On Monday I drove to the shopping centre in Mochudi to buy newspapers. I found colleagues of mine in the periphery of the complex discussing the Golden Jubilee. One of them asked me why the Saturday, Sunday and Monday newspapers did not carry stories on the Roving Torch’s arrival at the Mochudi kgotla. I said I didn’t know but provided an assumption to the effect that it could be that for the print media; the Roving Torch is no longer a news story. They have exhausted all the angles. There was another question, “do you mean if it were you, you wouldn’t have written something?” I was not sure but said perhaps I could have written something. For instance, I would probably have something like, “contrary to expectations, the Roving Torch was given a rousing welcome and send off by residents of Mochudi of all ranks. In the week preceding the event, there were rumours to the effect that some sections of Bakgatla were having a separate arrangement, the aim being to have it received by their Dalai lama.
However, they abandoned their plans because authorities had adopted a tough stance against possible unruly behaviour. The security that had been put in place could not be penetrated and that whoever had other plans, probably realised that, their actions would put their future dealings with government in jeopardy.” When I thought we had reached an understanding, one of them asked if the newspapers were not influenced by Mangana Regiment and their supporters not to report the event at the kgotla. I said that one is farfetched. You could not influence all the newspaper editors within such a short space of time. Similarly the profession does not allow journalists to be bribed. Tell me if there had been a showdown between authorities and those guys over there trying to highjack the event, these newspapers would not have reported on that? I did not ask who those guys over there were and proceeded as if I knew them by saying, surely that would have added a new dimension even the Washington Post would carry it if properly written. I also came up with another trick suggesting that perhaps reporters on the scene should have backed their stories with interviews with the ordinary man and searched for gossips which are usually a common feature at volatile areas like Mochudi.
I said not everybody was happy with certain aspects of the event citing a murmur of complaint I heard from a small group of ladies from where I was seated. They complained about the conduct of assembling of female regiments by MmaSeingwaeng claiming that the issue was the prerogative of Kgosi Kgafela’s wife, they were not happy with the MP for Mochudi East being asked to give a vote of thanks saying he must kiss his parliamentary seat a goodbye and that he was not telling the truth when he said he grew up in Mochudi and attended primary school at Isang. I silenced them on that issue confirming that indeed we were together at Isang Primary School although he was ahead of me. I also rubbed them the wrong way when I said what if the Kgosi’s wife is unavailable. One of them replied that MmaSeingwaeng passed the baton to MmaMatshego in our presence and she should not interfere. Moment later, the regiment was called to the stage to perform. They sang a song unrelated to the initiation songs. I thought aloud wondering why it sounded as though they had not rehearsed it. One of the ladies chipped in saying perhaps word had arrived from South Africa warning MmaSeignwaeng not to dare sing regimental songs at that event.
The ladies, who are angry with MP Isaac David, are the members of the “Moono” and they elected him because he was very good at spreading that gospel. He had even made Kgosi Kgafela his political slogan and it won him the election. The same group remained on their seats when the gathering was asked to stand up for the dignitaries to exit the tent because they did not want to honour Isaac David. This growing sense of disenchantment with Isaac David is therefore interesting. It is a new twist in a series of events. Those ladies were bitter with almost everything on stage. Another of their complaint was the participation of a Polka Group from Linchwe II Secondary School, saying it should not have been brought to the kgotla because Polka is foreign to Bakgatla. I tried to show them the need for culture diversification but bitterness escalated with one of them saying “brother Kwapeng you are encouraging perpetration of undesirable things in Kgatleng”. These are the types of gossips which would have helped reporters strengthen their stories if they had fallen on their ears.
At the end of the long convensation in the shopping centre periphery, I told the group the story of a journalist from the BBC who had been assigned to cover the general elections in Botswana in the 90s. I told them that the journalist arrived in Gaborone only to find out that the general election on Botswana was a non news making event like it was the case in South Africa, Zimbabwe, DRC, Mozambique and Lesotho. She was so frustrated that she did not know what to do since she was already in Botswana. She kept asking those she met if the elections in Botswana were always like that and that it was not worth coming all the way for it. She finally conducted interviews so that she had something to file. The gossips that I heard from the ladies at the kgotla about MmaSeingwaeng are consistent with utterances that had been made at the same venue and in the streets in the recent past. On or about last year, MmaSeingwaeng called a meeting of female regiments at the Phuthadikobo Museum to hear UNESCO’s interest in their initiation drums. Some elements in our midst attempted to disrupt the arrangement questioning “who she thinks she is”. It has also been said on more than two occasions at the kgotla that “bogosi ba seKgatla bo dule mo tlung ya ga Linchwe bo tsene mo go ya ga Kgafela.” Of course is true, the worrying thing about it is the context in which it is being said. The intention is to belittle, ridicule and embarrass MmaSeingwaeng judging from the atmosphere of the meetings where these utterances were made.
