Rethinking Kgosi Linchwe And The Extraordinary 1965 Election Result

Remarkably, in the last few weeks, we have had no less than four substantial comments on Kgosi Linchwe in the Weekend Post. There was Morima’s profile (May 21).

There then followed my rejoinder and Morima’s response (June 28) and now we have a re-publication of Ramsay’s 2007 article (July 9), written after Linchwe’s death, on which Morima had heavily relied.  It emerged that some of my comments and criticisms about Morima’s profile were in fact, inaccuracies, which he had drawn from Ramsay’s earlier article.

It comes as a surprise, therefore, that the same article should have been re-produced by the Weekend Post without any attempt to iron out some of those wrinkles. Clearly, however, we need to move on. The nine years that have passed since Linchwe died allows us to stand back and figure out a more considered assessment of his character and career. Events since his death have also helped us to place him retrospectively and historically with greater understanding. 

A start needs to be made with the 1965 election in Mochudi in the light of Ramsay’s statement that ‘there remained a fair amount of speculation, suspicion, if not fear, regarding his (Linchwe’s) perceived political influence.’ The BPP’s extraordinary 1965 election win in Mochudi was undoubtedly one of the most remarkable constituency results to have occurred in any of the 10 general elections. How could it have happened that the BDP lost only this one constituency in the tribal areas? How could it have happened that the BPP won in tribal Mochudi when it drew most of its support from the non-tribal locations of Francistown and Lobatse? What did tribal Mochudi have in common with the residents in those two towns? The standard explanation - which I have long regarded as unconvincing - is that Linchwe’s elder sister, Tshire acted as his surrogate in campaigning for the BPP and thus played a decisive role in achieving the BPP’s win.  This interpretation is invariably taken as the starting point which is used to establish the persistent, continuing and identifiable characteristics of Linchwe’s later career.  It seems improbable, however, that this result could have occurred if Linchwe had been on good terms with Seretse? Is there any indication, however, that their relationship was other than straightforward and mutually self-respecting? Was he on particularly good terms with Matante? It seems improbable. 

Should we, therefore, look elsewhere for an explanation?  Could the result have been determined by the character of the two candidates, the BDP’s R.D. Molefi whose 1,278 votes was trumped by the BPP’s T.W Motlhagodi with 2,163?  Was the BDP confident that it had Mochudi in the bag and could therefore afford to run a low-key campaign? Was Motlhagodi a more appealing candidate than Molefi? Was it possible that Tshire could have been much more than a mere mouthpiece for Linchwe, one who acted on views which he himself could not express?  Tshire was, and still is, a particularly volatile character who was well able to use the opportunity to express her own convictions, rather than those of her younger brother.

To believe otherwise is to ignore the results of the local government elections which saw the BPP take five of the seven Mochudi seats whilst managing to win only one of the seven constituencies outside Mochudi.  Should this strange result be attributed to the political preferences of Linchwe or Tshire? Is it possible that the result in Mochudi reflected Tshire’s preference whilst the overwhelming result in favour of the BDP outside Mochudi, reflected Linchwe’s? In the upshot, did the BDP err in failing to realise that it was Tshire, who would be the one who would engineer that extraordinary result?  It might seem that the speculation about Linchwe’s political stance which had emerged from the 1965 election would have been put to rest by the 1969 election results. In the event the second election made it even harder for analysts to pin down this down.  The BPP’s Motlhagodi who had won so convincingly in 1965 could garner only 993 votes – a surprising result if he had been Linchwe’s preferred candidate. But it was even more surprising that Norman Molomo who had triumphed in Gaborone in 1965 with 4,069 votes against an opposition total of just 663 could scrape together a mere 666 votes when he stood for the BDP in Mochudi. 

But then, even with Linchwe’s supposed support for Ken Koma, the BNF candidate could muster only 290! The obvious answer to these uncertainties, as can be seen throughout his career, is that Linchwe always avoided being pinned in a corner where his options and room for maneuver were limited. Still in doubt? Then note who he took with him to two key meetings; Bogatsu Pilane and TKC Ratsheko of the BPP to the 1966 minerals signing ceremony and Norman Molomo of the BDP to his 1968 meeting with Mma Chiepe for the government’s take over of Molefi School. What happened to the elected Mochudi MP?  Speculation, is one thing, sensible interpretation another!

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