Mmegi Blogs :: Do Tribal Communities Today Own Anything?
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Thursday 16 August 2018, 17:52 pm.
Do Tribal Communities Today Own Anything?

The question may seem ridiculous. But consider. Dikgosi are civil servants paid by central government as are District Councillors whilst Land Board members are paid by the government and are accountable to the Minister.
By Sandy Grant Mon 23 Apr 2018, 14:56 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: Do Tribal Communities Today Own Anything?

The old Tribal Administrations are now Departments of Government and their employees are also civil servants.

The now not so new Department owns all the buildings and structures in and around dikgotla which include all the buildings associated with the kgotla, the World War 2 granaries and even the Khama graveyard in Serowe.

The latter, in particular, may come as a surprise to many but if the government owns the burial places of Dikgosi in Kanye, Mochudi, Ramotswa and Tlokweng it would be very odd if it didn’t own the Khama graveyard as well.

A leaflet on the Traditional Tswana Kgotla produced long ago by the National Museum states unequivocally that, ‘the kgotla belongs to the community’.

This was an entirely orthodox view at the time but one which has subsequently been overtaken by events if only because a kgotla cannot be said to belong to a community if it does not own it. But maybe we can come at this issue from another angle.

As with other traditional towns, the kgotla and lesaka in Mochudi are gazetted national monuments. The Monuments Act states in paragraph 18 that no alterations, damage or removal shall be made any national monument without consent of the Minister. In the case of any national monument situated in a Tribal Territory, no permission in terms of subsection (1) shall be given. Apart from the fact that this Act is really relevant to archaeological sites, and is frequently absurd when applied to anything else, it does nevertheless have to be taken seriously.

It would seem clear, therefore, that the demolition of the old kgotla and the removal of the front wall of the lesaka in Mochudi in 2008 was in terms, of the Act, plainly illegal. But as it was the government which was the owner of this kgotla and lesaka it was clearly the government which was breaking the law by allowing such fundamental changes to be made.

 In both Kanye and Serowe it is even clearer, indeed straightforward, that by upgrading (saving if you wish) the 1880s house of Bathoen 1 in the Kanye kgotla and the hybrid rondavel once occupied by Mohumagadi Tebogo, the National Museum was acting in contravention of the very Act that it had itself framed.

It cannot claim that the Director gave the Museum permission to make these alterations because the Act clearly specifies that no alterations to any monument in a tribal Territory are permissible. Similarly, the current proposal to develop the old site of Ntsweng in Molepolole by the


National Museum in association with the Kgari Sechele museum runs into identical problems.

The proposal offers yet another example of the way that inflexible and inappropriate legislation ensures that both museums will be breaking the law if they proceed. If the true extent of this remarkable site is mapped, as required by the Act, it will be obvious that the Land Board has albeit unknowingly and unintentionally, broken the law by allocating plots in that area. A similar concern relates to the damage willfully done to some of the gravestones. It could also be applicable both to the future burial of a Mokwena royal – the digging of a grave and the erection of a gravestone as well to fiddling with the last remains of the Tribal Office all of which would seem to be illegal.

The confusion arising from this mess is perfectly illustrated by the illegal improvements made to dikgotla for the 50th anniversary and to the WW2 granaries/silos which were painted in Molepolole, Kanye and Mochudi but not in Serowe. How was it possible that the owner of these structures, the government, should have authorised these interesting depictions in so many places but refused permission in Serowe?

But then again, it may be that the government was correct, in terms of the Monument Act, in refusing permission in Serowe but seriously amiss by allowing it elsewhere. Putting everything together, it does seem that whilst the tribes today still own their particular histories, they may well be owning nothing else.

If the government/ the Departments of Tribal Administration now owns the dikgotla, it must logically own all the land outside it except for the freehold areas. In the past, people had rights of usage of land which was tribally owned. Today they continue to have rights of usage of land which is now government owned.

It follows that both then and now compensation can only be paid for the assets on the land, not for the land itself. It is a puzzle, therefore, how assets in the Palapye area could have been valued at P26 million. But then there are other realities.

The reference in the Act to a Tribal Territory, for instance, refers presumably only to the historic boundaries of each such Territory, not to the land within those areas. The implication would then be that the boundaries themselves are archaic and serve no useful purpose other than for electoral needs. Without land, water and minerals, what is then left for tribal communities to own?


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