The Destruction Of Old Molepolole

As previously noted, in November 1933 Resident Commissioner Rey had decided as part of his plans for the relocation of Molepolole away from its two then existing clusters of Ntsweng and Borakalalo, to incorporate the additional goal of introducing residential race segregation into the community.

By the regional standards of the time Molepolole was relatively integrated. Examples of what the racist authorities labelled as “miscegenation” or race mixing could by then be found among most of Molepolole’s “non-Native” families. Even Sebele’s second wife, Susan (nee Wolf) although a Motlokwa, was catergorised by the colonial regime as being of mixed race background.

This circumstance had attracted the attention of the Union Government in Pretoria as well as the Protectorate’s administrative enclave in Mahikeng. In a 1929 study on the status of Europeans in Bechuanaland the Director of the South African Bureau of Educational and Social Research, Dr. E.G. Malherb had observed that:

“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 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.”

 In the face of the continued refusal of Bakwena to move, in April 1937 Rey finally undertook stronger measures to assure his desired resettlement. Mounted police began carrying out a policy of mass arrests. People were summoned by the score and fined the then considerable sum of five pounds or one month with hard labour each for their refusal to move.

After weeks, during which some 300 were summoned and 102 convicted, resulting in the jails at both Gaberones Camp and Molepolole becoming filled beyond capacity, the Bakwena surrendered and began moving. Internal correspondence from the time suggests that had they held out a little longer it is likely that the British who would have been forced to back down.

But, the Queen-Mother, Phetogo, briefly joined by her daughter-in-law Susan (Mmamoruakgomo), who in 1936 brought her children from Ghanzi where they were denied schooling, and son Mosarwa continued to hold out. As Mmamoruakgomo later recalled:

“I took our five children to stay with Phetogo Sechele, the queen mother and Sebele’s supporters at Ntsweng, near Molepolole. Sebele’s brother Kgari Sechele II, who had succeeded as chief treated us badly. He was jealous. Of all Sebele’s wives I was the only one who had sons, and Kgari knew they were the rightful heirs to the throne. Kgari kept us for days without food. Those who sympathised with us were arrested and their homes at Ntsweng demolished and they were forced to move from Ntsweng to join Kgari’s supporters at present day Molepolole. I took my five children and fled to Tlokweng. I feared for our lives.

Until her death two decades later, however, Phetogo remained defiant inside Sebele’s Bakwena National Office, which has ever since been locally referred to as ‘’MmaKgosing.’’ Today its ruins are the building still partially standing at Ntsweng. The palatial house of Sechele I, which had up until then been preserved as his monument (and gravesite) was razed along with other buildings.

Only the European residents were, partially, compensated for their losses. For decades thereafter many of the affected generation of Bakwena remained bitter.

The support given by Bathoen II and Tshekedi Khama to the BoSebele coincided with their increasingly vigorous resistance to Rey’s Native Administration and Justice Proclamations. If the Resident Commissioner thought that he would intimidate the dikgosi by his action against Sebele he badly misjudged their characters.

Tshekedi did, in fact, believe that ‘’he would be the next to go.” But this assumption seems to have strengthened his determination to challenge Rey’s Proclamations, which explicitly empowered the colonial government to suspend or depose Chiefs without reference to either local opinion or any form Judicial enquiry. He also objected the provisions mandating the delegation of royal authority to appointed Tribal Councils:

“An administering Council is something which does not agree with the fundamental principal of Native Administration as it introduces a principal in a native society for anybody to act apart from the head or Chief. In this regard the Bakwena have been quoted time and time again as exceptions to the rule. Some of us do respectfully warn those in authority that the Bakwena Council has gone a long way to convince the natives of the undesirability of an acting Council in the place of an acting Chief Someday this truth will be impressed upon the administration.”

Tshekedl and Bathoen’s refusal to implement the Proclamations, resulting in their 1936 legal challenge before the High Court, thus also called into question the legitimacy of Sebele’s removal. Although the Judge ruled against the dikgosi, citing the colonial government’s ‘’unfettered and unlimited powers” under the Foreign Jurisdictions Act, the Proclamations were thereafter withdrawn as unworkable. By then Rey’s superiors had concluded that his heavy-handed approach to the Chiefs, and the consequent turmoil within Kweneng and the other Reserves, had been counter-productive.

Editor's Comment
Escalating fuel prices cause panic

Nowadays it is not uncommon to purchase an item for a certain commodity and return to the shops in a week, to find the same item has gone up by a significant amount of money.Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA) last week announced yet another fuel price increase, which follows yet another increase that came into effect on March 29. Hardly two months later on May 12 boom, BERA announced yet another increase, which came into effect at a...

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