Thursday, July 7, 2022

“Something needs to be done in Mochudi”

By and large, Molefe Seitei’s article headlined, “BDP activists hands off our bogosi” (Sunday Standard June 30, 2013 ) in which he assassinated the character of individuals named therein brings to mind the question, “who is fooling who?” in Kgatleng. On the other hand, it gives some of those individuals the opportunity to open a can of worms, something I am about to do. In his outburst, Mr Seitei attacks most of those individuals in detail.

Somewhere in the middle of his article, perhaps as an afterthought, he finds space for a nineteen-worded sentence. It reads,” Kwapeng Modikwe, our culture says for as long as you remain a bachelor you will remain a small boy”. That is the sentence that provokes this response. From the onset, let it be clear to everybody in Kgatleng who loves or hates Kgosi Kgafele 11 that despite the mistakes he may have committed as an individual or in partnership with others, he remains the undisputed Kgosikgolo of Bakgatla-ba-ga-Kgafela.

Until he abdicates, he remains the only one in line with the Setswana idiom which says “Nkwe ga e ke e bapolelwa matlapeng a le mabedi”(there cannot be two chiefs in one village). In the unlikely event of him abdicating, Bakgatla will have to wait for his sons to mature. Sometime in the eighties, when I was covering the case of a man called Martin van Rodlof who was also a fugitive in South Africa, I got to know that there are crimes which expire after 20 or 25 years. Currently, Kgafele is a fugitive in South Africa.

Yesterday’s deputy Kgosi, Sekai Linchwe has told the people that he (Kgafele) will not return to Botswana unless the government “stopped playing”. Some people say Sekai has said the Kgosi will return only after the BDP has been ousted. However, if the government does not “stop playing” or the BDP is not “defeated”, all will not be lost because Kgosi Kgafele can wait for the offences he is alleged to have committed to expire and come back a free man.

In the meantime, from the official point of view, there is no Sekai and no Kgafele at the kgotla. Something needs to be done. The first option is for Kgosi Kgafele to appoint somebody as regent and introduce that particular individual to government through his uncles with whom the government has no quarrel whatsoever as he Kgosi himself remains unrecognised by government. Even countries which do not see -eye-to-eye communicate to each other through third party. Personally, I will support whoever, Kgosi Kgafele appoints provided that particular individual is prepared to abide by and respect the laws of this country.

This country, as I understand it, has a government elected by Batswana in a free and fair election. The laws of this country have been enacted by Batswana through their elected representatives. For me, there is no alternative to the rule of law. I would never encourage our traditional rulers to disregard the rule of law. If that means being unpopular, so be it, President Robert Mugabe would say.

During the 1995 Segametsi uprising, Kgosi Linchwe II stood firm against gangsters who ruled Mochudi during the weeks of unrest saying he could not submit to lawlessness. This is my position full stop. I cannot buy fame through criminal acts. Before Kgosi Linchwe left for South Africa on medical grounds, me and him had discussed his illness and concluded that it was highly possible that he would die. He then gave me specific tasks to do following his death saying it was only myself and Sandy Grant who understood him well. Because of compelling circumstances, I started performing them even before he died. He was so desperate that he called me when I was in Vienna, Austria saying he wanted to talk to me before leaving for South Africa. He did not see most of these vocal uncles of him as the ones he could assign those task.

A few days before he died, I visited Kgosi Mothibe’s home to enquire on the latest medical bulletin on him. Kgosi Mothibe dialled a Johannesburg number which allowed me to speak to Mme MmaSeingwaeng. “He is on and off, only God knows” is what MmaSeingwaeng said to me. I then sensed the worst was to come and I immediately said to Kgosi Mothibe, “all is not well there and I suggest that first thing in the morning, you should approach the district commissioner with a request to release a vehicle for you and your uncles to travel to South Africa to check on Kgosi Linchwe. It is not wise to keep on phoning”, adding that,” MmaSeingwaeng and children are going through a painful moment and they need people like you around them”. I asked Kgosi Mothibe to call me if the district commissioner was finding it difficult to provide them with official transport so that I could influence the decision from Gaborone. It was on a Wednesday when we spoke. The next call from Kgosi Mothibe came on a Friday saying , “ abuti, we managed to go to South Africa where we saw Kgabo even though he did not see us”.

