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Jeff Ramsay

In our last instalment, the Banyayi ruler Chilisamhulu had seized the Bakalanga throne from the Balilima or Bawumbe ruler Chibundule, thus establishing himself as the first of the Nichasike line of Mambos.

The Nichasike or Changamire dynasty subsequently ruled over the Bakalanga kingdom for over a century and a half (c.1680-1835), before being overthrown by Nguni invaders during the Difaqane era.

Like the previous Chibundule rulers, Mambo Nichasike I established his headquarters in the Matopos hills at a place he called Mabwe Dziba.

This name is sometimes translated as "the stones that protect", which is said refer to the various shrines to the god Mwali that surrounded the site rather than the high stone walls of the royal enclosure (dzimbabwe) itself.

After consolidating his rule over the Balilima, Nichasike expanded the boundaries of the old Chibundule (Butwa) state. As a result of his military campaigns in the east the Portuguese slave traders were permanently driven out of the Zimbabwe plateaux.

Thereafter, Nichasike was able to at least temporarily impose his suzerainty over the Mutapa, Manyika, and Maungwe kingdoms.

Along with his successors, he also expanded the hegemony of his "Rozwi Empire" to the south and west into modern Botswana as far as Mahalapye and the Venda lands in what is now the Limpopo Province of South Africa. Chilisamhulu Nichasike's personal praise poem thus celebrated his prowess as a conqueror:

"Ndakuna, ndabaka, ndayibambula nyika, ndakuna, nadbe Mambo, ngobe ndabaka, ndayibambula nyika yaChibundule.

Ndima ndabe Mambo. Kuti ndabaka, ndayyibambula nyika. Ndayilaula, ndabaka, ndahombela; chowodla nkoma chaha ndiponi."

Translation: "I have conquered and I have built, I have extended the country, I have conquered and I am King, for I have extended the country of Chibundule."

"It is I who is King. I built and extended the country. I have ruled it and built and reinforced it; that which would destroy the Kingdom from where will it enter?"

In what is now north-eastern Botswana, the Mambo's presence was reinforced through the migration of a number of Banyayi groups led by junior members of the royal lineage.

These included the Badalaunde or Batalaote, Bamen'we, Banambia and Batshangate.

Dalaunde or Ntalaolte is commonly said to have been a junior son of Nichasike's first house, although oral traditions are not consistent on this point. While he died in Zimbabwe, under his son, Langane, the Batalaote migrated into Botswana settling at a place called Manyalala.

The southward expansion of Batalaote brought them to the borders of the emerging Bakwena kingdom under Kgosi Motshodi.

At least one early clash resulted from this proximity when Motshodi's senior son and heir, Legojane, led his "Mateane" regiment on a cattle raid into Legane's country.

The expedition resulted in Legojane being killed in battle, while those of his followers who survived returned to Motshodi's kraal empty handed. From Legojane's praise poem:

"Lenyora, we! Letsatsi, we! Makalaka lo kaka loa re boela; Lo kaka loa re khutlela Maririma. Kea gapa sepe; Ke gapile podi. Ke gapile podinyana ea sekgwakgwa, Podi tlaa! U bolele diokoko.

"U ko u bue dilo tsa Bokalaka. U tlo u bue dilo tsa kwa ga Kgabo.

Re tsamaile ra itiketsa thata; Legwape le ena ra mo itiketsa; Ra ba ra lebana le Leganana [Legane]; Leganana ea re go sena pula, Go tlo go fhela go thiba mouwane, Go fhela go thibathiba lerunyana."

Translation: "Thirst and heat, Bakalanga you could kill us. I have not captured anything. I only captured a small goat with a scab. Tell this tale of great sadness.

"Tell us about the Bukalanga incidents. Tell us about the incidents at [the Bakwena baga] Kgabo's.

We went there with care and stealth. We hid away from Legwape. But, then we found ourselves face to face with Legane. With Legane there is no rain, only mist clouds in the air. Then a small cloud hangs around."

Later, during the time of Legane's son Sankoloba, the Batalaote became allies of the Bangwato. Sankoloba's, himself, is said to have been killed by the Amandebele.

Thereafter, the Batalaote became divided.

Two of Sankoloba's sons, Matsuga and Motsume, along with many of their relatives ultimately fled to Shoshong; where they lived under the Bangwato Kgosi Sekgoma I, father of Khama III.

The Batalaote who remained behind at Manyalela were initially reduced to living as vassals of the Amandebele under the authority of an induna named Manyami. Later, they also switched their allegiance to the Bangwato.

In 1863, following their defeat by the Bangwato at Shoshong, the Amandebele under Lobengula attacked the Batalaote for their disloyalty. Many Batalaote were then captured and taken to Zimbabwe. The survivors who remained behind were scattered, with most resettling at Shoshong. This disaster brought a final end to the group's independence. (to be continued)

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DIS Parley Committee selection disingenuous 

25th November 2020

Intelligence and Security Service Act, which is a law that establishes the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Service (DIS), provides for establishment of a Parliamentary Committee. Recently, the President announced nine names of Members of Parliament he had appointed to the Committee.

