Kgosi Puso Gaborone ascended to the Batlokwa chieftaincy in 2007. Upon joining the house of chiefs, he was elected the deputy chairperson to the Bangwaketse Kgosi, Kgosi Seepapitso IV in 2008. This was despite the presence of many other experienced and long serving dikgosi in the house.
His age did not by anyway disadvantage him, in fact Gaborone says the early opportunity afforded to him would later come in handy in his current position as the Ntlo ya Dikgosi Chairperson because even in his tenure as the vice chairperson, he did the bulk of the work owing to his predecessor ’s ill-health.
He was elected the Ntlo ya Dikgosi Chairperson in 2009 and has since been re –elected yearly as per provisions of the Bogosi Act. The house showed their trust for Gaborone yet again when they voted him the Ntlo ya Dikgosi Chairperson yet again this year. Below he shares his journey as the chairperson, his achievements and sentiments about bogosi institution in the current era.
Are you satisfied with the functions of Ntlo ya Dikgosi and the current state of affairs as far as bogosi and governance is concerned?
The constitution is clear about the functions of Ntlo ya Dikgosi and its relationship with parliament, Section 82 of the constitution talks about referrals of bills, especially those that boarders on cultural aspects and could affect our work. Though not all bills presented to parliament do not pass through Ntlo ya Dikgosi, I must say 90 percent of resolutions made by Ntlo ya Dikgosi on bills that were referred to us were passed by parliament and included in the drafting of the bill. There is no incident in which Ntlo ya Dikgosi was unable to contribute and address any of these bills. It is for this reason that I will say Iam satisfied with our contribution .
But in future maybe Ntlo ya Dikgosi need to evaluate and assess the situation, establish if indeed the current arrangement is working for the institution. I am of the view that Dikgosi as leaders of the society addresses all aspects of their people's lives, be it education, agriculture, social values, health, development and others, to limit their contribution as far as law making is concerned to certain areas is somehow questionable.
Take us through your journey as the Chairperson of Ntlo ya Dikgosi, achievemnts and others
I have always viewed bogosi as an institution geared towards nation building . Hence the need to partner with different stakeholders. I made it a point that bogosi institution is able to offer quality advice to government. In order for this to be possible in the current times I reckoned that the profile of Ntlo ya Dikgosi needs to be raised and re looked at. It is common knowledge that people especially the youth do not really understand the functions and the need for bogosi institution and the role of Ntlo ya Dikgosi and this is worrisome and need to be changed. Over the years I have strived for partnership with institutions that could add value and raise the profile of the house . Looking back in the last five years I think there is a difference, changes are there for everyone to see, but it must be noted that a lot of still has to be done. Take for example the increase in the number of members from the initial 15 to 35, though it is a welcome development, it also brought with it a new dimension of how to handle things in the house. It is now a question of how you manage the diversity brought forward and tap into it.
The highlights of your tenure as Ntlo ya Dikgosi Chairperson
I chaired the Joint Advisory Commite on social values that embarked on a countrywide tour in 2008. It was a privilege. We discussed issues of social values and social ills and were able to offer solutions. After the report government drafted the national strategy on socal values and was given to different government departments to execute. It is impressive to say that a lot of the resolutions are implemented, traditional brews have since been stopped from being sold from households, culture and cultural practices have been revived and Batswana a re now proud of their culture and embrace it more. Take for example the re-introduction of initiation schools in Kgatleng and Gamalete, the revival of mephato and the introduction of various cultural festivals.
During my tenure, the annual Ntlo ya Dikgosi Culture Day was conceptualised and it has been 2 years running now. The day is celebrated at the end of year after the last meeting of Ntlo ya Dikgosi. As a way of embracing the now diverse composition of the house, a deliberate move was made to highlight all cultures of the constituents of Ntlo ya Dikgosi especially the new entrants to the house. The day is also aimed at bringing these traditional leaders closer to Batswana and foster partnership and interaction with different stakeholders.
Ntlo ya Dikgosi has also pledged to do an annual community project, as a way of promoting corporate social responsibility. The move will also demystify the role of Dikgosi to their communities. Through this event, members contribute directly from their personal earnings to assist.
To keep up with the times, I have also emphasised the need for training of the members of the house to enhance effectiveness and efficiency. For the past 2-3 years members of Ntlo ya Dikgosi were trained regularly on strategic management and leadership, they are given basic tutorials on the art of public speaking and articulation. In this information based era, it is also imperative that they are given information and technology training, and I have made it a point that they embrace these changes for the benefit of the work and people.
