Do Merafe (tribes) still take care of their Magosi?

25th November 2016
The Fireplace


By Matshediso Fologang -

The notion that “Kgosi ke kgosi ka morafe” says a lot about the concept of governance and leadership in our traditional setup. In most Southern African tribal systems, Bogosi has remained hereditary and reserved for members of a particular genealogy usually linked to the founding ancestors.

The ancestral lineage is expected to select a Kgosi who until recently was the eldest son of the deceased Kgosi. In true traditional setup, succession was not always automatic. The choice depended on the approval by the royal lineage (ba ntlo ya Bogosi). There are instances where the late Kgosi’s eldest son could be blocked from succession if he was considered unfit or mentally incompetent to rule. At certain times, other considerations would include the “heir’s past conduct, his mannerisms, his capacity to lead, his valour and his popularity.” Traditionally there was no balloting in this process and above all, the heir apparent could never appoint himself.

Once the selection of the next Kgosi had been formally communicated to the morafe such appointment became the choice of the community. His welfare, protection and his person became the responsibility of morafe through his kingdom. He became the commander in chief; the spiritual link between his morafe and the ancestral gods; the rainmaker and mother of the people (Mmabatho).

He became the leader of his mophato, who through their public conduct are to protect his image. Any delinquent and deviant behaviour by one within his regiment was considered to be defilement of the good name of Kgosi. The morafe itself held him in highest esteem and no ill and bad gossip would be said about him. He became ‘Kgosi modingwana ga a  sebiwe.’ As the Kgosi grew and matured, he acquired status and more authority through his personal enactment of his life within the morafe.

Our tradition provides for the aged of the society to be revered and held in high regard. It therefore goes without saying that as he grows older, Kgosi attains more respect and reverence. His wise words are accorded the highest respect – ‘Lefoko la Kgosi le agelwa mosako.’ All tend to want to protect his image and respect him sincerely without any form of coercion. However, our entry into this technologically advanced global era has brought with it challenges to the notion of seniority and respect for traditional values and norms.

The appointment of young educated leaders to the traditional positions of Bogosi and power has run into conflict with traditional practices of leadership. The post-independence democratic dispensation and the positive socio-economic advances coupled with improved education levels in our society have also contributed towards more young generations attaining positions of authority.

Recent media reports have presented a sad situation pertaining to the welfare of Dikgosi. Such problems were either related to their relationship with their merafe or with the national government. These issues were discussed in a number of instances at a personal level to the sad exclusion of the traditional support system that includes the uncles and other royal leadership such as Kgosi’s own mophato.

Without this traditional support base, Kgosi becomes isolated. What is even more depressing is that Kgosi finds himself administratively overseen by a person traditionally lower in status than him.  As a people, we have abandoned our Bogosi for Westminster system of government and completely shunned our Magosi. Imagine makgoa abandoning their monarch - Queen Elizabeth. Unimaginable!

Do Merafe still take care of their Magosi? This doesn’t seem so anymore. Recent newspaper articles on KgosikgoloTawana II and Lotlaamoreng II about the rehabilitation therapy were the saddest news on our Bogosi. The gesture and concern by their party is commendable and cannot be questioned by anybody.
These two Honourable men are Dikgosi of their merafe and traditionally the health and status of these distinguished men should equally be a concern of the traditional leadership currently holding the fort for them. What has happened to the traditional support system of the royal lineage and mophato?  

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