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Kgosi Sebele II (Part 13) The ‘Hidden Hand’



Notwithstanding the judgement that Third Bakwena Tribal Council had been reduced to a “broken reed”, Bechuanaland’s then Resident Commissioner, Rowland Daniel, remained determined in his desire to curtail Kgosi Sebele II’s power by reviving it.

As a prelude, he held another inquiry, in November 1929, in the main Kgotla in Molepolole. In his report to the High Commissioner, Daniel again summed up the meeting. “I attended a full Kgotla meeting at Molepolole on the 18th and 19th of November to discuss the matter and found that there were at least two-thirds of the tribe who were opposed to the petition. The position was much the same as I found it a year ago, the great number of headmen were favour of the petition whilst the majority consisted of common people and a few headmen.”

Daniel, however, seemingly failed to recognize one notable difference between the 1929 enquiry and previous gatherings. Minutes of the Kgotla meeting show that, for the first time on record at least, a number of self-proclaimed commoners spoke out on behalf of commoners in general.

While most of the commoner group denounced the need for another Council a few instead called for the formation of a new council be made up exclusively of commoners, in the manner of the House of Commons in England and the then active Lekgotla la bafo political movement in Lesotho.

Once again, Daniel ignored the wishes of the Bakwena as a whole by reconstituting a Council of Headmen. The four previously handpicked councillors were retained, while an additional four members were to be nominated by the Kgosi for six-month trial period. But, as with the three previous attempts, the 4th Bakwena Tribal Council proved to be a failure.  In 1930, with overwhelming support, Sebele called for its abolition.

By then, however, Rowland was being replaced as Resident Commissioner by one of the Bechuanaland Protectorate’s most dynamic and controversial colonial proconsuls – Charles Rey. Throughout his tenure Rey exercised ruthless determination in pursuing his vision of a more ''bountiful Bechuanaland.'' Even before he had officially assumed office, on the 1rst of April 1930, he had begun to consider Sebele's deposition. He soon thereafter installed Sebele’s nemesis, the Molepolole Resident Magistrate A.G. “Sekgoanyana” Stigand, to serve as his Assistant Resident Commissioner.

At the time, Stigand’s own perspective of why Rowland and his predecessors had failed bordered on anti-Semitic paranoia. Writing to the Government Secretary in Mahikeng he had ominously warned his superiors that:  “We are faced with an alternative government”, which he repeatedly referred to as “The Hidden Hand”.

Who was behind this “dangerous power that is controlling the Chief and a good proportion of the tribe”? Stigand further reported that “I have reason to believe that the alien Kurland Jew Storekeeper Max L. Hirschfeldt is as the bottom of it in collaboration with the Greek Jew Joseph Zakar, recently licensed as a labour agent for Hadley’s.” Stigand went on to observe:

“Sebele and his stage manager, Mochumi [i.e. Motsumi, his tribal secretary ] cum M.L. Hirschfeldt and Zakar, when asking for this meeting of the tribe before Col. Daniel hope to bluff him by engineering a meeting at which the ‘claque’ of riff raff, intimidated and bribed by Zakar’s money (to be paid by results) to simulate agreement with Chief Sebele’s utterances. Their only hope – this being they think their only chance now that the much dreaded Ellenberger is away – is to try to get him to make a decision by counting heads at such a meeting, that is by quantity instead of quality, and render an opinion of all trustworthy and reasonable headman null and void”

By August 1930 finding a way to ensure Sebele’s removal, in the context of the Colonial Secretary's August 1921 instruction that any attempt to unseat him should enjoy the backing of a "substantial majority" of his subjects, was being given top priority by Rey. There is no evidence, however, that he shared his deputy’s inclination to indulge in wild Jewish conspiracy theories.

The new Resident Commissioner’s decision that Sebele would have to go was instead a product of the policy guidelines he had been given on his appointment, as well as personal prejudices he brought to his position. Before his departure from London he had been commissioned by the then Colonial and Dominions Secretary, Leopold Amery, to straighten out his predecessors' perceived legacy of stagnation.

Amery had observed this legacy during a 1927 tour of the High Commission Territories. Believing that its future transfer to the Union of South Africa was inevitable, Amery hoped to see Bechuanaland developed as a "centre of progress" that could serve an imperial counterweight to the rising tide of Afrikaner nationalism within the Union.

This strategy was put forward in the context of the 1924 election of J.B. Hertzog's Nationalist dominated Pact government, which aggressively pushed for the territory's incorporation. Rey had been specifically told by Amery that the past object B.P. administrators had been "to keep out of the Union, and to keep the natives quiet and happy." The new resident Commissioner was quickly perceived by many Batswana as standing for just the opposite.

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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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