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Previous instalments in this series have examined Sebego’s victories against the Makololo at Dithubaruba in 1826 and the Amandebele at Dutlwe in1833.

In the aftermath of the latter victory, Sebego was for the moment militarily secure as Mzilikazi never again launched a major expedition into the Kgalagadi interior. The kgosi, however, recognised that given his subjects needs, not the least of which being the need to maintain their livestock, prolonged residence in the central Kgalagadi was environmentally unsustainable.

As the Amandebele were still too much of a threat to contemplate any immediate mass return to the east, Sebego instead cast his eyes towards new opportunities in the lands to his west. He, therefore, prepared to move his headquarters to Monnyalatsela, near Ghanzi, while a segment of the morafe would remain behind at Dutlwe under a royal cousin named Diatleng

Before the migration took place, two incidents occurred that would shape the region’s subsequent history.

We have previously observed that Sebego had been visited at Dutlwe by the young Prince Sechele who informed him of his intention to challenge his uncle Molese for the Bakwena throne. Sebego then signalled his support for Sechele with a gift of royal cattle, which were placed in the care of Segakisa, who was subsequently designated by Sechele to serve as his “mogotsa-molelo” or “keeper of the fire”. Both the royal herd and Segakisa’s ward, which survives as one of the principal sections of Molepolole, were thereafter called “Difetlhamelo” or “lighters of the fire”.

The second incident permanently tarnished Sebego’s reputation among his own people, who would subsequently speak of him as a hard-hearted schemer as well as talented warlord.

By some accounts, Sebego long coveted the crown that was not rightfully his by birth; he having been born of Matshadi, a junior wife of Makaba II. It has even been alleged that he was associated with the death of his own father, having conspired with the Bakwena regent Moruakgomo in the battlefield betrayal at Losabanyana.

While we cannot be certain about the veracity of his plotting against Makaba, there is little dispute that, while still at Dutlwe, Sebego was behind the poisoning of the milk sacks that were set aside for his two nephews, Tshosa’s sons Ralekoko and Gaseitsiwe. Ralekoko died but Gaseitsiwe survived after vomiting the poison.

According to accounts Sebego, feigning avuncular concern, then pressed Gaseitsiwe’s mother Mojankunyane about returning with her surviving son to her own people, the Barolong, while he sorted out matters in the west, offering to provide an escort.

But, fearing the consequences of staying any longer under Sebego’s care, MmaGaseitsiwe instead decided to immediately set out on a hazardous journey through the arid sandveld, accompanied only

by her elder sister, Mojanko, and Gaseitsiwe. The closest Barolong settlement was then over 300 kilometres to the south, via terrain filled with danger in the form of both human and wildlife predators.

After several days on the run the trio eventually came upon a small “Kgalagadi”, possibly Basiwane, settlement located at Sita, which is about half way on a straight line between modern Jwaneng and the Molopo River. There, they were welcomed by the local headman named Kgano, who unbeknownst to them, had already received instructions from Sebego that Gaseitsiwe be killed.

In the end, Kgano ignored the order, as he was haunted by his Mongwaketse wife, Mma Sentswelakae’s visions of severe retribution should he go ahead with the deed. She had specifically warned her husband of a premonition in which he was consumed alive by worms after murdering the prince. And so fate once more spared Gaseitsiwe. Departing from Sita, the trio fortuitously encountered a Mongwaketse named Tlagae, who may have been sent to rescue them, but at any rate guided the party to Mosita, which was located about a 100 kilometres further to the south, not far from Moffat’s mission station at Kudumane. On their arrival at Mosita, MmaGaseitsiwe’s party found a mixed community consisting of Barolong refugees and the remnant of the Bangwaketse who had previously joined Tshosa’s rebellion against his father Makaba, who had since remained in exile under his brother Segotshane.

A year earlier. the Barolong and Bangwaketse had been together at Khuwana when it was attacked by Amandebele. But, while the majority of the Barolong had ultimately escaped to the south-east, eventually reaching Thaba Nchu, Segotshane’s Bangwaketse and the accompanying Barolong had turned south-west finding refuge among the Batlhaping.

Welcoming the still young Gaseitsiwe, Segotshane now assumed the role of his regent. As news spread of the crown prince’s whereabouts, other Bangwaketse came to Mosita, some having been previously on their own, while others now abandoned Sebego. As his following grew, Segotshane decided to return to Gangwaketse, establishing his headquarters at Tswaneng. The Bangwaketse thus became divided between the followers of Sebego and those of Motshwareledi-Kgosi Segotshane.

The two princes - Gaseitsiwe and Sechele - had thus taken their first steps towards securing their birthrights. It would be another two decades before each would complete the reunification and restoration of their respective merafe. For the time being, the pair sat somewhat uncomfortably in the twin shadows of the “Hard-Hearted Crocodile”, Sebego, living to their west, and the “Great Lion” Mzilikazi, on their east.

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The question of mothertoungue

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