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Bakgatla Bagammanaana (Part 7)

JEFF RAMSAY
In the aftermath of the Battle of Dimawe and subsequent Boer withdrawal from Botswana the BagaMmanaana joined the Bakwena in falling back to Dithubaruba.

There they were subsequently joined by other merafe: the Balete of Mokgosi, Batlhako of Mabe, Batlokwa of Semele and Matlapeng, the Bahurutshe of Mangope and Masega. In the months that followed Mosielele’s musket wielding mephato, along with warriors from the other merafe took part a united Batswana counter attack, which by January 1853 had driven the Boers back to Rustenburg. 

After the restoration of peace, in February 1853, the BagaMmanaana remained with the Bakwena at Dithubaruba. There, Pilane married Sechele’s daughter Gagoangwe, who begot a son, Baitirile. In 1863 they resettled at Mosopa.

In 1870-71, the BagaMmanaana were divided by a bogosi dispute when Pilane claimed the throne from his ailing biological, but not customary, father Mosielele. Mosopa was temporarily abandoned when the larger faction accompanied Pilane to Kgabodukwe, while the loyal followers of Mosielele took refuge with the Bangwaketse Kgosi Gaseitsiwe at Gamafikana.

Mosielele died in 1873 at Gamafikana, where a branch of the BagaMmanaana has since remained.

Pilane’s seizure of power from the venerable Mosielele was in keeping with his times. By the 1870s, eastern Botswana was being reshaped by a new generation of ambitious and impatient young men.

In Molepolole, Sechele had allowed his impetuous heir Sebele to seize the initiative. In Shoshong, Khama III ousted his father Sekgoma I, who found refuge with Sechele’s vassal Thobega in Mmankgodi. In Ramotswa Ikaneng, son of Mokgosi I, looked for an opportunity to assert Balete independence from the Bangwaketse, while securing his own succession over his senior cousin Pule, whose followers would ultimately settle at Gabane.

But, it was developments amongst the Bakgatla bagaKgafela in Mochudi that pushed the entire region towards inter-merafe or tribal warfare.

The May 1875 death there of the BagaKgafela Kgosi Kgamanyane, who had sought Sechele’s protection four years earlier, set up a power struggle between Linchwe I and half brother Maganelo. With increasing numbers of BagaKgafela returning from the Diamond Fields around Kimberly with guns, both pretenders sought to secure their own power base by establishing their morafe’s independent control over the lands between the Ngotwane and Madikwe rivers.

The Bakwena were provoked by a series of BagaKgafela cattle raids in the region. Pressed by Sebele, Sechele sent seven of his mephato- Kgosidintsi’s Maganelwa, Sekwene’s Mannanne, Basiamang’s Maganatsatsi, Serapelo’s Maomantwa, Sebele’s Mathubantwa, Tumagole’s Matlolakgang, Sebogiso’s Maganamokwa, and Motswasele’s Mantswabisi- to force the BagaKgafela to submit.

Although the BagaMmanaana at Kgabodukwe had been spectators to the above events as they unfolded, Kgosi Pilane could not ignore his father-in-law, Sechele’s,

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call to arms.

And so, Khabe’s Majapoo, Gobuamang’s Mayakakgomo, along with Pilane’s own Mafenya mephato joined in the Bakwena attack on Mochudi.

The resulting August 1875 Battle of Mochudi was unsuccessful. A few months later, the BagaMmanaana under Pilane returned to Mosopa.  This followed allegations by Sebele I that Pilane had failed to adequately support the Bakwena in the war against the Bakgatla bagaKgafela.

It was apparently Pilane’s wife, Gagoangwe, who had convinced her brother Sebele of BagaMmanaana duplicity in the war against the BagaKgafela. She alleged that her apparently already estranged husband had been turning a blind eye to secret night meetings between dikgosana of the two Bakgatla merafe.

In the wake of his humiliating defeat at Mochudi, Sebele had grounds to fear a revival of succession claims on behalf of his elder brother Kgari.

The seniority of the house of MmaSebele over the house of MmaKgari had been forced upon Sechele c.1840. Bakwena dikgosana had installed future mother of Sebele and Gagoangwe, Selemang aKgorwe, over MmaKgari, the exiled Mongwato princess Mokgokgong aKgari, upon the death of Sechele’s initial Mohumagadi aMogolo, Kebalepile aSegokotlo or MmaOpe. This arrangement had been subsequently sanctioned by MmaSebele’s recognition as Sechele’s sole “Christian wife.”

Besides allegedly leaving the battlefield at Mochudi, the BagaMmanaana were accused of secretly conniving with Linchwe’s BagaKgafela faction to assure the death of the rival pretender, Maganelo.

The latter had met his death when BagaMmanaana led by Kgosi Pilane’s brother Gobuamang had ambushed his raiding party near Thamaga in November 1875. It was said that his own men had abandoned Maganelo.

At Molepolole, Sechele was pressed into demanding that his son-in-law Pilane offer up Maganelo’s head as a sign of continued loyalty.

The BagaMmanaana, however, insisted that they were obligated to return the Mokgatla’s corpse intact to his relatives.  Besides not wanting to violate Setswana etiquette, the BagaMmanaana kgotla feared Sechele’s reputation as a sorcerer.

While there can be no certainty as to whether there was active cooperation between the two Bakgatla groups, it is undoubtedly true that they were reluctant enemies. After moving his people back to Mosopa from Kgabodukwe, Pilane attempted to adopt a neutral stance. But, his independence was soon compromised by the growing cooperation between Sebele and the Bangwaketse Crown Prince Bathoen I.

Following the remarriage of Gagoangwe to Bathoen, the Bakwena agreed to give up their claims to Mosopa. Pilane was remarried to Mogatsamokama, the daughter of the then late Bangwato Kgosi Macheng. Their son was thus named Kgabophuti.



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