A decision by the District Commissioner’s office in Maun to rescind a six-month ban on marriages looks set to bring relief to Batawana.
The ban, unpopular though consented to by the majority, was enforced in 2012 by the tribal leadership to allow people to go and plough their fields.
The business community, residents, and the political leadership had raised complaints regarding the sudden change, but the tribal leadership remained resolute.
In an interview this week, the acting District Commissioner, Keabetswe Lesiela, said until they get instruction from the Ministry of Local government, his office would continue solemnizing marriages at any time of the year as long as they are registered with the civil and national registration department.
He said while they work hard to respect the various cultures and traditions of Batawana, the tribal leadership should respect the fact that the interests of other people need to be honoured.
This is taking into consideration that being a tourism area, Maun or the whole of Ngamiland is fully cosmopolitan, which therefore means other people who do not have interests in farming might want to get married at any time of the year.
He said six months is a very long time which cannot be wasted as there are officials who are expected to execute their duties and not spend time just idling.
“Primarily, it is not even within our power to ban marriages as we do not even have a lawful authorization to do so. The Act is very clear as it stipulates solemnizing can be done throughout the year. We should not be seen to be abusing the rights of other people,” he said.
Lesiela said usually the kgotla was used to solemnize marriages for the reason that it is an open space where people are free to attend in large numbers and be part of the proceedings.
But under the current decree, the ban extends to women in trousers and men in dread locks or earrings from entering the kgotla.
Lesiela said it is high time they revert to their chambers either at the sub council or council headquarters as they anticipated procedures would be unfavorably affected.
He said events like marriage solemnizing should be publicly accessed by all.
“We need to be firm on this one, because if people are chased away it means somebody has an objection, and in such cases the marriage stands to be nullified, which wouldn’t be fair at all,” Lesiela said.
“We know trousers are prohibited at all Kgotla’s and can’t dispute that. But I believe some things should be reconsidered.”
He said he would be meeting his staff to sensitize them on various issues like opening their chambers to the public.
The acting DC added that he would also be meeting with the tribal leadership in Maun to set clear the position of his office.
However, he was unequivocal that that his office does not have powers to dictate on customary marriages, adding that the power lies with the tribal leadership. Contacted for comment, Senior Chief Representative Charles Letsholathebe said appropriate consultations were made with the morafe.
“Any other thing regarding this issue is way beyond my control. I cannot at this point say much about the ban or any developments, and perhaps we should wait for the meeting with the D.C and see what comes of it,” he said.