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Jeff Ramsay

In our last instalment we focused on the Batalaote or, as they are less commonly known, Badalaunde. This week we turn to another local Bakalanga community- the Banambiya. Today, Banambiya communities can be found in both the Chobe District and the adjacent northwestern tip of Zimbabwe.

The Banambiya are also sometimes still referred to as the Bananzwa.
This term has, however, gone out of favour as being derogatory. It is commonly associated with the verb "to lick" (-nanzwa). Some linguists, however, believe that Bananzwa is an Ikalanga corruption of what was originally a community name derived from the Ila-Tonga language. This is consistent with the following historical reconstruction.

The Banambiya are the followers of the Wange, alternatively Zange or Hwange dynasty. According to oral traditions the original Wange she (or xe) was a younger brother of the Mambo (king). While the court traditions thus link the original Wange to the Banyayi Mambo Nichasike, others suggest that he may have in fact been related to the last of the Balilima kings of the Chibundule dynasty. This interpretation is supported by the use of the monkey, shoko, rather than heart, moyo, as the Banambiya totem.

According to the Balilima traditions Wange fled to the Zambezi valley at the time of Nichasike's overthrow of Chibundule (c.1680, though existing genealogy suggests a later migration). There his followers found and conquered the people they called Bananzwa who were a Batonga or Bathoka community under a local ruler named Ngula. The forenames of the known royal descendents of the first Wange are as follows: Tshilobamagu > Lesumbame > Sebemkhula > Nikatambe > Tshilisa > Nimanaga > Tshipaja.

In 1839 the Banambiya country became a temporary base for a section of Amandebele army of Nkosi Mzilikazi, with the Banambiya accommodating the invaders:

"And the Amandebele went to She Wange and said: 'As for us we do not want to fight you.' We are scouting the country looking for our home people. They lost us and we do not know their whereabouts. So Wange stopped his people from fighting with the army of Mzilikazi and he gave them much food and they ate and drank and were happy."

But, in 1853, the Amandebele attacked the Banambiya. This followed an incident in which they were implicated in abandoning to starvation an Amandebele regiment on an island in the middle of the Zambesi. The force was intending to collect tribute among the Batonga on the other side of the river who were also claimed as vassals by the Makololo.

It is further said that the Banambiya, themselves, subsequently refused to pay tribute to Mzililkazi's tax collector, Luponjwana Nzima. On hearing of the above, Mzilikazi ordered that She Lesumbame Wange be skinned alive for having apparently conspired with Makololo to gain Banambiya freedom from the Amandebele. This event, which is extensively recorded in Ikalanga traditions, coincides with both the death of the great Makololo Kgosi Sebetwane at Linyanti, and the arrival of a party of Europeans, including David Livingston, accompanied by Bakwena in the region.

"And so Luponjwana Nzima arrived at Mzilikazi's court without the tribute of  [Lesumbame] Wange. He entered the courtyard without the tribute. So the king asked him: 'what happened that you have returned without anything Nzima?'

"Luponjwana replied: 'Wange is not willing to produce tribute; he has two hearts, his one heart loves the Bakololo, and the other love you my king just a little bit.'

"So Mzilikazi ordered his people: 'Go and kill Wange and skin him nicely and take out his liver and kidneys and lunges and the two hearts spoken of by Luponjwana Nzima and put them on a wooden tray and return with them. Now do not let Luponjwana steal one of the hearts and make it his, lest he also does not obey me as Wange did not obey him, because he had two hearts."

Ikalanga accounts further state that the skin of Lesumbame was used to make shoes for Mzilakazi. This is further alleged to have been the cause of the great Amandebele ruler's death.

"Then King Mzilikazi said: 'Take the skin of Wange and stretch it out so that it can dry.' They took the skin of Lord Wange and stretched it out and when it was dry, they had the pegs pulled out and took it and put it to the King. So King Mzilikazi took the dried skin of She Wange, child of King Nichasike who created the elephant and rhinoceros, and cut it and made shoes, which he put on when walking about his courtyard during the morning and evening. Those who speak say the King died having leprosy because of wearing shoe made from the skin of Wange."

If the above be in part true, the effect was certainly not immediate. The Reverend Robert Moffat did treat Mzilikazi for a chronic leg ailment in 1864, eleven years after Wange's execution and four years before the Amandebele ruler's actual death.

The Amandebele attacked the Banambiya again in 1863, scattering many. Thereafter those who did not flee remained under Sebemkhula Wange who ruled as Mzilikazi's vassal. The name of the Hwange (formerly corrupted as Wankie) Park in Zimbabwe is associated with Sebemkhula.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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The Era of “The Diplomat”

30th November 2020

Youngest Maccabees scion Jonathan takes over after Judas and leads for 18 years

Going hand-in-glove with the politics at play in Judea in the countdown to the AD era, General Atiku, was the contention for the priesthood. You will be aware, General, that politics and religion among the Jews interlocked. If there wasn’t a formal and sovereign Jewish King, there of necessity had to be a High Priest at any given point in time.

Initially, every High Priest was from the tribe of Levi as per the stipulation of the Torah. At some stage, however, colonisers of Judah imposed their own hand-picked High Priests who were not ethnic Levites. One such High Priest was Menelaus of the tribe of Benjamin.

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Land Board appointments of party activists is political corruption

30th November 2020

Parliament has rejected a motion by Leader of Opposition (LOO) calling for the reversing of the recent appointments of ruling party activists to various Land Boards across the country. The motion also called for the appointment of young and qualified Batswana with tertiary education qualifications.

