Mmegi Blogs :: To wear or not to wear a leopard skin? Thatís the question!
Last Updated
Wednesday 21 February 2018, 17:14 pm.
To wear or not to wear a leopard skin? Thatís the question!

For a moment, a fortnight back, I wondered whether the nuclear ding-dong between Donald Trump of the US and Kim Jong-un of the Democratic Peoples Republic of North Korea had transferred to the Republic of Botswana.
By Michael Dingake Tue 12 Sep 2017, 17:07 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: To wear or not to wear a leopard skin? Thatís the question!

Kgosi Malope II of Bangwaketse  and Kgosi Mosielele of the Bahurutshe ba goo-Manyana were at loggerheads; the big question being whether Kgosi Mosielele was to wear a leopard skin or not at his installation as the new kgosi. Kgosi malope firmly stating that Kgosi Mosielele was his underling, living in his backyard; wearing the leopard skin, which he, the big McCoy of the territory was wearing, would be insubordination. Batswana would be confused as to who was who in Ga-Ngwaketse! Kgosi Mosielele on the one hand was adamant: Bahurutshe dikgosi by tradition wear a leopard skin at installation and walk on a lion skin; that was the culture, the Bahurutshe tradition; his father before him was draped in the leopard skin by paramount chief of Bangwaketse , Bathoen II, Malope’s grandfather! So, what was the fuss?

According to Mosielele, the relevant department had already provided him, on request, with relevant materiaL for the ceremony.  With pressure from Kgosi Malope ii, the skins were withdrawn. Bahurutshe and their kgosi, stayed focused! All is well that ends well. Bahurutshe held their installation ceremony, leopard skin and all; the skies didn’t fall down! Or shall there be delayed reaction, sting in the tail for the defiance? May be too early to celebrate Bahurutshe’s upmanship of showing the middle finger to elders; repercussions of an adverse nature likely to come at a hefty price though!

Botswana became a Republic on September 30, 1966. The Constitution of the Republic spelt the human rights entitlement to individual Motswana but then, messed up when it got to group rights, the ethnic stuff and all that. The House of Chiefs conundrum completely derailed the republican concept from a full-fledged Republic. ‘Major’ tribes and ‘minor’ tribes were raked in to change the complexion of the ideal republican Constitution. An individual Motswana, was equal to all other Batswana; but a Motswana tribesperson, was likely to be senior, if he/she happened to be in one of the major tribes and another was in one of the sub-tribes! Why all this topsy turviness? Many argue it was so because there hadn’t been proper consultation with all Batswana, through their traditional representative institutions, the Kgotlas, political parties and other available community channels.

Before Kgosikgolo Kgafela Kgafela went into  self-imposed exile in the RSA, he had filed or was about to file a case in the High Court of Botswana, to demand a review of the Constitution, he too argued the Constitution had been adopted without adequate prior consultation with Batswana.

Indeed the minutes of the so-called Independence Constitutional Conference at Malborough House, have recorded the presence of an overwhelming majority of the retreating colonial power delegates. Altogether, 19 British, (including


three members of the secretariat) against three Batswana: Prime Minister Dr Seretse Khama, Ketumile Masire, his Deputy and Kgosi Bathoen II of Bangwaketse who was an un-mandated representative of the dikgosi of the other seven major tribes.

The overwhelming majority of the ‘minor’ tribes were of course to be seen and but not to be heard. Philip Matante, the leader of the Botswana People's Party, the only opposition party MP, baulked at inadequate representation and consultation with Batswana and flew back to Bechuanaland in protest.

Twenty-two years into Independence, another opposition MP, Maitshwarelo Dabutha of the BNF, raised the matter by tabling a Parliamentary motion that Sections 77, 78 and 79 be amended to bring about parity between all  Tswana tribes. The motion was defeated solely due to the fact that it was tabled by a ‘wrong’ MP. Seven years later, the same motion was tabled by a Botswana Democratic Party MP, Oliphant Mfa and was adopted. The Balopi Commission tasked with the mandate to take the motion to the kgotlas for endorsement, hit a snag when some major tribe kgotlas, shot down the concept of equality among tribes.

A compromise was agreed upon, to increase the membership of the House of Chiefs, renamed Ntlo ya Dikgosi, by having the sub-tribal representatives admitted to the House through elections, conducted under regional electoral colleges; the major tribes were assured permanent enjoyment of superior status by virtue of their birthright as dikgosi of major tribes! The discrimination and inequality thus remained entrenched.

 The Republic of Botswana is made up of two contradictory components: a modern Republic with a democratic Constitution, recognising the equality of all its citizens and prohibiting discrimination between men and women of different colour, ethnicity and race; the other component is of a feudal society enclave populated by feudal lords and vassals, each class aware of its class, living and dying according to its class status. Were Botswana a human being, he/she would be said to suffer from schizophrenia or split personality syndrome.

Political leaders preach equality with their mouths; and in practice they manipulate the Constitution to sanction infra dig inequalities amongst tribespeople; numerically superior ‘minor’ tribes are reduced to inferior status below the numerically fewer ‘major’ tribes! In this day and age, the policy courts violent conflict. It’s a recipe for war and conflict, not peace and stability! Political leaders obsessed with control of the levers of power don’t know they’re sitting on a powder keg. When the explosion happens as it’s bound to do, unless we change course, it will undo all the years of our historic tranquility. The practice of ‘minor’ and ‘major’ tribes stinks to high heavens: crime against humanity!


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