Mmegi Blogs :: Game of thrones (VI) a house divided
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Game of thrones (VI) a house divided

We left off in the plains north of Shoshong in 1863, with the Bangwato defeat of the last Amandebele army to invade their territory.
By Jeff Ramsay Mon 12 Feb 2018, 17:08 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: Game of thrones (VI) a house divided








The hero of the engagement had been Sekgoma’s son, the future Kgosi Khama III, whose armed cavalry turned the tide of the battle. In the process, the Phuti prince is further credited with wounding Mzilakazi’s son Lobengula, whose neck thereafter bore the scar of a gunshot wound.

 Having put his trust in Khama’s martial leadership, one suspects that the veteran warrior Sekgoma must have felt a degree of paternal pride as well as relief at the outcome.

 Be that as it may, however, other factors were already driving a wedge between the Kgosi kgolo and his heir, which three years later would escalate into armed confrontation. The seeds of the father son conflict had had been planted earlier in 1858-59, during the period of just over a year that Sekgoma and his sons Khama and Kgamane spent in exile as Sechele’s guests.

While at Dithubaruba both sons fell under the influence of the then resident German Lutheran (Hermannsburg) missionaries. As Robert Moffat’s son the Rev. J.S. Moffat subsequently observed in an article in The Christian Express newspaper:

 “During Khama’s youth the tribe was almost unknown and unvisited by white men. In 1858 he and his father went into temporary exile and took up their abode at Litheyana (i.e. Dithejwane adjacent to Dithubaruba), with Chief Sechile.

There was a German missionary, of the name Schroeder, just commencing work, and his school Khama and younger brother Kgamane betook themselves. Khama took hold of the truth at once. He became a convert to Christianity and has never swerved since.”

 While Sekgoma, like Sechele, had built up his power through the aggressive acquisition and adaptation of guns, in other matters of cosmology and social order he was a staunch traditionalist. Although with Sechelt’s encouragement and his son’s insistence Sekgoma had reluctantly allowed both the Hermannsburg and L.M.S. missionaries to establish themselves in Shoshong, he quickly became disenchanted with their influence over his sons and many of their age-mates.

 It may be noted that most of what we know about the conflict between Khama and Sekgoma has been relayed by Khama’s Christian followers and their descendents or the missionaries. In these accounts Sekgoma is generally cast as a “heathen” reactionary if not outright villain.

We are thus left with accounts of Sekgoma trying to bewitch and even ultimately assassinate Khama for refusing to bend to his will. While such accounts may to a great extent be truthful they do not provide us with a balanced assessment of the conflict.

What is certain is that one

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early source of disagreement was Khama’s decision to reject his father and uncles’ marital wishes. With the backing and encouragement of most of the senior men of his kgotla Sekgoma had agreed that Khama should take the daughter of a headman named Pelotona as his great wife.

 In this respect bogadi was collectively paid by other leading headmen.

In accordance with his Christian principles, however, Khama opted to have a monogamous marriage with Mogatsamotswasele, a daughter of Tshukudu, who was baptized in 1862 Elizabeta, in honour of Robert Moffat’s daughter Elizabeth. Another of Tshukudu’s daughters was also later baptised and subsequently married to Kgamane.

In the same year Khama and Elizabeta were married in what is recorded as Shoshong’s first Christian wedding. Thereafter, with the birth of a first born daughter, who was baptised as Bessie, the future Mohumagadi was known and remembered a MmaBessie. The couple were also subsequently blessed with at least two more daughters, Millie and Baboni and a surviving son, the future Kgosi Sekgoma II, father of Seretse Khama.

Arguments over Khama’s refusal to take a second wife as his Mohumagadi remained unresolved when, in April of 1865, Sekgoma was shocked and disturbed when his five most senior sons, Kgamane, Seretse, Kebailele and Mphoeng, as well as Khama, refused to accompany him in officiating bogwera. 

Whereas previously the Phuti had shown a degree of grudging tolerance for his sons embrace of “the white-man’s religion” and ways he now threatened to withhold recognition if they did not meet his expectations by complying with the traditions of the morafe.

By the beginning of 1866 the intergenerational quarrel within the house of Sekgoma threatened to break out into a full blown civil war. On March 8th an aborted attack on Khama’s home and subsequent gunfire resulted in members of the Christian party led by Khama and Kgamane backed by their father-in-law Tshukudu, to mobilise and seize the heights of Shoshong.

This move was ineffectively resisted by a headman in the area named Kope, resulting in further gunfire, which continued over the next few days. But it would appear that in the end neither side desired a lethal fight. While people remained armed and divided, with Khama’s supporters retaining the high ground, over the next six weeks the firing ceased.

Frustrated at the perceived desertion of his own sons, Sekgoma approached Sechele with the invitation to have Matsheng once more assume the throne. In the meantime Khama also secretly dispatched messengers to Sechele seeking his intervention.

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