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Commission warns Bakgatla

Johnson Motshwarakgole

The Vice Chairperson of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Review of the Constitution of Botswana, Johnson Motshwarakgole, has warned the defiant Bakgatla-Ba-Kgafela that boycotting participation in the proceedings of review of the constitution will have dire consequences on their part.

Speaking on the back of the resistance faced by commissioners in Mochudi this week, the renowned trade unionist said, refusal to participate in the process will mean that other people will take decisions on behalf of Bakgatla.

Commissioners’ experience in Mochudi was a rude awakening, as it became evident that the absence of the tribe Paramount Chief, Kgosi Kgafela II remains a wedge that divides the tribe. Some Bakgatla could not hide their exasperations on the process of the review of the Constitution.

“I, as you, holds a very firm view that, if this process should be wholly complete, Kgosi Kgafela II should take part. However, it is hinged in you, Bakgatla, to ensure he [Kgosi Kgafela II] gives his commentary,” said Motshwarakgole.

“But the fact is anybody who boycotts or withholds their opinion from us, simply means that other people’s opinions are representative of theirs.” Bakgatla said their Paramount Chief, Kgosi Kgafela Kgafela II has put an order that his tribesmen should not participate in the President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s quest to review the Constitution. They said this was clearly indicated in the letter that was written by Kgosi Kgafela II to President Masisi.

One Kabelo Moswetsi, a resident of Mochudi said by participating in this exercise they are pointing a gun on their own heads. He argued that before Bakgatla could take part, there are lots of consultations that have to run between the Bakgatla and the government, some of those were alluded to, in their Paramount Chief’s letter.

“The Government must delegate an Assembly that specifically looks into our issues and concerns as Bakgatla particularly on the issue of our Tribal Territories and the Tribal Act,” he said. Kabelo Kgamanyane concurred with Moswetsi’s sentiments, saying their Chief’s letter indicated that the land of Bakgatla is a reserved land. He said the Bakgatla leader made a request that there be a special dispensation in which him and the President are brought together for a consultation.

Bakgatla Regent, Kgosi Bana-Sekai Linchwe, for his part commended the Commissioners for the good work. He said he personally does not have any contribution pertaining to the review of the Constitution, urging Bakgatla to freely venture their opinion. Ontlametse Letsholo, who is as well-known resident, expressed a concern on the whole exercise. He said it was clearly stated by their leader, that they should not take part in it.

“Because we are already sold out, I might as well venture my opinion,” he said. He contended that the time allotted to the meeting is an indication of how Batswana are taken for granted, and that it is deliberate. “You come here, for only two hours and go back hurried, lest you find your co- looters having out-performed you in Gaborone,” he said.

Michael Matlhage, a resident of Mochudi, said there has been a number of Batswana who expressed their desire for the Constitution to be reviewed a while ago. He noted that the unfortunate circumstance is that, now when the process is being actualized, those who passionately expressed their desire to drive the review are not part of the process.

Matlhage asked the commissioners if they had consulted those individuals, who include Kgosi Kgafela II, to make their contributions. “I now pose this question to you my fellow tribesmen, if your leader was not listened to, when speaking to this subject, who are you to be listened to?” he asked rhetorically.

Sekete Ntshole, a resident, when making his contribution, blasted former Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo for what he deems hypocritical. He stated that; “Kgosi Kgafela has, beyond reasonable doubts, demonstrated his intelligence and advocated for the review of the constitution.”

He said by the time Kgosi Kgafela was burning with the desire to review the constitution, Dibotelo was in the forefront of having Kgosi Kgafela II being silenced. “Dibotelo you were on your duties at the High Court, you judged our leader, and you are the reason why he fled, now when you have taken away the intelligent man away from us, you come to us and say you want our opinions while you did not want to hear from him?” he asked.

Mochudi resident and retired trade unionist, Japhta Radibe argued that the current Constitution is characterized by a lot of foreign precepts that do not speak to the lives of Batswana. “The Constitution of Botswana is an inherited Constitution, what is rightful, is that the Constitution be nullified, and a fresh one be made,” he articulated.

Neo Molatlhegi of ‘Ledisakgosi’— a Bakgatla regiment, went for jugular and declared that: “Our courts are open, vamoose this place now, go tell the President that Bakgatla are not receptive of this whole process whatsoever.”

A number of speakers, who gave their comment, expressed their desire in directly voting for the President. They argued as well that the time for the Election System of First-Past-the-Post is long over-due and not profitable for a democratic system.

They advised that Botswana considers ‘Proportional Representation’ that enables inclusivity. Likewise, they advocated with one voice for establishment of a Constitutional Court in the country. Bakgatla indicated the need for all oversight bodies in Botswana to be independent of the Government.

The residents of Mochudi said these meetings are not political; therefore all Batswana should be given a chance to venture their opinions. They are of the view during these meetings there should not be anyone who is said to be at work, all must be there to participate in shaping their future.

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