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Bakgatla Bagammanaana (Part 10)

In our last episode it was observed that, at an August 27, 1930 kgotla meeting in Kanye, the new British Resident Commissioner, Charles Rey, ordered that Kgosi 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.”

The motive for this dramatic decision was apparently Rey’s own misunderstanding of the content of Gobuamang’s protest against Kgosi Bathoen II’s then innovative imposition of a health levy across his reserve, an initiative Rey had already decided to cancel.

Comfortable in his ignorance, Rey noted in his diary that: “They accepted my dictum, and later on, after all the speeches were finished and we left the Kgotla, they gave us a tremendous reception. Natives don’t understand anything except an order: they like to be governed, and as long as it’s fair and just the more despotically one governs the better.”

Drinking his cocktail on Cuzen’s veranda Rey thus believed he had permanently ended the BagaMmanaana problem. In fact, the “Gobbleman war” was about to begin.

It is uncertain whether Gobuamang knew that the blustering new Resident Commissioner had no legal authority to summarily order him to remove to Kanye. He never raised the issue; his own stubborn sense of justice was enough for him to remain at his kgotla. In this, he had the full support of his morafe, who now boycotted Bathoen’s meetings.

On September 29, 1930 the Officer Commanding of the Kanye Police set off the apprehend Gobuamang, accompanied by one of Bathoen’s mophato. But, the BagaMmanaana surrounded their Kgosi, stating that he could only be turned over to British, but not Bangwaketse, authority. When Cuzen rode into Moshupa the next morning, Gobuamang had disappeared. Rey then authorised the taking of hostages, including Gobuamang’s heir Kgabosetso, and the dispatch of armed search parties.

Meanwhile, blissfully unaware that he was a fugitive, Gobuamang was travelling to Mafikeng, where he hoped to see Rey. On Friday morning Cuzen’s assistant, Langton, found him at Ramotswa, having breakfast with Kgosi Seboko. The Mokgatla agreed to surrender on the condition that his complaints were forwarded to the Resident Commissioner. With a police escort, Cuzen returned to Moshupa. Arriving at Kgosing, he had the men present file past and salute a Union Jack.

Thereafter it quickly became apparent that Bathoen, with Cuzen’s connivance, was ignoring Rey’s order that no one be forced to pay the health levy. At this point Gobuamang might have been quickly released, had Cuzen not alerted Rey to the supposed danger of Kgabosetso’s eldest son Diratsame (Philomon/Filomane), who had supposedly returned from his studied Adams College in Natal enthused with radical ideas. It was further suggested that Gobuamang was grooming Diratsame to

succeed him, rather than Kgabosetso.   

Rey then offered to let Gobuamang go if he agreed to relinquish power to his son. This was refused.

For the next year, matters remained deadlocked. Neither Bathoen nor Rey wanted Gobuamang ruling the BagaMmanaana, but neither was eager to assume responsibility for him in Kanye. In January 1931, Rey washed his hands of the affair by formally handing Gobuamang over to Bathoen, claiming that the matter could then be resolved through “native law and custom”.

By this time many in Kanye as well as Mosopa wanted to end Gobuamang’s detention, but Bathoen initially resisted the pressure. Finally, in September 1931, Bathoen accepted the BagaMmanaana offer to pay a fine of 25 cattle, as a gesture to secure Gobuamang’s release. Believing that the now 86-year-old Gobuamang’s health was failing, Bathoen allowed him to return to Mosopa.

But, harmony between the two rulers remained elusive. Within months, Bathoen tried to punish Gobuamang again. The Mongwaketse was angered when he summoned the Mokgatla to meetings in Kanye, but received only representatives instead. In April 1932 Bathoen, accompanied by Cuzen, went to Mosopa to demand that Gobuamang and 12 of his leading councillors leave the Bangwaketse Reserve.

For the sake of peace, Gobuamang said he was willing to go. At the end of the meeting, all of the BagaMmanaana present said that they too would go with their Kgosi. Several weeks later, the Bakwena Kgosi Kgari Sechele told the colonial government that the people of Mosopa were welcome to relocate into Kweneng.

In the winter of 1932 one colonial officer, Claude Ledeboer, tried to restore reason. Upon taking over from Cuzen at Kanye, he

talked to Gobuamang’s followers, detecting both the opportunity for compromise and potential for tragedy in the unfolding events. Gobuamang asked: “Why could not the Mongwaketse settle his differences with me without bringing in the government?” From Serowe Kgosi Tshekedi wrote his nephew, Bathoen, asking much the same question.

In a memo, Ledeboer was able to convince Rey to postpone any removals pending an enquiry, originally scheduled for August 1932. But, by the time the enquiry was finally held in December, the task of reconciling the Bogosi jwa BagaMmanaana le Bangwaketse had been complicated by Bathoen’s rash resort to force. In October, he led a mophato into Moshupa to establish a Mongwaketse headman over Bo-Mosielele. The invaders were surrounded, disarmed, and returned to Kanye in absolute humiliation.

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