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Bakgatla Bagammanaana (Part 8)

In our last episode it, was observed that after he had moved his people back to Moshupa from Kgabodukwe, the Bakgatla bagaMmanaana Kgosi Pilane attempted to adopt a non-aligned stance in the continued conflict between the Bakwena and Bakgatla bagaKgafela.

But his neutrality was soon compromised by the growing cooperation between the Bakwena Crown Prince Sebele I and his Bangwaketse counterpart Bathoen I.

Following the remarriage of Gagoangwe to Bathoen, the Bakwena agreed to give up their claims to Moshupa. This jurisdictional shift resulted in the BagaMmanaana being pressured to join the Bangwaketse in their disastrous November 1881 attack on the Balete at Ramotswa. Relations between the Bangwaketse and BagaMmanaana remained cooperative in the year that followed.

During this period, Pilane was remarried to another princess named Mogatsamokama, who was the daughter of the by then late Bangwato Kgosi Macheng. Their son was thus named Kgabophuti. At about the same time Macheng’s widow was also remarried to the aging Bakwena Kgosi Sechele I.

In 1889, Pilane died and was succeeded by his first son Baitirile. But the latter only ruled for a decade before dying without an heir. As a result, from 1899-1912 Gobuamang served as regent for Kgabophuti.

Kgosi Kgabophuti ruled briefly from 1912-18. Only one mophato, Malwelakgosi, was initiated during his reign. This regiment was apparently the first not to be sent to bogwera or traditional initiation school. Instead, many of its members saw military service in World War I.

From the limited evidence available, the discarding of bogwera appears to have been a reflection of Kgabophuti’s own religious convictions, rather than dictates of his colonial overlord Kgosi Seepapitso II. Earlier, in 1904, Gobuamang had defied Seepapitso’s father, Bathoen I, by allowing the BagaMmanaana to hold bogwera. This had led to a colonial inquiry, resulting in “Gobbleman”, as the British by now called Gobuamang, being warned by Jules “Ramaeba” Ellenberger to obey his Chief. Bathoen’s own annoyance had been aggravated by the fact that boys from Kanye had attended the Moshupa school. Under Kgabophuti, Moshupa’s internal peace was also modestly disrupted by disputes over possession of the central (now UCSSA) church building between supporters of the L.M.S., backed by the Kgosi, and breakaway Mothowagae church, which continued to have Gobuamang as its patron. The building, itself, had been constructed by mephato during Gobuamang’s regency.

Notwithstanding the property dispute, the Mothowagae church continued to be tolerated. Its local moruti was a former L.M.S. evangelist of Batlhaping origin named Diphokwe, who eventually affiliated himself with the Lobatse-based African Methodist Episcopal mission of the Rexv. Gabashane.  Another local evangelist named Thupane, however, encountered official opposition to his efforts to also introduce the Apostolic Faith Mission into

the village.

With Kgabophuti’s sudden death in 1918, succession passed to Gobuamang. The early deaths of both of Pilane’s sons inevitably gave rise to some suspicions. As it was, Kgabophuti is known to have been a victim of the great 1918 “Spanish Influenza” pandemic, which was estimated to have afflicted up to 80% of the population of South-East Botswana total population at the time, as well as up to 100 million people worldwide. From the 1918-19 Annual Report:

“In October, 1918, the disease known as Spanish Influenza broke out in the Southern Protectorate, and, spreading rapidly, eventually affected the whole Territory except the western Kalahari and the Ngami littoral; the native population suffered, more or less severely, in proportion as they were concentrated in large communities or scattered. The mortality, all round, amongst them, from the disease and its complications, has been estimated at between 4 and 5 per centum”. Perhaps due to their heavy participation in migrant labour South-eastern Botswana appears to have suffered the greatest impact with up to 80% of the population being afflicted with the virus of whom one in five died.

In the wake of the disaster, the Protectorate’s Resident Commissioner expressed his conviction that the ongoing tragedy should lead to the long sought-after break-up of the large royal settlements, adding “this visitation has, however, afforded a painful object lesson which, it is hoped, will not be without its effect on Chiefs and people, and it will be my care to see that they at any rate understand it.”

Otherwise, beyond cancelling their war victory celebrations, the colonial regime’s response to the pandemic was to let local communities fend for themselves. Batswana across the Protectorate tried to stem the virus through movement restrictions and quarantines, while resorting to both indigenous and western medicine.

The first years of Gobuamang’s second reign were not marked by any serious controversy. The rift in the church was finally healed in 1926 when the independents agreed to reunite with the L.M.S. This step helped Gobuamang to unite the community behind various self-help efforts, which included the building a Bakgatla bagaMmanaana “National Office” as well as schools.

Notwithstanding the 1904 bogwera controversy, prior to the 1928 installation of Bangwaketse Kgosi Bathoen II there had not been any serious conflict between the people of Kanye and Moshupa. In both their fields and at the mines of South Africa, Bangwaketse and BagaMmanaana worked and socialized together.

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