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Jeff Ramsay

In August 1922 the Ghanzi Magistrate, Alan Cuzen, was confronted with reports that agitators wearing "rosettes of red, blue, and green" were stirring up anti-European sentiments on both sides of the Bechuanaland- South West Africa (Namibia) border. A subsequent investigation by police Corporal Lancaster linked the activities to a "certain native" who had passed through the region from Maun to Lehututu spreading "seditious talk."

Of special concern, was news that agitator’s message had been well received among the Ovaherero at Kalkfontein, where was already considerable resentment. Kalkfontein was then a recently established resettlement camp whose inhabitants had recently been removed from the Ghanzi ridge after the land they had been living on was acquired by a certain Tom Hardbattle.

By the 24th of May 1923 Cuzen was able to confirm to Mahikeng that: "Samuel Sheppard is the native who travelled from Maun to Ghanzi, held meetings at Kalkfontein, then proceeded to Lehututu and towards the Upington District eventually reaching Windhoek after months of travel."

Samuel Karcho Sheppard was by then already well known to the British having for decades played a prominent role in Tjiherero politics. In 1877 he had inherited from his late father, Saul, the position of Secretary to the Ovaherero ruler Maharero.

Originally Ovambanderu, the Sheppard family's prominence, and surname, had been established by Saul. As a young boy he was captured by Nama, only to be ransomed, in 1837, by the British Captain James Alexander.

Saul’s new master had been commissioned to establish contact with the Ovaherero, while finding a trade route to the Bakwena via the Namibian coast. After initially serving as a herd-boy, Saul was taken to England, where he attended a military school in Woolrich. He returned to Namibia in 1844 as an assistant to the Wesleyan missionary Peter Dixon. For many years thereafter, Saul preached among Kai//khuan Nama of Gaob Piet and his son and successor Simon !Gomxab Kooper.

As Maharero’s Secretary, Karcho Sheppard played a central role in ultimately futile Ovaherero efforts to opt for Mmamosadinyana's  protection as a lesser evil to rule by the German Kaiser.

After London's final 1884 renunciation of its previously proclaimed Hereroland Protectorate, Karcho further assisted Maharero in negotiating an accommodation with the new German Governor, Ernest Goering. The result was an October 1885 treaty, in which the Ovaherero accepted the Kaiser's protection in exchange for the ultimately unfulfilled promise of continued autonomy.

The 1890 death of Maharero coincided with the extension of more heavy-handed German authority. Karcho soon fell out with the new Ovaherero paramount, Samuel Maharero, when the latter sought to build up his own shaky authority by collaborating with the Germans in wars against other indigenous rulers.

As part of a well executed divide and conquer strategy, in 1896 the German military commander Major Theodore Leutwein, attacked and later executed Samuel's royal rival Nikodemus Kavikunua, along with his ally the Ovambanderu ruler Kahimemua.

Karcho then joined others in fleeing into Ngamiland. This was the first in a series of Ovaherero movements into Botswana, which culminated in the 1905 mass exodus of tens of thousands refugees, including Samuel Maharero himself.

In Ngamiland, Karcho quickly won confidence of both Kgosi Sekgoma aLetsholathebe and the British Magistrate at Tsau, Lieutenant Merry. Following the1905 mass migration he was sent to the border by Sekgoma to act as his eyes and ears and try to prevent tension between the Ovaherero and Ovambanderu from turning violent. Ovaherero at the time were blaming the Ovambanderu for failing to support them in the decisive battle at Waterburg against the Germans, while the Ovambanderu still blamed Samuel for the death of Kahimemua.

Karcho's intelligence reports to Merry confirmed that bulk of the Ovambandero immigrants were then occupying the land along the border historically inhabited by Zhu/oasi (also known as the ‘!Kung Bushmen’). But, there appears to have been remarkably little tension between the two communities. The Zhu of Namibia had also been victims of the genocidal German regime.

Having been legally liberated from the demands of botlhanka, the Zhu in Gatawana shared with the Tjiherero speaking refugees a common loyalty to Sekgoma. Throughout his reign Sekgoma cultivated the support of non-Setswana groups as a political counterweight to his dikgosana, who favoured the royal claims of his genealogically senior nephew, Mathiba. The 1906 British intervention on behalf of Mathiba was thus a blow to Karcho's people.

In 1912 Karcho joined most of the Ovambanderu in migrating to Sekgoma's new headquarters at Kachikau, along the Chobe. After Sekgoma's death, in 1914, Karcho stayed at Rakops with the Ovambanderu ruler Nikodemus Kavarure (Kahimemua's successor). From there he embraced the ‘Africa for the Africans’ vision of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).

Thus it was that Karcho Shepperd had ultimately travelled from Rakops to Windhoek organising and addressing U.N.I.A. rallies throughout the western Kgalagadi. His message attracted interested audiences in such diverse locations as Tsau and Lehututu as well as Kalkfontien, before he proceeded to Namibia via the Northern Cape. He then returned to Botswana, having alluded S.W.A. Police efforts to detain him amidst allegations that he and his followers had been responsible for inciting violent unrest among the “Bushmen”

The campaign proved to be the elderly Karcho’s last hurrah. Back in the Protectorate, he and the U.N.I.A. faded away in peace.

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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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