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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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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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