6 March, 2002

Discussion on redefining role of chiefs

In Botswana there is a discussion on chieftainship ongoing. The government has called for the redefinition of the institution. Dr Elmon Tafa, a lecturer at Tonota College of Education, said the powers of chiefs had been eroded to the extent, chiefs were no more than glorified civil servants. Speaking at a discussion in Francistown, he suggested that the role of chiefs should be redefined to align it with modern trends.

The discussion takes place only a few days after the installment of Kgosi Lotlamoreng II as chief of the Barolong at Good Hope kgotla on February 23. Dignitaries who were present at the ceremony included Vice President Seretse Khama Ian Khama who is paramount chief of Bangwato, Kgosi Linchwe II of Bakgatla, Minister of Local Government, Margaret Nasha who was the guest speaker and numerous members of the diplomatic corps, MPs, and senior government officials.- Kgosi Lotlamoreng's father, Besele Montshioa had died last year.

Elmon Tafa speaking on ''Chieftainship in focus'' said the position should not be inherited since Botswana was a democratic country where people are supposed to be equal. Other panellists criticised the Balopi commission for not coming up with clear recommendations regarding amendments of sections 77, 78 and 79 of the constitution. It seems the commissioners did not want to rock the boat by making clear recommendations, they said. Some felt the commission was a waste of public funds and that parliament could have made constitutional changes.

The panellists included BULGSA president, Gabatsowe Lebitsa, Pius Mokgwathi of BNF and Maswibilili of BCP. Maswibilili said his party believed that everyone was equal and chieftainship should not be as if some people were above others.

Maswibilili said the role of traditional leaders in a democratic set up such as Botswana will remain important as long as the roles of traditional leaders were well defined. For his part, Lebitsa said chieftainship should be allowed to exist as it cultivates the spirit of Africanism among Batswana. (DAILY NEWS ONLINE)

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