Protracted negotiations between Bakgatla tribe and government – which raised hopes of a quick return from exile of Kgosikgolo Kgafela II – could dampen the euphoria over 50th independence celebrations, which have snowballed into a nation-wide carnival as September 30 draws near.
By the end of the week uncertainty reigned over whether or not Mokgatla will return home to celebrate with his subjects, as negotiations with a Presidential delegation continue at a very slow pace.
Khama brokers peace
The Patriot on Sunday has it on good authority that the delegation appointed by President Ian Khama, led by former Minister of Local Government Peter Siele has visited Moruleng on a number of occasions to hold meetings with Kgafela II. But little has come out of the negotiations so far. Moagi Molebatsi, a leader of Mangana regiment of Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela, who are holding fort in Mochudi in the absence of Bakgatla paramount chief – Kgosikgolo Kgafela II, would not commit to specific timelines due to on-going negotiations. He, however, said Kgafela has given them a go-ahead to work with government in the upcoming BOT50 independence celebrations. Molebatsi said the parties have made progress in the negotiations to broker peace, with Kgosi Bana Sekai responsible for keeping the tribe abreast with developments in the matter. Molebatsi admitted that negotiations are slow but said they are approaching the issue cautiously due to its sensitivity and complexity. "Lepotlapotla le ja phokwana, mokgatla. But we are not losing patience with government. We keep on making follow ups on promises they have made," said Molebatsi.
It has also emerged that consultations have been ongoing between Barongwa Ba Morafe and officials of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), which even reached the office of the Minister Justice, Shaw Kgathi. Although Molebatsi declined to discuss details of meetings with DPP protecting confidentiality, it is an open secret that Bakgatla want the state to drop criminal charges against Kgafela and withdraw arrest warrants against him. Molebatsi said they are handling negotiations within a legal framework, to avoid being accused of bribing or corrupting government officials. "We don't want to be accused of breaking the law," he said.
Bakgatla scored a major victory, when the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Slumber Tsogwane, announced the pardon and reversal of the de-recognition imposed on Kgosi Kgafela II in May at Mochudi main kgotla. Tsogwane pleaded with Bakgatla to work with government representatives to find an amicable solution to a protracted stand-off caused by government's decision to de-recognise Kgosi Kgafela II after the latter refused to report to Ntlo-ya-Dikgosi after coronation on 20 September 2008. For his part, Kgosi Bana Sekai confirmed that he will be appearing before Gaborone Regional Magistrate court on Friday (September 23) for continuation of trial, which has been dragging on since 2012. When Sekai appears before court on Friday his co-accused Kgosi Kgafela II will be nowhere to be found after escaping arrest by state security agents in May 2012. A warrant of arrest had been issued by a Gaborone magistrate against him after failing to appear before court to answer assault charges emanating from unlawful floggings of some Kgatleng residents at the hands of Madibelankwe regiment, following instructions from the chief.
Battles in Moruleng
The 45-year-old Kgafela lives in exile in South Africa, where he is involved in a confrontation with a section of the platinum-rich Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela community in the North West province, who are challenging his legitimacy. His escape to Moruleng village near Sun City – the seat of the Bakgatla-Ba-Kgafela traditional council, did not land him on a bed of roses. A section of the tribe opposed to his takeover has dedicated their energies and resources to dethrone him and have him deported back to Botswana. Kgafela's South African citizenship has also sparked controversy, with his detractors claiming that it was issued unlawfully and wanted him declared an illegal immigrant. "I obtained my South African citizenship in November 2012 as a necessary step to fulfill my duties in safety," writes Kgafela in his 2014 book The King’s Journal; From The Horses' Mouth. A myriad of lawsuits from the two opposing camps fighting for control in Moruleng has dragged the SA political leadership and government into the dispute.
Starting tomorrow (Monday) Kgafela will attend a hearing of oral submissions before a Commission on Bakgatla Chieftainship in Rustenburg, South Africa. The Commission appointed by Premier Mahumapelo of North West Province of South Africa will hear oral evidence at the Rustenburg civic centre. The Commission, which started work in July led by retired Judge Maluleka, was appointed to investigate the protracted chieftainship tussle between a faction led by Kgafela and another led by deposed chief Nyalala Pilane. "We will attend the oral presentations," said Molebatsi. The Bakgatla-Ba-Kgafela in Moruleng are estimated to be worth over R20 billion with assets and interests in mining, agriculture and other business ventures. Opinion leaders often speculate that the major cause of the divisions in the tribe is gaining access to the riches. At some point Kgafela was accused of trying to divert R23 million from tribal coffers to build himself a palace worthy of a King.
Kgafela will conclude the week with the installation of a new chief in Moruleng on Saturday. "We are confident that Kgosi Kgafela is a fighter and he will overcome the challenges he is currently facing. Preparations are continuing smoothly for the installation of Kgosi Rampho Pheto in Lesetlheng, a new ward in Moruleng on 24 September 2016," said Molebatsi, shortly after consulting with Kgosi Bana Sekai and Kgosana Marema in Mochudi on Tuesday. Pheto – a member of the royal family who is Kgafela’s chosen candidate to take over as the chief of Bakgatla in Moruleng – is a big supporter of Kgafela as the paramount ruler. He recently told South African media that a resolution was taken by the Bakgatla villages in South Africa on April 24, 1994 affirming their Botswana side of traditional leadership as the paramount who would reign in both countries. He said the resolution stated that Mochudi – the seat of Bakgatla in Botswana – could decide on their preferred person to lead in Moruleng. He was quoted saying Kgafela was being resisted in Moruleng not only because he wanted to remove Nyalala Pilane but because “he followed up on allegations of financial mismanagement by Pilane”.
The King's Journal
Kgafela captures his leadership challenges in South Africa in his 2014 book The King’s Journal where he writes that problems involved “...litigation in courts to demand accountability within tribal office in Moruleng. The litigation was also about protecting the throne from the unwarranted usurpation from the incumbent regent and politicians. My father installed the regent in 1996 to rule as caretaker over the section of the Bakgatla tribe living in South Africa. The regent became too powerful, and a lot of tribal money was at his disposal but he refused to account for it while enriching himself in the royal seat. At one point ... We had two completed court applications, one judgment, three pending court applications, and one pending action in the courts spread over two provinces".
About his run-in with Botswana government Kgafela wrote: "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". 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 in court, but lost.
Kgafela II's timeline
• Practising lawyer in Botswana
• June, the royal leopard hunt
• September, enthroned as King of Bakgatla
Swaps legal robes for leopard skin
• Graduates Madibelankwe regiment
• Challenges Botswana Constitution, loses
• Flees to Moruleng, South Africa
• November, obtains SA citizenship
• Fights Nyalala Pilane in Moruleng, SA
• Installs Rampho Pheto in Moruleng