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Bayei, Batawana tension draws to a close

Publishing Date : 13 November, 2017


The jabs between Bayeyi and Batawana tribal leadership over culture and independence from the other will cease for now as the coronation of the Wayeyi paramount chief is billed for the beginning of next month.

Following Government decision to recognize the Wayeyi tribe last year, their attempts to install their chief were blocked more than once. In the first instance they were accused of not following the laid down procedure of consulting morafe. And in the second “act of sabotage”, according to Wayeyi Chieftainship Council Chairperson, Gceba Ditando Batawana tribal leadership did not want Bayeyi to use the main kgotla (Gumare) for the coronation hence everything was stalled as they had to write to the Government on the matter.

Initially Chief Ozoo was to be ordained the Bayeyi Chief but the alleged dally-dallying and unwillingness to support the Wayeyi saw Ozoo passing on earlier this year before he could lead the tribe. On December 1st Wayeyi will coronate Jacob Pitoro Seedisa as their paramount chief and this time around the leadership of the tribe is determined to avoid any glitches to the historic ceremony. The struggle of Wayeyi to be a recognized tribe dates back to as far as 1926. The chairman, Ditando said they are happy that their journey has always been peaceful, based on mutual trust and understanding.

According to Ditando the main reason why the want to have a recognized chief and tribe is to enjoy linguistic and cultural rights not enjoyed by the non-recognized tribes. “Among these are access to the institution of Bogosi, permanent membership to Ntlo ya Dikgosi as our right, group rights to land, territorial and ethnic identity, a celebration of one’s culture in the public domain and the use of one’s language in education and the media.”

The Minister of Local government and Rural Development, Slumber Tsogwane and some Batawana tribal leaders are expected to grace the event. However, at the coronation ceremony Bayeyi will be waiting for Tsogwane to reveal what is in store for them. Among other things they demand is territorial integrity and influence over a land board in their jurisdiction.

“That’s definitely what we want, territory gives a chief an integrity and to know where his powers start and end. So the Minister reveal the boundary between us and Batawana. If he doesn’t, we will follow the correct procedures because it is enshrined in the constitution that a Kgosi should have territorial integrity,” said Ditando.

In the past the Minister could not come out clear as to whether they will give Bayeyi territorial authority since they are ‘occupying Batawana land, and furthermore they were not assured to have a land authority as land boards are responsible for land allocation not diKgosi’.
Ditando has not shied away from mentioning the land issue which largely forms part of the dispute in the Ngamiland region. He says they are aware of the land questions, and their argument has always been that the government should be left to deal with the issue hence they will be waiting for the Minister to share with them the boundaries. Bayeyi, Bambukushu and Basarwa all believe there should be boundaries to separate them from Batawana.

“Other issues of land and language are separate matters which are not catered for. If they are to stand, they should be negotiated with other ministries. The tribe should discuss the issues,” Tsogwane said in earlier meetings with the tribe. In Botswana, land, territory and identity form the core of recognition and non-recognition of tribes in Botswana. The Tribal Territories Act of 1933 created boundaries called tribal territories which are currently referred to as districts. The territories were named after the recognized Tswana tribes. It is said that the government has reached an agreement with the Wayeyi tribe over the land issue, though not loudly said.

There are about 37 other tribes which exist in Botswana, though the state does not recognize them. The total non-Tswana population is generally estimated at about 60 per cent. Experts say lack of recognition has also led to the inadequate provision of social services, such as education, in rural and minority dominated areas, 36 resulting in disproportionately high levels of poverty. In 1885, the then-Bechuanaland became a British protectorate and in 1933, the British authorities recognized eight tribes in the Chieftainship Act as follows: the Barolong, Bakwena, Bangwaketse, Balete, Bakgatla, Batlokwa, Bangwato and Batawana.



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