Kgosi Rebecca Banika of Pandamatenga has made a triumphant return to the lower house of parliament, Ntlo ya Dikgosi. Banika’s introduction to the house was in 2000 when she made history as the first woman member of what was then called House of Chiefs and was later renamed Ntlo ya Dikgosi to avoid use of the demeaning “chiefs” which was introduced by British colonialists.
Banika, who is the kgosi (traditional leader) of all Khwe (Bushmen) in the Chobe District, won herself a seat in elections that were held last week. With Chobe being a small district, she won her seat with only two votes.
Ntlo ya Dikgosi is made up of 35 members: 22 elected, eight ex-officio and five specially elected members. Of the elected members, Kgosi Mompoloki Motswagole, a Headman of Arbitration in Molepolole garnered the highest number of votes (125). More than anything else, this has to do with the size of the Kweneng District. The specially elected members are appointed by the president on the recommendation of the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development – who happens to be the Goodhope-Mabule MP, Eric Molale.
Out of need to keep tribal administration less acrimonious than party politics, the 22 members are elected elected by a regional electoral college made up of paid dikgosana (headmen of records), tribal authorities, deputy dikgosi and the eight ex-officio members. The latter are traditional leaders of what used to be called “major tribes”: Batlokwa, Bakwena, Bangwaketse, Balete, Barolong, Bangwato and Batawana and Bakgatla. That means that Dikgosi Puso Gaborone, Kgari Sechele, Malope II, Mosadi Seboko, Lotlamoreng as well as regents Dikgosi Sediegeng Kgamane, Kealetile Moremi and Bana Sekai Linchwe didn’t participate in the election.
Banika is the first woman to become a member of the lower house and served out a remarkable five-year term. Towards the end of her term, she became the subject of controversy after turning away women who came to her kgotla in Pandamatenga wearing trousers. Her reasoning was that such dress code was inappropriate for the kgotla. Naturally such action drew the ire of women rights activists. Earlier during her five-year stint, she had been hauled over the coals after suggesting that like men, women should also be caned at the kgotla. While the media focussed on that statement alone, the context was much deeper. She had had to sentence a mother to prison because there was no corporal punishment that would have kept her out of prison.