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Bakgatla Bagammanaana (Part 9)

In our last episode it was observed that 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 socialised together.

Generational conflict may have contributed to the subsequent struggle that occurred between Bathoen II and Gobuamang. The former was only 19 when he was installed as Kgosi eKgolo of the Bangwaketse, by which time Gobuamang was already eighty-three.

At first the Mokgatla-mogolo welcomed the Mongwaketse’s coronation in the belief that he would be allowed to continue to govern the affairs of Mosopa without interference. But, this was not to be. Though young, Bathoen came to bogosi determined to rule with a strong hand.

The assassination of his father, Kgosi Seepapitso II, as well as the influence of his uncle, Bangwato Kgosi Tshekedi Khama, may have encouraged him in his desire to assert his authority.

In this, respect he was certainly mindful of the internal challenges faced by his neighbour Sebele II as well as Tshekedi, while confronting the continued factional conflict within his own merafe that had influenced him to abandon plans to attend University before assuming bogosi.

The trouble between Gobuamang and Bathoen began over health services. In 1930, the Seventh Day Adventist medical missionaries reached an agreement with Bathoen to expand health services in his reserve in return for a fixed annual payment.

Having consulted only with his kgotla at Kanye, Bathoen imposed a levy of two pounds two shillings on every adult male within his reserve.

Gobuamang refused to collect the levy, which was strongly opposed by his community. The SDA medical mission was then only serving Kanye. But, Bathoen would not listen, demanding that the BagaMmanaana pay. But, Gobuamang continued to refuse, telling Bathoen that while the rocks at Mosopa might belong to the Mongwaketse, he alone was the Kgosi of the Bakgatla bagaMmanaana.

Deeply angered, Bathoen decided to remove Gobuamang. In this desire, he had the support of the colonial State as represented by Kanye’s Resident Magistrate, Alan Cuzen. The Magistrate sent a report to his superior in Mafikeng, the Resident Commissioner Charles Rey, emphasising the need to uphold young Bathoen’s authority to collect tax.

The first act in the resulting tragedy occurred on Wednesday, 27 August 1930. From the diary of Charles Rey, for the same day:

“On Wednesday morning was the great Kgotla meeting, chief Bathoen and all the Bangwaketse Tribe. I got into full uniform and with Ninon [Rey’s wife] drove off to the meeting where we were received in a great


It was a wonderful gathering— N[inon] and I and the Cuzens in the midst of nearly 2, 000 natives, who had come from miles. It was a tremendously animated meeting as there was bad trouble between Bathoen the young Chief, Kgampu [Kamodi] an ex-councillor of the old Chief [i.e. Motshwareledi-Mahumagadi Ntebogang Ratshosa], and Gobuamang the subordinate chief of a branch of the Bakgatla tribe.....

“Kgampu had been exiled and wanted to come back: he wouldn’t stay in his place of exile, and the tribe asked me to force him to stay there, which I agreed to do.

“Gobuamang pronounced ‘Hobuaman’, or as my predecessor called him, Gobbleman, was a much more difficult problem. He is a stubborn old man of 70 [by then actually 85] who has defied the Chiefs of the Bangwaketse and three Resident Commissioners my predecessors) for 20 years. He was in the Kgotla, and after he had been vigorously denounced he got up and said that he didn’t recognise Bathoen as Chief of the people — that he, Gobuamang, was Chief of the people, that is what he said, and then he talked about guns going off!”

The official Kgotla minutes, translated into English, show that Gobuamang spoke only briefly on two occasions during the meeting, which was otherwise dominated by Bathoen and a handful of loyal dikgosana.

In his opening statement, Gobuamang complained to Rey that Bathoen, unlike Ntebogang and previous Bangwaketse rulers, was not paying him for collecting Hut Tax and Native Fund levies, while also trying to force him to go against his people’s wishes by collecting the new health levy. Later, the Mokgatla stood up again to deny that he had ever insulted Bathoen, while noting threats, which had been made against his community:

“Last time I was present at a discussion in this Kgotla, only a few days ago, guns were mentioned and people spoke of pulling Moshupa down.”

It is clear from the above that Rey, who did not understand Setswana and was otherwise not feeling well at the time, had misunderstood Gobuamang.  Ironically, he had already issued Cuzen a stern instruction that no community should be forced to pay Bathoen’s levy.

Comfortable in his ignorance, Rey decided that Gobuamang’s son Kgabosetso should immediately take over as the Mosopa sub-chief, while his father would be detained in Kanye “to live under the protection of the Chief Bathoen and the eye of the Government.”

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