Mmegi Blogs :: "The Little Rogues"
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Monday 15 October 2018, 18:00 pm.
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"The Little Rogues"

This week we continue with our account of the groundbreaking August 1824 mission by the Griqua Kaptyn Barend Barends and the Scottish missionary Reverend, Robert Moffat to Bangwaketse Kgosi Makaba II’s at Kgwagwe.
By Jeff Ramsay Mon 28 May 2018, 14:20 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: "The Little Rogues"








We left off with Makaba and his councillors showing an interest in literacy, while expressing various degrees of scepticism and concern about Moffat’s preaching of the resurrection of the dead.

Throughout the remainder of the visit, Makaba II maintained a demeanour of martial self-confidence, that dreaded the displeasure of none of his neighbours, all of whom he had repeatedly defeated. Having already faced them in battle, he told Moffat he only feared the firearms of the Makgoa.

At one point Makaba insisted that Moffat put on a public display of his marksmanship. The missionary obliged by hitting targets with the near simultaneous discharge of two flint-lock pistols, while riding on horseback; a feat requiring considerable skill. According to Moffat:

“As soon as I alighted from the horse, Makaba began to unbutton my jacket to see the “little rogues,” as he called them, exclaiming; ‘What a blessing that you white men seek to be friends with all nations, for who is there that could withstand you?’ Laying his hand on my shoulder, he added; ‘I do, indeed, see that you were without fear, or you would have had your pistols this morning.’”

Although there is no record of the transaction, the acquisition of guns is likely to have been a key factor in Makaba giving his permission for a Griqua party under Barends’ two lieutenants, Hendricks Hendricks and Jan Karse, to remain in the country to hunt elephant.

Makaba’s determination to acquire firearms was made more urgent by growing instability in the region. To the east the great Bahurutshe metropolis of Kaditshwene, which Moffat’s colleague the Rev. John Campbell had visited and extensively reported on in August 1821 had been entirely abandoned by April 1823, coinciding with the appearance of the Makololo in the region.

To the north the Bakwena kingdom was tottering. According to Moffat, Makaba had been in conflict with the Bakwena, who were described as a “very populous nation” to the East as well as North East, possibly reflecting their continuing ties with Bakwena bagaMagopa. Both Sekwena and Sengwaketse traditions confirm that upon assuming his throne, shortly before the 1808 arrival of Lt. Donovan’s expedition, the impetuous Bakwena Kgosi Motswasele II had renewed hostilities with the Bangwaketse.

But, by the time of Moffat’s presence amongst the Bangwaketse, the Bakwena were becoming divided in the wake of Motswasele’s execution during a letsholo or communal hunt, the vital act in a royal coup d’état led by his

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cousin Moruakgomo and younger brother Segokotlo. The two conspirators wasted little time thereafter in struggling over the throne of Motswasele’s underage heir Sechele.

Prior to the execution, the head of the Maunatlala ward amongst the Bakwena, Sejo Monametse, had warned Motswasele that his brothers plotted his bloody downfall to which the Kgosikgolo replied: “Let them kill me, my father’s ants will come to avenge me.”

At the letsholo the Mokwena is said to have further elaborated that the lands of his ancestor, Malope would be overwhelmed by hordes of “black ants” who in due course would give way to an even more devastating infestation of “white” or “red ants”.

Soon thereafter the prophecy was seemingly fulfilled when the first wave of black ants invaded Kweneng in the form of the Makololo, who occupied the strategic hill of Dithubaruba, while demanding tribute from the weakened Bakwena. Makaba, who by then was hosting a growing number of Bakwena refugees, would have been well informed about these events.

Motswasele’s purported last words have since been more generally interpreted as foretelling of the coming into Botswana of the Amandebele as well as Makololo, the so-called black ants, followed by the Boer trekkers and finally British imperialists, the red/white ants. The decades of dislocations and tumult brought about by the arrival of each of these outside groups would impact on the lives of every community in Botswana.

For his part, the Rev. Robert Moffat left Kgwakgwe in 1824 fully convinced that, through his newfound relationship with Kgosi Makaba II, he had opened the door to the Gospel not only amongst the Bangwaketse, but also the other northern Batswana.

For all of his professed commitment to a life of humble service, one can detect a degree of pride in his account of how he had boldly gone where his brethren had previously feared to tread.

In the missionary’s optimistic vision, the Bangwaketse Kgosikgolo, even if still a ‘heathen’ was destined to become a divine instrument of God’s will. But in the end, Moffat’s ambition of establishing a network of London Missionary Society (LMS) stations radiating from Gangwaketse would have to be deferred for another generation.

In his enthusiasm, Moffat was seemingly blind to the coming cataclysm. During his return journey he did witness further evidence of the destructive progress of refugee turned brigand bands from the south and east. 

 He would, however, have been presumably unaware or indifferent to Motswasele II’s premonition.

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