It hasn’t been the greatest of days. The Phikwe mine faces disaster, yet again, and is threatening to lay off many workers, invisible buffaloes, so it seems, bring an end to the country’s commercial meat industry south of Dibete, politicians brawling, Parliament in seeming disarray, diamonds down, tourism down, and the trains lurching from one disaster to another.
By now we should have got used to the absence of accurate information about such concerns. It is only a few weeks ago that the Minister was telling us that the new Blue Train’s inaugural run was wrecked by its use of contaminated fuel. Now that important statement has already disappeared into the history books. Presumably, it was soon realised that the problem had nothing to do with contaminated fuel, as first thought, but was caused by something entirely different. I assume that the Minister’s statement was based on the information given to him.
But it really is a good idea to correct information which has previously been provided which proves, later, to be off track. To jump here and jump there can only contribute to a general, dismaying sense of disillusionment. Right now, this is the one additional burden from which the country should be spared. However, let me stick with local affairs, not least the on-going chieftaincy feud in Odi between the village’s Bakgatla and Batlokwa residents. In its issue of the 20th, Mmegi reported that, ‘the Minister of Local Government ordered the two Land Boards to demarcate or highlight the two tribes’ border lines to assist him deal with the issue.’
There have been other reports of this kind, local issues which have developed into something protracted, major and serious. And here now is another. Odi today is almost a town, a modern town. But now the sad reality of local politics, ethnic politics, is pushing it back to be the kind of place it was in 1966 with the Minister allowing himself to be drawn further into the ethnic issues which in the Kgatleng, in particular, have had such a sad effect.
Sadly it would seem that in the 50th anniversary year, both the Minister and Odi have forgotten Seretse and his call for a united democratic nation unspoiled by ethnic division. Okay, that’s blown for the moment with the Minister no less asking that the boundary line be drawn up defining the areas in Odi which are occupied by the two tribal groups. How this line might help clarify the chieftancy issue is far from being clear.
What is obvious, however is that by defining the areas that each group historically occupies is to exacerbate the problem rather than reduce it. What happens once this line is drawn and it is realised that knowing which group occupies the larger area has in no way helped to solve the problem? Would the next step, therefore be to do a head count with the larger group providing the next Chief? But then the smaller group would undoubtedly argue that its claims should not be determined in such a manner.
What then? The only possible solution, daft as it might be, would be for Odi to have two Chiefs and two tribal offices. Or for there to be no Chief at all. But that would be to set a precedent for every other village in the country in which more than a single ethnic group happens to reside – which is probably all of them. But then drawing a line on a map to define the physical areas occupied by ethnic groups is likely to be a precedent which others may also wish to follow. And what good can come from that? But another recent scenario in Odi also struck me as being of some interest.
This was the unveiling of a tombstone which incorporated a photo of the deceased. It is not that long ago that Kgosi Linchwe told someone in Mochudi to remove a photo which they had similarly added to a tombstone explaining that the practice ran counter to Kgatla custom and tradition. I rather doubt that this injunction can be enforced today but the point does arise in respect of Mochudi’s new by-law which gives the Council Secretary the responsibility for deciding which tombstones are and are not culturally acceptable.
Let us say, for the sake of argument that the Kgatleng District Council Secretary comes from somewhere such as Masunga and would not therefore be expected to be well informed about Kgatla whys and wherefores. Yet come the crunch, his/her decision would over-ride that of the Kgosi. But then, it was the District Commissioner, Mochudi who recently over-rode the expressed agreement of the Chief in Odi that a long-term foreign resident be buried there. In the event, for reasons unknown, he had to be buried in Gaborone. Strange times.