Thursday, August 5, 2021

Seretse Khama falls out favour for Bangwato regency

Having been earlier earmarked for the regency of the Bangwato bogosi (inherited traditional leadership), the grandson of Kgosi Tshekedi Khama is right where he was before he was mentioned as successor to Kgosi Sediegeng Kgamane. The grandson’s name is Seretse Khama, having been named after Botswana’s founding president, Sir Seretse Khama, who was Tshekedi’s paternal uncle. Seretse Khama’s father, Leapeetswe, himself served as Regent (Motshwarelela Bogosi) from between 1964 and 1974.

, the current regent, is of advanced age and as Sunday Standard reported last year, there was a plan to replace him with Seretse Khama. Royal sources tell us that Seretse would have been attached to the Kanye main kgotla for three months to learn the ropes under the tutelage of Kgosi Malope II of Bangwaketse. That plan has since been scuttled and the full measure of how it was put together in the first place and later undone reveals the extent to which the Bangwato has been politicized.

The Khama name carries its greatest political weight in Serowe and ahead of the 2019 general election, Seretse threw in his lot with the Alliance for Progressives (AP). While he never formally declared his candidacy, never addressed a single political rally and never so identified himself, it is a fact that he was to contest the Serowe North parliamentary seat on the AP ticket. However, another family member, who had actually been area MP, was also interested in the same seat: Dikgakgamatso Ndelu Seretse. More commonly known as Ndelu, the latter is the son of Botswana’s third vice president, Lenyeletse Seretse, who, himself a member of the royal family, was married to Naledi, Sir Seretse’s sister. Having lost to Kgotla Autlwetse in the 2014 primary elections, Ndelu wanted a second bite at the cherry but this time not as a Botswana Democratic Party but independent candidate.

Ahead of the election, Bangwato kgosi and former president, Ian Khama, had fallen out with his successor, President Mokgweetsi Masisi, reportedly because Masisi reneged on a gentleman’s agreement that would have seen Khama’s younger brother, Tshekedi, become vice president. Determined to bring down both Masisi and the party that he leads, General Khama supported Ndelu’s candidacy for the precise reason that it would split the BDP vote.

“He is actually the one who encouraged Ndelu to run as an independent candidate,” says a source.That scenario means that members of the Bangwato royal family would have vied for the same parliamentary seat. Political contests typically involve a lot of bad-mouthing one’s opponents and either candidate would have had to do that to the other but remain in good terms as family. The solution to this problem would come from Ndelu: he suggested that on account of age and ill health, Kgamane should be replaced with someone younger at the kgotla. While a consequent royal-family meeting endorsed this recommendation, there were outliers, among them Kgamane himself. However, the person whose voice matters the most (Gen Khama) agreed that Seretse should be made regent because that aligned with his political plans. Resultantly, Seretse quit politics and prepared to join the Bangwato tribal administration at Serowe.

That was the real reason why he quit politics but the exclusive indoor meetings knowingly steered clear of that very clear fact, its collective self-denial orienting it towards the more palatable understanding that young royal blood was required at the kgotla.However, Seretse would never take up post at the kgotla because the formal processes that would have enabled him to do so were never followed through. The first step would have entailed Kgamane writing a letter to the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development who, in turn, would have written a formal appointment letter. Meanwhile, plans were made to deploy Seretse to the Kanye kgotla where he would have learnt the ropes under the tutelage of Kgosi Malope II.

That letter was never written and when some anxious members of the royal family enquired, they learnt that some of its own had dug up dirt on Seretse and were using it to block his ascendance. The dirt was in the form of information on Seretse’s youthful indiscretions – which indiscretions he had outgrown and were no longer a factor in his adult life. At this point, the dynamics had changed drastically. Seretse had been enticed away from politics during the campaign season with the offer of the second most senior position at the Serowe kgotla. That offer remained firm for that season and Seretse himself had a lot of leverage during that season. If he chose to run, Khama’s plan could be scuttled. Post-election, the offer was infirm and Seretse had no leverage. Such vulnerability became evident when his past (which had never been an issue when he had leverage) became an issue after the elections – when he had no leverage. Interestingly, Gen Khama would certainly have been aware of what Seretse had done in his youth.

In the progress of time, Kgamane is said to have told Khama that Seretse’s past had become a stumbling block to his appointment.Khama called Seretse to a meeting, told him about the information he had been asked to consider and expressed his own disquiet. In response, Seretse is said to have owned up about his past as described but stated that such indiscretions belonged in a past he was not presently connected with. Taking stock of the situation, Seretse told Khama that “you are the one who offered me the regency in the first place but if you are withdrawing your offer, I will be happy to do as you wish.” And so, Seretse stepped aside.

A lot more had happened: Khama had fallen out with Ndelu on the basis of “lies” that a source says were fed him by “the Gaborone crew that surrounds him.” Three names are mentioned and the collective mission of the crew is to curry favour with the former president by feeding him lies about other people in his circle. Among those people are members of the royal family. Interestingly, all three people whose names are mentioned are not even Bangwato.

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