Mmegi Blogs :: The Lion In Winter
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Monday 20 August 2018, 14:43 pm.
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The Lion In Winter

Previously, we had noted that the Rev. Robert Moffat left Kgwakgwe in 1824 with the belief that his newfound relationship with Kgosi Makaba II, he had opened the door to the Gospel not only amongst the Bangwaketse, but also other merafe.
By Jeff Ramsay Mon 04 Jun 2018, 13:41 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: The Lion In Winter








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

In the missionary’s optimistic vision, the 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 the slain Bakwena Kgosi Motswasele II’s premonition that the lands of Masilo aMalope overrun by “black ants.”

As it was, Makaba’s realm was already in the eye of a hurricane, its peace and prosperity contrasting to the upheaval taking place all along its borders. Upon crossing the Molopo, Barends and Moffat found that the Barolong boo-Ratlou, Seleka and Tshidi had all fled from their separate abodes, coming together for their common defence at Khunwana. They also came across Bahurutshe refugees, who spoke of the destruction in their country.

At Kgwakgwe, Makaba’s own regal bearing betrayed little self-doubt about his continued ability to act as a regional powerbroker, while facing the emerging external challenge.

It is said that up until the end the Great Crocodile maintained a strong physique, with only his occasionally weary continence and greying hair betraying the passage of time. A man of relentless energy, to the end he was renowned even by members of other merafe for what was then considered to be his eccentric habit of remaining physically active in the midday sun, when others customarily rested. 

Contemporary accounts by Batswana illustrate that in the final years of his three and a half decade long reign, Makaba had become a larger than life figure. His self-confidence was exceeded by the awe he inspired amongst his followers and opponents. Whereas Moffat reported that Makaba feared only the Makgoa’s firearms, many Batswana were convinced that his magic was unconquerable.

The Kgosikgolo’s aura of invincibility comes across clearly in the 1821 reflections of a prominent kgosana amongst the Barolong boo-Ratshidi named Mokgwetsi, who had previously lived under Makaba. The period of the Morolong’s residence with the Bangwaketse

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coincides with a power struggle amongst the Boo-Ratshidi over bogosi between Tawana and his uncle, the then regent, Leshomo.

With Leshomo initially enjoying the greater degree of support, in 1814 Tawana’s followers fled to Makaba’s protection. The Bangwaketse mephato were thereafter mobilised to assist Tawana’s faction, resulting in Leshomo’s expulsion and subsequent death amongst the Bahurutshe.  

According to Mokgwetsi, though his life’s journey had taken him to visit many merafe, he had never known a kgosi who was the equal of Makaba, adding:     

“Makaba employs such powerful magic, that should he invite a neighbouring king to visit him, and that king neglects to come, he will only pay him a visit, and he is sure to die shortly afterwards. By a visit of this kind, he killed the king of the Bahurutse.” He further observed:

“Makaba would be unconquerable, if all the nations were united against him, and although assisted by people with guns, for by his magic he could prevent the guns from going off, and defeat all their attempts.”

With respect to the latter claim, Mokgwetsi would have at least been aware of, if not a participant in, Makaba’s decisive defeat of the 1798-99 invasion of Gangwaketse by Jan Bloem’s Korana, along with Barolong boo-Ratlou.   

Further testimonies of Makaba power speak of his ability to summon elephants by whistling and immobilise rhino with herbs.

This mephato were said to go out on raiding expeditions with every moon, while his spies kept a sharp eye on the affairs of all of his neighbours. As we have seen the latter claim is at least supported by Makaba’s knowledge of Moffat’s advice to his estranged son Tshosa when the latter arrived amongst the Batlhaping at Dithakong. 

In the final months of 1824 Makaba’s intelligence would have brought him increasingly disturbing reports from Kweneng. In the aftermath of Motswasele II’s execution, the Bakwena had become divided between the followers of Moruakgomo and those of Segokotlo, which was not resolved by the latter’s defeat in a battle at Masipiana. Segokotlo, along with his surviving followers including Motswasele’s underage heir Sechele, thereafter fled to Kgosi Kgari’s Bangwato.

Moruakgomo initially settled at Borithe on the Ngotwane River, where he had little time to enjoy his victory. By 1824, the Mokwena usurper had relocated to Molepolole, following the arrival of Sebetwane’s Bakololo in the region. Thereafter, he tried to buy peace with the intruders through offers of tribute.

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