Kgabo’s return imminent

SHARE   |   Saturday, 30 April 2016   |   By Ditiro Motlhabane
Kgosi Kgafela II Kgosi Kgafela II

Leader of the Mangana regiment of Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela, Bright Moagi Molebatsi - who are in charge of the tribe in the absence of their paramount chief - says they are very happy with government's decision to accede to their demands, as announced at a kgotla meeting on Monday. Molebatsi told The Patriot on Sunday that he led a delegation of Barongwa Ba Morafe to meet President Ian Khama early last year where they presented a number of requests. "We requested for the lifting of the derecognition of our Kgosikgolo and his deputy; we asked that government should consult and treat the Bakgatla tribe like all other tribes in the country; We also requested government to end the stand-off with our Kgosikgolo to allow Kgafela II to return to Botswana to perform his duties freely, and for cordial relations between the parties," said Molebatsi. 

Thanks Govt
He thanked government officials for being cooperative in addressing their grievances, despite that some detractors believed they were confrontational in their approach. He said all the other issues that the minister highlighted at the meeting as posing challenges to the resolution of the dispute are technical. He said the judiciary could allow for outstanding legal issues to be resolved out of court and that the dual citizenship issue cannot be a major impediment. Molebatsi, however, would not say when Kgafela II will set foot in the country, safe to say that now government has paved the way for that to happen.

Mangana in charge
Molebatsi denies any planned sabotage against the roving torch, currently doing rounds around the country to mark national celebrations of 50 years of independence. He instead explains that the only misunderstanding was when some in the Bakgatla royal house tried to nominate a representative to receive the torch in the absence of Kgafela II. "Once again, we advised them that since Mangana is in charge of developments in the village we should be involved. But I am not aware of any plans to reject it totally," he said. It had been alleged in some quarters that government moved fast to avert a disaster where Bakgatla planned to paralyse the itinerary of the roving torch. The roving torch left the villages in Tswapong after an action filled weekend travelling further south of the country, after arriving in Mogapi village on Saturday afternoon.

A day earlier, on Friday morning, drama ensued in Lesenepole village when four headmen quarreled over who should receive the torch from Mogapinyana into Matolwane village where a crowd was waiting to receive it. Government officials ran helter skelter in marathon meetings that ended in the wee hours of Friday morning persuading dikgosi to reach an agreement on who will receive the torch, after one of them wanted to delegate a representative for all four. Earlier on Monday, Bakgatla exploded into uncontrollable euphoria at the news that their paramount chief Kgosi Kgafela II could soon return home from exile in South Africa after government resolved to pardon him. The news were delivered at the Mochudi main kgotla on Monday morning by the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Slumber Tsogwane. 

Tsogwane’s goodies

With a cap-in-hand, Tsogwane was all apologies at Bakgatla main kgotla in Mochudi on Monday, where he had gone to present concessions with the tribe, to diffuse the tension that has been boiling against government. He begged Bakgatla to work with government representatives to find an amicable resolution to the protracted stand-off caused by government's decision to de-recognise Kgosi Kgafela II as a paramount chief after the latter refused to attend Ntlo-ya-Dikgosi soon after coronation on 20 September 2008.  Kgafela II argued then that as Bakgatla paramount chief he owed allegiance to his tribe and would not succumb to the demands of government as he was not a public servant. By far the harshest critic of Botswana constitution, Kgafela called for the total overhaul of the constitution saying it is not authentic and does not represent the interest of citizens. He even challenged the constitution of court, but lost.

Eye of the storm

Kgafela II became enemy of the state after he assigned Madibelankwe regiment to take the law into their own hands by flogging some residents without giving them a fair hearing. The chief also whipped some "wrong-doers" paraded at the kgotla suspected to have disobeyed his orders. He further rubbed government the wrong way when he sent Madibelankwe to destroy a telecommunications tower in the village, owned by Mascom wireless. By his own admission, in a book titled The King's Journal-From The Horse's Mouth (2014) Kgafela says: "The first five years of my reign as king have been a roller coaster. I found myself in the middle of a fierce conflict of cultures that has been simmering within my society as between the traditional way of life and modern culture, western democracy. My status as king thrust me innocently into the eye of the storm of social turmoil that unfolded into court litigation, challenging the authenticity of the Botswana constitution".

Resolving differences

Tsogwane told Bakgatla that government is willing to work with the tribe to resolve their differences that will see Kgosi Kgafela II return home from Moruleng, South Africa where he is currently holed up in exile after escaping arrest by state operatives in May 2012.  A warrant of arrest had been issued by a Gaborone magistrate against him and his some of his subjects after failing to appear before court to answer assault charges emanating from the floggings. The cases are still pending before the courts. Tsogwane said although government cannot prescribe what the courts should do, they remain hopeful that the issues will be resolved soon. The minister said government has backed down on its position to de-recognise Kgafela as Bakgatla paramount chief, and is willing to recognise Kgosi Bana Sekai when the duo's legal disputes are resolved. Sekai was Kgafela II's deputy. It has since emerged that Kgafela's return will be complicated by the fact that he obtained a South African citizenship in November 2012, soon after settling there. Tsogwane pointed this out to the tribe. Botswana does not recognise dual citizenship, and Kgafela will have to denounce his SA citizenship if he wishes to return to the country to take his seat as Bakgatla paramount chief. Bana Sekai declined to comment, saying he does not have authority to talk to the press. He referred inquiries on the Bakgatla chieftainship saga to Molebatsi.

Kgafela Kgafela II

•  June, the royal leopard hunt
•  September, enthroned as King of Bakgatla
2009      Swaps legal robes for leopard skin
2010      Graduates Madibelankwe
2011      Challenges Constitution
2012      Escapes to South Africa
2012-2014 Fights Kgosi Nyalala Pilane in Moruleng, SA