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The Deception

JEFF RAMSAY
Previously, we noted that although bogwera had been routinely practised amongst the Bakwena without any interference from the colonial regime for decades, while police investigations had uncovered only one case of assault and another firm allegation of attempted coerced recruitment (the alleged victim had escaped) during the 1931 initiation school; in May of 1931 Bechuanaland’s Resident Commissioner, Charles Rey, had nonetheless succeeded in using an exaggerated account of the dangers supposedly posed by this "new development" to convince the Colonial and Dominions Secretary, Sidney Webb, to finally approve an order to banish Kgosi Sebele II

Sebele was in bed recuperating from illness when he received a message that he, along with his uncles Kebohula and Moiteelasilo, was urgently needed at Mahikeng to attend a meeting with the other Dikgosi about water developments.

But, upon his arrival at the Imperial Reserve he knew he had been deceived. Once in Rey’s office, on Tuesday June 2 at 10:30 a.m., Sebele was informed that he had been “relieved of his functions” as Chief and was to be confined to Ghanzi.

Kebohula and Moiteelasilo were further instructed to iskenderun escort serve as regents until his replacement was “elected”.

Sebele was also informed that he was subject to arrest should he try to remain in the Union. Shadowed constantly by South African and Protectorate police to prevent any escape, Sebele spent the next 10 days consulting with his attorney, a Mr. Kieser, and stream of well-wishers, including former Bakgatla regent Isang Pilane, Simon Ratshosa and Dr. Silas Molema.

He also sent out urgent messages to his peers, including Dikgosi Tshekedi Khama and Bathoen II, closing each letter with the warning that: “This does not just affect me, but you all as well, all the Chieftainships of the Northern and Southern Protectorate, and the Union. Help! Help! Help! Our land and nation is going.”

Before the lawyer could file a motion on his behalf he and his two wives, Tlhalefang and Susan, as well as a fiancée Senwelo-a-Jacoba (who in the end he never married) were taken to the train station, where a large crowd witnessed their departure.

The train crossed the Northern Cape Province into Namibia stopping at Gobabis. There another crowd including a brass band greeted their arrival, before they were trucked to Ghanzi.

A great silence is said to have descended over Molepolole as Bakwena learned that their Kgosi had been abducted. Initially people were too shocked, confused and, above all, leaderless, to act. As Sebele had told Stigand: “The head belongs to the Chief”.

But, whereas Bakwena conspirators had c. 1821 decapitated their monarch Motswasele II, Rey was after the monarchy itself. He wished to transform Kweneng into his ideal of a properly subordinated Tribal Administration.

The Bakwena, however, proved to be no fatalists. While

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B.P. officials publicly maintained that Sebele’s detention reflected the will of his people, they privately reported a cycle of mounting resistance and repression as the silence gave way to resistance and sullen reticence.

The first challenge to Sebele’s removal was at Ntsweng. As word spread of their Kgosi’s fate “a large number of women began crying and inciting people to resist any removal of Sebele’s effects.”

When the regents, accompanied by some twenty police, tried to force their way into the royal compound they were driven away with stones.

A collection was taken up for Sebele and his secretary, Motsumi, dispatched to try to establish contact. On the way Motsumi was detained at Lobatse and barred from Kweneng as a Morolong.

For his part Sebele managed to instruct his brother Letlamma to the name of the newly initiated mophato – “Matlhaselwa.”

Although the authority of the regency had collapsed, the Resident Commissioner dismissed his subordinate’s fears and decided to proceed with his planned visit to Molepolole. He was determined to quickly install Kgari as “acting Chief.’”

Rey’s steadfastness was rewarded. Upon his arrival at Molepolole, on June 10, he encountered only modest opposition.

The next day he convened a meeting at the government’s Camp with 25 police, other officials and his wife Ninon (in whose handbag was concealed a loaded revolver) along with a crowd of some two thousand Bakwena men.

Forbidden to mention Sebele’s name the crowd remained silent during most of the proceedings, while a handful of collaborators, led by Kebohula, nominated Kgari to act in brother’s absence.

With the older Mosarwa absent and Bonewamang then a child of six, there was little opposition to his appointment, although some controversy exists as to whether the assembly stood up (or raised their hands) in Kgari’s favour, as Rey subsequently maintained, or to express their opposition to the proceedings.

The only real drama during the meeting was when an elder named Kgosimang, to loud cheers, called for Sebele’s return. But, Rey appears to have had little trouble restoring order.

The following day he visited Ntsweng and, by his own account, managed to placate the crowd by telling them that they would not be forced to remove to Borakalalo.



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