The ruling party could not allow that motion to be adopted for many reasons discussed below. Why did the LOO table this motion? Why was it negated? Why are Land Boards so important that a ruling party felt compelled to deploy its functionaries to the leadership and membership positions?

Prior to the motion, there was a LOO parliamentary question on these appointments. The Speaker threw a spanner in the works by ruling that availing a list of applicants to determine who qualified and who didn’t would violate the rights of those citizens. This has completely obliterated oversight attempts by Parliament on the matter.

How can parliament ascertain the veracity of the claim without the names of applicants? The opposition seeks to challenge this decision in court.  It would also be difficult in the future for Ministers and government officials to obey instructions by investigative Parliamentary Committees to summon evidence which include list of persons. It would be a bad precedent if the decision is not reviewed and set aside by the Business Advisory Committee or a Court of law.

Prior to independence, Dikgosi allocated land for residential and agricultural purposes. At independence, land tenures in Botswana became freehold, state land and tribal land. Before 1968, tribal land, which is land belonging to different tribes, dating back to pre-independence, was allocated and administered by Dikgosi under Customary Law. Dikgosi are currently merely ‘land overseers’, a responsibility that can be delegated. Land overseers assist the Land Boards by confirming the vacancy or availability for occupation of land applied for.

Post-independence, the country was managed through modern law and customary law, a system developed during colonialism. Land was allocated for agricultural purposes such as ploughing and grazing and most importantly for residential use. Over time some land was allocated for commercial purpose. In terms of the law, sinking of boreholes and development of wells was permitted and farmers had some rights over such developed water resources.

Land Boards were established under Section 3 of the Tribal Land Act of 1968 with the intention to improve tribal land administration. Whilst the law was enacted in 1968, Land Boards started operating around 1970 under the Ministry of Local Government and Lands which was renamed Ministry of Lands and Housing (MLH) in 1999. These statutory bodies were a mechanism to also prune the powers of Dikgosi over tribal land. Currently, land issues fall under the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services.

There are 12 Main Land Boards, namely Ngwato, Kgatleng, Tlokweng, Tati, Chobe, Tawana, Malete, Rolong, Ghanzi, Kgalagadi, Kweneng and Ngwaketse Land Boards.  The Tribal Land Act of 1968 as amended in 1994 provides that the Land Boards have the powers to rescind the grant of any rights to use any land, impose restrictions on land usage and facilitate any transfer or change of use of land.

Some land administration powers have been decentralized to sub land boards. The devolved powers include inter alia common law and customary law water rights and land applications, mining, evictions and dispute resolution. However, decisions can be appealed to the land board or to the Minister who is at the apex.

So, land boards are very powerful entities in the country’s local government system. Membership to these institutions is important not only because of monetary benefits of allowances but also the power of these bodies. in terms of the law, candidates for appointment to Land Boards or Subs should be residents of the tribal areas where appointments are sought, be holders of at least Junior Certificate and not actively involved in politics.  The LOO contended that ruling party activists have been appointed in the recent appointments.

He argued that worse, some had no minimum qualifications required by the law and that some are not inhabitants of the tribal or sub tribal areas where they have been appointed. It was also pointed that some people appointed are septuagenarians and that younger qualified Batswana with degrees have been rejected.

Other arguments raised by the opposition in general were that the development was not unusual. That the ruling party is used to politically motivated appointments in parastatals, civil service, diplomatic missions, specially elected councilors and Members of Parliament (MPs), Bogosi and Land Boards. Usually these positions are distributed as patronage to activists in return for their support and loyalty to the political leadership and the party.

The ruling party contended that when the Minister or the Ministry intervened and ultimately appointed the Land Boards Chairpersons, Deputies and members , he didn’t have information, as this was not information required in the application, on who was politically active and for that reason he could not have known who to not appoint on that basis. They also argued that opposition activists have been appointed to positions in the government.

The counter argument was that there was a reason for the legal requirement of exclusion of political activists and that the government ought to have mechanisms to detect those. The whole argument of “‘we didn’t know who was politically active” was frivolous. The fact is that ruling party activists have been appointed. The opposition also argued that erstwhile activists from their ranks have been recruited through positions and that a few who are serving in public offices have either been bought or hold insignificant positions which they qualified for anyway.

Whilst people should not be excluded from public positions because of their political activism, the ruling party cannot hide the fact that they have used public positions to reward activists. Exclusion of political activists may be a violation of fundamental human or constitutional rights. But, the packing of Land Boards with the ruling party activists is clear political corruption. It seeks to sow divisions in communities and administer land in a politically biased manner.

It should be expected that the ruling party officials applying for land or change of land usage etcetera will be greatly assisted. Since land is wealth, the ruling party seeks to secure resources for its members and leaders. The appointments served to reward 2019 election primary and general elections losers and other activists who have shown loyalty to the leadership and the party.

Running a country like this has divided it in a way that may be difficult to undo. The next government may decide to reset the whole system by replacing many of government agencies leadership and management in a way that is political. In fact, it would be compelled to do so to cleanse the system.

The opposition is also pondering on approaching the courts for review of the decision to appoint party functionaries and the general violation of clearly stated terms of reference. If this can be established with evidence, the courts can set aside the decision on the basis that unqualified people have been appointed.

The political activism aspect may also not be difficult to prove as some of these people are known activists who are in party structures, at least at the time of appointment, and some were recently candidates. There is a needed for civil society organizations such as trade unions and political parties to fight some of these decisions through peaceful protests and courts.

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