The embattled Bakgatla leader Kgafela Kgafela’s spirited fight to dethrone his scandal-prone royal uncle Kgosi Nyalala Pilane appears to be an uphill battle.
In fact Pilane has allegedly put in place a strategy to consolidate his base and further isolate and eliminate Kgafela from the picture in Moruleng. While in the past Kgafela has occupied a very important place among the Bakgatla community both in Botswana and South Africa, this time around his royal uncle Pilane has tried to remove Kgafela from the picture and the tribe’s structures in Moruleng. In their recently launched website www.bbkta.net Kgafela doesn’t appear in the tribe’s structures, but instead prominence is given to Kgosi Pilane who is portrayed as firmly in charge of the platinum rich tribe. Further, Kgafela doesn’t feature anywhere in the tribe’s documents. In fact the new tribe’s structure has Kgosi Pilane as the ‘supreme leader’ of Bakgatla Ba Kgafela in South Africa. The position of ‘kgosikgolo’ doesn’t appear in the new structure.
The new structure has a body called the Supreme Council which consists of Pilane as the overall chief of the tribe, the royal council, office of Mma-Kgosi, transformation manager, protocol officers, government relations and Dikgoro, Magosana and Bo Rakgadi. Besides the Supreme Council, the new structure has a provision for Traditional Council, which is also chaired by [Nyalala] Pilane and is made up of 60% traditional leaders he nominated, and 40% elected by the tribe.
In some of the materials in the website Pilane is addressed as ‘King of Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela’ instead of chief. The tribe’s latest newsletter edition ‘Bua Kgabo’ also portrays him as a man in charge of a united tribe. Pilane is pictured addressing important village meetings, meeting and donating food hampers to the poor and addressing business meetings.
There is nowhere Kgafela is mentioned in the newsletter that used to glorify him a few years ago as the supreme leader of Bakgatla. It also appears that some of the major development projects in Moruleng and the surrounding areas are going on without Kgafela. The tribe recently developed ‘BBK Long Term Master Plan’ that will guide the development of the Bakgatla region in a period of 30 years.
While Pilane is all over the 10-paged document as the man behind the master plan, Kgafela does not feature anywhere in it. “What they are doing to him is sad. It is like he never existed, but he is a fighter; he will fight till the end,” said one of Kgafela’s sympathisers in South Africa preferring not to be named because of his position in Moruleng.
Kgafela and the Bakgatla community last month won a court case in which they wanted the North Gauteng High Court to order former Bakgatla lawyer Wycliffe Mothuloe to account to the Bakgatla community on the funds he received from the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela tribal authority to represent the tribe. The court further ordered Mothuloe that he should disclose how he received and used the R49 million he received from the tribe.
Despite the legal success, sources say Kgafela has not made inroads in his fight against his royal uncle. “While he is approaching the courts for redress his royal uncle has gone to the people in the area to seek their support. People still view Nyalala [Pilane] with suspicion, but there are some who are prepared to give him a chance,” commented a community leader in Moruleng this week. Repeated efforts to solicit a comment from Pilane were unsuccessful. His administrators in Moruleng said he was not available.
The fight is on – Kgafela’s handlers.This week, Kgafela’s handlers said they were not troubled by Pilane’s efforts to get rid of their kgosi from the picture. Victor Modimakwana – a community leader and Kgafela’s spokesperson – told The Midweek Sun that as the legitimate leader of Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela there is no way Pilane can wish Kgafela away. Modimakwana expressed surprise that Pilane is claiming he doesn’t recognise Kgafela as the leader of the Bakgatla in South Africa after years of doing so. “You must remember that in 2012 when Kgafela contemplated coming to South Africa Nyalala [Pilane] deposed an affidavit in his [Kgafela] favour pleading with the ministry of Home Affairs to grant Kgafela citizenship. Kgafela was later given citizenship on the basis of affidavits from people like Nyalala [Pilane].
In the affidavit he stressed that Kgafela should be granted citizenship because he is the leader of Bakgatla-ba- Kgafela both in South Africa and Botswana. He cannot turn around now to deny his master,” said Modimakwana, adding that South African laws also recognise Kgafela’s legitimacy. Modimakwana also said Kgafela is making serious inroads in Moruleng and that he will eventually succeed in toppling Pilane. “It may take months and even years, but we are very much focused on the goal of making sure Pilane is removed as the leader of the BBK. In addition we want to see him prosecuted for corruption,” added Modimakwana.
He said at the moment they are not in a hurry to invade Moruleng and install their man as the leader of Bakgatla in Moruleng.
“We can do that if we want, but we are not going to take that route because we want to deal with these people one by one. We won a case against Mothuloe recently, we are now going after the premier for recognition and after that we will be going after Nyalala [Pilane] himself,” said Modimakwana.