This announcement was preceded by a meeting the President held with the Speaker and the Leader of Opposition. Following the announcement of Committee MPs by the President, the opposition, through its leader, made it clear that it will not participate in the Committee unless certain conditions that would ensure effective oversight are met. The opposition acted on the non-participation threat through resignation of its three MPs from the Committee.

The Act at Section 38 provides for the establishment of the Committee to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Directorate. The law provides that the Parliamentary Committee shall have the same powers and privileges set out under the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act.

On composition, the Committee shall consist of nine members who shall not be members of Cabinet and its quorum shall be five members.  The MPs in the Committee elect a chairperson from among their number at their first meeting.

The Members of the Committee are appointed by the President after consultation with the Speaker of the National Assembly and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly. It is the provision of the law that the Committee, relative to its size, reflect the numerical strengths of the political parties represented in the National Assembly.

The Act provides that that a member of the Committee holds office for the duration of the Parliament in which he or she is appointed.  The Committee is mandated to make an annual report on the discharge of their functions to the President and may at any time report to him or her on any matter relating to the discharge of those functions.

The Minister responsible for intelligence and security is obliged to lay before the National Assembly a copy of each annual report made by the Committee together with a statement as to whether any matter has been excluded from that copy in pursuance of the provision of the Act.

If it appears to the Minister, after consultation with the Parliamentary Committee, that the publication of any matter in a report would be prejudicial to the continued discharge of the functions of the Directorate, the Minister may exclude that matter from the copy of the report as laid before the National Assembly.

So, what are the specific demands of the Opposition and why are they not participating in the Committee? What should happen as a way forward? The Opposition demanded that there be a forensic audit of the Directorate. The DIS has never been audited since it was set up in 2008, more than a decade ago.

The institution has been a law unto itself for a longtime, feared by all oversight bodies. The Auditor General, who had no security of tenure, could not audit the DIS. The Directorate’s personnel, especially at a high level, have been implicated in corruption.  Some of its operatives are in courts of law defending corruption charges preferred against them. Some of the corruption cases which appeared in the media have not made it to the courts.

The DIS has been accused of non-accountability and unethical practices as well as of being a burden on the fiscus.  So, the Opposition demanded, from the President, a forensic audit for the purpose of cleaning up the DIS.  They demand a start from a clean slate.

The second demand by the Opposition is that the law be reviewed to ensure greater accountability of the DIS to Parliament. What are some of the issues that the opposition think should be reviewed? The contention is that the executive cannot appoint a Committee of Parliament to scrutinize an executive institution.

Already, it is argued, Parliament is less independent and it is dominated by the executive. It is contended that the Committee should be established by the Standing Orders and be appointed by a Select Committee of Parliament. There is also an argument that the Committee should report to Parliament and not to the President and that the Minister should not have any role in the Committee.

Democratic and Parliamentary oversight of the intelligence is relatively a new phenomenon across the World. Even developed democracies are still grappling with some of these issues. However, there are acceptable standards or what might be called international best practices which have evolved over the past two or so decades.

In the UK for instance, MPs of the Intelligence and Security Committee are appointed by the Houses of Parliament, having been nominated by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. This is a good balancing exercise of involvement of both the executive and the legislature. Consultation is taken for granted in Botswana context in the sense that it has been reduced to just informing the Leader of Opposition without much regard to his or her ideas; they are never taken seriously.

Furthermore, the current Committee in the UK has four Members of the ruling party and five MPs from the opposition. It is a fairly balanced Committee in terms of Parliamentary representation. However, as said above, the President of Botswana appointed six ruling party MPs and three from the opposition.

The imbalance is preposterous and more pronounced with clear intentions of getting the executive way through the ruling party representatives in the Committee. The intention to avoid scrutiny is clear from the numbers of the ruling party MPs in the Committee.

There is also an international standard of removing sensitive parts which may harm national security from the report before it is tabled in the legislature. The previous and current reluctance of the executive arms to open up on Defence and Security matters emanate from this very reason of preserving and protecting national security.

But national security should be balanced with public interest and other democratic principles. The decision to expunge certain information which may be prejudicial to national security should not be an arbitrary and exclusive decision of the executive but a collective decision of a well fairly balanced Committee in consultation with the Speaker and the minister responsible.

There is no doubt that the DIS has been a rogue institution. The reluctance by the President to commit to democratic-parliamentary oversight reforms presupposes a lack of commitment to democratization. The President has no interest in seeing a reformed DIS with effective oversight of the agency.

