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The Roots of Botswana National Politics Part 12: British suspensions and depositions of Dikgosi

Jeff Ramsay
BUILDERS OF BOTSWANA


While it is fair to say that a relative decline in the political authority of bogosi by the early 1960s was a factor in opening the door for the emergence of nationalist political parties, both the chronology and extent to which traditional authority was eroded varied greatly across the then Bechuanaland Protectorate.

In many areas the institution of bogosi had been compromised by colonial interventions. In this respect the British most clearly destabilized the institution in a number of areas through the suspension and banishment on various pretexts of local rulers; beginning with Sekgoma Letsholathebe in 1906, who was notably followed by Sebele II in 1931, Molefi in 1936 and Seretse and Tshekedi Khama in 1950.

While in each of the above cases the British encountered little difficulty in ensuring the physical removal of the rulers concerned, they thereafter found it impossible to fully confer the deposed monarch's legitimacy upon their sanctioned successors.

The same pattern also held true for ungazetted local rulers, such as the Bakgatla bagaMmanaana Kgosi Gobuamang and the Bakalanga bakaNswazwi She John Madawu Nswazwi VIII. In the absence of legitimate local monarchs, monarchical legitimacy itself came under increased pressure.

Besides undermining bogosi in each case the colonial deposition of traditional authorities also gave rise to organized movements seeking their restoration. In Ngamiland between 1906 and 1912 the detention of “BagaSekgoma” faction leaders and the disarmament of their supporters failed to break a spirit of resistance that was only accommodated when about half of the reserve's population was allowed to join Sekgoma Letsholathebe in exile along the Chobe. While most subsequently returned following his death in 1914, a core of his loyalists has remained at Kachikau to this day.

During the 1930s supporters of Sebele II in Kweneng drew up mass petitions, enlisted the support of neighbouring merafe, and engaged in various acts of non-cooperation, including the non-payment of Hut Tax.

In Johannesburg, Bakwena migrant workers formed their own committee under the leadership of later Domkrag patriarch Sankoloba Matlabaphiri, which raised funds for a legal challenge to the authority of the colonial state along the lines of the Sekgoma's earlier appeal.

In the end the legality of Sebele II's deposition was upheld in the 1936 judgment in the case of Tshekedi Khama and Bathoen II versus the High Commissioner, which reconfirmed the latter's ultimate authority. Yet, the “BagaSebele” movement was only fully eclipsed in the wake of the exiled monarch's 1939 death and massively attended Molepolole burial.

Among the BagaMmanaana of Gangwaketse and BakaNswazwi of Gammangwato's Bukalanga periphery, militant organized support for Gobuamang and Nswazwi VIII was ultimately crushed by military force. Gobuamang's supporters were partially accommodated by their 1935-36 resettlement at Thamaga, while the old Nswazwi village was razed in September 1947, resulting in the flight of most of its population into then Southern Rhodesia.

The 1936 suspension of Molefi gave rise to what was arguably Botswana's first political party- “Lekgotla la Ipelegeng”. Formed by commoners Ralefela Motsisi and Kgosi Lebotse, but enjoying the patronage of the MmaKgosi Seingwaeng, Ipelegeng took its name from Molefi's farewell appeal to his supporters to “help themselves” in his absence.

Like the BagaSekgoma and BagaSebele, its tactics were initially confined to petitioning, raising money for lawyers, and acts of non-cooperation. Declared an illegal organization in 1938 it re-emerged among Bakgatla servicemen during the Second World War as Ipelegeng II.

With Molefi's post-war restoration Ipelegeng II attempted to devote itself to community development projects, but the Kgosi ultimately turned on the movement himself. In the 1960s many of its surviving members were, nonetheless, prominent in a new Kgatleng movement for commoner empowerment, “Mphetsebe”.

The latter organization's immediate objective was to make Linchwe II's progressive sister Tshire regent, in place of his conservative uncle Mmusi and his dikgosana advisors. Instead, their agitation resulted in Linchwe's own early installation. Thereafter, with Linchwe's alleged encouragement, leading Mphetsebe and ex-Ipelegeng members led by Defatlhwe Seame and Madisa Moremi, along with Tshire, embraced the BPP.

In Gammangwato the 1950 banishment of Seretse also gave rise to institutionalised opposition that later fed into the rise of national political parties. There members of the Malekantwa mophato, including such figures as Lenyeletse Seretse, Moutlakgola Nwako and Kenneth Koma, were especially tenacious in their opposition.

In June 1952, following the "Serowe kgotla riot", the Malekantwa activists supported Leetile Raditladi's attempt to form a Bamangwato National Congress (BNC), which also incorporated such established figures as Kgalemang Motsete and Monametse Chiepe.

Opposed to Seretse's more traditionalist royal supporters led by Keaboka Kgamane as well as the pro-Tshekedi “dikgosana” of the “BagaRametsana” faction, BNC members vaguely stood for democratic reform, as well as Seretse's restoration.

In their first months they nominated Seretse's half sister Oratile Ratshosa, the widow of Simon Ratshosa and a veteran opponent of Tshekedi in her own right, as regent. But, this was rejected by the British who in May 1953 imposed BagaRamaetsana member Rasebolai Kgamane. Never a mass movement, after Seretse Khama’s return from exile, the BNC faded into an occasional label for a loose network of Bangwato reformists.

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Economic Resurgence Options: Is Export-Led Growth Tenable For Botswana?

22nd September 2020

The world in which we live is a criminally unequal one. In his iconic 1945 allegorical novella,  Animal Farm, a satire on the facetiousness  of the then Soviet Empire’s crackbrained experiment with a command economy, the legendary George Orwell in my view hit the nail squarely on the head when he said all animals were equal but some animals were more equal than others.

