FRANCISTOWN: A quarrel of self-determination pitting 341 residents of Magapatona ward in Tutume against the Attorney General (AG) on behalf of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development may have ignited a storm in a teacup.
The 341 applicants led by Edward Moabi are praying with the High Court to declare Magapatona a standalone village and not a ward in Tutume contrary to popular belief.
They also want their Kgosi elevated to the position of headman of records.
One of the applicants’ witnesses, Stone Shubo, who was born in 1942, told the court when led by his attorney, Tshekiso Tshekiso that contrary to popular belief, Magapatona is a standalone village and not a ward in Tutume. Shubo said: “Prior and after independence, I have known that Magapatona to be a village while Tutume is just the name of a river.
Government recognised Magapatona as a village when working with our headman and by bringing various developments to Magapatona…
To show that Magapatona is a village, it also has got four headmen of arbitration who are all on government payroll, a village development committee on government’s payroll and offices of various government departments…”
Shubo further told Justice Bengbame Sechele that before and after independence, Magapatona chief had a warrant authorising him to perform the functions of a Kgosi.
He added that the chief also presided over matters that his juniors brought to him and he sometimes referred some to Sebina where there was a GammaNgwato Kgotla that was superior to him.
“Before and after independence, our Kgosi had a government stamp certifying that the matters he was presiding over were from a Kgosi who was properly recognised by the State. However, very late into our independence, the powers that our Kgosi had were whittled down and the stamp that he was given was taken away from him.
These actions clearly demeaned the stature and dignity of our Kgosi. Right now, he is accorded the same status as his juniors,” a worried Shubo said.
He went on: “We would suffer more prejudice if the status quo is maintained because our Kgosi no longer enjoys the powers that he was previously accorded and is now at par with his juniors, which is contrary to the Setswana culture. The people of Magapatona no longer accord our Kgosi the respect he used to command before independence. The Kgosi is currently recognised as being equal to his juniors.”
Government, Shubo added, never consulted the people of Magapatona nor the Kgosi when it decided to degrade his position.
To demonstrate that government is treating the issue of upgrading Magapatona differently from other villages, Shubo noted: “The villages of Goshwe, Makuta and Semitwe were given the status of villages before Magapatona while they asked to be recognised as villages after Magapatona. Magapatona has long informed government of its wish to be recognised as a village before the villages I have just mentioned.”
Under cross-examination from Tholego Monthe of the AG, Shubo stated that though he does not exactly remember when the residents of Magapatona once took their matter to their former Member of Parliament Ambrose Masalila.
“…Yes, I still maintain that Magapatona is a standalone village. I was born and raised in Magapatona and have always known it to be a standalone village. According to tradition, Magapatona village chief should lead his tribe,” Shubo said.
Another resident of Magapatona, Julius Moloi who was born in 1947 told the court that he was chosen by residents of Magapatona as a person who will represent them in all negotiations with government in all negotiations relating to the upgrading of Magapatona to a village.
Moloi said: “…Our issues with the government were related to giving our place the status of a village and upgrading our Kgosi to the position of headman of records. I relayed letters detailing our concerns to the GammaNgwato Kgotla in Sebina. I even wrote letters to the GammaNgwato regent explaining that Magapatona was a village before independence and they even acknowledged receipt of my communication.”
Moloi added that he was happy to have received a letter from the BammaNgwato regent Sediegeng Kgamane who acknowledged receiving his letters although the responses were belated.
Explaining how Magapatona and Tutume differed, Moloi said: “Tutume and Magapatona have distinctive features. The origin of the name Tutume refers to a river. In Sekalaka, the name Tutume refers to a river and not a village like some would like to believe now. Contrary to popularly held belief, Magapatona is a village and not a ward in Tutum. It therefore, follows that there is no way it can be said that Tutume is part of Magapatona or vice versa”.
Asked by Tshekiso about the confusion surrounding why some people refer to Tutume as a village, Moloi responded: “Tutume is just the sub-district council’s administrative centre hence the confusion. This confusion is further buttressed by the fact that Tutume has a district commissioner. Also, the confusion may stem from the fact that in most parts of the country, most government facilities are named after villages in which they are found”.
Just like Shubo, Moloi reiterated that they stand to be prejudiced because their place is regarded as a ward in Tutume adding that the status of their Kgosi has been diminished since he is treated equal to his juniors.
“It also boggles the mind that while Magapatona is regarded as a ward, it also has four wards within it. How can a ward have four wards within it? Also, I am aware that Makuta, Marobela, Nshakazhogwe, Sebina, Semitwe and Marapong were recognised as standalone villages while they applied to be recognised as such after Magapatona. When we asked why we cannot be accorded the status of a village, government said there were no funds, but just a week after we got that response, we saw former vice president Ponatshego Kedikilwe declaring some villages in his constituency as standalone villages,” Moloi said.
Moloi added: “The same places that Kedikilwe declared as villages are within the Central District just like Magapatona and are administered by the GammaNgwato chieftainship in Serowe. This clearly shows that government was disingenuous with the truth when stating that there were no funds to declare Magapatona as a standalone village… Even former president Ian Khama stated at a Kgotla meeting that if some people at GammaNgwato had erred, Magapatona should be recognised as a village if funds became available. This raised our hopes that our request would be acceded to because the (then) president said so”.
The case continues.