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NTEBOGANG RATSHOSA (1882-1979), MOTSHWARELEDI OF THE BANGWAKETSE (1924-1928)

Jeff Ramsay
BUILDERS OF BOTSWANA


In 1916 Batswana were shocked by the murder of the Bangwaketse Kgosi Seepapitso III in his kgotla by his brother Moeapitso. At the time Seepapitso’s heir, the future Bathoen II, was only eight years old. It was thus necessary to wait until he reached maturity to be installed. During this period the interests of the Bangwaketse royal house and tribal administration were safe-guarded by two strong women. One was Seepapitso III’s mother, the “one-eyed Queen” Mohumagadi Gagoangwe Gaseitsiwe (nee Sechele). The second was his elder sister, Ntebogang.

In 1923, after seven troubled years working through three male regents, Gagoangwe installed herself as Motshwareledi (regent). Already dying of cancer, she shortly thereafter named Ntebogang to succeed her.  Like her mother, Ntebogang was absolutely devoted to the welfare of her people, while preparing for their future under Bathoen II.

Born in Kanye in 1882 as the child of Kgosi Bathoen I and related through her mother to Bakwena royalty; like other members of her household she received a formal education and was raised in a strict Christian manner. She married the Bangwato noble Ratshosa Motswetla, by whom she bore three children, but returned to Kanye after being widowed in 1917. In 1923 she left the LMS (UCCSA) church to become a lifelong Seventh Day Adventist (SDA – “Sabata”).

Ntebogang’s determination helped her face the relatively weak position she initially occupied as Motshwareledi. The LMS-men who then dominated the kgotla resented the SDA. She was also disadvantaged by her status a widow.

To bolster her position Ntebogang appointed six men to serve as an advisory council. Though all of the councillors served her loyally, she came to rely on one in particular, Kgampu Kamodi, who usually acted as her deputy at the Kgotla.

Among Ntebogang’s early initiatives were efforts to combat the large swarms of locusts. She organized an extensive well-digging campaign to provide large amounts of water needed for mixing chemical sprays and for the hundreds of oxen pulling the wagons of the anti-locusts teams.

Ntebogang also notably used her SDA connections to establish the first medical care centres throughout Gangwaketse. At Kanye, the Protectorate’s first clinics were introduced, followed by the hospital, with additional early facilities placed in Manyana and Lehututu.  With the subsequent introduction of a tribal levy to support the SDA medical services, the Bangwaketse were able to establish what for its time was a model public health system two decades before the NHS in Britain.

Ntebogang’s regency is also remembered for enforcing public codes of conduct that had lapsed since the death of her brother, such as reviving the ban on the sale of khadi.

She also made her presence felt outside Gangwaketse. Ntebogang was first woman to sit in the “Native Advisory Council” and became one of its most outspoken members, often speaking against the threat of the Bechuanaland Protectorate being incorporated into the Union of South Africa.

When Protectorate Government sought South African assistance for the anti-locust campaign, Ntebogang objected. She feared that if such men dug wells or discovered minerals in the process, they might try to claim the land as their own. She got her way, and the work was done by Bangwaketse and local Protectorate employees.

Through the NAC, Ntebogang also obtained money to greatly expand the piped-water scheme in Kanye and set up bull camps, projects which her nephew subsequently continued and expanded.

In 1926, when the Ratshosa brothers were banned from Gammangwato by Tshekedi Khama, Ntebogang helped to quiet the conflict. With Bathoen II’s support (she often referred important matters to him, knowing he would inherit the consequences), Ntebogang provided political refuge to the Ratshosa wives, MmaKhama and Baboni, on condition that they refrain from political intrigue. Her neutrality was accepted by Tshekedi, who later helped Ntebogang retrieve 150 of her cattle, which had been seized by Jonnie Ratshosa.

Ntebogang, Tshekedi and her first cousin, the Bakwena Kgosi Sebele II, also cooperated in 1927, when the Protectorate Government began to seriously to threaten the powers of dikgosi. They decided to take action after the Government passed a series proclamations affecting customary law and held inquiries into the treatment of the so-called Bushmen.

Believing there could be a South African hand behind these developments the three decided to go over the head of the Mahikeng based Resident Commissioner, Jules “Rramaeba” Ellenberger, by sending a petition to the High Commissioner in Pretoria, the Earl of Athlone. This resulted in the later being instructed by London to reassure the three royals, much to the consternation of the Mahikeng Administration.

Concerned about Ntebogang’s growing territorial influence, Ellenberger was happy to see her handover to Bathoen II. At the installation ceremony, Ntebogang offered her nephew the following thoughts: “Rich and poor are presented to you; liars are also presented to you. Whatever he be, everyone is yours, they are like the wives of one man—wives of one man never love each other and these wives of yours will be like that.”

For many years thereafter Ntebogang continued to offer wise counsel to royals and commoners alike, while devoting much of her time to the SDA.

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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