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The Reunification Of The Bakwena

We had previously noted that in 1842, from his new base in Bulawayo, the Amandebele Nkosi Mzilakazi had sent his army south into Botswana to punish the three Dikgosi who had been a thorn in his side during his strategic retreat through eastern Botswana into western Zimbabwe, namely Pilane of the Bakagtla bagaKgafela, Sechele of the Bakwena and Sekgoma of the Bangwato.

As we have seen, the Bangwato in 1842 and again in 1844, had succeeded in repulsing the Amandebele, the other two merafe had not been so fortunate.

The Amandebele invaders had attacked and destroyed the Bakgatla bagaKgafela settlement at Mmasebudule.

While Kgosi Pilane eluded the enemy, three of his sons, including his heir Kgamanyane were among the captured women and children. Kgamanyane’s release was subsequently secured by his great uncle Molefi Molefi, whose courage in coming to Bulawayo to plead for his nephews impressed Mzilakazi.

Sechele’s main settlement at Sokwane had been also sacked, while the Mokwena, along with many of his men were away raiding cattle of the rival BooRatshosa faction of Bakwena, along with the Bangwaketse Kgosi Sebego.

This setback is associated with the initiation of the Mannanne mophato. When “the rascals” returned they found their village destroyed.

Among those who had been killed was Sechele’s mother, Sejelo, while the captives included the exiled Mongwato heir Matsheng, who remained among the Amandebele until 1857.

Many of the women who were taken captive escaped, some subsisting on roots while travelling for months before they reached their homes.

 Hearing that Potgieter was leading a party of hunters along the Notwane, Sechele went to ask the Boers to join him on a counter-attack. But, Potgieter refused saying that events in Kweneng were of no concern to him.

In the aftermath of the debacle, Sechele regrouped the survivors at Thamaga for a season before moving eastward to Tshonwane, in the country then dominated by BagaMmanaana Kgosi Mosielele.

A farm about 10 kilometres east of Ramotswa, appropriately known as “Secheli’s Oude Stadt”, marks where Tshonwane once stood.

Mosielele’s own town, Maanwane, near modern Dinokana, was then emerging as a major centre of white missionary and ivory hunting activity, largely due to the establishment of a London Missionary Society (LMS) station at nearby Mabotsa.

Tshonwane also prospered, in a few years growing from about 300 to over 2,000, roughly the size of Motswasele II’s Shokwane, but only a fraction of Bakwena growth under Sechele.

An important episode the morafe’s expansion occurred in 1846 with the extension of Sechele’s authority over most of the BooRatshosa following the death of their regent, Bubi. The regent had been out with his men shooting elephants to sell ivory to the Makgoa. Not having had much success, he concluded that his gunpowder might have been bewitched and

was in need of doctoring.

The hunter-trader Gordon Cumming later claimed responsibility for supplying the powder. But, Sekwena traditions are consistent with the LMS missionary David Livingstone’s account that at least some of the munitions came from Sechele, whom the BooRatshosa naturally believed to be the more likely culprit of their poor hunting.

This belief led to Bubi’s herbalists to inadvertently ignite the powder causing the regent’s death. From that moment some BooRatshosa, now under Kgakge, began defecting to Sechele. Kgakge, was initially willing to submit as well, but most of his leading dikgosana opposed the move out of fear that Sechele would hold them accountable for his father’s regicide.

After some months, Sechele decided to attack the holdouts at their settlement, Malakopi, near Dithajwane. Encircling the village at night, his warriors fell upon the BooRatshosa at dawn with spears and muskets. The first wave of attackers, which included Sechele, advanced stealthily upon individual targets, most whom were killed.

Malakopi was then torched, causing its inhabitants to scatter in panic and confusion. Kgakge, whom Sechele had ordered should not be killed, and a few loyalists escaped, eventually finding refuge with Mosielele.

But, most of his subjects surrendered to Sechele. The sight of scores of Bakwena slain by fellow Bakwena cast a pall over the now undisputed Mokwena Mogolo’s victory. In the heat of the battle, Sechele, himself, had even killed one of his own maternal uncles, Raletaba.

Thereafter Sechele sought no revenge against the supporters of Moruakgomo, but, instead, allowed them to retain their identity as autonomous BooRatshosa and Maunatlala wards. Eventually, in 1853, Kgakge agreed to give up his exile and rule over the BooRatshosa as Sechele’s subject.

Kgakge was killed in 1881 during a skirmish with the Bakgatla bagaKgafela. The then respected elder’s death is said to have been among the factors that resulted, at Sechele’s insistence, in the Bakwena and Bakgatla finally establishing permanent peace between them.

Thus, after its violent reunification, Sechele was nonetheless able to rule over a morafe that was at peace with itself and its neighbours.

His subjects no longer had to live in daily fear of the black ants. Growing trade with the white men held out the prospect of new wealth. But, as his slain father Motswasele II is said to have prophesied, there were also new and greater challenges on the horizon.

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