When Bangwato start to quote legendary folklore guitarist George Swabi’s greatest hit, Ba Ga Mmangwato Ba Ga Mabiletsa, it is given that battle lines are drawn. But on the day of the battle, Bangwato were left a confused and divided morafe that is torn between the State’s mercy and their defiant kgosikgolo, writes THALEFANG CHARLES in Serowe
The reactions of Teko and Tebo Thokweng, twin brothers from Sebina ward in Serowe could sum up President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s highly charged meeting in Serowe on Tuesday. Both are Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) activists, but at the Serowe Kgotla, they came wearing different hats.
Teko was one of the keynote speakers as the Serowe Umbrella Village Development Committee (VDC) chairperson. His address was expected to be the first test of what the President should expect from the people of Serowe. So eloquent and calm public speaker, Teko left the meat of his speech for last. “Batswana ba ga Mmagwato ba kgaogane gabedi” (Bangwato are divided into two groups), he reported to the President and begged him to fix the division because it is stalling developments in the village.
Meanwhile, Teko’s twin brother, Tebo was anxiously eyeing the microphone waiting in vain for his turn to “ask Masisi pertinent questions” that morafe wants their answers.
The division of people of Serowe was expressly clear throughout the meeting. The crowd that was seated right in front, on the traditional spot for the revered Mahetsakgang regiment, was clearly in support of Masisi and gave him the loudest applause and ululations. The ladies were wearing white flowing shawls typically worn by Bangwato women, but not the pink ones usually worn by Mahetsakgang. They had arrived before very early and braved the scorching sun throughout the meeting.
Further back in the Kgotla, under the shadows of Makala (Serowe Kgotla’s revered trees) were pockets of crowds that only showed their true colours when the question and answer session began. Further outside the Kgotla enclave was the crowd that was getting charged by every minute of the meeting. Many were wearing the black “Eseng mo go Kgosikgolo” t-shirts that are in support of Bangwato paramount chief and former president Ian Khama. A protest was brewing outside. It appeared there were not many brave agitators but quietly banners were circulated through the crowd for those who were brave enough to raise them. Messages printed in white paper placards included, “Stop Poisoning Our Kgosikgokolo”, “Enough is Enough”, “Harassment Intimidation, Persecution Must Stop”, “100 Billion Apology”, and “E Seng Mo Go Kgosikgolo”.
The mini protest that has been slowly swelling outside eventually entered the Kgotla when the question and answer session began. Some of the people wanted to be given a chance to comment. It was there that a plan revealed itself that district commissioner, Rapetse Mathumo seemed to have set out people that he could call to speak. When the back crowd realised what was happening, a pandemonium ensued. The police had to guard the microphone so that only seven people duly selected by Mathumo could be heard.
Tebo was one of the people who were shouting the loudest disapprovals of what was happening. “Ntshupe ga ke a bolo go tsholetsa, re supeng,” (pick me, I have had my hand raised for long time), he cried.
His cries fell on deaf ears, and he even threatened to grab the microphone without permission but could not pass through the police guard. Unlike his twin brother who had all the time to address the President, Tebo never caught Mathumo’s eye despite his loudest persistent appeal.
The issue that was an elephant in the room was Masisi’s relations with Khama and this was what many people who were seated at the back and outside wanted to hear from the President. It was an issue that many who were selected to comment chose to skirt it.
There was one successful microphone grabber, Lebogang Makwapa who spoke without permission and even announced “Nna ke tsile go bua ka bodipa ka gore ke kgetholotswe”. With anticipation that he is going to “tell off” the President about how is treating his kgosikgolo, the man surprisingly spoke about how the Vice President Slumber Tsogwane cheated him by not keeping his promise of appointing him Specially Nominated Councillor. Although appearing agitated Makwapa ended his cries for help with a dilemma, saying he is torn between Masisi and Khama.
Obonwakae Kgamana, from Shoshong, was the only person who managed to ask about the “100 billion case and Khama’s involvement in it”.
Assistant Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Dumezweni Mthimkhulu tackled the questions that have long formed a public opinion in Serowe that Masisi is the one deciding to charge Khama and denying him his presidential benefits. He explained that the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) has the sole responsibility to charge people not the President. He said in Botswana everyone is equal before the law and it is also not wrong for the DPP to lose cases. Mthimkhulu said the presidential benefits law was enacted with the thinking that the former president will be retired from active politics, but it is not the case with Khama.
Masisi left Bangwato without saying much about his public feud with his predecessor only saying he will “not talk about an elder’s issue in public”. Most were disappointed that Masisi did not talk expressly about the Khama issue and some even went as far as voicing their displeasure. One woman shouted, “Phantsha o rile o ta phantsha!”. One elderly man loudly shouted, “Lelope!” and Masisi calmly responded to him saying that, “that is the freedom of expression” that he guarantees. At the end of the meeting Masisi added to the confused and divided Kkgotla by offering food parcels. Some people hid their ‘E Seng Mo Go Kgosikgolo’ t-shirts and queued for Masisi’s food parcels. But there were the diehards like Tebo who boycotted the food parcels and left the Kgotla without answers, while his twin brother, Teko was praised by many saying he spoke like a leader.