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Rey’s Apartheid

Last week’s episode ended with Kgosi Sebele II affirming his intention to attend Molepolole Magistrate Stigand’s enquiry into William Horne’s assault: "I will come with them the Bakwena; to come and get from you information as to why should the Bakwena law be taken as nothing, whereas it has been all times kept and carried, not only in our Reserve, but at Gamangwato and Kanye Reserves, they have it, and it applies to all, European and Non-European."

The enquiry was held three days later, during which time Horne’s account of the incident was largely discredited. He subsequently felt compelled to beg the Bakwena for forgiveness. Stigand nonetheless warned the Bakwena that the Boers were not under the kgotla and could not be arrested.

Notwithstanding Stigand’s pronouncement, Sebele’s Batshegetsi-ba-molao continued to insist that Europeans respect mekwe le melao ya Sekwena. In the years that followed at least three more Boer wagons found their way to Kgosing following separate Sunday incidents.

The hysteria about Sebele’s supposed “white slaves” resulted in calls for the Protectorate administration to end Botswana’s reputation as a place where makgoa “went native.” An investigation into the status of Europeans in the Protectorate by the then Director of the South African Bureau of Educational and Social Research had noted:

“Dealing with the question of race mixture first, I feel that the problem should be tackled immediately. I am not referring to isolated cases here or there which seem unavoidable, but have in mind particularly the situation at Molepolole, where practically the whole European community is involved. The situation there is both serious and difficult. The seriousness lies in the fact that the people with a touch of coloured blood are respectable and on practically the same level as the Europeans.”

Indeed, by then even the local DRC missionary had succumbed to the temptations across the colour bar “with one of girls of his congregation”, while “administering medicines”. Regional white supremacist calls for the enforcement of strict legal and social segregation by race took on extra impetus from 1930, during Charles Rey’s tenure as Resident Commissioner. Files were opened on such subjects as “The Miscegenation Problem” and “Undesirable Europeans Living in Native Reserves”; the term “undesirable” being used to refer to whites whose economic status and/or social relations brought them into close association with blacks.

Rey’s racial concerns and penchant for removing insubordinate dikgosi culminated in the infamous 1933 incident in which the Bangwato regent Tshekedi was accused of flogging Phineas McIntosh, who was a former schoolmate of the Kgosi.

Rey arranged for a naval detachment to be dispatched from Cape Town to Serowe to preside over a suspension ceremony in which Tshekedi and the Bangwato were forced to stand under the sun, with guns trained on them, facing the local white population who were pointedly positioned under a

covered dais behind the colonial administrators, police, and marines.

The whites of Serowe were, for the most part, embarrassed if not disgusted with the whole exercise. At the earlier “enquiry” McIntosh himself had staunchly defended the actions “his chief”, a loyalty that resulted in his own extra-judicial banishment. For his part Bangwaketse Kgosi Bathoen II, in an April 12, 1934 letter to the Resident Magistrate at Kanye, protested: “It must be born in mind that the Coloured people, even Europeans, are quite agreeable to be tried in Kgotla. With the knowledge of the Administration the Chief exercised both judicial and Administrative jurisdiction over them up to the present time until last year when Chief Tshekedi at Serowe was suspended from the exercise of the functions of his office, merely because he tried a European in Kgotla. The Enquiry found him guilty of ‘a deliberate and flagrant violation of Protectorate law’, even though Phineas McIntosh had no complaint against the Chief’s judgement in Kgotla.”

In the same year Rey proposed the “Creation of a Settlement for Coloured People and Poor Whites” along the Molopo as a way to remove such people from the reserves. He wrote:

“A settlement should be formed on the Crown lands to which people of this character could be removed. We should not remove forcibly from the native reserves adults now living there. We should, however, prohibit any increase in their numbers by immigration and when their children became of age they should be told that they would have to go to the new settlement or leave the territory.”

The authorities in London initially welcomed Rey’s proposal. But, in the end his apartheid scheme did not materialise due to legal and financial constraints. Instead, he was authorised to carry out the more limited objective of imposing residential segregation between blacks, whites, and coloureds at Kanye, as well as Molepolole.

In the case of Molepolole, residential segregation by race was ultimately implemented as part of the broader 1937 forced resettlement of the village. This policy was carried out with the public support of the South African government, which, in 1939, published its own extensive study on the supposedly dire consequences of “Race Mixture” in the Protectorate. In it special concern was expressed at what was described as the “biological deterioration” of Boers living at Ghanzi and Molepolole

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