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Protectorate Apostates to Bogosi (Part II)

Publishing Date : 12 September, 2017

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A prologue to this entire story is that: to apostatise against a thing was to abandon it into unbelief and or into another belief, typically out of ignorance. In like sense, to apostatise Bogosi, which remains the personification of Tswana law and judicial system, before, during or after colony status was to enter into unbelief and into an in-personification of Tswana law and tradition. Legislation or its absence cannot mutate divine law. But it can prohibit illicit and unconstitutional legal provisions.   

Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Charles Fernand Rey (1877-1968) was put in charge of Botswana as Resident Commissioner from 1930-1937 when his predecessor retired in 1929, Jules E. Ellenberger (1871-1969) – “Ramaeba”. This man is noteable because of the British Colonial Resident Commissioners since 1890 until 1965, Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Charles Fernand Rey was the first to succeed in reforming the structure of Botswana’s system of Tribal Government.

He and the then British colonial education inspector H.J.E Dumbell, sought to have a Ngwato Prince, Seretse Khama, be educated in Southern Rhodesia in preparation for transfer to Domboshawa Government School in Southern Rhodesia, which emphasised character training and manual skills for Africans. Not a broad academic education, to prepare the Prince for the tasks of governing. The High Commissioner, Lt. Col., sought schools for Africans on how to be governed (ruled) and for his race, sought schools on how to govern.

The Ngwato Regent, Tshekedi Khama who ruled Ngwato country from 1925-1950 bluntly rejected all schools in Southern Rhodesia as inferior. Seretse was taken to Lovedale in February 1931, against vigorous opposition by the B.P. Administration. It feared Seretse would meet at Lovedale, Africans of “a decidedly anti-European outlook in life.” Lovedale had a non-segregationist curricula and it was held in good stature since its beginning in 1841. To the Resident Commissioner, the Prince whom he met in June 1930, was “an ugly little devil”.

In 1933 Tshekedi Khama was briefly suspended as Bangwato regent having flogged an European in Serowe for misconduct. In the same year the British threatened to Bomb Moshupa, forcing Kgosi Gobuamang to surrender.  In 1934 Resident Commissioner Charles Rey issued the “Proclamations”. These were resisted by Tshekedi and other Dikgosi.  In this year the Witwaterrand Native Labour Association began recruiting mining labourers north of 22 degrees latitude. In 1936 Molefhi of the Kgafela Bakgatla was suspended as Kgosi.

The Lt. Col. Proposed in March 1932 a reformation of the Tswana system of laws and tradition. The ‘Proclamations’ were arrived at without discussions with Chiefs, who were supposed to endorse this re-structuring of Tswana Political and Judicial system. The Kgotla was to be replaced by a Council, with a Chief as President. A chief was to be endorsed by Government before Installation. Tribunals (Land Tribunals) were to replace Dikgotla. Tswana law and custom were to be recorded and codified.

Tshekedi, Regent of Bangwato (1925-1950) and Bathoeng II, Chief of Bangwaketse held that:

Proclamations violated the 1895 Agreement with the British Government. It violated native law and custom. Chiefs should govern their people ‘much as before’. Our Fathers did not ask from Britain to be a British Colony. To H.C. Sir Herbert Stanley, he was informed the Proclamations raised serious constitutional issues embracing treaty rights negotiated in London in 1885. Chiefs asked H.C. to appoint a Commission to examine them. Also, the Proclamations had similarity with the South African Native Affairs Act of 1927(Enacted by Parliament of South Africa, assented to on June 1927, commenced 1 September 1927).

Indeed the said Act was “part of the process of transferring power over the regulation of African life from Parliament to the Executive,” through a system of separate tribal councils for the administration of reserves and advisory councils ‘for’ Africans; and which authorised administration to convene conferences ‘for’ chiefs, councillors and prominent natives with a view to the ascertainment of the sentiments of the native population.’(Simons and Simons 1969:251; Worden 1994:74).  According to the Act No. 38 of 1927: to provide for the better control and management of native affairs, the Governor-General of South Africa could “banish a native or tribe from one area to another whenever he deemed this expedient or in the general public interest.

The Act set up a separate legal system for the administration of African law. The central imperative behind the Act was to establish a strong enough system of ‘national native administration’ (administration of Chiefs) to contain the political pressures which were likely to result from the legislative measures necessary for the implementation of territorial segregation. Many provisions of this act however became unconstitutional on the introduction of the Interim constitution of South Africa of 27 April 1994, which invalidated all laws which unfairly discriminated on the basis of race.

Appeals were also made to Secretary of State and Stanley’s successor, Sir William Clark. The appeals were rejected. The Proclamations were promulgated January 1935. In defiance the Crown held it had unfettered and unlimited power to legislate for government and for administration of native tribes. In 1943 Dikgosi reluctantly accepted the revised “Native Administration” proclamations.

From this story we gather that: (i) before and within the protectorate period, there was evidence of succession of courageous and gallant Tswana chiefs who ruled their lands and subjects with ‘dignity, talent and foresight’. (ii) For the entire protectorate period, Native Chiefs kept the British government from turning over the administration of the protectorate to Rhodesia or South Africa. (iii) Botswana was a protectorate for only 5 years from 1885-1890. (iv)The British unilaterally converted a protectorate into a colony from 1890-1965 and against native opposition. Now here we stand: since 1966-2016 Botswana has neither been a protectorate nor colony, why does the bulk of the provisions of 1966-2016 legislation on Botswana’s ‘Native Affairs,’ remain valid and constitutional? (!)

Comment on this: write to orufheng.daniel@gmail.com



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