He is insincere. This is because the President loathes the idea losing an iota of power and sharing it with any other democratic institution. He sees the agency as his power lever to sustain his stay in the high office. He thought he could sanitize himself with an ineffective DIS Committee that would dance to his tune.

The non-participation of the opposition MPs renders the Committee dysfunctional; it cannot function as this would be unlawful. Participation of the opposition is a legal requirement. Even if it can meet, it would lack legitimacy; it cannot be taken seriously. The President should therefore act on the oversight demands and reform the DIS if he is to be taken seriously.

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The Maccabean Uprising

25th November 2020
Jewish freedom fighters

 Jews drive away occupying power under the command of guerrilla leader Judas Maccabees but only just

Although it was the Desolation Sacrilege act, General Atiku, that officially sparked the Maccabean revolt, it in truth simply stoked the fires of an already simmering revolution. How so General?

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Atomic (CON)Fusion

25th November 2020

For years I have trained people about paradigm shifts – those light-bulb-switch-on moments – where there is a seismic change from the usual way of thinking about something to a newer, better way. 

I like to refer to them as ‘aha’ moments because of the sudden understanding of something which was previously incomprehensible. However,  the topic of today’s article is the complete antithesis of ‘aha’.  Though I’d love to tell you I’d had a ‘eureka ‘, ‘problem solved’ moment, I am faced with the complete opposite – an ‘oh-no’ moment or Lost Leader Syndrome.

No matter how well prepared or capable a leader is. they often find themselves facing perplexing events, confounding information, or puzzling situations. Confused by developments of which they can’t make sense and by challenges that they don’t know how to solve they become confused, sometimes lost and completely clueless about what to do.

I am told by Jentz and Murphy (JM) in ‘What leaders do when they don’t know what to do’ that this is normal, and that rapid change is making confusion a defining feature of management in the 21st century.  Now doesn’t that sound like the story of 2020 summed up in a single sentence?

The basic premise of their writing is that “confusion is not a weakness to be ashamed of but a regular and inevitable condition of leadership. By learning to embrace their confusion, managers are able to set in motion a constructive process for addressing baffling issues.

In fact, confusion turns out to be a fruitful environment in which the best managers thrive by using the instability around them to open up better lines of communication, test their old assumptions and values against changing realities, and develop more creative approaches to problem solving.”

The problem with this ideology however is that it doesn’t help my overwhelming feelings of fear and panic which is exacerbated by a tape playing on a loop in my head saying  ‘you’re supposed to know what to do, do something’. My angst is compounded by annoying motivational phrases also unhelpfully playing in my head like.

  • Nothing happens until something moves
  • The secret of getting ahead is getting started


  • Act or be acted upon

All these platitudes are urging me to pull something out of the bag, but I know that this is a trap. This need to forge ahead is nothing but a coping mechanism and disguise. Instead of owning the fact that I haven’t got a foggy about what to do, part of me worries that I’ll lose authority if I acknowledge that I can’t provide direction – I’m supposed to know the answers, I’m the MD!  This feeling of not being in control is common for managers in ‘oh no’ situations and as a result they often start reflexively and unilaterally attempting to impose quick fixes to restore equilibrium because, lets be honest, sometimes we find it hard to resist hiding our confusion.

To admit that I am lost in an “Oh, No!” moment opens the door not only to the fear of losing authority but also to a plethora of other troubling emotions and thoughts:  *Shame and loss of face: “You’ll look like a fool!” * Panic and loss of control: “You’ve let this get out of hand!” * Incompetence and incapacitation: “You don’t know what you’re doing!”

As if by saying “I’m at a loss here” is tantamount to declaring “I am not fit to lead.” Of course the real problem for me and any other leader is if they don’t admit when they are disoriented, it sends a signal to others in the organisation stating it’s not cool to be lost and that, by its very nature encourages them to hide.  What’s the saying about ‘a real man never asks for direction. they end up driving around in circles’.

As managers we need to embrace the confusion, show vulnerability (remember that’s not a bad word) and accept that leadership is not about pretending to have all the answers but about having the courage to search with others to discover a solution.

JM point out that “being confused, however, does not mean being incapacitated.  Indeed, one of the most liberating truths of leadership is that confusion is not quicksand from which to escape but rather the potter’s clay of leadership – the very stuff with which managers can work.”

2020 has certainly been a year to remember and all indications are that the confusion which has characterised this year will still follow us into the New Year, thereby making confusion a defining characteristic of the new normal and how managers need to manage. Our competence as leaders will then surely be measured not only by ‘what I know’ but increasingly by ‘how I behave when I accept, I don’t know, lose my sense of direction and become confused.

.I guess the message for all organizational cultures going forward is that sticking with the belief that we need all-knowing, omni-competent executives will cost them dearly and send a message to managers that it is better to hide their confusion than to address it openly and constructively.

Take comfort in these wise words ‘Confusion is a word we have invented for an order not yet understood’!

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