Sunday, May 26, 2024

Tribute to a Community ‘Unifyer’: Kgosi Ramosinyi Mompati Radipitse of Tonota

Thinking about Kgosi Ramosinyi Mompati Radipitse (1930   –   2023) as a human vis-a-vis an angel, I did search the web for an appropriate quote or expression that could sum up his personality. I could not find any. In the end I decided to pick the following quotes:

“One is fruitful only at the cost of being rich in contradiction”

“I am an epitome of a walking contradiction for various reasons only one of which is of heaven and hell”   –   Elizabeth Kim

Kgosi Ramosinyi has been paradoxically portrayed by his family as having been both a harsh and soft character (“a le bogale, mme a bile a le bonolo; a le boineelo”) with his son and successor as Kgosi of Tonota comparing him to a lemon. This is a description of Kgosi Ramosinyi for which I am not certain I will be able to provide evidence in the subsequent pages of this tribute, but it is certainly an example of some character analysis that is as complex and interesting as the man himself was.

Kgosi Ramosinyi, we have been told by himself and others, had no schooling and yet he was a particularly open minded person who was able to think outside the box. Proof of this attribute mainly lies in the fact that he knew how to make fully utilize the skills of those who had gone through the school system; starting with his own daughter, Motshidisi, who, in paying tribute to her father at a memorial service held in his honour on 12 August, shared with the audience as to how her dad did encourage her to translate (into Setswana) for him all of his legal working instruments such as the Bogosi Act and others. Not only did he stop there, but he extended the daughter’s assistance to a couple of other Dikgosi who also needed to understand and apply the laws that governed tribal administration yet the English language had become a barrier to them.

Before coming to settle in Tonota upon retirement I (author of this article) only knew Kgosi Ramosinyi from a distance. As such I did not really know who Kgosi Ramosinyi was until in 2014 when I had the opportunity to work closely with him when I served as Publicity Secretary for the Tonota Centenary committee (led by Ratshimo Ramahobo) that he had appointed to lead the preparations for the celebrations. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Kgosi Ramosinyi greatly appreciated this organising committee’s work and that in my case he particularly encouraged my humble effort in linking (with the assistance from the late Moses Cuthbert Lekaukau [golo a go robetseng morwa Motebejana) the centenary committee and Ba[k[hurutshe in general to fellow Ba[k]hurutshe of Boteti and the Bahurutshe boo-Motebejana in Manyana; the Republic of south Africa; and Namibia.

So great was Kgosi Ramosinyi’s support in the effort to host all Bahurutshe in Tonota that by the time the village celebrated its 100 years of existence Bahurutshe from all the places mentioned above descended upon TNT; causing a Sunday Standard issue to  publish an article titled ‘Tonota Centenary Celebrations: A Great Hurutshe Reunion’. The reunion was indeed historic as it was the first of its kind since the two main Hurutshe groups (being the followers of Kgosi Motebele and those of Motebejana) waged a civil war on account of differences caused by a baby baboon (tshwenyana).

The well-known tshwenyana story did actually bring out (from Kgosi Ramosinyi) one of those traits that could make one want to listen to him as a story teller. He retold the same episode albeit with a little bit of detail that I had never heard before; born of his ever-present sense of humour, I suppose. According to his version the baboon that had been captured by Kgosi Motebele and placed in the custody of his younger brother, Motebejana; was apparently male and it was the trouble maker that caused circumstances that led to the war between Kgosi Motebele and Motebejana. And there was a pretty princess where Motebejana lived  (presumably his daughter) The baboon would observe the pretty princess merrily skipping and playing around the royal abode, and in the process it seemed to develop some desire for the princess which happenstance so annoyed Motebejana that he killed or ordered the baboon to be killed. Motebele was enraged and this state of affairs sizzled into a war that led to Kgosi Motebele’s defeat and the separation of the two  Hurutshe groups.

