Monday, July 22, 2024

Politicians should not politicize the kgotla

The President was recently reported as having said that he abdicated his royal duties to concentrate on politics, warning chiefs who meddle in politics to do likewise. On the face of it, he is correct. It is very easy and convenient for him to say so.

The only problem is that the president detaches politics from chieftainship only when it suits him.
Even former President Sir Ketumile Masire would attest to it.

President Khama is aware that his subjects in Gammangwato don’t just look at him and say there goes my President. They see him as their chief first and President later.

Most of the ruling party Members of Parliament who come from the central district are often timid to openly differ with him in parliament lest they are seen as being disrespectful to their chief.
In fact, when he is cornered by opposition politicians who happen to be his subjects he often reminds them that he is their chief.

He often says it in jest, but the reality is that he is relaying a loaded message.
Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi when quizzed recently about her alleged utterances to the former US Ambassador as Wikileaks revealed said she would not badmouth her chief.

The President, we know, has previously reminded other politicians that he is their chief so they must choose their words.

The President doubles as a chief and Head of State. He enthrones other chiefs not in his political capacity but rather in his traditional role as a tribal chief. Perhaps he must also abdicate such duties of presiding over some traditional duties. But many would argue that he is merely doing that because a chief is born.

 It does not mean that when the President does not preside over cases of wives who refuse husbands with blankets at the kgotla he ceases to be a chief. He remains a chief and a politician. He is chief of Bangwato and President of the Republic. As President of the Republic, his government may come up with policies and programmes that clash with the traditional system of governance. Some chiefs may show unhappiness about this government and they may be seen to meddling in politics. His government may instruct chiefs to act in a manner which the chiefs may feel is an affront to the institution of Bogosi.

We are not encouraging chiefs to be hostile to the government of the day. By the same token, chiefs should not be used by the government of the day as a springboard for political mileage as has been the case over the years. The government of the day has been using Dikgotla to announce new programmes for a long time that the recent events that saw some chiefs openly disregarding instructions not to host unions at their dikgotla must have come as a shock.

But this time around, some chiefs refused to be bossed around like school boys and school girls.
The government must appreciate that culture is not static. The government perhaps, must leave the kgotla to the chiefs and their subjects to use it purely for tribal purposes and use other venues, like school halls for meetings about government business. The government has encroached on the territory of the chiefs for far too long it now thinks the kgotla is a government institution.

By this comment we are not encouraging any chief to act outside the constitutional framework of this republic. We are not encouraging chiefs to think that their tribal territories are like kingdoms. But we are worried that the government of the day has been using the kgotla indirectly to galvanize its support from the rural populace.


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