Thursday, July 2, 2020

South Africa commission endorses Kgafela II as Kgosikgolo

A few days before the end of last year, I received an unexpected visitor in the name of Ramono Linchwe, a level-headed man who is currently in South Africa as Kgosi Kgafela II’s most senior uncle in that country. He is also the kgosi’s right hand man. For me the visit was a Christmas present. I was overwhelmed to the extent that I nearly shed a tear. It was a happy reunion. He went on and met with several others he had not seen for a very long time. For some obscure reasons, we had not seen each other for ten years or so. During those ten years of obscurity, there was no communication between us despite being just about two hundred kilometres apart.  We are related to each other by blood, we belonged to one football club, we schooled together and we were both Kgosi Linchwe II’s close associates. It is not clear why we had to be incommunicado. However, that can be attributed to the days of instability in Mochudi following the arrest of Kgosi Kgafela II and several of his tribesmen and the subsequent decision by the Bakgatla leadership to prevent government ministers from addressing official meetings in the district.

It was during those days that the morafe split into factions, friends and relatives becoming enemies to the extent that certain people who did not appear to be in support of hard-line decisions were publicly maligned. Smearers took it upon themselves to address kgotla meetings smearing those they suspected of not being on their side. In one or two cases, their campaign took a nasty turn as malicious lies were told about certain individuals on account of not supporting what appeared to them as acts of lawlessness. How the culprits escaped litigation remains mystery except in one case where a certain ninny royal uncle who is always seen in public dazzling ostentatiously, referred to someone as a DIS agent, thus exposing the individual to public ridicule, hatred and damage to reputation. The individual maligned approached different lawyers for legal opinion after he had been defamed. All were agreed that the statement uttered against that person at the kgotla on 6th July 2013 was defamatory. However, the victim decided against filing for defamation suit because he would be guilty of selective litigating as he wanted to punish only one out of the two who had uttered those offending remarks.

When dealing with Ramono Linchwe, one has to tread carefully. This is the man who can be described correctly as Kgafela’s man, not the self-imposed “Matlhoakgosi” seen marauding streets of Mochudi in the recent past. Talking to him is almost like talking to Kgosi Kgafela. We discussed a wide range of tribal and national issues. During the discussions on national issues, I concluded that the man though having relocated to South Africa, still had the interest of Botswana at heart. On local issues (tribal) I also found him to be well informed about issues going on in Mochudi. There is only one royal uncle who with the backing of a small group of misguided Mangana and the ill-informed regiments has been trying to undermine Ramono Linchwe in the recent months.

Anybody working with Ramono Linchwe must take him serious. He is not the type of a person one can toss around or try to undermine. His proximity to Kgosi Kgafela makes him a very important man because of the influence he commands. Besides that, his father, Thari Pilane was one of the many who was at some stage one of the rulers of Moruleng having been appointed by Mochudi during the protectorate days. On his retirement due to ill-health, Thari Pilane returned to Mochudi where he got involved financially and physically in the development of the village. For instance, he contributed substantially from his pocket towards construction of some classroom blocks at the old Linchwe Primary School in the 50s. He also donated a trophy that was competed for by Kgatleng football teams in the early 60s. It was called Thari Pilane Champion’s Cup.

A few days after his return to South Africa, I received a pamphlet beautifully bound with a multi-coloured glossy cover from Ramono Linchwe’s envoy. Again that was also quite unexpected. I was pleased to receive it because I knew I would write something out of it for the reading public from an informed position. The heading of the pamphlet reads, “Commission into Traditional Succession Disputes and Claims: Bakgatla Ba Kgafela Traditional Community Final Report”. Within a very reasonable time, I was done, having read the report’s 200 pages. 

The commission began its work in 2016 concluding in 2019. They did not do a shallow work (go shankodisa), hence it was worth spending three years enquiring. The commissioners dug deeper into the history of Bakgatla ba Kgafela tribes in Botswana and in South Africa and concluded quite rightly that the two sections are historically one tribe under one Kgosikgolo. Unsurprisingly, the commission found that after the departure of the other section to Botswana around 1869, the section that moved to Mochudi ensured that the village became the headquarters of the two sections of the tribe. The commission found that all respective chiefs of Moruleng were appointed from Mochudi to run the affairs of the tribe there on behalf of the Kgosikgolo resident in Mochudi.

The commission’s findings are consistent with the judgement of Kgosi Tedimane Pilane’s case against Kgosi Linchwe II of 1995. Tidimane had gone to court claiming that he was the Kgosikgolo at Maruleng and that he was under nobody’s supervision, disputing historical facts that Linchwe II presented in court with the support of the entire Moruleng population. Had the commission found otherwise, I would have to concede that the indeed “The Gods must be crazy”.

I was with Kgosi Linchwe II at the Mafikeng High Court that year when Judge Handler held that looking at the history of the tribe, the chieftainship at Moruleng was not hereditary and that all the successive leaders including Tidimane were appointed from Mochudi. Quite rightly, the commission dismissed claims from Merafe Ramono, Tidimane’s son that he was the rightful successor to his father and quite rightly accepted the version that as of now, Kgafela II is the kgosikgolo of the Bakgatla ba Kgafela who have remained as one tribe despite staying in two different countries. The commission states that, “the custom and tradition that Kgosikgolo appoints the Kgosi, logically and unavoidably has the consequence that the descendants of Kgosi Tidimane have no rightful claim in custom and tradition to chieftainship in Moruleng by virtue of that fact alone. The rightful heir is the person that Kgosikgolo, exercising a power bestowed him by custom and tradition, selects to be appointed as Kgosi in Moruleng”.

Of particular interest for Botswana, is the use of the nomenclature “Kgosikgolo” which appears several times in the report. There are some similarities in the Botswana and South African situations regarding the title of Kgosikgolo. According to the commission’s report, in South Africa, the North West Act does not make provision for the title of Kgosikgolo.

 It recognises a Senior Traditional Leader as the head of the community and as chairperson of the Traditional Council. The commission states that the title “Kgosikgolo” is recognised by Bakgatla ba Kgafela’s custom and tradition but it does not offend the Constitution of South Africa.

In Botswana, the title of Kgosikgolo does not exist at national level. It only exists at tribal level. Even the Botswana Constitution does not recognise the title of Kgosikgolo. This became clear in 2012 during the hearing of Kgafela’s constitutional challenge at the High Court in Lobatse. It was held that that title was not recognised by the Constitution and that Minister Mokalake was wrong in recognising Kgafela as Kgosikgolo following his installation.

During or following the 1963 constitutional talks in Lobatse, the title of Kgosikgolo was discussed but it appears the dikgosi themselves did not agree to nominate one of them to be the Kgosikgolo. They wanted to remain equal.


Read this week's paper

Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.