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baKwena ba Mogopa


Title Morafe (Chiefdom)
Other Names
Date of Birth 0000-00-00
Date of Death
 Traditions record that the baKwena and the baHurutshe were closely related, at one time sharing a common token, indicative of their having been one community. Like the baHurutshe they trace their lineage back to the (largely mythical) figure of Masilo. Around 1600 they emerged as a more distinct lineage. They occupied territory around the lower reaches of the Odi (Crocodile ) river, at a place named Rathateng. They relocated to a number of different sites in the close vicinity, eventually settling at the Majabamatswa hills north-east of present-day Brits, between approximately 1730 - 1750. It is remembered that this occurred during the rule of Ditswe Tlowodi. Prior to this, however, a number of  the baKwena moved with Malope to the Mochudi district of modern Botswana.   This area was well served by a number of perennial rivers -- the Odi, Apies and Hennops. Another faction moved to modern Botswana under Malope.
 
Ditswe was succeeded by his son, More 1X who ruled from about 1750 to about 1770.  This occurred during the period of conflict given the name difaqane. (see also Difaqane). More 1X centralized and controlled the baKwena, and earned a reputation as a fearsome "warrior chief ". The baKwena were locked in conflict with the baKgatla and baPo, a trans-Vaal Ndebele or "Tebele" offshoot. More was not the rightful kgosi, (chief) however, and when he refused to hand back control of the morafe to his brother Tsoku, a division of the community occurred, More moving away to the west of the Pienaars river. 

Tsoku, however, was not a popular ruler, earning a reputation for cruel treatment of his people. He allegedly demanded exorbitant numbers of cattle in the form of tribute from the baKwena. He was also no match for the BaKgatla, and was forced to request the assistance of his brother More, who once more took control of the merafe. Tsoku was allegedly assassinated and his retinue fled to seek sanctuary among the baPedi. Around 1820 the baKwena were attacked by a combined force comprising the baKgatla, the baHwaduba and the baTlhako.
 
This was followed by a series of cattle raids by the baPedi -- whether this was at the instigation of Tsoku's followers, then resident with the baPedi, is not clear. By 1822, the baKwena were pretty well subjects of the baPedi. In 1836 Andrew Smith the English naturalist and traveler, was informed by the baKwena that they had lost a lot of their cattle to the baPedi. Worse was to follow, when Mzilikazi's amaNdebele entered the western highveld. More, though now in a weakened state, attempted to resist, but the baKwena were overrun and incorporated into the emergent Ndebele kingdom. Traditions record that More was killed by the intruders. Smith recorded that when he he encountered the baKwena, they "trusted for food entirely on game and corn" -- they had no cattle.
 
During the rule of Mmamogale X111, the Voortrekkers displaced the amaNdebele (with the assistance of various allies). 

Now impoverished, the baKwena had to work for the Boers. Many of them were incorporated into Boer society as so-called "Oorlams". Mmamogale, to evade the exactions of the Boers, relocated to modern Lesotho, where he remained until the War of Sequiti (the Basutoland Gun War) returning in 1868 to Mantabole (Bethanie). The baKwena ba Mogopa were now divided into five sections. Those in Bethanie in the Rustenburg district, in Hebron and Jericho in the Pretoria district, and at Britz and Ventersdorp. Those at Bethanie, Jericho and Hebron were all under the aegis of the Hermannsburg Mission Society. The missionaries afforded them security and assisted them to obtain land. The different sections of the morafe were partly independent, but recognized the authority of the Bethnie faction, under the rule of Mmamogale family. During the rule of J.O.M. Mamogale in the 1920's, however, the Jericho and Hebron residents refused to pay tax for the purchase of the farm Elandsfontein, from which they would derive no benefit. The South African authorities, in the form of the Native Affairs Department (NAD), had to resolve the conflict, and decide whether the different sections were autonomous or under Mamogale's authority. The matter went to the Supreme Court. Though even the NAD officials were divided, the court ruled in favour of Mmamogale. Even then the rebel factions refused to pay the levies, and to recognize Mmamogale. The unity of the baKwena was shattered and to all intents and purposes they were made up of five autonomous sections.
  

 Even within Bethanie, Mamogale lost control, and a civil conflict, the worst the Rustenburg district has experienced, ensued. A so-called "Vigilance Committee" was established, ostensibly to support the Kgosi, but it then turned against Mmamogale. Supporters and opponents of Mamogale were engaged in a prolonged conflict, which spilt over to the Lutheran church. Many of Mmamogale's opponents, and those of his successor, Daniel More, joined the Bakwena Lutheran Church, a separatist movement. In 1941 they went on a rampage and burnt down the Hermannsburg mission church.  This was followed by assaults on the missionary himself, on the police and some government officials. Daniel More's uncle took over the reins after the former's death in 1946, and some degree of order was then restored to the baKwena at Bethanie.

 More recently, the discovery of platinum in the Rustenburg district has benefited the baKwena ba Mogopa, who receive royalties from African Platinum PLC in a joint venture to be worth R1.9 billion over a 20 year period. Unfortunately this has given rise to further disputes within what is now called the BaKwena Royal Family. In 2003 following the death of the sitting kgosi, Letlhogile David Mamogale, Segwagwa Mamogale was appointed regent, but was accused of maladministration and poor leadership relating to the handling of mining contracts. Mothalepula Mathibedi was then appointed in his place, His appointment was supported by the Premier of the North-West Province, Edna Molewa. Molewa was accused of financial impropriety, a charge she denied. Violence broke out in 2005 when Mothibedi's opponents torched two buildings at the baKwena administrative buildings, and nine men were arrested for public violence. A Commission was appointed to investigate matters and recommended the appointment of Lethlogile's son, Dinasotle Mmamogale, which has met with general acceptance. These conflicts relate closely to the issue of control over the substantial benefits stemming from platinum mining.     


South Africa's North-West province: A Guide to its History and Heritage. © 2017

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