One of the most interesting books I have read is authored by Diana Wylie tittled “A Little God, The Twilight of Patriarchy in a Southern African Chiefdom.”
Wylie in her book discusses Tshekedi Khama’s chieftaincy in a deep and authoritative manner. In this book, Tshekedi is best described as a “sub-imperial ruler who centralised the power of his office and reduced the powers of headmen, including the chiefs of subject people who lived in the hinterland.”
Even though Tshekedi and his many peers enjoyed ruling their subjects by decree where they were only accountable to themselves, they still very much felt handicapped by the British imperialists. Their powers were tailored to a certain fashion and shape by their masters. This became the source of their frustrations. This is where the current crop of chiefs stands and this has become their primary propellant to the political seat.
We have seen quite a sizeable number of chiefs who have chosen to trade their leopard skins for the three piece suits that are common on the political landscape of Botswana. And like Tshekedi Khama, King Lotlamoreng’s entry into the political arena seems to have emanated from a similar frustration like that of their predecessors.
I must admit that I have not done my part in researching about the differences in terms of remuneration between chiefs and Members of Parliament. We must never take our eyes off the ball when it comes to money. Often finances form the foundation of our motivation as human beings when we are faced with choices. Money it seems, feeds all our primary needs as according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Well, its questions time for King Letlaamoreng. Is he joining politics for money, fame or is he just doing it to address his political appetite to participate in getting this country back to where it is supposed to be headed? Well, one day the media will have him on their menu to answer these questions.
King Lotlamoreng seems set to replace James Mothokgwane after his sudden resignation from parliament. This resignation has left a lot of us with more questions than answers. Heaven only knows what happened. The rest of us can only be left to speculation until the truth comes out. Duma Boko wrote an extraordinary piece on this matter and it was published in this paper after Mathokgwane’s sudden u-turn. There is so much to read between the lines in that piece. I want to belief that this was one of the factors that infuriated the chief and catapulted him to politics.
While the Botswana Democratic Party popped the Champaign bottles to celebrate the loss of yet another opposition MP and as well as to celebrate victory before it happened, King Lotlamoreng came along to change the political calculus in the constituency. It is on record that no tribe has in the past forsaken their own chief in their quest to get to parliament. First it was Seretse Khama whom many royals regard as the pathfinder, a precursor to the current royalty boom in politics. Even though the political landscape was far from what it is today, he is still largely viewed as the man who pulled the trigger to initiate the current swell of royalty into Botswana’s political landscape.
I still do respect Seretse for one major action; he relinquished the throne in order to run for the highest political office in the land. This is something that his son has bluntly refused to do and to this day he still juggles politics with traditional leadership.
After Seretse, Bathoen soon readied himself for the second general elections in the land. In a game of pool, we would say Seretse snookered Bathoen by calling an early general election in 1969. I still hold Seretse in high esteem as a political figure. But the worst misdemeanour by our first president was when he used his executive powers to arm twist the institution of democracy in this manner. Nevertheless, Bathoen won resoundingly with very little political effort. Forty-six years later, King Lotlamoreng seems so set to walk the path of Bathoen the Great. While the BDP has been caught off-guard at the current turn of events, the BNF and its partners within the UDC fold are already doing their shopping for Champaign bottles. The writing is on the wall for BDP.
But like in a game of Crazy 8 (something that most Batswana prefer to call Cres Aid), Duma Boko seems to be playing his cards closest to his chest. The BDP schemers thought they had played an ace on the removal of Mathokgwane. They did this oblivious to the fact that in this particular game of cards, it’s an 8 that makes the difference. And from the look of things, Duma Boko got all the 8s when the cards were issued. He threw in the first 8 when he successfully persuaded King Lotlamoreng to fight from his corner. And if we strictly follow the rules of the Crazy 8 card pack, there is absolutely no way one can win against an individual who has had the luck of getting all the 8s. They are definitely declared winners before the game begins.
We see the second 8 as the announcement to host the BNF’s National Congress in Good Hope, the Rolong capital. It was initially billed for Francistown. This is no ordinary congress; it is the culmination of the celebration of the 50th year of existence for the party which has apparently become King Lotlamoreng’s preferred choice. The move to relocate the conference from Francistown to Good Hope which is the epicentre of the coming political machinations this year has been very strategic.
King Lotlamoreng has taken a ride on the UDC political chariot and it seems his timing could never be better. The BDP is only left to sing “swing low sweet chariot” because the tempo set by the united opposition with the king seems far too high for them to take a ride.
But what are the real reasons that drive royalty to participate in politics? Going back to the days of Tshekedi, it seems chiefs have always experienced some form of frustration over the manner in which politicians run the country. In the case of Tshekedi, it was the colonial government that caused him a heap of frustrations. Remember that even the colonial government was democratically elected back home in England. Diana Wylie states in her book that; “Tshekedi, his tax collectors and the District Commissioner all embodied the new order of the closer government but the government did not treat them as equally blameworthy.”
Knowing that Tshekedi in many ways acted like a little god, I would have considered him to be the most frustrated man this side of the equator at the time. He was very much vocal and confrontational. On several occasions he expressed his frustrations on his own subjects. One such incident that took Tshekedi to the very apex of his frustrations was the Ratshosa debacle. According to him, he had decreed the burning down of the family’s homesteads plus imprisonment for the heinous crime they had committed. But the colonial government could not allow him such free reign.
Tshekedi was not only upset by the shooting incident by the Ratshosa’s at the main kgotla of the Ngwato capital, he had always had a grudge against them for being better educated than him and acting a little smatter. In as much as the British wanted to use the chiefs to subdue the population, they did not allow them to free range on their subject people.
Another equally frustrating issue to Tshekedi was the outcome of the court case at which he was tried for flogging a European going by the name of Phinehas McIntosh in public view of other Africans in a kgotla. For this “crime”, Tshekedi was banished out of the Ngwato reserve for two weeks while at the same time he was suspended from the functions of his regency.
If Tshekedi lived in this era, he certainly would have traded his leopard skin for a seat in parliament due to the frustrations caused by the current political leadership. He probably would be the sole opposition MP in the Ngwato territory. King Lotlamoreng seems somewhat to exhibit the same by choosing a more challenging career. The only way Barolong can get a regular water supply and decent infrastructural development is when their leader has become their voice of reason.
*Richard Moleofe is a Retired Military
Officer (Distinguished Service Medal).