The next important advice to Kgosi Mothibe was on the eve of Kgosi Linchwe’s funeral. I advised him to present Kgafele to the morafe during the funeral and announce that he is their Kgosi- designate. I advised him to do that stressing that the human mind does not want uncertainties and that if he did that, he would earn the respect of the morafe because they would not view him as somebody who would want to prolong his stay as Kgosi. That announcement was received with a deafening applause by the multitude that attended the funeral service. As a result, Mothibe walked away from the kgotla a strong man.

There is someone who is struggling to write a book on Kgosi Linchwe. The manuscript gives details on his attitude towards some of his uncles who had been feeding the morafe with falshoods about his relationship with them. It includes the 1980 behaviour of Sekai Linchwe when he unceremoniously walked out of the camp during an initiation ceremony and the performance of Ramono Linchwe during Kgafele’s wedding at Kalamare. Back to Mr Seitei’s point that in Sekgatla, culturally a bachelor remains a small boy , I can only rely on history to enable readers make their judgement. Once upon a time, when Bakgatla were still resident in the Transvaal, there lived a Kgosi-kgolo named Mare.

He was a bachelor when he ruled Bakgatla after succeeding his elder brother, Madise who it is understood he too was single because history does not mention his wife and children hence he was succeeded by his younger brother. The Bakgatla-ba-ga-Kgafela did not regard those two dikgosi as small boys yet they were holding highest positions in the morafe. Certainly, if it is the culture of the Bakgatla to regard bachelors as small boys, the morafe would not have allowed bachelors to lead them.

Madise led his morafe twice to war against Barokologadi. He was killed in the second war which his people won and annexed the Barokologadi into themselves. This is why Mochudi has a ward called Morokologadi whose present kgosana is Joel Carter Mpete. After succeeding Madise, Mare developed the need to marry. He then spotted a woman to whom he completed betrothal formalities but died before marrying her. They did not have children. Despite that ,Bakgatla regarded that woman as their mother because betrothal the Kgosi had completed betrothal formalities. In 1936, following the expulsion of Kgosi Molefi from what was then called Bakgatla Reserve, Mmusi Pilane was still a bachelor but he became the regent of the Bakgatla without anybody raising eyebrows about his marital status or not taking him serious on account of being “a small boy”. Lately, when Kgosi Linchwe II became Kgosi on 6th April 1963, he was still a bachelor. There is evidence that his people, the Protectorate Government as well as other merafe in and outside the Protectorate regarded him in high esteem. He abolished the discrimination against women as a bachelor Kgosi. Remember women were not allowed to attend kgotla meetings at the time of his installation.

He was still a bachelor when he participated and contributed constructively in the constitutional talks which led the country to independence. He was still a bachelor when he chaired opposition talks which led to the formation of the BNF. For the information of Mr Seitei and the sponsors of his artice, Mochudi is history maker. In 1974, an interesting case was heard in the Mochudi Customary Court. For the first time since independence, an attorney was allowed to sit and defend a tribesman who was against Sekgatla culture/custom. The attorney in question was a Dew from South Africa, Kgosi Linchwe II was the presiding officer, Amos Kgamanyane Pilane was the expert witness on Sekgatla, Mogotsi Andrias Maribe was the interpreter, Deputy Kgosi Phulane Pilane and Mr Mochele Linchwe were engaged as court clerks.

The case was held on a Saturday at the request of the lawyer. In that case, it was held that in Sekgatla, “mosadi ke wa setlhako” meaning that, if betrothal arrangements had been completed by way of what is called “matsisiwa” the couple is recognised as husband and wife. In Professor Isaac Schapera’s “hand book of Tswana Law and Custom”, it is said, “in Kgatleng, so long as the consent of those families has been formally obtained and expressed through betrothal ceremonies, the cohabitation of the man and the woman constitutes a recognised form of union establishing certain legal rights and duties on both sides”. It states further, “once the betrothal has been confirmed, the boy and the girl are referred to as husband and wife, while their two families speak of each other as relatives-in-law. The boy’s people refer to the girl’s people as bagwagwadi and they are themselves called bagwe”.

The Mochudi Customary Court’s conclusion in that case was consistent with what Professor Schapera says in his book of Tswana Law. The tone of Mr Seitei’s article indicates that he is completely ignorant of this Tswana Law and Custom and because of that, he cannot even know that some of us have gone through that process. This is the weakness of writing poorly researched articles to newspapers. Unfortunately he relied on the uninformed and bitter sponsors of his article as his sources. Hopefully, he will do better next time.

