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Kgosi Kgafela explains his POWERS

Bakgatla Ba Kgafela paramount chief, Kgafela Kgafela II has told the commission of inquiry, which is investigating the succession of chieftainship Bakgatla in Moruleng that his jurisdiction over the tribe has been confirmed by the Constitutional Court.

When explaining his relationship with senior tribal leader in Moruleng, Kgafela indicated his powers in appointing a leader in Moruleng who ruled on behalf of the paramount chief of the entire tribe. “The correct relationship is that I am his senior, he is my junior as the Constitutional court and custom law says. It is a relationship of a master and a steward in the Bible. If you read the parable of the steward in the Bible, it provides the two answers.”

In the Mmusi Pilane vs Nyalala and others constitutional court judgment in 2012 said, although the villages that make up the traditional community are situated in South Africa, the traditional community  recognises as their Kgosikgolo a traditional leader who lives in Mochudi Botswana. His deputy Pilane, administers the affairs of the community in South Africa, and is based in Moruleng.

“The point I am making is that where we sit here, we can go to great lengths trying to understand what the statutes say, but we have advantage of the fact that courts in South Africa have done the work for us, they have explained these things. I can only refer you to these judgments,” said Kgafela. Kgafela submitted before the commission that in the past when there were problems in South Africa, Kgosi Linchwe was called upon to come and deal with problems concerning the former chief, the late Tidimane.

And that likewise, in 2008 to 2016, the tribe in South Africa called upon the paramount chief in Botswana, being him, to exercise his powers to depose the regent, Kgosi Pilane of his duties as kgosi, as the latter violates the tribes’ human rights and refuses to account. “Members of the tribe, comprising Mr Thari Segale, Thari Pilane, Segale Pilane who demanded that should attend to South African issues and depose Kgosi Pilane because the latter violated the tribe’s human rights. So, members of the tribe here had asked me to do exactly as Kgosi Linchwe did in the performance of his role.

Baloyi then told Kgafela that there was evidence brought before them which suggested that Kgafela’s father, the late Paramount Chief Linchwe did not involve himself in Moruleng issues like he wants to, and that he only played a more ceremonial role― He was invited and consulted if there were major issues. However, Kgafela dismissed the issues that Linchwe did it ceremonially. “Look at the role he played around the Tidimane [Pilane] issue. It was not ceremonial but legal; he even interacted with all former leaders here which even led to appointment of Pilane. Pilane’s appointment is not ceremonial but a matter of law.”

He said while to some certain degree it could be true that his father may not have involved himself as he has in the affairs of Moruleng, “I can tell you why, even myself as I sit here, I would rather not be here. If I had somebody running the affairs of the tribe legally without a headache, I would rather be at the cattle post. We intervene only when things are not run properly; otherwise I would not be responsible. Once things are sorted out, we have proper administration and everything is in order, I will be free to attend other issues in life.”

Kgafela further told the commission that the BBK bogosi was clear in the court judgments and in history of South Africa. “My father played a key role in the independence of this country, him being in Botswana… if he wasn’t in Botswana at the time things would not be as they are today. So authorities in this country have known bogosi jwa Bakgatla such that it should not be an issue as to who Kgosi is and who can appoint who. His role in the struggle of the independence of SA is well known.”

‘My relationship with my uncle, Nyalala Pilane’

When asked to comment on his relationship with the senior chief in Moruleng, Pilane who according to the tribe custom is there in Kgafela’s place, Kgafela said,   “Re na le bothata gone fa.”(We have a problem here). He decried that the problem they were having amongst Bakgatla was that Pilane was not performing the role of law amongst the tribe, but doing the opposite.

“If you ask what his role is, I will say, the role of the senior leader, that he has played in the tribe up to today is the very problems that you are seeing today. That is his role. We are here in this commission struggling about many things because of his role. The tribe is in disarray because of the events that have taken place. He is not fit and proper to hold public office, that is why I have accepted his resignation in 2012, and it stands,” he submitted.

