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The Orphan And The Ants Part 10 – Kgosi Seitlhamo

JEFF RAMSAY
The Bakwena Kgosi Motswasele I had ruled for a long time before he was finally succeeded by his son Seitlamo, who was by then said to have already been an old man.

Externally, Seitlhamo’s short reign was characterised by conflict with various neighbouring groups, while internally he contributed to a legacy of dynastic division among the descendents of Kgabo. The most detailed known account of Seitlhamo’s reign comes from Kgabo Tebele who notes that in contrast to his father Motswasele’s somewhat mercurial character, he possessed a calm and patient temperament.

As an obedient and good-natured son who was often entrusted with carrying out duties on his father’s behalf, he was moreover also said to have been a popular prince among his people. When Motswasele was at the end of his life and infirm, Seitlhamo resisted the temptation to seize defacto power for himself, but rather continued to follow his father’s wishes. As is so often the case with Setswana royalty, Seitlhamo troubles began with questions over his succession. The Kgosi came to favour an elder son named Tshosa, who was born before his true heir Legwale. While it was then customary among Batswana for the dikgosi to have many wives, it was generally clear who among them was the Queen sanctioned by the morafe to bear the heir to the throne. And so it was that Mma-Legwale, who apparently was betrothed while still a child, had been designated as the first wife, followed by Mma-Tshosa, although the latter gave birth to a son first. Because Seitlhamo had ascended to power with Tshosa by his side, and otherwise liked him very much, he began to think about altering the line of succession.  For his part Legwale, with the loyal support of a brother by the same mother, named Maleke, was determined to secure his throne. As they grew into manhood, Mma-Legwale’s sons are further said to have shown the Bakwena that they were brave and capable warriors.

For his part, Tshosa is said by various sources to have had a ruthless streak, and was otherwise eager to take advantage of his father’s favouritism to gain power.

One day Seitlhamo called a big pitso gathering in order to try to ensure that Tshosa became the next Kgosi. At the time Maleke was away at a cattle post at Ngwawe hills, but word reached him of the development. Maleke then mobilised his regiment, who were known as Magata.  Thus, when the pitso gathered together around a large morula tree, Maleke arrived with his regiment who he ordered to break up the pitso. During the stand-off, resulting in a fight Maleke’s men carried the day, resulting in

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the following praise:

“The shield is broken, I hit the heads of the disturbers of the village, and I smash the heads of stubborn people. I hear them denying Legwale the village, and arguing against Ra-Dikeledi.”

In his account, Kgabo Tebele goes on to observe that Maleke had thrown a stone that had broken up the pitso, but that the stone, metaphorically symbolising bogosi jwaBakwena, turned into a “hallowed out melon” that could be harvested by others.

Although Maleke had rallied in his brother Legwale’s defence, after the showdown, he came to mock him, accusing his elder brother of cowardice. For his part Legwale simply replied – “We are a pair; it is true I could not do anything for myself.”

But, thereafter the matter did not rest. Thus, it was that a second royal jealousy, born out of polygamy, was planted among Bakwena bagaKgabo; the first having been that caused by Motshodi’s favouring of Maoto over Legojane.  The rift created by Seitlhamo was greater however, as it was handed down by Legwale and Tshosa to their children and grandchildren.  In the aftermath of the pitso, the Bakwena were settled at Mokgweng, near Dithubaruba, to the west of Molepolole. Legwale was known as the son of the Kgosi and Tshosa remained as his younger brother, although he was the older by age. Thereafter, it came about that some of the Bakwena set out by foot to raid the Bangwaketse cattle posts at Gapeana. This was at a time when there were many cattle being watered along the Lobatse river.

A Bangwaketse ward called Bagasebako had settled at Mathuba, at the top of the hills just south of Lobatse. The ruins of their place are near the railway depot, and the remains of their wells at Mathuba survive. Another Bangwaketse ward, Makabe, was also located in the vicinity. The Bakwena had intended to raid the cattle posts. But, the Bagasebako saw them coming and mobilised to meet them on the hilly plains of Peana. There Bangwaketse fought well and succeeded in chasing the Bakwena away, it is said killing them in great numbers. Among those who were killed were many Bakwena sub-chiefs.  But, a group led by a son of Tshosa named Moruakgomo escaped. Moruakgomo also had a younger brother named Kgake who was born at this time. It is said that he was so named by his father, Tshosa, who was surprised at the numbers that had fallen in the raid.



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