Sunday, December 10, 2023

Seingwaeng Kgafela is well qualified to be regent of Bakgatla

Pono Moatlhodi of Tonota has publicly declared his opposition to the imposition of dikgosana on the people. This makes him a very useful member of parliament. This is not to say the rest are useless. He is useful in the sense that he has indicated his disdain to the imposition of a kgosana or dikgosana on the people. He wants the people to choose one for themselves. He made this clear when he rose on a point of clarification in Parliament the other day when the MP for Lephephe/Letlhakeng, Kablay was debating the state of the nation address. Kablay had repeatedly complained that the Lerolwana kgosana has not been given resources enough to execute his duties effectively.

 Moatlhodi did not capture Kablay well. He misunderstood him thinking that the complaint raised was that the tribal administration headquarters in Molepolole wanted to impose a kgosana on the community at Lorolwana. On that understanding, he rose on a point of clarification advising Kablay never to allow Molepolole to impose a tribal leader on that community or to dictate to them who their traditional leader should be. Kablay explained that the issue at Lorolwana was not about who the kgosana should be. Rather it was about empowering the kgosana by providing his office with enough resources.

        Good enough,  Moatlhodi’s intervention sounds more like that of a man who has read the Bogosi Act and is happy with it as it stands. It sounds more like that of a man who is concerned about the behaviuor of some people who have the tendency of using their positions to undermine marginalized communities. The Act gives the community powers to elect one among themselves to be their kgosana in the event a vacancy occurred in their mist. My understanding of that section of the Act is that, it refers to a situation where the position is not hereditary. However, even where the position is hereditary, the community endorses what the royal uncles bring to them in terms of royal succession plans.

           Moatlhodi’s intervention has come at a time some communities in the country are being undermined by having dikgosana imposed on them because of their lack of understanding of the legal requirement on the issue. It can also be due to fear of those in authority that such dubious decisions are never questioned. This is what Pono Moatlhodi finds obnoxious. He may have been concerned about Lerolwana community but his views extend to other areas he did not make reference to.

In other words he was saying to the MP for Mochudi East, Mabuse Pule not to allow Mochudi to impose a kgosana on the community at Olifants Drift, some hundred kilometers away from the headquarters in Mochudi. The village’s kgosana has retired or is about to retire. Instead of the people being advised to feel the vacancy by electing the successor among themselves, the headquarters in Mochudi identified a successor without the involvement of that community. It is a man who has never stayed in the community. He does not know them, he does not even know their culture and they too do not know him. This was the norm in the pre-independence Botswana. But it has since been discarded because of constitutional democracy. In Olifants Drift, the retiring kgosana was chosen by the community themselves.  He was not an import from Mochudi. Now Mochudi wants to reverse the situation for what appears like a clear case of corruption. The person earmarked as replacement, is a known ally of the incumbent leader. His partnership with the deputy kgosi started during the years the latter was in trouble with the law.

The former then helped mobilize public support for the deputy kgosi and also for him to secure employment from government The general public was mobilised also against some royal uncles with whom the deputy kgosi was and still is not in talking terms. The offering of public positions on the basis of friendship cannot and should not be allowed to continue. It should be nipped in the bud before it pollutes morafe further. To Mabuse Pule, Moatlhodi was also actually saying that the Olifants Drift people are his constituents who depend on his protection against predators. Indirectly the man from Tonota was warning anybody in Botswana including the tribal leadership in Mochudi to comply with the Bogosi Act to the fullest when dealing with matters relating to the appointment of dikgosana. There should be no attempt to mislead the appointing authority.  Should the leadership in Mochudi go ahead with its intention of imposing a kgosana on the Olifants Drift community, the community should in turn be guided to petition the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development whose doors are always opened.

The other related interesting observation was made by the MP for Palapye, Onneetse Ramogapi who showered  the Eric Molale’s Ministry with praises for having, “appointed a female kgosi for the first time” in that village.  His comments may seem to many others as just one of those things which do not deserve attention.  But it is far much greater than that. Women have for centuries been barred from becoming dikgosi even when they were first born to their parents. In some cases they were denied their rights on the grounds that in the event of them going on maternity leave, there would be no body left to lead the merafe against enemy forces during attacks. These days, there are no enemy forces against any morafe. The only threat that may come is external and is the responsibility of the national governments all over the world.