Our current arrangement as per provisions of the constitution has over the time worked well. Neighbouring countries even came here to benchmark. The South African House ofTraditional Leaders is the exact duplication of Ntlo ya Dikgosi blueprint with a few changes of course. Though they bench marked here in my view their arrangement has been enhanced and worked in a better way than ours. Theirs is not a question of numerical representation but effectiveness. Unlike here, their president addresses the house and affords it almost the same respect as parliament. Maybe it is about time we introspected.
High court Judge Justice Key Dingake on Monday ordered that the Children's Act Adoption provisions which allowed for the adoption of children born out of wedlock without the consent of their biological fathers be declared unconstitutional, this development has not set well with some traditional leaders, what is your view on the matter?
Our role as Ntlo ya Dikgosi is to protect and preserve culture but at the same time keep in line with the current state of events and affairs. My view is that this issue and others need to be scrutinised. Although some dikgosi may feel that high court rulings such as this one on Children's Act Adoption provisions interfere with what our culture dictates, I am of the view that culture is dynamic and not static. If as in the case the development is in the interest of the nation, in this case helpless children, who are at times caught in between their parents’ personal feuds, then I am of the view that the courts acted accordingly.
Culture should not at any time stall positive developments.
The tussle between Batlokwa and Tlokweng Land Board for allocation of tribal land go back as far as 2010 when the residents complained about the allocation of land to outsiders. As the chairperson of Ntlo Ya Dikgosi, what is your take on the land crisis currently grappling the nation?
Well Tlokweng is near Gaborone, I should note that Batlokwa sacrificed a lot by giving the nation part of its land to pave way for the capital city. But now owing to this proximity to Gaborone, there is now pressure exerted on the local land board to allocate land to people from outside Tlokweng. While it is the right of every citizen to be allocated land wherever they so wish in Botswana, government needs to take into consideration that Batlokwa are now greatly disadvantaged because of this arrangement. Some unscrupulous individuals are now on a land-grabbing mission and acquiring land not because they need it but soley for economic purpose.
If we do not remedy the situation while we can still do, we risk a situation where now Batlokwa would not have place to stay in their mother-land.
As bogosi our stance is clear, we want government to reveal how they are going to cater for locals. This arrangement is not only isolated to Tlokweng but will come in handy even in other areas where the same situation is likely or is already happening.
We suggest that a quota system reserving a certain percentage of land for locals be put in use to afford locals to be provided for. The raffle system that government is using and views being fair to us is not serving our people’s best interests.
Remember as I said earlier bogosi’s mandate is to serve the best interests of the people, land is a basic need, a landless nation is an unhappy nation, dikgosi need to act to protect the rights and needs of the people. Landlessness is a problem and is creating problems even for us traditional leaders.
There has been concern that the former 8 major tribes rotate the Ntlo Ya Dikgosi Chairmanship and would not give way to other tribes as a way of continuing the prestige afforded to them by colonial masters, Your view?
Iam not aware of such allegations, but in any case they are baseless. Ntlo ya Dikgosi is an institution that is run as per the provision of the country 's constitution and there is nowhere it mentions that there are merafhe who are superior than others. As long as one is a lawful member of the house, then they are legible to be nominated and can contest for the position.
Is there tribalism in Botswana?
Botswana is a nation that is so different from a lot of other nations because of her peaceful approach. Of course the nation of Botswana constitutes different tribes, but we interact and live with each other freely. The tribes freely inter-marry, that on its own is a sign of peace, Batswana have through this ,built relations with each other and are one big family. We even have tribes staying side by side and being allocated tribal wards within each other’s territories.
Do you think bogosi institution has a place in the country’s governance going forward?
Yes, I believe bogosi still has a place in the country’s future governance. The peace and stability prevailing today in Botswana was influenced by traditional governance of bogosi institution. I cannot even imagine a future of this country without bogosi. The institution gives direction to the nation’s principles, peaceful culture and governance. Bogosi is in fact the solid foundation of this nation.
There are certain roles of bogosi that can be underrated by some but in actual fact have a huge contribution to the nation; people should note that even the customary judicial system emphasised restorative justice more than retributive justice. The village structures and how they operate are governed and made effective by dikgosi. Many problems existing today such as moral decay and social degeneration are a result of destroying and undermining bogosi institution. Dikgosi are nation builders.