By its nature, investigative reporting is not an easy task. It needs the likes of Ntibinyana Ntibinyana. Mr Seitei often writes well. His previous articles in the same newspaper, most of which were “in defence of kgosi-kgolo” were well written. There are people who know him well and they say those articles were crafted either by a lawyer or an ex-law student and handed over to him so that they appear as if they were written by him. During my many years covering high profile cases in the lower and higher courts, I learned that, the principle of criminal law states that when in doubt, the benefit must be given to the accused and that it is better to acquit the criminal than convicting the innocent. Therefore, since there is no evidence to the suggestion that somebody writes and hands over to Mr Seitei, and since the articles concerned bear his by-line, I give him the benefit of the doubt and conclude by saying he authored them. They are not above his comprehension as those who worked with him at Mascom and those who attended school with him believe.

But it seems unlikely that Kgosi Kgafele would agree with Mr Seitei’s thinking that, I am a small boy and therefore I cannot be taken seriously. Following one of the kgotla meetings he (Kgafele) addressed in Mochudi, I sent him an sms thanking him for being “less confrontational today” and he replied via sms saying, “come closer sir, you have a role to play”. Some people think I have forsaken Kgosi Kgafele II.

As stated earlier, Kgosi Linchwe II left me with instructions that following his death, I should make sure that the heir takes over immediately and that I should continue advising him (Kgafele) the same way I had been doing to him (Linchwe). I have carried his instructions to the best of my ability. Following the destruction of the MASCOM tower, I visited Kgosi Kgafele at home for discussions on the issue. He understood my point of view and said Unity Down had also sent him an e-mail message expressing surprise.

During the winter of 2009, I received word in Gaborone to the effect that Bakgatla regiments were poaching animals in the Makorwane area. I tipped Kgosi Kgafele during one of my weekend visits to the area. This is how I put it to him, “Kgabo, you see we may all be Bakgatla here, but there are some like me who are journalists, there are those from the Police Service, Wildlife Department and the BDF. Through some of us, what is taking place here has reached Gaborone”. He gave a nod to what I said to him and said…….. At the height of the flogging of people in Mochudi, I advised Kgosi Kgafele through Ramono Linchwe that he should have a public relations officer who would be the one giving interviews to the press instead of inexperienced individuals allegedly involved in the case. I gave that advice because from statements attributed to them in the newspapers that it was clear they were in fact implicating themselves. Ramono Linchwe appreciated my advice and enquired whether I could not take up that post to which I said, “no I am still committed in my job and you need this person as a matter of urgency. I can help you head-hunt”. If that advice did not reach Kgosi Kgafele, Ramono Linchwe is to blame.

In the same article, Mr Seitei argues that Kgosi Kgafele’s siblings, Bakgatle and Mmusi should play no role in the affairs of the tribe as they are not the Kgosi’s uncles. He said their role will begin when Kgafele’s son, Matshego becomes Kgosi. His argument is self-defeating because they did not bring themselves in the scene. It was their brother who did so and now may be because they have differed with him here and there, someone finds an excuse to use in sidelining them. Kgosi Kgafele even included them as members of a Board of Trustees set up to advice Kgosi-Kgolo. In one of the many kgotla meetings he addressed before skipping bail, Kgosi Kgafele said “it is not that we don’t know what we are doing, we know what we are doing myself, Seingwaeng, Bakgatle and Mmusi. We read extensively”, he said.

Now the reader is being told a different story. During the days I was covering the courts, especially high profile cases such the trial of Marriette Botch and the South African commando raid on Kgale, I noticed that in most cases, fabricated evidence never stood the test of the day.

Sometimes anger also makes people do shoddy job. If you are angry with someone, the best thing is to wait until you regain composure. In August 2001, Kgosi Linchwe was in Northern Pretoria at the inauguration of King Kgagodi. This is what he said, “quarrels and disagreements are part of human nature. If a people agree all the time on everything, that would cause a concern especially on the sound functioning of their mental faculties.” In Abuja, Nigeria during the 1990 OAU summit, Salim Salim said,“we must be credible ourselves if we want other people take us seriously.” If comments by the two men are meaningful to the current traditional leaders in Mochudi, they can learn from them and start tolerating opposing views so that Mochudi can regain her lost glory.

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