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Bakgalagadi (Part 1)



Moving north-eastwards from the Vilander community of Boksprits and The Mier country, profiled last week, one comes to the predominately Bakgalagadi (Shekgalagari – Bakgalagari) communities of the Matsheng region, which includes the villages of Hukuntsi (Hugunshi), Lehututu (Lehududu), Lokwabe and Tshane. The name “Matsheng” refers to the area’s many pans.

Most of this area's inhabitants speak Shekgalagari and are often collectively referred to as Bakgalagadi, though they belong to historically distinct, albeit often related, merafe. The name “Kgalagadi” is itself almost certainly derived from the verb “go kgala”, meaning to become dry or parched, and adjectival suffix “gadi", which feminizes the noun that it modifies. "Kgalagadi" can thus be loosely translated as "the drying motherland". To later Batswana invaders, Bakgalagadi were the people they found when entering the western dry lands. But who are the Bakgalagadi really? What are their origins and identity? The more one looks at the evidence the more complex and open to debate the picture becomes.

General post-colonial histories covering the region, notably Tlou and Campbell’s History of Botswana and Ramsay, Morton and Mgadla’s Building a Nation, have divided Bakgalagadi into five sub-groupings: Bakgwatlheng, Babolangwe, Bangologa, Baphaleng and Bashaga. But, this division is at best a simplification. For example communities commonly grouped as Bangologa have a rich variety of local sub-identities, e.g. Baeharu (Baehadu) and their offshoot Baehazwana (Baehatshwana), Bapebana, Bakgala, Batyhaga (Batlhaga), Bakgwatlheng (Bakhwatheng), Barolong (Barholong), Bashiwana, Baselebe, Batlharo (Batharo).

Only some of the above groups claim descent from a founder patriarch named Mongologa, whose sons are said to have included Moeharu, Motyhaga, Mpebana, Moselebe, Moriti, and Mokwatheng. The name Mongologa has been associated with the verb go ngaloga, which may be translated as “to become disobedient, stubborn or delinquent.” This meaning is connected in oral traditions to a Morolong prince who became known as “Mongologa” after he unsuccessfully tried to usurp bogosi from his senior brother. Expelled for his ambition, Mongologa fled to Hukuntsi, from where he was able to establish his paramountcy over other local Shekgalagari communities, who thereafter were also known as Bangologa.

Alternatively Tjako Mpulabusi, in Barile, The Peopling of Botswana: vol. II, traces the name to an apparently more archaic translation of verb go ngaloga as “to stampede” in the context of a dismissive Serolong expression “sa ba gase gosia ke go ngaloga”. At least in the past Mongologa’s followers have also been referred to as Bashaga (Basaga), a name that is pejoratively associated with bothanka/botlhanka or servitude. Bashaga has, in this respect, also been used as a label for other groups such as the Bariti at Kokong and Kang who at times in the past were vassals of Bakwena and Bangwaketse.   

According to the 2011 census Hukuntsi is the largest historically Bakgalagari village west of Letlhakeng, with 4,654 inhabitants. Growth over the years has been relatively modest; the 1946 census, which enumerated Botswana's total population at only about 300,000, listed Hukuntsi's population as 1,423. The village is today divided into nine principal wards, namely GaMaeharu (Goo-Kgosi), Galetsepa, Goo-Khibane, Goo-Magobelelo, GaMotharo, GaMhutlla, Ga-Tjhaga, Ga-Moselebe (Ga-Maleme) and Goo-Tshweu.

As reflected in their positioning at Kgosing, the predominate merafe at Hukuntsi are the Baeharu and their offshoot the Baehatswana (Baehazwana). Another group found in the village are of Batlharo origin, some of whom arrived as nineteenth century refugees from British atrocities in the Northern Cape. The Baeharu and Baehatswana trace their bogosi back to Moeharu. According to genealogies Moeharu begot Sekekwana (or Sekokwana), who begot Tauesele (Tyauesele), who begot Mogolana, who begot Matsipe, who begot Koomane, who begot Phogopi, who begot Magobelelo, who begot Moaparhi or Moapare I, who begot Mosiwa who begot Moapare II.

During the 1930s the colonial administration attempted without success to install the latter as the Paramount Chief over most of the Kgalagadi District, in the hope of increasing its then meagre Hut Tax receipts. The Baehatswana trace their bogosi from Lemane, a junior brother to Koomane. Lemane is remembered by the Bangologa as having been a great freedom fighter, who resisted the tribute demands and cattle raids of the Batawana and Barolong. Lemene begot Mabotye, who begot Boamakge, whose followers separated from the Baeharu before the nineteenth century.

Baeharu settlement at Hukuntsi is said to have occurred by the time of Tauesele and has otherwise been continuous since the reign of Matsipe. During the 1830s the Bangwaketse Kgosi Sebego briefly established himself at Lehututu and proceeded to subjugate the surrounding region. By all accounts he was a talented, but cruel, militarist: "Sebego opelo kebonye athelesetsa Matebele; oneile baba mmala wa thebe…Lomoreetseng lware moabi? Loko lorile molhasedi, gongwe lware be bua bogale".

The French missionary Lemue recorded an incident in which the Mongwaketse is alleged to have resorted to pure terror against Bangologa who refused to submit: "After having confiscated their goats, Sebego had the men, women and children put into their huts, which he then burned down." During the period some Baehuru left Matsipe and migrated to the Boteti area, forming the core of the Bangologa found there today. They subsequently joined the Bangwato of Kgosi Sekgoma I in repulsing the Amandebele.

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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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