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The ripple effect of seshabana on Bakwena dynasty

The word seshabana generally refers to a flat open place on a hill or a mountain, ideal for out-door meetings or picnics. But in Molepolole, seshabana is associated with underground activities of a group of people opposed to Bakwena chieftainship succession plan, using seshabana as their meeting place.

There is no historical record of how and when the group was formed, but indications are that members of Seshabana only became active when there was a succession plan dispute, meeting at seshabana at night or at a secret place to hide their identity. 

This offered an opportunity to government security agents and other interested parties to sneak in under the cover of darkness to eavesdrop on their conversations.  As a result, any sound nearby, caused by wind rattling or rock rabbits was capable of drawing the curtain over the group’s meeting because of the paranoia that prevailed at this secret place of hell.

Because of lack of security of information, the group was always faced with insurmountable challenges of preventing information from leaking to the rival group on the other side of the royal aisle. According to information by a member who preferred anonymity, a rope was given to one member in a dramatic turn of events to hang himself after allegedly passing information to the rival group about their strategy during the 1962-63 Moruakgomo/Bonewamang succession dispute.

The member was saved by one of respected elders who demanded to be given the rope to hang himself instead of the accused. It was thought this would serve as a deterrent to those who leaked information, but the reverse was the case due to lack of proper vetting of members, especially those who were educated because they were desperately needed to draft and write letters to the resident commissioner.

However, T.W. Motlhagodi who was the principal of Kgari Sechele Secondary School and sometimes B. Seboni are reported to have agreed to offer their services to the group at their spare time. Unfortunately, the arrangement turned out to be a double edged sword because one letter leaked to the rival faction and the author was the suspect. A typewriter that was used to write the letter had been transported by a bicycle from Thamaga to Molepolole.

An argument used by one group on Bonewamang/Moruakgomo case was that in case of a dispute arising from death such as that of Kgari II who had no issue and Bonewamang who was the rightful heir, but was overtaken by Kgari, the royal lineage should be followed downwards as a guiding principle. This was an opinion expressed at the High Court, but the other group found it objectionable.  

Historical records show that Sebele’s banishment to Gantsi heralded Bakwena’s division by far on

their chieftainship succession dispute, leaving a scar that has remained to haunt succeeding generations because of the intricacies of the issue blamed on the British colonial administration.

It was the British resident Commissioner, Charles Rey who incarcerated the paramount chief of Bakwena. He tricked him to go to Mafikeng where, upon arrival on June  02, 1931 at 10.30am, he told him that he was relieved of his functions and banished to Gantsi.

On June 10, Sebele appealed to Tshekedi Khama in a letter, “I want to let you know I have already left, even though I don’t like it. I had to follow the White man’s orders.  But I also want you to know that this does not just affect me, but you as well and all the chieftainships of northern and southern Protectorate.  Help! Help! Help! Our land and nation is going.” 

Granted, Sebele was insubordinate, but the biggest mistake Bakwena made was to allow the British to detain him without deposing him under the writ of habeas corpus which was also applied on Sekgoma Letsholathebe, John Nswaswi and Tshekedi Khama with a form of resistance from their tribes.  Applying Western ideals on Sebele’s case, using an instrument that had been proclaimed to legitimise detention without trial, was an abominable cultural conflict that divided Bakwena with irreconcilable difference on their chieftainship.

The biggest concern about this division is that the history of Bakwena could be compromised and challenged by either side based on what each group considers to be in its favour on Bakwena chieftainship succession plan. There is also a danger that any group could claim that its version of Bakwena chieftainship lineage is correct for historical records.

As a result of these disturbing scenarios, Bakwena need a long lasting dispute resolution that could give their paramount chief the power to run his office without intimidation or fear about the succession plan.  It is disheartening to hear some Bakwena brag about their role in the rise and fall of Bakwena dynasty.

Tolerance is the only instrument that could bring about paradigm shift in Bakwena’s battle against irrational division that is threatening to destroy their identity.  Before the cultural conflict that manifested Sebele’s banishment, Bakwena understood, respected differences and appreciated similarities that stitched them together like a quilt. It is now time for Bakwena to sweeten the bitter pill of their lineage to avoid the looming ethnic fragmentation in the district.


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