During the memorial service held in his honour last Saturday, and at his funeral service the next day; the various speakers scheduled on the day’s programme painted various pictures of the Kgosi in interesting images:

   ◦    a loving man

        ◦       very popular

        ◦       had Solomon-esque wisdom

        ◦       a lover of the truth

   ◦    endowed with a great sense of humour

Kgosi Bokamoso and his elder sibling, Motshidisi Cynthia Radipitse have, through their eulogies, revealed their father’s immense love for his family and other speakers at his farewell services showed great admiration for the love Kgosi Ramosnyi had for all his people. This love was demonstrated by the mutual commitment that he and the Bazezuru community from Maseka kgotla in Mmandunyane had. The keen participation of the Zezuru community at the Kgosi’s place talks volumes of this love. It was, of course, the Bazezuru who dug his intended grave within the Molebatsi kgotla. It is undoubtedly the warmth that his personality exuded that led to Kgosi Ramosinyi’s popularity.

Perhaps this popularity may also be linked to the fact that, as Kgosi Serogola Seretse of gaMmangwato observed, Kgosi Ramosinyi was a ‘lover of the truth’. Nothing could be more truthful than this description especially as regards one episode in which he amazed me by revealing some piece of truth that had hitherto remained elusive for me until this particular time when I chatted (historically) with Kgosi Ramosinyi. He, it was, who made it crystal clear to me (in our pre-interview session on things historical) that the Ba[k]hurutshe of Tonota mainly (underline mainly) belong to three different groups in the following hierarchy

   ◦    Ba[k]hurutshe ba ga Moatshe-a-Kgolokwe (some say Kgoloke)

        ◦       Ba[k]hurutshe ba ga Motsumi-wa-Morabana

   ◦    Ba[k]hurutshe ba ga Sethong-se-Mitwa (who are the ruling lineage)

This was a Kgosi who belonged to the Ba[k]hurutshe ba ga Sethong, yet, being a lover of the truth, he did not shy away from revealing this information to me as opposed to others in his lineage who felt such historic facts should be regarded as taboo. This, to me, demonstrated the kind of confident ruler Kgosi Ramosinyi was. He was also able to explain to me the significance of Kgosi Lesele’s praise name: Sethong which, as I learnt from that day on, symbolized Kgosi Lesele’s expertise in handling the spear as a warrior of note (hence the expression se ka go tlhaba)in the battle between himself and his siblings being Moatshe and Motsumi.

But Kgosi Ramosinyi being the smart guy he was, when it was the time for the actual interview he declined discussing the Moatshe-Lesele war and its aftermath saying he, as a leader, would not go into that kind of discussion for it was his duty to maintain unity and harmony amongst his people. He was, thus, able to smoothly slide out of the whole situation; just the way a piece of thread would slide outa needle’s hole.

Another of Kgosi Ramosinyi’s traits was his amazing humility. He was a down-to-earth fellow who had not the slightest sign of discrimination or condescension. No wonder Local Government Minister, Kgotla described him as follows:

Bogosi jo o ne a sa bo rwale ka mageta”.

Lastly, many speakers have referred to his great sense of humour and those who talked about his not-so-smooth kind of driving reminded me of how he once related as to how some time back in Francistown he once erroneously drove on a wrong lane and found himself facing on-coming traffic and as fellow drivers panicked and shouted at him he simply shouted back something like:

Tswelang koo the! Ke kgosi!”

As such one wonders: What if he were to witness the drama at his funeral? What would he have done after the initial shock had subsided? What jokes could he have cracked about his two graves?

At the end of it all it is President Masisi’s statement that could sum up as to who Kgosi Ramosinyi Mompati Radipitse was. Because of his “unifying leadership qualities” he was a creator of ‘a multi-ethnic community which he leaves behind as a noble legacy”. The multi-ethnicity of Kgosi Ramosinyi’s subjects can be illustrated by the existence of ‘peoples’ like:

   ◦    Basarwa

        ◦       Ba[k]hurutshe

        ◦       Bakalaka

        ◦       Bazezuru

        ◦       Bangwato

        ◦       Babirwa

        ◦       Barotsi

        ◦       Bakwena

   ◦    Barolong All of them generally regarding themselves as Ba[k]hurutshe Ikhutse motho wa ga ‘Thong se Mitwa’ aka Kgosi Lesele-a-Kgosi Motebele-a-Kgosigadi Mohurutshe-a-Kgosi Malope-a-Kgosi Masilo  . . . –a-Lowe . . . –a-Phofhu.

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