Controversial Paramount Chief of Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela, Kgosi Kgafela Kgafela II has torn apart government’s best laid plans to appease him and his tribe, affirming that he will never set foot in Botswana again until the country’s constitution is changed.
There has been a belief that government’s recent efforts to appease the self-exiled Bakgatla chief will soothe him, which would have possibly led to a favourable relationship between government and Bakgatla — and possible electoral success for the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in Kgatleng. Kgosi Kgafela was ‘de-recognised’ by Government in 2011, following an acrimonious relationship between the tribal leader and the then government administration of former president Lt Gen Ian Khama.
The de-recognition, which was executed by then Minister of Local Government, Lebonaamang Mokalake, was in the wake of Kgafela’s decision to ban cabinet ministers from addressing Kgotla meetings in Kgatleng. Prior to that, Kgafela and his 35 tribesmen were in May 2010, slapped with charges of illegal floggings in Mochudi. The Bakgatla Paramount Chief also faces charges of escaping from lawful custody as he fled from Village Magistrate court, following a ruling that he should be detained.
However, a fortnight ago, incumbent Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Frans Van Der Westhuizen, reversed government’s earlier decision – effectively lifting the de-recognition of Kgosi Kgafela II. “I have been in consultation with President Mokgweetsi Masisi about the de-recognition of Kgosi Kgafela II. We have agreed to lift the de-recognition for the sake of peace, stability, reconciliation and cooperation with Bakgatla and the government,” Van Der Westhuizen said. The decision was first announced in a Kgotla meeting in Mochudi, followed by an official statement from the minister, affirming government’s new position. However, the controversial Bakgatla chief wants more than what has been offered.
“These feet of mine will never step in Botswana until the constitution has been changed. I swear, and I am saying this as a matter of principle; I will never set foot in Botswana until they change Seretse [Khama]’s constitution of 1966,” said Kgafela when addressing his tribe in Moruleng, South Africa, last Saturday. Kgafela expressed disdain for the untidy state of governance affairs in Botswana, criticising the government for falling to be accountable, as desired in any democracy.
“There is a lot of corruption in Botswana and nothing is being done about it. Government is not setting-up commissions to investigate corruption and other wrongdoings. You must learn from South Africa, because here they set-up commissions to resolve disputes, and it has worked for us. Let Botswana do the same,” Kgafela said. “We live together in the land of Bechunaland Protectorate-Botswana. There is no accountability in Botswana and the country has become a banana republic. When I left Botswana, I advised Batswana that there are two problems facing the country; the constitution and corrupt government. I have not changed my stand, I still say it. But when I said this, you wanted to put me in jail.”
The maverick chief went to take a swipe at his subjects, for taking pride in supporting and voting political parties instead of participating in worthy causes like advocating for change of the country’s constitution. “There are too many political parties [in Botswana], and you keep on voting for these parties. But you are failing to vote for change of constitution. There is a Referendum Act, which allows citizens to vote to change the constitution, but you have not done anything about it. There was a time when there was a strike for salary increment but there is no strike for change of constitution,” he said.
KGAFELA CASE ON THE BOTSWANA CONSTITUTION
According to Kgafela, Botswana’s constitution, which was adopted in 1966, was not born of the people of Botswana but it was a product of only Seretse Khama, Quett Masire and their friends. Kgafela therefore beliefs the constitution lacks legitimacy, hence he now places it as a priority condition for his return to the land of his father. “Botswana’s constitution is outdated. It is just like an old suit which is no longer attractive to wear. This suit, which belongs to Seretse is old and no longer fits properly—we want a new one.”
The constitution of Botswana was at the centre of debate during formative years, with most Dikgosi resenting it because it stripped them of their powers, and handed them to the government. Seretse Khama, who alongside his deputy—Masire and Leader of the Opposition, Phillip Matante led the team that negotiated the independence of Botswana—had given up his throne as chief of Bangwato as a condition for returning to Botswana from exile in Britain, an exile which arose as a result of opposition of his marriage to a white woman, Ruth Williams.
KGAFELA WANTS AN INDEPENDENT BAKGATLA KINGDOM
Kgafela did not have kind words for the Khama dynasty, whom he accused of having led Botswana to where it is now, even accusing the Khama family of troubling Bakgatla throughout the course of history to date. “Bakgatla, it is now time to settle here in South Africa. We fought for this land and we were given this land by the Queen of Britain. We cannot keep on fleeing,” said Kgafela.
“We fled to Bechuanaland, and we stayed there. During that time, we experienced oppression from Sechele [Bakwena chief], and also from Khama [Of Bangwato]. In 1966, Seretse Khama continued this persecution, and lately, we face the same fate from Ian Khama. But I am saying we cannot live under persecution anymore.”
If that is not enough, Kgafela announced plans to have Bakgatla declared an independent kingdom, and will initiate the process by first reclaiming the Bakgatla land that has been lost after transition from Bechunaland to present day Botswana. “We want the Bakgatla land the way it was in 1889, as per proclamation of Queen of Britain. Tribal Territories Act of 1925 also speaks to that. We are not fighting them [Government of Botswana]. We will negotiate with them because we believe in peace. If they are unable to give back our land, then they should be able to give us fair compensation,”
“If our land is worth P20 billion, they should give us P20 billion.” “We have been under the mercy of Seretse Khama’s policies. Seretse took Bakgatla’s land, and we want that land back. We are going to reclaim that land through legal means. We are going to initiate a summons against in Mafikeng and the first respondent is Government of Botswana.”
“The journey that I am embarking on, I do not want to force anyone to join me. Those who want can do so voluntarily, those who do not want should not bother taking part and they should also not bother us. This journey is the road to the independence of Bakgatla. We want to govern ourselves just like South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Bakgatla, we cannot always live under distress, we should rejoice at the end. I am not forcing anyone, but, I personally have an obligation
Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.
The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).
Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model. BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.
“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.
Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.
Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board. However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.
He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.
“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).
“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.
“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.
Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.
“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.
“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.
WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs. High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.
Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.
The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.
“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.
As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.
“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.
Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.
“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.
The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.
“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.
BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.
“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.
Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.
In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.
“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.
The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.
“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”