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
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.