We did not attain independence as equals - Mosojane

Former High Court Judge John Mosojane says the Independence Constitution was openly genocidal when it named the country, ‘Botswana'.

And worse still, it made Setswana the only national language, and declared it the only language teachable throughout the country.

Mosojane whose first submission to the Constitutional Review Commission was in June this year, says there is no question that, the first President, Seretse Khama, in complicity with the British, wanted to perpetually subjugate to extinction, that is linguistically, all non-Tswana tribes.

“Anyone with knowledge of the history of this country, which Khama and the British clearly had, would have known how this country was made up or how many other tribes in this country would have had an interest in the outcome of the talks at Marlborough and would, accordingly and quickly, have seen and appreciated Philip Matante’s point of view and agreed that those talks needed to be postponed for proper consultation with all the people of Bechuanaland,” writes Mosojane.

The former secretary general of the Botswana Peoples’ Party (BPP) accuses the system of having given the Dikgosi of Tswana tribes and their people, land as well as the power to lord it over all the non-Tswana speaking tribes.

“They were further elevated to membership of the Legislative Council sitting in Mafikeng and chaired by the Resident Commissioner they made laws and decided on other matters for the whole of the Bechuanaland territory. Thus, they became more powerful even over the Chiefs of the other tribes," laments Mosojane.

According to him, the Tswana Chiefs amassed even more powers when they became ex-officio members of the House of Chiefs, now Ntlo ya Dikgosi.

“The other tribal Chiefs, characterised as sub-chiefs, from the non-Tswana Districts of Chobe, North East, Ghanzi and Kgalagadi, have to find their way to the House of Chiefs by way of an election by their colleagues in their respective districts,” observes Mosojane, who also regrets that while the tenure of the non-Tswana tribes is five years, that of the Tswana tribes has got no limit.

Mosojane’s position is that the Balopi Commission, which was expected to usher in a period of tribal equality, was a monumental bluff which brought cosmic amendments and not tribal equality.

According to Mosojane, even after the amendments that came with the Balopi Commission, Tswana tribes remain ‘principal’ even if the particular word is not used.

“The Commission merely changed the word ‘Chief’ to its Tswana equivalent ‘Kgosi’ and increased the membership of the House without reducing the powers of the Tswana Chiefs and their tribes over the other tribes; hence Ntlo ya Dikgosi which simply means, ‘’the House of Chiefs.”

Mosojane wonders thus, “Why it was found necessary to do this apparently meaningless translation is anyone’s guess. No doubt, the whole exercise of the Balopi Commission was a bluff of extremity.’’

He is disappointed that despite the Commission, sub-tribes remain sub-tribes ruled by a Tswana Chief just like in the past and liable to assimilation.

“If I may illustrate, the Bangwato Kgosikgolo, continues to be Paramount Chief over Bakalanga chiefs at Maitengwe, at Tutume and the surrounding villages of Madandume (Magapatona), Tjilagwane (Selolwane), Nkange and Senete, as well as at the villages of Nswazwi, Nshakazhogwe,

Tjizwina (Sebina), Mathangwane, Chadibe, Gweta, Rakops and other villages, apart from Serowe, the capital and over Babirwa chiefs at Bobonong, Tobane, Semolale, Kobojango, Mathathane, Molaladau (Molalatau) and other villages in Bobirwa, as well as over Batswapong chiefs at Lerala, Machaneng, Ratholo, Mogapi, Mogapinyana, Goo-Sekgweng, Seolwane and the other villages in the Tswapong area.

The Batawana Chief is still Paramount Chief over all the Chiefs of Bayeyi, Bambukushu, Basubiya and others in the Batawana District,” says Mosojane, adding that the Bangwaketse and Bakwena Paramount Chiefs have similar arrangements in that they continue to be overlords over other tribes in their respective territories which arrangements date back to the protectorate days.

Mosojane’s position is that nothing has changed and minority tribes continue to be sub-tribes on their land which land was arbitrarily given to the Tswana tribes under British Protection.

Hence, in Mosojane’s view, the public outcry to the Constitutional Review Commission for tribal equality and land distribution to all the tribes of this country without distinction, and that, there should be equality also in the membership of the House of Chiefs, now manipulatively called Ntlo ya Dikgosi for assimilation purposes.

“In other words, the public outcry is for the dismantling of the Tswana paramount chieftaincy structures, to enable the other tribes to be free to rule themselves within the independent state,” says Mosojane.

His view is that British Protection was for the Tswana-speaking tribes only, while the non-Tswana tribes or sub-tribes were, from 1885 until independence, colonised by the Tswana tribes under British supervision. As he puts it, ‘Tswana’ colonialism has, however continued, as it was meant to, after the British were gone.

“In short, we still are colonised by Batswana, hence the programme of assimilation continues relentlessly, ruthlessly and uninterrupted,” states Mosojane.

To him the name Bechuanaland which means land of Batswana, is historically misleading and has elevated Batswana - Tswana speakers above the other inhabitants of this country.

Mosojane adds that Philip Matante tried to correct the anomalies at the Marlborough Constitutional Conference in February 1966, only for his proposals to be rejected by Seretse Khama, Quett Masire and Bathoen Gasietsiwe.

This, says Mosojane, was done with the complicity of the British establishment. Mosojane says even those who did not agree with Seretse’s approach to national unity lacked the wherewithal to challenge him because they were intimidated by his education as a lawyer. The few people who were educated worked for government hence could not risk their jobs.

According to Mosojane, if the country must chart the way forward to a life of peace, equality and mutual respect, it will need to go back to the drawing table. “Short of that, we are likely to have a future of strife for equal rights without end. I say this because Batswana generally adamantly believe, wrongly of course, that they own this country and Setswana is the only language of this country, period.

“They believe or have been made to believe that we all found them here and we must be treated for what we are: migrants!” laments Mosojane, adding that the so-called minority tribes are where they are because of their docility.

“It is however, necessary to add as a warning that any Constitution, anywhere that permits or harbours such glaring tribal inequalities as ours, is an insult and not worth keeping in this day and age,” he says.