The move by government to recognise the Wayeyi tribe as an independent ethnic group has prompted excitement and curiosity among many in Botswana; while it gives hope to tribes termed as minority it has also left others nervous and guessing. While to the Wayeyi tribe, otherwise known as Bayei, the recognition marks the beginning of greater things to come, some critics see this as a time bomb, which has a potential to be a threat to government’s efforts of nation building. But what does the recognition bring in essence to Bayei as an ethnic group; what changes are likely to occur; and how it is likely to affect the current Bogosi institution in Botswana?
The Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Slumber Tsogwane said following amendments to the constitution and in accordance with the Bogosi Act, he exercised the powers bestowed upon him to recognise the Wayeyi as an official ethnic group.
This, he said, will afford the group to elect their own paramount Chief who will sit in the Ntlo ya Dikgosi alongside eight other paramount chiefs. “I told them that I have done my part by recognising them as an ethnic group, and now it was up to them to choose who is going to be their paramount Chief and submit the name to me,” he said. According Tsogwane, if there are more issues that they need attended to everything will have to be done according to book. He said Bayei will continue to be under the Batawana Tribal Administration and there will be no new tribal administrative authority for them.
The land issue
Minister Tsogwane said that no tribe in Botswana owns any land. According to Tsogwane, all land belongs to the state hence as it is the arrangement does not involve ceasing any land to Bayei. According to Tsogwane, since the Tribal Land Act (TLA) was reviewed, ownership and power over the land is vested on land boards which are organs of the state. A commentary by Dr Boga Manatsha, which appeared in this publication in August 2014, confirmed this, saying although the Dikgosi or their land overseers had power over the allocation of tribal land before the TLA review they have since lost that, tremendously. Dr Manatsha said discrimination against tribe/place of origin under the amended TLA still exists to a certain extent although the constitution and the TLA prohibit it.
“The Dikgosi/land overseers still sign the application forms (consent) for tribal land allocation. Common sense should tell you that they are highly unlikely signing these for ‘outsiders’ willingly,” he argued.
What Batawana say
Batawana Deputy paramount Chief Kgosi Bringle Dithapo said the recognition of Bayei by government is a move which they were greatly involved in together with the government and they welcome it with open arms. “We are one people,” Dithapo said. According to Dithapo, integration between Batawana and Bayei has over the years progressed well and as it is, it would be hard to differentiate between a Moyei and a Motawana. He said the strong bond between the two tribes has been made even easier by intermarriages between them, which he said has brought them together as one. “If one was to pick a gun and say they are going to shoot a Moyei, it was probably going to be impossible as chances are they were going to shoot a Motawana in the process and vice versa,” Dithapo said. Apart from the government recognition, Dithapo said, his understanding was that there is not going to be any difference, and that they will continue to live in peace with Bayei like before.
Bayei’s take on the issue
According to Kgosi Fish Ozoo – the man who was designated by the Wayeyi to be their Paramount in 2005, following the death of Calvin Kamanakao in 2003 and whose name has thus been submitted to the government as the rightful paramount chief of the Wayeyi tribe – though they are happy and commend government for the recognition, they have their own reservations. “We have long requested recognition. The move is long overdue,” Ozoo said. He, however, explained that they have long made their intentions clear to government. Contrary to what Tsogwane said on the land question, Ozoo said they too want to be demarcated their own tribal land. The suggestion that they have submitted to government, he said, is that the area from just after Sehithwa up to Seronga should be ceded to Bayei by Batawana. “We have since made peace with the fact that they want Maun to themselves, hence we will leave it to them,” he said. In addition, he said Bayei will then expect government to establish a Tribal Administrative Authority for them in Sehithwa. Other changes that they want he said include the introduction of Shiyeyi language in schools. As the designated representative of Bayei at the Ntlo Ya Dikgosi, Ozoo said he intends to represent the interests of his tribe well and advocate for their rights.
Tsogwane said though Bayei have set a precedent and other tribes are most welcome to take leaf and follow suit, they must be aware that there are terms and conditions to be considered for a tribe to be afforded recognition. According to Tsogwane, factors to be considered will include the tribe’s history, structure, origins and how they have organised themselves. “With Bayei, their case was straight and forward; they had everything in order to argue their case,” said Tsogwane.