That’s the never-ending dichotomy of the so-called First World and its polar opposite, the so-called Third World as Orwell’s cleverly-couched diatribe applies as much to the tread-of-the-mill laissez faire economics of our day as it did to Marxist-Leninist Russia a generation back.

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Victory is Won

22nd September 2020

Israelites take Canaan under General Joshua

Even as the Nation of Israeli braced to militarily take possession of the Promised Land, General, its top three senior citizens, namely Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, were not destined to share in this god-conferred bequest. All three died before the lottery was won.

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Finance Bills: What are they about?

22nd September 2020

Financial Reporting (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and Accountants (Amendment) Bill, 2020 were expeditiously passed by parliament on Thursday.

What are these two Bills really about?  The Bills are essentially about professional values that are applicable to auditors and accountants in their practice. The Bills seeks to basically enhance existing laws to ensure more uprightness, fairness, professional proficiency, due care, expertise and or professional technical standards.

The Financial Reporting Act, 2010 (FRA) establishes the Botswana Accountancy Oversight Authority (BAOA), as the country’s independent regulator of the accounting and auditing profession. BAOA is responsible for the oversight and registration of audit firms and certified auditors of public interest entities.

In the same vein, there is the Accountants Act, 2010 establishing the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA) which is responsible for the registration and regulation of the accounting and auditing profession. This consequently infers that some auditors have to register first with BICA as certified auditors, and also with BAOA as certified auditors of public bodies. So, the Bills sought to avert the duplication.

According to Minister Matsheka, the duplication of efforts in the regulation of auditors, which is done by both BICA and BAOA, creates a substantial gap on oversight of certified auditors in Botswana, as the two entities have different review procedures. He contends that the enforcement of sanctions becomes problematic and, thus, leads to offenders going Scot-Free, and audit quality standards also continue to plunge.

The Financial Reporting (Amendment) Bill, 2020, in the view of the Minister, brings the oversight and regulation of all auditors in Botswana under the jurisdiction of the Accountancy Oversight Authority and that Bringing all auditors within one roof, under the supervision of BAOA would therefore reinforce their oversight and significantly enhance accountability.

He also pointed that the Bill broadens the current mandate of the Authority by redefining public interest entities to include public bodies, defined as boards, tribunals, commissions, councils, committees, other body corporate or unincorporated established under any enactment.

This covers any company in which government has an equity shareholding. In order to enable the process of instituting fitting sanctions against violation of its provisions, the Bill clearly lays down acts and lapses that constitute professional misconduct.

This Bill further strengthens the sanctions for breach of the Act by public interest entities, officers, firms, and certified auditors. Reinforcing the law with respect to such sanctions will act as an effective deterrent for breach of the Act.

The Accountants Bill also strengthens the current mandate of the Institute by making it obligatory for those who provide accountancy services in Botswana to register with the Institute, and for all employers to hire accountants who are registered with the Institute.

The Minister reasons that in line with the spirit of citizen empowerment, this Bill proposes reservation of at least 50% of the Council membership for citizens. This, he says, is to empower citizens and ensure that citizenries play an active role in the affairs of the Institute, and ultimately in the development of the accounting profession in Botswana.

The Bills come at a point when Botswana’s financial sector is in a quagmire. The country has been blacklisted by the European Union. Its international rankings on Corruption Perception Index have slightly reduced.  According to recent reports by Afro Barometer survey, perceptions of corruption in the public service have soured and so is mistrust in public institutions.

Rating agencies, Standard Poor’s and Moody’s have downgraded Botswana, albeit slightly. The reasons are that there continues to be corruption, fiscal and revenue crimes such as money laundering and general unethical governance in the country. There are still loopholes in many laws despite the enactments and amendments of more than thirty laws in the last two years.

One of the most critical aspect of enhancing transparency and accountability and general good governance, is to have a strong auditing and accounting systems. Therefore, such professions must be properly regulated to ensure that public monies are protected against white color crime. It is well known that some audit firms are highly unprincipled.

They are responsible for tax avoidance and tax evasions of some major companies. Some are responsible for fraud that has been committed. They are more loyal to money paid by clients than to ethical professional standards. They shield clients against accountability. Some companies and parastatals have collapsed or have been ruined financially despite complementary reports by auditors.

In some cases, we have seen audit firms auditing parastatals several times to almost becoming resident auditors. This is bad practice which is undesirable. Some auditors who were appointed liquidators of big companies have committee heinous crimes of corruption, imprudent management, fraud and outright recklessness without serious consequences.

There is also a need to protect whistleblowers as they have been victimized for blowing the whistle on impropriety. In fact, in some cases, audit firms have exonerated culprits who are usually corrupt corporate executives.

The accounting and auditing professions have been dominated by foreigners for a very long time. Most major auditing firms used by state entities and big private sector companies are owned by foreigners. There has to be a deliberate plan to have Batswana in this profession.

While there are many Batswana who are accountants, less are chartered accountants. There must be deliberate steps to wrestle the profession from foreigners by making citizens to be chartered.  It is also important to strengthen the Auditor General. The office is created by the constitution.

The security of tenure is clearly secured in the constitution. However, this security of tenure was undermined by the appointing authority in many instances whereby the Auditor General was appointed on a short-term contract. The office is part of the civil service and is not independent at all.

The Auditor General is placed, in terms of scale, at Permanent Secretary level and is looked at as a peer by others who think they can’t be instructed by their equivalent to comply. Some have failed to submit books of accounts for audits, e.g. for special funds without fear or respect of the office. There is need to relook this office by making it more independent and place it higher than Permanent Secretaries.

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