The commission heard that the department of mining in South Africa comes to Pilane and makes arrangements to mine in the tribe’s farms without a consultation and he pockets the money. “This is a very painful injustice. A group of people supported by government come and mine our farms without consulting us, and no one listens to them when they complain. We are always litigating against mining companies and Pilane over what is rightfully the people.”

My roles

The commission heard that the role of a paramount chief ordinarily based in Botswana, is appointed and enthroned in accordance with the fixed procedure of tradition. He hunts a leopard and provides the pelt for the regiment of his father to prepare for the draping. On the appointed day the tribe converges at a kgotla to witness him being draped with the leopard to formalize his assent to the throne as the epic leader of the whole tribe wherever based, whether Botswana or South Africa or new territories that may be acquired under his leadership.

Once these traditional procedures have taken place, the throne becomes fixed upon who wears the leopard skin in terms of the customary law of Bakgatla in ancient traditions. He rules over the tribe in both Botswana and South Africa. This law is set out in judgments of South African courts including the Constitutional Court. It is settled law, according to Kgafela’s version.

“Presently the royal leopard of BBK is roped upon Kgafela II, and the roping took place in September 20, 2008. Now, the point that is important is that once enthroned, the paramount chief of BBK in Botswana assumes certain royal duties and obligations towards the tribe at large,” he submitted.  The core duties, he said include to protect the human rights of the tribe, protect the tribe’s land and property, protect the tribe’s history, its heritage and destiny and unite the tribe and ensure peace and harmony amongst them.

He stated, the paramount chief is obligated to do the right thing in every situation aiming at all times in producing the best results for the tribe: Accordingly whenever issues arise from the tribe, either in Botswana or South Africa touching on any of the duties highlighted, the tribe may call upon the paramount chief in Botswana to exercise his traditional powers in their favour by performing his duties aforesaid, the commission heard.

“The paramount chief has been performing this role since he was enthroned in 2008 and we would submit that the developments of this commission and events on the ground vindicate the answers to this point. What has been happening in the past six years since I came here is exactly the role which the premier asks about.”

“We have been all over South Africa with this role, we have reported crimes which are taking place to police, courts and everywhere you can think of. The soles of our shoes are worn out and we are even limping, because of this journey that we’ve been taking to all over performing this role,” he submitted.


My powers and procedures to appoint a leader in South Africa

The commission heard that the paramount chief in Botswana appoints a person of his choice to rule over the tribe on his behalf. These are prerogative powers bestowed upon the paramount chief by tradition and law, he noted.  “And I have exercised those powers in favour of the tribe; I have exercised those powers to dethrone Kgosi Pilane from his seat as a Kgosi in 2012, and evidence for that is Pilane’s retirement letter and my acceptance of that letter, and the history of events leading to those correspondences.”

The tribe is free to decide whether they want me or not

According to Kgafela, if the people in Moruleng do not want to be ruled by the paramount chief in Botswana anymore, they have that right. “My father told them in 1994 that you have the right to go your own way. But you must go to the kgotla, decide on that right and let us know. But, they said, NO…we remain one!  And it is stated in the resolution that they remained one,” he said.

Professor Moleleki asked Kgafela why the paramount chieftainship was hereditary while senior traditional leadership was not, among BBK tradition. And Kgafela’s response was that, “The constitution of South Africa recognises traditional communities and their customs, and when you go to the Act, there is a common theme that one thing must be done according to customs and traditions of that community. The customs and tradition of BBK community may be different from other customs, but it is recognized. And the way it is with us may be unique, it’s such that BBK tribe live in two countries.”


He stressed that borders came only yesterday and that they were not their doing. “The point I am making is that where we seat here, we can go to great lengths trying to understand what the statute say, but we have advantage of the fact that courts in SA have done the work for us, they have explained these things. I can only refer you to those judgments. This arrangement of BBK is unique, it’s not our doing, but it is what we are settled with. ,” said Kgafela

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