Bangwaketse broke that glass ceiling in 1924 when Ntebogang became regent before handing over to Bathoen II in 1928. In fact to be more precise with the history of the Bangwaketse, consideration for female regents had started a year earlier when Bathoen I’s widow, Gagoangwe became regent in 1923. This can be seen in Isaac Schapera’s “Ditirafalo Tsa Merafe Ya Batswana”. Gagoangwe died of cancer after being regent for only a year.  Batawana are yet another example. They were followed by Balete who now have Kgosi Mosadi as their kgosi. Some small villages like Kgope near Lentsweletau have done the same. Their female kgosi is Kgosimokgalo.  In Botswana the titled “kgosi” refers to both the male and female unlike among some Tswana merafe in South Africa’s Rustenburg district where a female kgosi is referred to as “kgosigadi”. 

What does having “dikgosigadi” at various places of Botswana mean for Mochudi or Bakgatla –ba-Kgafela?  They were founded on the premise that “ga di etellwe ke manamagadi pele, di ka wela ka makotlopo” which simply means detestable of a female kgosi. That was why Tshire Pilane, Kgosi Linchwe II’s elder sister was not considered for the throne despite her being first born. The same was the case with Seingwaeng. Custom dictated that Kgafela II be the one. That arrangement has never presented problems because it was acceptable to everybody. It will pose no threat to stability for years to come because in the house of Kgafela II, three boys have been produced. These are Matshego, Kau and Sedibelo. Should something drastic happen to Matshego to the extent that he may not be able to ascend to the throne, his younger brother will succeed. But in the present day Botswana, Sidelining females from positions of responsibility on the basis of gender has no space.  I believe very strongly that even among the present generation of Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela, discrimination of this nature no longer serves a useful purpose.

How do we show that it no longer serves a useful purpose among the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela? It is simple. It all depends on the will of Kgosi Kgafela II. He must show pragmatic approach to management problems. For the benefit of my readers, pragmatism involves thinking about solving problems in practical and sensible way rather than by having fixed ideas and theories. Kgafela II is capable of rising to this occasion if advised and I proceed to give him that advice. Some two years or so into his leadership, vacancy occurred in the tribal administration due to the departure of Kgosi Mothibe to become the president of the customary court of appeal. Mothibe had been regent and continued as such after the installation of Kgafela because the latter did not accept being in the payroll of government. The post has remained vacant for ten years because Kgafela indicated on his coronation day that he would not appoint a regent. Time has come for him to reconsider his position and appoint one to be regent of Bakgatla until he comes back to reclaim his position.

We need somebody who is strong and capable of discharging the duties of that office. Not somebody good at sowing seeds of divisions on the morafe, somebody who will know that kgosi thotobolo and somebody who will know the needs of the morafe. We need somebody who will interact without handicap with Prince Charles if he were to come here. Not only Prince Charles even Gaborone based diplomats if they were to visit Mochudi like it used to be the case with Kgosi Linchwe II. When I look around, there is acute shortage of people capable of interacting with a category of people I have mentioned. The two royal brothers, Bakgatle and Mmusi could excel but they have long made it clear that they would not avail themselves for that position for personal reasons. As a cabinet minister, Mmusi is even now a none-starter. His is at a national rather than at tribal level. Mothibe could but he too is serving the country at national level. My pick leaves me with Seingwaeng Kgafela elder sister to Kgosi Kgafela. With a university degree as her qualification, there is nothing that can prevent her to do the needful. She is well grounded, mature and a leader of her regiment sect..

Kgafela should look at her without prejudice. She is the type of person needed to calm the situation in Mochudi which has refused to return to normalcy despite the government having played its part by offering Sekai Linchwe employment as deputy kgosi. If appointed, Seingwaeng will treat people equally irrespective of gender or association. She exhibited her neutrality during factional groupings whose approach to the problems that besieged Mochudi were becoming difficult to content with. Even if she took sides, she kept it to herself which is a plus for her. This will bring the behind-the-scenes maneuverings that have been detected recently when a group of some few dikgosana approached government with a request to appoint Sekai a regent of Bakgatla. They did not bother to bring their intention to Kgosi Kgafela’s attention. They have gone to the extent of engaging mercenaries to lobby government on their behalf still without consulting the royal house. Through their actions, it has now become clear why they are comfortable with Kgafela’s absence from the country. They do not want him back home because they will cease getting public attention.


Read this week's paper