Succession Disputes Have Always Dogged Bakwena

At this age when most people are more concerned about modernity and technological advancement, Bakwena are embroiled in ancient succession battle. Their capital, Molepolole, is literally under siege as the sons of Masilo are claiming the throne, saying it rightfully belongs to them.

Presently, there are two factions - one belonging to incumbent Kgosi Kgari Sechele III - and the other one led by Ngwanaamotho Kgosientsho Masilo and George Moeng.

The claimants charge that Kgari is a 'careless regent' who should make way for the rightful heirs - the descendants of Masilo presently residing in Molepolole's Ntloedibe ward.

The Masilos claim that some years back, their ancestors abdicated from the throne in favour of the 'junior' Secheles who were better educated. Those belonging to the Kgari camp dispute this claim on the grounds that there are no records to authenticate that the Masilos are the heirs apparent.

As a result, the youthful Kgari has known no peace since ascending to the throne. A few years ago, the descendants of Sebele II challenged Kgari for the throne. Unlike the Masilos, who are always at pains trying to convince everyone that they are the rightful rulers, there are records that show that at some point Sebele II was the legitimate ruler of the Bakwena. Sebele II was deposed and banished to Ghanzi by Britain's Resident Commissioner Charles Rey in 1931 because of his "uncooperative ways".

Studying the case of the Bakwena bogosi closely, one can clearly see that the Masilos are determined to usurp the bogosi. According to an article in Monitor, Kgosientsho stated that the late Gagoumakwe Sechele once 'made it clear that Kgari's leadership will never know peace and that the rightful heirs will claim the throne if he is not careful.' Before George Moeng shocked the nation in 2006 by claiming the Bakwena throne, there had been rumours that the Ntloedibe ward was the most senior ward in Molepolole, a claim that the present Bakwena royal family denies.

History shows that many Batswana merafe have at some stage been faced with succession disputes. The two main ingredients that often spark succession battles are abdication and sibling rivalry.

It would appear that Bakwena have the highest number of such disputes. According to the book Building a Nation, a section of Bakwena under Moruakgomo executed Kgosi Motswasele II (1807-1822) because they were unhappy with his despotic ways. Before his execution, the king had warned, "Fa le mpolaa ditshoswane tsa ga rre di tla a ntshekela." (If I am killed, my father's ants will come and avenge my death). He is also said to have prophesied that the land would be overrun by "black ants" (Ndebeles and Bakololo) and "white ants" (Boers) and some believe that this came to pass because he had cursed his assassins.

According to some oral traditions, Moruakgomo never knew peace and to this day Bakwena are known as the ones 'who murdered their Kgosi'. Much later, Motswasele's heir - Sechele II - was able to unite the Bakwena, making them a strong nation once more.

In the past, succession disputes sparked allegations of witchcraft and bloodshed. When Sekgoma Khama II of the Bangwato died in 1925, some daughters of Khama III, namely Milly, Baboni and Mmakgama, led a group of women who assaulted Semane, Tshekedi Khama's mother, accusing her of having killed their brother. According to these daughters of Khama, Semane had murdered their full brother by lacing his chicken soup so she could secure the bogosi for her son and their half-brother Tshekedi. Some people were not happy with the Tshekedi Khama's regency that soon after he was enthroned, his nephews Simon and Obeditse Ratshosa tried to assassinate him during 1926 Easter holidays after he had punished them for disobeying his command to attend a Kgotla meeting and perform regimental duties. It was an open secret that the Ratshosa brothers were eyeing the throne because they felt it was theirs since their mother (Bessie) was Khama's eldest child.

Much later, when Tshekedi quarrelled with Sekgoma's heir, Seretse, over his controversial marriage to an English bride, Ruth Williams, some felt that Tshekedi was using the marriage issue as a pretext to remove Seretse from the throne and a Mongwato man warned: "In the past there would have been a civil war."

It is apparent that colonialism changed the way Batswana did things in the past. Instead of resorting to arms to settle succession disputes, Batswana nowadays discuss the issue at the Kgotla or alternatively at the High Court.

Editor's Comment
More resources needed to fight crime

The Fight Crime Gaborone Facebook page is always filled with sad complaints of hard working Batswana who were robbed at knife point at some traffic lights or at their home gates when trying to get inside.These thugs have no mercy; they do not just threaten victims, they are always ready to use knives, and sadly, they damage car windows. While this happens at different traffic lights, there are those where such incidents happen more frequently...

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