Batawana King regrets time wasted in politics, returns to kgotla
On Khama: "Politics tore us apart and brought conflict between us"
'I am going back to serve my people and fight to reclaim our land'
demistifies bogosi vs politics dilemma
Batawana Paramount Chief Kgosi Tawana Moremi will make history as the first kgosi to represent his tribesmen in the capacity of a traditional leader and a politican, when he returns to the kgotla next year.
Tawana's entrance into politics was marred by controversy after his then political home -the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)- vetted him out from standing for Parliamentary elections in 2003. He had 'forgotten' to relinquish his bogosi responsibilities. He was only successful in a second attempt in 2008, arriving in Parliament as Maun West MP in 2009. His exit is no different. He leaves politics after resigning from the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) under a cloud of controversy.
Former President Ketumile Masire, a man endowed with the gift of the garb, must have had Kgosi Tawana in mind when at some kgotla meeting he reprimanded some Namibian refugees who often illegaly jumped the border into and out of Botswana. In vernacular he said: "hatshe le ga se koi, ga o tlolele ka ha, morago o boa o tlolela kaha [this country is not a skipping rope, which you skip to one side and back the other way]". Some observers see Tawana's back and forth manoevure as just synonymous with that.
Tawana is no ordinary politician. There has been a lot of speculation and uncertainty over whether he will stick to his word that he is quitting politics to return to his royal seat as paramount chief of Batawana. In an exclusive interview during the week, Tawana dismissed allegations that he has somersaulted on the decision to call it quits. “I have heard those rumors that I will contest elections next year but it is not true. I have ran my race and it is time to give others a chance to bring new ideas that might help the people of Maun,” he said in a shaky voice.
The soften spoken yet militant politician said one of the reasons he has decided to quit politics is the realisation that Members of Parliament (MPs) discuss the same issues repeatedly without implementing solutions. Just cyclical, more like an old wine in a new container. “Recently we debated the motion on the Road Development Agency brought by MP for Nata-Gweta Paulson Majaga. This is not the first time we discussed the issue as it was once brought by the then Minister of Transport and Communications Frank Ramsden in 2014. So you can see, we are just going round in circles,” he said, adding that he is tired of doing the same thing after every five years.
In his inaugural speech President Mokgweetsi Masisi said his administration would bring the declaration of assets bill, which Tawana dismisses as a repeat of what was once proposed by former Minister of Health Joy Phumaphi and adopted by Parliament. Put to him that the Masisi leadership is a new administration which promises to improve on delivery and implementation of decisions, T1 as the Maun West MP is popularly called by his peers, reasons that then a different legislator is needed to engage the new administration.
Regarding quitting partisan politics, he said he realised that it is not his thing, as he does not have time to address political rallies and attend party meetings. Tawana said the UDC is one memory he is struggling to put behind him. “We were struggling to have a conversation on issues with colleagues at UDC. There was total communication breakdown,” he said, with facial expressions showing some irritation on the topic.
On allegations that he is quitting politics because he has been given some concessions within the Okavango delta, Tawana laughed off the suggestion saying he wishes it could be true. “The only ownership I have on behalf of morafe is the Moremi Game Reserve. I have not been given anything,” he chuckled.
Since 2014 Tawana has been one of the truant MPs but only turned things around late last year. He is now one of the most active and ever present MPs in Parliament. Defending his past truancy, Tawana said the management of Parliament business frustrated him. “We were denied an opportunity to express ourselves, as our freedom of speech was severely limited. Therefore, I didn’t see any reason to attend Parliament,” he revealed, saying MPs were not working at optimal pace due to limited budget.
Another issue that frustrated him was that MPs have long asked for Parliament Resource Commission, which will have its own budget and help legislators to do research on issues they want to raise in Parliament. Nothing has happened to date.
Back to bogosi
Tawana revealed that he is returning to the kgotla as Batawana Paramount chief but was quick to clarity that his sister Kgosi Kealetile Moremi will continue to be his deputy and represent the tribe at Ntlo ya Dikgosi as has been the case. “I am going back to serve my people and fight so that we reclaim our land,” he said.
One of the contentious issues he has been fighting since he entered Parliament is for Moremi Game Reserve, one of the first reserves in Africa to be formed by the indigenous population, to be given back to Batawana. He said the game reseve belongs to Batawana as it was established by his grandmother who was the regent at the time, Mohumagadi Pulane Moremi and father, Kgosi Letsholathebe with the assistance of British couple Robert and June Kay, who had arrived in the country in 1958 and spearheaded the project.
Due to the infighting among members of the Ngamiland Fauna Conservation Society (NFCS) the management of the reserve was transferred to government in 1979. Tawana said that they now want their reserve back to take over control.
Khama, Tawana fallout
Tawana explained that former President Ian Khama is his cousin and installed him to bogosi as Paramount chief. Their relationship dates back to when he was still young. Tawana's first public squabble with Khama was in 2003 ahead of the BDP elective congress in Gantsi when he openly supported Ponatshego Kedikilwe. At the time, Khama was challenging Kedikilwe for the party chairmanship.
Tawana was part of the BDP young turks who belonged to Barata Phathi faction whose godfather was Kedikilwe. Khama came to Maun to canvass votes and Tawana told him point blank that he was using government helicopter to campaign for party position. He was later vetted out under mysterious circumstances when he tried to contest for Parliamentary candidacy in Maun West. To date, many still believe Khama had a huge influence in the decision, used to punish his cousin for not supporting him against Kedikilwe.
Recently when bidding Batswana farewell, Khama informed Batawana that he will take Tawana with him when he visits Gcwihaba caves. Asked about their relationship and if they have already visited the Gcwihaba caves, Tawana said that they have not yet met since the last Kgotla meeting in Maun. “It will be unfair to discuss the former President since he is no longer in power. With regard to our relationship I think politics drifted us apart and brought conflict between us,” he said, with a reconciliatory voice noting that Khama is still very close to his children and former wife.
Tawana said he is optimistic that they will find time to engage and reconcile.