The village of Zwenshambe, about 100km north of Francistown, will go to the polls on Saturday 27th February to elect a new Kgosi. The election pits Godknows Robby and the incumbent Kgosi, Moses Mabutho.
Since 1979, the village in the North East District (NED) has known no peace with one section of the community refusing to accept the then newly elected chief. Hitherto, Zwenshambe was divided into two parts with one part falling under the rulership of Habangana (Mapoka) village while the other side, part of which was the Chabale ward, recognised Mosojane as their sovereign.
Because the Chabale clan considered itself the rightful heirs to the throne, when the village amalgamated in 1979, the Chabale insisted on providing the overall leadership. The village was, for all intents and purposes, now divided into two rival camps. Attempts by the Chabale to provide a chief for the village failed as the other camp won the day and had Masilo Ngubalane enthroned.
Henceforth, the village was defined by deceit, mistrust, sabotage and lack of cohesion with one party trying, at every turn, to outmanoeuvre the other. A vacancy opened in 2007 following the retirement of Ngubalane. Having maintained all along that they had been deceived, the Chabale once again laid claim to the chieftainship of the village. The matter reached central government and a decision was made that indeed the Chabale own the throne.
Having none of it, the other section of the community sought legal redress which reversed government’s decision to recognise Chabale as the legitimate leaders of Zwenshambe. The High Court decision, it would appear, put paid to claims by anybody to have any birth rights to the chieftainship of Zwenshambe. Instead of a hereditary one, Zwenshambe will be ruled by an elected chief.
Incidentally, the judgement also declared the village independent from Mosojane village. “I am looking forward to the election. The village has experienced uncertainty for too long. I am looking forward to choosing a leader who will not only help coordinate development in the village but who will ensure that Zwenshambe ceases to be a satellite village of any other village,” said Dr Badziyili Nfila, a resident. He insinuated that Mabutho’s camp wants the village to remain a colony of Mosojane village.
For his part, Dingaan Mulale, another resident, considering the tumultuous history of the village, would like on Saturday for the village to have a leader who will unite the community. “We have been a village divided for too long because of influence from outside. I am therefore looking forward to electing a chief whose loyalty is with his people, one who will not pander to the interests of outsiders.
We do not want to be taken back to the satellite village status,” he said. Both Dr Nfila and Mulale are known supporters of Robby. Another resident, Elliot Ngoma would like the people of Zwenshambe to elect a humble and compassionate leader who is also hands on. “We want somebody who knows that he is on the throne at the behest of the people. The leader should not be arrogant. As a community, we should forget about those past differences and pull in one direction,” said Ngoma who leads one of Mabutho’s campaign teams. Griffith Makhulela, yet another resident is a known supporter of Mabutho.
“Zwenshambe needs a real chief and not somebody looking for a job. We do not want somebody who will treat people differentially,” said Makhulela without elaborating.
Contacted for comment regarding his chances, an upbeat Mabutho said, “I am 99 percent certain of a win. The support and encouragement I receive from the people is humbling. I have worked with the community for seven years during which time we achieved a lot together. After the judgement, the people, in their numbers insisted on me contesting and hence my candidature. Talk that I will place the village under Mosojane is most outrageous. The people must ask themselves whether in the last seven years that I have led them, they noticed any inclination to that from me,” said Mabutho.
To buttress his conviction Mabutho recalled an incident at the Zwenshambe kgotla recently, when, a team from the District Commissioner’s office had come to consult the community on the pending election. “The date for the election became an issue. My supporters agreed with the February date while Robby’s sought the election to be held in April. A decision had to be made by a vote. Only 14 people voted for the postponement as against 144 who endorsed the February date. To me, that is telling. It is a shadow of the things to come. It is going to be a whitewash,” declared Mabutho.
Robby is equally confident of winning on Saturday. “I am confident because I know that the people of Zwenshambe identify with my idea of a Zwenshambe independent from Mosojane. Firstly, they want a leader who will unite them after the long and disputatious history. While the community wants independence, my competitor has shown allegiance to Mosojane. He is nostalgic about the days when Zwenshambe was under Mosojane. For example, after the judgement, it is Mosojane who came here to address the villagers. When he did both his notice of appeal and notice of execution, Mosojane was part of it,” said Robby.
Meanwhile, the office of the District Commissioner, North East District, is ready to conduct the election. “In terms of mobilising and informing the community as well as appointing officer, I can confidently say we are ready. There will be a meeting at the Zwenshambe kgotla on Friday where all the modalities pertaining to the election will be explained,” said the DC, Keabetswe Lesiela.