The Bakubung were, according to oral traditions, a composite group of people in the 1830s when the Amandebele arrived on the highveld
and carved out a state either incorporating or displacing Setswana-speakers
on the western highveld. During these years the Bakubung
were under the control of Kwantle, who ruled in place of Lesele Mathope, who
was the rightful heir but who was still a minor. Kwantle’s daughter, named Moswasele, was
captured by the Amandebele. Whilst a captive, she met another Mokubung commoner
by the name of Monnakgotla and they married. With the blessing other captors she was released
and assumed the chieftainship of the Bakubung. Quite likely, she was
deliberately installed by the Amandebele as a client who would recognise them
as supreme rulers in the region.
Her ascent to power led to a schism in the morafe.
Monnakgotla’s son Ratheo took his followers and moved to the Heibron district
of modern Free State in about 1840. Here he ruled over the his section, called
the Bakubung ba Ratheo whilst Lesele was
kgosi of the remainder of the chiefdom based at Molotestad or Boons near
present-day Ventersdorp. Quite how they got there and on what terms they
occupied the land, remains unclear in their traditions.
Lesele ruled until 1884 when he was usurped by Ratheo Monnakgotla. Little is known about the Bakubung under Lesele betwen roughly 1840 to 1884 except that they lived at Molotestad and were lesser in number compared to Monnakgotla's group. After assuming control, Ratheo evinced a dersire to return to the Boons district. An opportunity presented itself when the farm on which the Bakubung were living became available for purchase. Ratheo approached a Rev. Clulee of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel ( Anglicans) to seek his asistance in making the purchase. Ratheo managed to convince Clulee that he was the senior and righful kgosi of the Bakubung. Ratheo's signature thus appears on the title deed of the farm. Leslele objected to this virtual 'coup' and the lowering of his status as leader of the Bakubung. The colonial adninistration, sensing the hostility that prevailed at Molotestad, ordered Lesele to leave the farm. He left but with only a handful of followers, as he was not compensated and many of the people who owed allegiance to him did not want to leave the material security that Molotestad offered. For about half a century this faction of the Bajubung were homeless wanderers, before finally finding a more permananent home at Mathopestad.
and conflict has been a commonplace feature of the recent history of the
Bakubung-ba-Ratheo. On the death of the then kgosi Richard Tswaidi Monnakgotla (the 8th Kgosi since Monnakgotla I) in 1940, his
brother Lucas Tshose acted as regent until his widow Madifese Catharina (also
called Catherine) claimed the chieftainship of the Bakubung-ba-Ratheo on behalf
of her minor son, Solomon Ratheo.
Another faction of the royal family, however, backed the late kgosi's brother, Lucas, and looked on
Catharina as a 'daughter in law' and without power. It was not, however, against Bakubung laws of
succession that the wife of the first house should act as a regent for her
in order to augment her following, attracted many people to Molotestad by
offering them land. In return, they had to make a financial payment known
as “loja” fees. This meant that her
followers comprised a significant portion of people of diverse ethnic origins.
The immigration of newcomers into Molotestad created further pressure on the
land, and increased the tension between the two factions. It also provided an
opportunity for the government to remove the Bakubung from Molotestad to several farms in the vicinity of Ledig, near present-day Sun City in the Mankwe district. It may have been the prospect
of more land that led a significant number of the Bakubung to support the
relocation. In return for her co-operation, the South African Government
bestowed on her 'official recognition of her position as Chief (sic) to be held on behalf of her son.'
surprisingly, the Monnakgotla faction saw Catharina as a collaborator in their
forced removal, and refused to relocate, for which as many as 30 people were
imprisoned for resisting the measure. Catharina’s supporters duly moved to
Ledig in 1966. By government Proclamation on 27 November 1967 the
Bakubung-ba-Ratheo were declared a 'Tribal Authority' which made provision for
a maximum of 27 councillors. In 1969, the Monnakgotla faction were forced
to move to Ledig, the government claiming that this was where their chief' was
was a school teacher by profession and represented a “modernist” strand in the
Bakubung royal lineage. So deep did divisions over her regency run, that she
subsequently survived three assaults, in all likelihood assassination attempts,
and her son Solomon Ratheo was murdered on New Year’s Day in 1976. It was rumoured that Lucas
Tshose Monnakgotla was behind the murder. The head of the then Tswana
Territorial Authority and later President of Bophuthatswana, Lucas Mangope,
attended Solomon's funeral.
numerically the Monnakgotla faction was smaller than Catharina’s group, (a
ratio of 3:1 has been estimated) Lucas Tshose Monnakgotla was considered to be
'the legitimate successor and he was duly appointed chief.' The rule of Lucas was trouble-free and he died in 1980 after which his son Gabonewe David was designated as his heir.The
supporters of Catharina, mostly 'the Johannesburg people,' remained opposed to
the appointment of both Lucas and David, but it does not appear that they were
able to advance the interests of any legitimate rival claimant in opposition to
The Monnakgotla faction took control of the
Tribal Authority. but the acrimony continued. Catharina's faction
accused the Monnakgotla faction of corruption and intimidation during the
1970s, and the establishment of the nearby Pilanesberg Game Park and Sun City
served only to deepen the conflict, as the Park provided the Monnakgotla
faction, through its control of the tribal authority, with the means of
extending its domination over Catherine's supporters.
after Lucas’s death in 1980, dissension once more set in. Community meetings
held in Ledig generally it descended into chaos. The
date for the coronation of Lucas’ son and successor, Gabonewe David, had just
been fixed but the disputes over his chieftainship continued unabated. At the root of these were disputes over the Title Deeds for Ledig and compensation for the removal from Boons and
mineral rights over Ledig. Community wrangles over mineral rights in particualr have widened divisions in the chiefdom in recent years.