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Sekgoma Letsholathebe

Publishing Date : 21 May, 2019

JEFF RAMSAY
BUILDERS OF BOTSWANA

 
Kgosi Sekgoma aLetsholathebe (c.1874-1914) ruled the Batawana from 1891-1906, during which time he cultivated strong support among commoners and many non-ethnic Batswana in Ngamiland, while coming into conflict with the colonial administration as well as many of his leading dikgosana (headmen).


The latter group opposed his desire to hold bogosi for himself rather than as regent for his nephew Mathiba aMoremi II. Sekgoma had grown up in the hostile shadow of his elder brother Kgosi Moremi II; resulting in his being raised at distant cattle post. In 1889 Sekgoma failed on two occsions to forcibly seize power from Moremi. Despite these incidents, in 1891 he was accepted as regent for the late Moremi II’s infant son Mathiba. Thereafter, Sekgoma attempted to solidify his own claim to bogosi by incorporating commoners and subject peoples into his ward, while using to patronage, marriage alliances and even forgery to silence his opponents.  


In 1894 he launched devastating raids against the Bakwangadi and Bagcereku living in what is now Namibia and Southern Angola. In 1895-97 he successfully opposed Rhode’s British South Africa Company claims to his territory, but was forced to give up Batawana claims in the Ghanzi District. From 1895-1906 he gave refuge to Ovaherero and Ovambandero fleeing German atrocities in Namibia.


In 1906 an anti-Sekgoma coalition of dikgosana, traders and missionaries (Sekgoma had refused to convert to Christianity), supported by the Bangwato Kgosi Khama III persuaded the British to depose Sekgoma and install Mathiba. Sekgoma was detained while returning from medical treatment in Kimberly, first by Khama and then by the British. After staging an inquiry dominated by Sekgoma’s opponents, the Resident Commissioner Ralph Williams declared Mathiba the rightful Kgosi, while Sekgoma was was jailed without charge at Gaborone.


With the help of the trader Charles Riley and others, Sekgoma challenged the legality of his overthrow and detention without trial in court. In 1909 his case reached the Court of Appeals in London, which refused to make a ruling on the grounds that under the Foreign Jurisdiction Act of 1890 the High Commissioner’s power in the Protectorate was absolute. In 1911 Sekgoma was freed. He settled in the following year at Chobe, where he was joined by a large portion of Ngamiland’s population.

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