Residents of Serowe are torn between the actions of deputy regent of Bangwato Kgosi Serogola Seretse with some hailing him for bringing discipline to the Bangwato village while some say he is trampling on people’s rights.
Since he was appointed deputy regent of Bangwato in 2010, Kgosi Seretse is said to have waged a war against wayward behavior of Serowe youth who terrorize residents through administration of corporal punishment in installments. Seretse, a cousin to Bangwato Paramount chief Kgosi Ian Khama and also an ex-army officer is said to have now been nicknamed ‘Next’ for his hardness which some say that is reminding them of the late Tshekedi Khama.
Mompati Tumo a victim of Kgosi Seretse’s flogging said that he was sentenced to 20 lashes after he was convicted for stealing a cellphone. “I had to go to Kgotla every day to take my lashes which I did for 10 days taking two each day. it was the most painful day of my life,” said the remorseful Tumo who said that he will never commit crime again.
According to the former petty criminal if one does not admit that he is guilty they get more lashes. Another elderly looking man who did not want to be named said that he was also given corporal punishment in installment by ‘Next’ as Kgosi Seretse is currently called and is convinced that it was inhuman. “Yes I might have committed a crime but to be sentenced to 10 lashes is totally inhuman and barbaric,” said the elderly looking man.
He likened what Seretse did to the infamous illegal flogging in Kgatleng in 2009 and wants an action to be taken against the royal Ngwato.
Attorney Letsweletse Martin Dingake said what Kgosi Seretse is doing is inhuman and degrading. He said corporal punishment which is administered in installments has been declared null and void by the Court of Appeal in 1984 in a case between PETRUS AND ANOTHER v. THE STATE 1984 BLR 14 (CA). He said repeated and delayed infliction of corporal punishment infringes Section 7 of the Constitution which also deals with inhuman and degrading punishment.
Dingake said that chiefs and other traditional leaders must always be given refresher courses so that they do not trample of people’s rights enshrined in the constitution in the name of customary law. He said that the case is just similar to what Bakgatla royals did in 2008 when they thought they were instilling discipline in their village not knowing that they are committing a crime.
In his defence Kgosi Serogola Seretse said that he administered corporal punishment in accordance with the customary law. “Cases are brought before the kgotla and the accused are given audience to defend themselves and at the end the law is followed,” said Kgosi Seretse.
Asked if he is not trampling on the rights of people by flogging them especially giving corporal punishment installment, Kgosi denied that he is doing that. He said that when he was appointed deputy regent of Bangwato in 2010 there was lot of indiscipline among the youth in village with some calling themselves ‘Boko Haram’ after the Islamist terrorist group. “Right now that group has disbanded because we disciplined them and there is great improvement in the behavior of the youth,” said the former army officer.
Another group that was giving Serowe residents sleepless nights according to Kgosi Seretse were Serowe Brigades and Swaneng Hill Senior School but has since changed. Seretse said that they do not want to send their children to jail over petty crimes because that will hardene them, and therefore corporal punishment which has been carried out for time immemorial is the way to go. “In most cases parents bring their wayward children to the kgotla and we listen to their cases and administer corporal punishment,” said the disciplinarian.
He said unlike in other places mephato are not involved in arresting and punishing those found guilty rather it is the police who conduct investigations. Kgosi Seretse praised those who went for initiation saying that they are well behaved and is adamant that those who are still misbehaving if sent to the initiation school will come as better people.
Dingake differs with Kgosi Seretse noting that the end cannot justify the means and saying that this might lead to another problem which was faced by Bakgatla. After being installed Bakgatla paramount chief Kgosi Kgafela II engaged mephato in instilling discipline in Kgatleng area.Although government warned that the floggings were unlawful, Kgosi Kgafela who was installed chief by president Khama continued with the floggings. He was later brought before the courts of law together with other Bakgatla royals but he fled the country before the case could be completed.