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Bogosi Jwa Bakgatla Bagammanaana (Part 2)

Jeff Ramsay

We last left off with Kgosi Pilane's seizure of power from the by then venerable Mosielele, who was his biological but not, ka seantlo, titular father.

Pilane's action was in keeping with his times. By the 1870s, eastern Botswana was being reshaped by a new generation of ambitious and impatient young men.

In Molepolole, Sechele, along with brother Kgosidintsi, struggled to give guidance the impetuous Sebele. In Shoshong Khama III ousted his father Sekgoma I, who found refuge with Sechele's vassal the Bahurutshe Kgosi Thobega at Mmankgodi. In Ramoutswa Ikaneng, son of Makgosi I, looked for an opportunity to assert Balete independence from the Bangwaketse, while securing his own succession over his senior cousin Pule, whose followers would ultimately settle at Gabane.

But, it was developments among the Bakgatla bagaKgafela in Mochudi that pushed the entire region towards inter-communal conflict. The May 1875 death of the BagaKgafela Kgosi Kgamanyane, who had sought Sechele's protection four years earlier, set up a power struggle between Linchwe I and half brother Maganelo. With increasing numbers of BagaKgafela returning from the Diamond Fields around Kimberly with guns, both pretenders sought to secure their own power base by establishing their morafe's independent control over the lands between the Ngotwane and Madikwe rivers.

The Bakwena were provoked by a series of BagaKgafela cattle raids in the region. Pressed by Sebele, Sechele agreed that his son lead seven of his mephato – Kgosidintsi's Maganelwa, Sekwene's Mannanne, Basiamang's Maganatsatsi, Serapelo's Maomantwa, Tumagole's Matlolakgang, Sebogiso's Maganamokwa, and Motswasele's Mantswabisi, as well as Sebele's own Mathubantwa – to force the BagaKgafela to submit.

Although the BagaMmanaana at Kgabodukwe had been spectators to the above events as they unfolded, Kgosi Pilane could not ignore his father-in-law, Sechele's, call to arms.

And so, Khabe's Majapoo, Gobuamang's Mayakakgomo, along with Pilane's own Mafenya mephato joined in the Bakwena advance on Mochudi.

The resulting August 1875 Battle at Mochudi was a decisive victory for the BagaKgafela defenders. A few months later the BagaMmanaana under Pilane returned to Mosopa.  This followed allegations by Sebele I that Pilane had failed to adequately support him.

It was apparently Pilane's wife, Gagoangwe, who had convinced her brother Sebele of BagaMmanaana duplicity during the failed expedition. She alleged that her apparently already estranged husband had been turning a blind eye to secrete night meetings between dikgosana of the two Bakgatla merafe.

In the wake of his humiliating defeat, Sebele had grounds to fear a revival of succession claims on behalf of his elder brother Kgari.

The seniority of the house of MmaSebele over the house of MmaKgari had been forced upon Sechele. In about 1840 Bakwena dikgosana had installed future mother of Sebele and Gagoangwe, Selemang aKgorwe, over MmaKgari, the exiled Mongwato princess Mokgokgong aKgari, upon the death of Sechele's initial Mohumagadi aMogolo, Kebalepile aSegokotlo or MmaOpe. This arrangement had been subsequently sanctioned by MmaSebele's recognition as Sechele's sole "Christian wife."

Besides allegedly leaving the battlefield at Mochudi, the BagaMmanaana were subsequently accused of secretly conniving with Linchwe's BagaKgafela faction to assure the death of the rival pretender, Maganelo.

The latter was killed when BagaMmanaana led by Kgosi Pilane's brother Gobuamang had ambushed his raiding party near Thamaga in November 1875. It is alleged that many of his own men had abandoned Maganelo.

At Molepolole, Sechele was then pressed into demanding that  Pilane offer up Maganelo's head as a sign of continued loyalty. The BagaMmanaana, however, insisted that they were obligated to return the Mokgatla's corpse intact to his relatives. 

Besides not wanting to violate Setswana etiquette the BagaMmanaana kgotla feared Sechele's reputation as a sorcerer. While there can be no certainty as to whether there had been active cooperation between the two Bakgatla merafe, it is undoubtedly true that they were reluctant enemies.

After moving his people back to Mosopa from Kgabodukwe, Pilane attempted to adopt a neutral stance. But, his independence was soon compromised by the growing cooperation between Sebele and the Bangwaketse Crown Prince Bathoen I.

Following the remarriage of Gagoangwe to Bathoen, the Bakwena agreed to give up their claims to Mosopa.

Pilane was, himself, remarried to Mogatsamokama, the daughter of the then late Bangwato Kgosi Macheng. Their son was thus named Kgabophuti.

For many decades relations between the Bangwaketse and BagaMmanaana remained good, with the later regarding themselves as junior allies but not subjects of the former.

In the later capacity BagaMmanaana mephato joined the Bangwaketse in their disastrous November 1881 attack on the Balete at Ramotswa.

In 1889 Pilane died and was succeeded by his senior son Baitirile. But the latter only ruled for a decade before dieing without an heir. As a result, from 1899-1912 Gobuamang served as regent for Kgabophuti.

Kgosi Kgabophuti ruled briefly from 1912-18. Only one mophato, Malwelakgosi, was initiated during his reign. This regiment was apparently the first not to have been sent to bogwera or traditional initiation school. Instead many of its members saw military service in World War I.

From the limited evidence available, the discarding of bogwera appears to have been a reflection of Kgabophuti's own religious convictions, rather than dictates of his Bangwaketse overlord, Bathoen's son Kgosi Seepapitso II.


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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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