the kgotla.
It must be noted that Seretse Khama installed Ian Khama as Kgosi of the Bangwato despite an undertaking by Seretse and his uncle, Tshekedi, made in the mid-1950s that they were abdicating chieftaincy of the Bangwato for themselves and their children. Khma’s special dispensation disregarded a precedent that was set by Kgosi Bathoen II. This was after Bathoen II had routed Marquette Joni Ketumile Masire in the 1969 elections on an opposition Botswana National Front ticket.
In asserting its authority over the Chiefs, the government has sought to make them agents of the state administration and in consequence have them become employees of the public service. Kgosi Linchwe II of the Bakgatla -ba- Kgafela in 1978 challenged this set up and stated in the House of Chiefs that a Chief is not a civil servant. Kgosi Seepapitso II of Bangwaketse reiterated the statement and stated that ‘just because chiefs receive a salary from government, they are not civil servants ….. And so it is wrong of us to entertain the idea that chiefs are civil servants’ (Jones 1983).
The Chieftainship Act of 1966 conned the Chiefs to submit to the authority of the state.
Of particular significance was the authority which is vested in the President to recognize the designation of the Chief by the tribe and to suspend and dispose him following a judicial commission of enquiry. Subsequent legislation substantially consolidated the power of the President and the responsible Cabinet Minister. The Chieftainship (Amendment) Act of 1970 removed the right of a Chief to a judicial enquiry before his suspension or deposition by the President. Under the Chieftainship (Amendment) Act of 1973, the President was to determine the nature of administrative enquiry preceding his judgment on the removal of a chief from office and such an enquiry could be instigated without there being, as was previously the case, a complaint from the tribe about the conduct of a Chief.
At some seminar held in 1971, the late Englishman Kgabo stated that chieftainship would no longer be a birth-right but a job like any other public office. Subsequent to Kgabo statement there was a legal case involving Kgosi Seepapitso IV of Bangwaketse in 1972 and the Chief Justice C J Aguda ruled that recognition was synonymous with appointment there by confirming th claim by Kgabo that persons are no longer born to these positions but appointed to them. Again in 1978 the late Lemme Makgekgenene reiterated Kgabo’s statement, and stated that ‘Chiefs are Civil Servants like any other civil servants’. In 2008, there was yet another amendment to Bogosi Act that sought to resolve the impasse between the two institutions.
It is time for Dikgosi to realize that their institution has a role to play in modern day democracy. However, in doing so they must understand that politics is not for the faint hearted.