In­side the Mphahlele royal and min­ing bat­tles

African Times - - News - RUS­SEL MOLEFE

IN 1950, Kgoshi Mmutle III of the Bak­gaga-Ba-Ga-Mphahlele in Lim­popo wrote a let­ter to then Min­is­ter of Na­tive Af­fairs about the farms the com­mu­nity had bought and how they will be utilised for the ben­e­fit of all its mem­bers.

This was af­ter the com­mu­nity had bought por­tions of land known as Zaaik­loof 651, Oli­fantspoort 675, Kamel­bult 55, Spitzkop 9523, Veeplaats 519, Vlak­laagte 1969, Poortjie 1968, Doorn­vlei 612, Schilpad­nek 9320, Boom­plaats 1659, Naauw­poort 521, Mols­gat 1660, Groothoek 1796, Zon­der­naa 525, Tabak­plaats 530, and Groot­draai 532.

In the let­ter dated 27 March 1950, Mmutle III made it clear that the money de­rived from the farms “shall ac­crue to the Bak­gakga Tribe and shall form part of the tribal Vol­un­tary Fund.”

The let­ter also read in part:“That in view of the con­tin­ual mi­gra­tion of our tribes­men to the ur­ban ar­eas for em­ploy­ment, we humbly re­quest the Gov­ern­ment to stem up this af­flux (sic) by es­tab­lish­ing some in­dus­tries near and/or around our Re­serve so that our tribes­men may be saved from the dan­gers of ur­ban life.”

Mmutle went on to clar­ify that the por­tion of one of the farms will be utilised as Le­hwiti La Kgoshi (Chief’s Area) “not as per­sonal prop­erty but as com­mu­nal prop­erty, for on this por­tion lie buried gen­er­a­tions of past chiefs and tribes­men.”

The buy­ing of the farms, mooted in 1928, showed the fore­sight of Mmutle III. But in his vi­sion, he brought un­fore­seen ruc­tions in the com­mu­nity which are be­ing felt even to­day through a litany of com­plaints by com­mu­nity mem­bers and a plethora of crim­i­nal and civil ac­tions.

Though hailed as a vi­sion­ary, Mmutle III, who was ed­u­cated at Lovedale, passed away with­out mar­ry­ing a prin­ci­pal wife. Fail­ure to marry a prin­ci­pal wife – due to his in­sis­tence that he needed an ed­u­cated wife – was an er­ror of judge­ment the reper­cus­sions of which are still be­ing felt by the tribe to­day, ac­cord­ing to Dr Malekutu Levy Bopape.

In his work ti­tled “North­ern Sotho His­tor­i­cal Dra­mas: A His­tor­i­calBio­graph­i­cal Analysis”, Bopape wrote: “These prob­lems were com­pounded by the fact that Mmutle III had in­tro­duced a new or­der amongst his peo­ple to ac­comon­date the chang­ing times. This, in turn, had in­tro­duced a dif­fer­ent cul­ture. His death cre­ated a prob­lem which was un­par­al­leled in the his­tory of the Mphahlele peo­ple.

“Con­se­quently, the tribe had nei­ther queen nor heir. Again, this is un­prece­dented in the royal his­tory. The tribe had to find a queen and a re­gent. In an at­tempt to solve this prob­lem, the tribe de­cided that they wanted a re­gent and not a chief. They felt that to say they wanted a chief would cre­ate more prob­lems for the tribe.”

The Mphahlele com­mu­nity has never had a chief since the death of Mmutle III. In­stead, re­gency has been the norm for the past 67 years, with Moepadira be­come the first re­gent. He acted from 1950 to 1953 when he was de­posed and banned from the vil­lage.

He was suc­ceeded by Mok­gobi Trodd who ruled be­tween 1953 to 1958 be­fore he was com­mit­ted to a men­tal hospi­tal and was no longer able to per­form his du­ties, ac­cord­ing to a let­ter by the Na­tive Com­mis­sioner dated 13 Jan­uary 1958.

Moepadira was then re­in­stated un­til 1974 when the re­gency was taken over by Ng­wanaMo­hube who was rec­om­mended by the erst­while Le­bowa Ban­tus­tan leader Dr Cedric Phatudi who him­self was the son of Mmutle III from the ninth wife.

To­day, Ng­wanaMo­hube and her el­dest son, Malekutu, are fac­ing a long list of com­plaints from com­mu­nity mem­bers in­clud­ing the Mphahlele Royal Coun­cil it­self which has also ac­cused them of be­ing in­volved in il­le­gal min­ing.

The con­fronta­tion ended in a civil ac­tion be­ing brought against them. The Part B of the civil ac­tion has also raised the ques­tion of the con­tin­u­ing le­git­i­macy of Ng­wanaMo­hube as a re­gent and for al­legedly ap­point­ing her el­dest son, Malekutu, as a se­nior tra­di­tional leader of the Bak­gak­gaBa-Ga-Mphahlele.

In court pa­pers, Royal Coun­cil chair­per­son Nkopodi Mphahlele, who is also a Mok­go­mana, wrote: “We are ad­vised, and which ad­vise we ac­cept that so called Queen Mother Kgoshi­gadi Sophia Ng­wanamo­hube has been a re­gent for 41 years and is the 2nd re­spon­dent in this mat­ter. We are also ad­vised that 2nd re­spon­dent cer­tifi­cate of Re­gent has ex­pired as in terms of the Act (a cer­tifi­cate of act­ing au­thor­ity is valid for ten years only).”

In these, Mphahlele wants the court to be­lieve that Ng­wanaMo­hube can­not take de­ci­sion on be­half of the com­mu­nity, and all the de­ci­sions she had taken so far were in­valid.

The Part B of the ap­pli­ca­tion is to be heard in the Polok­wane High court in Novem­ber.

Next Week: Vi­sion dumped as chrome rush en­gulfs Ga-Mphahlele

Kgoshi Mmutle III

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