SEROWE: Residents here were in a jovial mood on Tuesday as they bid President Ian Khama, who is also their Kgosikgolo, farewell.
The Serowe main kgotla was packed to the rafters. Government officials, amongst them the incoming president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, politicians from across the political divide and residents from the neighbouring villages also attended the event in large numbers.
The villagers were in an upbeat mood singing songs of joy and praise for Khama of the ‘Malwela motse regiment’. In fact, from the messages, songs and poems at the event it was clear that the villagers were looking forward to Khama taking his chieftaincy role.
Most of the speeches were punctuated by the words ‘Goroga le lwela motse’, which perhaps suggested that Serowe residents were looking forward to working with Khama as their chief.
Khama is expected to vacate office on Saturday. On Tuesday, when he took his turn to speak Khama announced that he would now take over his role as the Kgosikgolo ya Bangwato when he hands over the presidency.
However, the 65-year-old Khama appeared to suggest that he would be less active in his role as chief of Bangwato.
“I would like to thank Kgosi Sediegeng Kgamane for holding the fort for me. You will not leave office. We will continue working hand in hand. I will not be coming to flog people, but will assist you choose those who should be flogged,” Khama said.
It was his suggestion that he (Khama) will be working with Kgamane, which led to many thinking that his role in the chieftaincy will be minimal or ancillary.
Khama requested that he be given time off to sort out some things at his farm before he could start his role as Kgosikgolo. Khama recently expressed a strong desire to go into farming.
By announcing that he will assume his role as Bangwato Kgosikgolo, Khama might have brought to an end speculation surrounding his future beyond his presidency.
In the past, there were fears that he may not take up his chieftaincy role. There are those who have always held the view that he does not rate Bogosi highly.
The suggestion that he may not take over as Kgosikgolo even heightened when he hinted (during one of his farewells) returning to the military, which caused a bit of a stir in some quarters. Those closest to him said that the remarks about his possible return to the army were a joke.
In Serowe, Khama did not even pass a ‘joke’ on rejoining the force. His late father, Seretse Khama in 1979, two years after he joined the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), installed him (Khama) as the Bangwato paramount chief.
But Khama largely devoted himself to the army and left tribal affairs
In 1998, President Festus Mogae lured a ‘reluctant’ Khama from the military into politics and appointed him his vice. At the time, he was serving as a commander of the BDF. In 2008, he ascended to the presidency. That meant another prolonged spell away from his Bogosi role.
Before Khama could speak, Kgamane who has been the Bangwato regent said that he was now ready to hand over the throne to Khama.
“You can now resume your role as the paramount chief of Bangwato. You executed your national assignment diligently. We welcome you back home wholeheartedly. We look forward to having you as our leader,” Kgamane said.
Meanwhile, a resident of Serowe said that although he was not more explicit on whether he would fully assume his role as the chief of Bangwato, they are looking forward to working with him.
An elder, Boingoto Kedirile, 70, of Makanana ward in Serowe could not hide her excitement at the prospect of Khama coming back to lead the tribe. She said she was amongst the hordes of Bangwato who thronged the Ga-Mmabesi Kgotla in 1979 when Khama was corronated.
“We thank God for protecting him until today. He has led the nation well and it is time for him to lead his people. He is an honourable man.”
“Having a man of his stature leading us will lift the status of the tribe. He brings with him a wealth of experience in various areas, which I believe will help in the overall development of the village. I hope that he will play a very active role in the chieftaincy,” she said.
Thero Badirwang who is also of the Malwela motse regiment said, “We want him to help grow the village.
He has been assisting various initiatives meant to grow the village but he was not that actively involved because of his role in government.”
He added: “As a former president I think his services will be needed nationally, which is why I will not have a problem with playing a less minimal role as the Kgosi”.
Twenty-five-year-old Moemedi Badirwang said that he hopes that Khama will help uplift the arts in Serowe.
“During his tenure as the President he has shown strong passion for the arts. I hope that he will carry the same passion with him (while serving as Kgosikgolo). I hope that his passion for the arts will even be stronger because he will not be constantly engaged as compared to when he was a President. As for the level of his activity as Kgosikgolo, time will tell,” he said.