The problem with Mochudi of today is that some people expect everybody to agree with them on everything. Their thinking is in line with the old and discarded “Bullet Theory” of communication which is also known as the “Direct Effect Theory”. The society consists of a variety of people of different ages, different cultural background, the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated so to expect them to always react in the same manner to messages and events is a futile exercise. Kgosi Linchwe II did not belief in the “Bullet Theory”. On August 18, 2001 at Bopedi in Northern Pretoria, he said, “If a people agree all the time on everything that would cause concern, especially on the sound functioning of their mental faculties”. On dealing with MmaSeingwaeng, her critics have clouded their thinking with outburst of anger which has resulted with them failing to acknowledge the fact that as Kgosi Kgafela’s mother, she is automatically the queen mother in her own right and that the position gives her the right to have stake in the affairs of the tribe no matter how small.
Queen mothers and royal families are respected all over the world. They don’t stay aloof from matters of bogosi as it is being suggested around certain quarters here in Mochudi. In England, Queen Elizabeth’s mother was a highly respected person by virtue of being the queen mother; prince and princesses in England are accorded the same respect. They can be assigned official duties by the queen as and when she feels it necessary. For instance, Princess Marina represented the Queen in Gaborone when Bechuanaland became Botswana on 30th September 1966. She presented the Botswana Constitutional instrument to the First President on behalf of the Queen. She also had her own message to the new president of Botswana. In Lesotho, bogosi shifted from the house of King Moshoeshoe II to that of his son, Letsie II. It has never been said that Letsie’s mother, now the Queen mother, has no role to play in the affairs of Basotho or their bogosi. She was in Botswana in the mid nineties on an official visit.
The Botswana Government was her host. The Government wisely roped MmaSeingwaeng in to be with the Lesotho queen mother throughout her stay in Botswana. Before they approached MmaSeingwaeng, they looked around looking at the stature of the royal woman suitable for the assignment. They settled for her because they considered her a self-respecting queen. So let us accord MmaSeingwaeng the respect due to her. We should not allow ourselves to be outdone by other people who should be taking the cue from us. If we have issues with her, let us tackle them in the manner which does not reflect disrespect. Let the power hungry royal uncles fight their war with her without us taking sides. Our role as a tribe should be that of intervention rather than interference. Her two younger sons, Bakgatla and Mmusi, have been at the receiving end. They are being accused of interfering on bogosi issues. On more than two occasions during meetings at the Mochudi kgotla, there had been utterances to the effect that, as the chief’s younger brothers, culture or custom does not permit them to participate on issues of bogosi.
It has been explained that such issues are the prerogative of the chief and his uncles to the exclusion of the chief’s brothers. The people have been told that two royal brothers should wait until their turn to be the Chief’s uncles comes. It is said their turn will come when Kgafela’s son, Matshego ascends the throne. This thinking is pregnant with prejudices. It is unprecedented. In 1875 after Kgosi Linchwe I appointed his younger brother Ramono his representative at Moruleng, he did not opt for his uncles and nobody raised eyebrows about the choice of Ramono. During the Anglo/Boer War of 1899, the same Ramono was in the frontline with Segale when Bakgatla regiments of Makoba, Majanko and Mantwane launched the famous attack on the Boer laager during the battle of Derdepoort which left 14 Bakgatla dead, 16 wounded, 25 Boer corpses outside the laager, one inside while other Boers were alive and groaning inside . Kgosi Linchwe I would not have assigned his brother Ramono to lead the Bakgatla warriors in a war situation if indeed culture forbided the chief’s brothers from playing role on tribal matters.
In 1936, following the suspension of Kgosi Molefi, his younger brother, Mmusi became regent without anybody objecting. In 1937, Kgosi Molefi went in exile. Mmusi remained regent. Nobody objected. When WW II broke up, Mmusi joined men who went to war having appointed a triumvirate to the position of chief. Nobody ever suggested that by virtue of being the chief’s brother, he had no authority to make such appointments and that the power rested with the chief’s uncles. In Kanye, Kgosi Bathoen II had a brother called Mookami. When Mookami grew up, Bathoen informed Bangwaketse that since his brother was a grown-up, he should be involved in leadership matters as well. There was no objection. Kgosi Seepapitso IV had a brother called Seatla. Seatla was appointed Seepapitso’s deputy. When Seepapitso joined the diplomatic world, Seatla remained Bangwaketse regent until his death in April 2003. Kgosi Linchwe II did not appoint his brother when he was in the US and in Gaborone as President of the Customary Court of Appeal because he did not have one.
Even sons and daughters of presidents are today accorded the respect which they were never used to before. It was Maureen Reagan, President’s Ronald Reagan’s daughter who represented the United States in Botswana during this country’s 20th anniversary of independence in 1986. I am therefore, calling on those concerned to lay down their arms and let sanity to prevail. The use of outburst of anger to address issues does not help.