Mmegi Online :: Tsetsebjwe, the village of the hallowed hill
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Last Updated
Friday 14 December 2018, 17:40 pm.
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Tsetsebjwe, the village of the hallowed hill

ONALENNA MODIKWA visits Tsetsebjwe and is refreshed to find that the people here still hold that the punishment of sin is death.
By Staff Writer Mon 17 Dec 2018, 08:20 am (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Tsetsebjwe, the village of the hallowed hill








TSETSEBJWE: At least the entire country knows that the village of Tsetsebjwe is named after a mountain - which is no more than a hill, really - thanks to the late music legend Duncan Senyatso's song of the same name. As he says, Senyatso was told by his grandfather Rra Mogale "gore Tsetsebjwe go tewa thaba" (Tsetsebjwe refers to a mountain), so go the lyrics.

The hill is regarded as hallowed ground by the village whose inhabitants recall the time they settled at its foot so that sentries could go up and 'espy' the enemy, including the Boers who crossed the border to poach animals drinking at the perennial springs, one of which was Mokgojwe.

In those days, the hill was regarded with awe; climbing up without the sanction of a select 'council' of elders was unthinkable, as was hunting for rock rabbits and felling trees at the top. 

For the summit of the hill is the abode of the gods and the concourse of the departed ancestors of Tsetsebjwe who have since assumed the station of guardians of the earthly mortals of the village. In one word, Badimo are not to be approached in vain. During the dry season in the olden days, fertility rituals were performed 'up there' on young men and women who would afterwards descend to gather at the kgotla. When all the necessary ceremonies were done, rain would follow, breaking the dry spell - and the involuntary fast.

According to Kgosi Ketlhalefile Gabanamotse, dry seasons were regarded as a visitation of retribution for unspeakable transgressions like abortion, hence the cleansing of the 'maidens' at the crest of Tsetsejwe by means of which the gods were also appeased. So sacrosanct was the hill that not even traditional doctors dared to take their patients up there. Says Kgosi Ganabamotse: "All those who went against this tenet are dead, patient and doctor alike. They continue to die. Lentswe le le ne le thailwe. This hill was sanctified by an ancient order of our ancestors." Gabanamotse is sad to reflect on the erosion of respect for tradition, which he says has been happening from generation to generation. "Aerials, pylons and engines for so-called communication networks have been erected at the top of the hill now. Even the baboons and the rock rabbits have since relocated because they couldn't tolerate such interference in their orderly lives."

In days gone by, to propitiate the gods at harvest time involved the donation of a bull for ritual purposes. The one donating the bull had to answer to the name of a specific elder long transited to the concourse of the ancestors, while the bull being donated had to conform to the size and colour specifications of the ancestor. The bull was not to be killed without necromancy, or appropriate consultations with the gods.

Once the bull was identified, women clad in special raiment followed it to pasture where, with song, they would cast a spell on it, causing the beast to bellow and head in the direction of the kgotla, and then to the home of the founding headman of the village whereupon it drank beer out of a pot. Kgosi Gabanamotse and an elder named Setho Nkawana remember the time when one Keipidile Motshabi Phole started the village's first school at the kgotla in 1957.

They remember that school fees were the equivalent of 25thebe per term

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then. Two years later, the precursor to Tsetsebjwe Primary School moved to the present site where Government took it over in 1961.

The two men doing the reminiscing are actually descended from Phole, the village's foremost educationist. The two men also remember that in earlier times, the people of Tsetsebjwe were quite homogeneous, owing to their inclination to intermarry. It was uncommon, almost odd, to marry other than one's own; the case was especially true for women. Kgosi Gabanamotse talks in jest of this situation, which almost persists to this day: "Mo Goora-Phole makgarebe ga ba nyalwe, ba nyala banna. Ga ba nyalwa, monna o aga mo Tsetsebjwe," he says. (In the Phole clan, the women marry men. If they get married by men, the man builds the family home in Tsetsebjwe and grows his roots here.)
"If it happens that the newlyweds build a home at the husband's village, we know they will ultimately relocate to Tsetsebjwe after three or so years. I remember that only two women who have so far been long gone with their husbands, but we still believe they will come back with their husbands and children." The people of Tsetsebjwe are believed to have settled here from Gobojango. The place was initially a cattlepost called Mokgojwe, named after the perennial spring nearby. Two brothers, Motshabi and Motshegwa, were assigned by the BaNgwato royal house in Serowe to the duty of patrolling the boarder with South Africa in order to prevent game poaching by 'wild' Boers. The hill immediately proved to be an ideal panorama from which to spot the carnivorous perpetrators from a distance.

It is said that a man called Tsetsebjwe died here at about that time, leaving the hill - and subsequently the village - to perpetuate his legacy by assuming his name. The two men on patrol were later joined by a traditional doctor who answered to the name of Moshashane. The doctor would undergo a transmogrification to become a priest of the protestant UCCSA persuasion. The relatives of this man, and the two on patrol duty, laid the foundations of the village of Tsetsebjwe. As the village expanded, patrolmen Motshabi and Motshegwa parted to establish separate wards. Motshabi became the first de facto chief of Tsetsebjwe. But, perhaps feeling uncomfortable because of his minority by birth, he later stepped aside and handed the village, together with the priest-turned-doctor, to his elder brother Motshegwa. He then established Polaseng ward and fetched a cousin from Gobojango and one Phuthego wa ga Makala to expand the new ward. Kgosi Gabanamotse says the people of modern-day Tsetsebjwe, with its brick-and-mortar houses and development projects that promise to transform it into an urban centre, would do well to reflect on where they came from.

With its abundance of huge Mowana trees and clustered homesteads, Tsetsebjwe is a beautiful and truly picturesque village.

The fields of green alongside the road are testimony to the fact that the people here are still attached to crop farming and livestock rearing. This humble village is the original home of prominent bands and musicians like Kgwanyape, Marks and the Beat and the Dinare traditional troupe.

It has the 'trademark' of all Tswapong and Bobirwa villages - a hallowed hill to the left of the main kgotla and a profound faith in the gods and ancestors. You find it 40 kilometres east of Sefhophe. 

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