- Spokesperson confirms meeting to SA media
- Bakgatla, Bangwato paramount chiefs deny meeting
- Botswana gains reputation of political intolerance
Bakgatla paramout chief Kgosi Kgafela II and his Bangwato counterpart Ian Khama, both of whom are living in self-imposed exile in neighbouring South Africa, have denied allegations that they have held discussions about developments in Botswana.
Sources have alleged that Khama recently reached out to Kgafela II, inviting the latter to accompany him on a visit to meet King Mswati III of Eswatini. It is alleged that Kgosi Kgafela II who is currently residing in Moruleng, ignored the invitation.
Sources further claimed that Khama and Kgafela II have met in South Africa where they have discussed number of issues affecting bogosi institution in Botswana. “Khama had approached Kgosi Kgafela II on his visit to Eswatini but Kgafela was skeptical that if he visited Mswati III with Khama that could divide the royal family. The two have dialogued in South Africa with Khama in attempt to reconcile owing to their past differences,” a source alleged.
Asked if he ever invited Kgafela II to accompany him to Eswatini, Khama (through SKI Foundation Chief Executive Officer, Mogomotsi Kaboeamodimo) denied the allegation. Kaboeamodimo said Khama did not extend any invitation to Kgafela II to accompany him.
Kaboeamodimo said the suspension of Bangwato regent, Kgosi Sidiegeng Kgamane by government this week shows the continuous onslaught of Mokgweetsi Masisi administration on Khama. “Masisi removed Khama as the Champion of Vision 2036, Tourism Ambassador, as the Chancellor of Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN) and he will continue to do anything to diminish his role in society as its evidenced by all other attempts to achieve the same,” he stressed.
Khama, who faces criminal charges linked to possession of unlicensed firearms in Botswana, met King Mswati III in Eswatini on a private visit on Wednesday. “I am on a private visit in The Kingdom of Eswatini and last night, King Mswati III hosted a dinner to welcome me to his country. The reception and hospitality has been remarkable and I’ll be looking forward to a great stay in Eswatini,” Khama wrote in his official Facebook page on Wednesday.
In a telephonic interview late Friday, Kgafela II denied receiving any invitation from Khama for a sojourn to Eswatini. He declined to be drawn into discussing if Khama has ever reached out to him or if they have met since they both reside in South Africa. “Nyaa Morena nna ga ke itse sepe tota (No Sir, I don’t know anything about that),” said Kgosi Kgafela II.
Notwithstanding denial by the two men, Kgafela II’s spokesperson, Lebogang Maname was quoted by South African media confirming that indeed the two paramount chiefs have been trying to meet in vain due to their busy schedules until recently when both made time for each other. “It is true that the two paramount chiefs met last week in the evening. There will be other follow up meetings in a time not so distant. That is all I can share with you pertaining to the meeting,” Maname was quoted saying.
Political commentator Frank Mogotsi said Khama’s visit to Eswatini, which is a Monarch state, could be that he wants to benchmark so that he can sustain relevance of bogosi institution in Botswana. He said both Khama and Kgafela II feel powerless after being frustrated by the government machinery.
“Khama is embroiled in a bitter tussle with the government which is now fought through both Khama and Masisi trying to win support of regional leaders. Kgafela II is also unhappy over how Botswana government is treating his issues in relation to pending criminal charges that await him,” said Mogotsi, decrying that Botswana’s image of a shining example of peace and tranquility is fading fast.
“It speaks volumes to the international community when very senior public figures flee the country, escaping persecution by incumbent administrations. Paramount chiefs lead masses of their tribes, and it doesn’t augur well for the country when they turn into fugitives living elsewhere in exile,” warned Mogotsi.
According to Mogotsi, the kgotla meetings held in Serowe by Bangwato to fight for Khama as their paramount chief indicate that he could be using the platform as his only hope for a source of power.
Khama and Kgafela II are fugitives living in South Africa after escaping criminal charges laid against them by government of Botswana. Khama sneaked into South Africa in November 2021 claiming that his life was in danger. He maintains that he is only in South Africa on a private visit. Last week, Khama failed to appear in court to answer 14 charges of possession of unlicensed firearms.
Kgafela II who has been in South Africa since 2011 had a fallout with the then Ian Khama administration, which de-recognised him as Bakgatla paramount chief after he refused to join Ntlo ya Dikgosi or become a civil servant under Bogosi Act. In October 2011, government took the decision to invoke provisions of Section 15 (b) of the Bogosi Act Chapter 41:01, in the public interest, to de-recognise Kgosi Kgafela II of Bakgatla with immediate effect.
Kgafela II had gone on a tirade, trashing Botswana constitution and dismissing it as a fraud before fleeing to Moruleng, reiterating that he will never return home. He is facing numerous assault charges after his regiment, Madibelankwe turned into vigilantes and went on a rampage, flogging some members of the public under the pretext of maintaining law and order in Kgatleng.