The last tribal council. Mochudi 1965

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With the 50th anniversary almost on us it is only natural to see what photos can tell us about the nature of change in those intervening years.

This photo is one that immediately brings home just how extensive that change has been. It shows those who attended what is thought to be the last Bakgatla tribal council meeting which was held at the now abandoned Community Centre in Mochudi in 1965. Seen here are left to right standing - Matshubele Seleke (tribal police), M. A. Maribe, x, x, Bassi Mokone, Norman Molomo, Kgosi Linchwe II, P.W. Reardon (District Commissioner), Bogatsu Rankae Pilane, x (partly obscured) Sefako Pilane,  Ratsela Mogotsi, and in front standing, Reuben Kgetse Setshwane, x, Solomon Kasale,  Ramogotse  Ntshole (headman of Morwa). Sitting left to right middle row -  Francis Phirie, Amos Pilane, Mabodisa Mabodisa, C.K. Matlhaga, x, x, Moremi Rammala, Sitting l to r – Frank Boakgomo (District Officer), T.E. Modibedi, Kenneth Molefi,  Mothei Rammala (headman of Morema), x, x.

Let us assume that with one or two exceptions this group did represent the core of Mochudi’s leadership in the period immediately before the first election. It provides a reminder that communities at that time were remarkably self-contained. All the schools, for instance, were staffed by locals or by immigrants who were rapidly absorbed into the community, and the same applied to the admittedly small tribal administration. Then try and imagine taking a comparable photo today. Who would be in it? 

The lead members of the tribal administration, of course, headmen, district councillors, retired senior civil servants, ex MPs, perhaps business men and traders, and then I for one, begin to be lost. In sum, it would seem that it was far easier to identify leading members of the community 50 years ago than it is now. For many, this would appear to be an absurd proposition. How could it be possible that 30 or 40 years of massive change has resulted in a diminution of any community’s lead figures rather than, as might be expected, a dramatic increase in those numbers? What might have happened is that there has been a general flattening out with a huge increase in Mochudi’s middle class but with a decrease in the number of its recognised leaders. In a way, this can be a surprise because I was puzzled by the lack of key leaders in the 1960s when so many Bakgatla had been educated at Tiger Kloof and other famous schools in South Africa. I used to believe that a traditional tribal society could afford no other leader than the Kgosi and that the appearance of any other kind of a lead figure represented a threat which was quickly extinguished.

This may or may not have been the key factor which convinced many at that time that it was wiser to take no part in public life, although booze was certainly another. I

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