Linchwe (or Lentswe) Kgamanyane

Title Kgosi
Other Names
Date of Birth 1849-00-00
Date of Death 1924-00-00
Chief Linchwe
The first son of Kgosi Kgamanyane from the First House, Linchwe (or Lentswe) ruled the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela both in the Pilansberg, South Africa, and Mochudi, Botswana, from 1876 till his death in 1924.[1] During the late 1880s, Chief Linchwe began attending baptism classes and was baptised into membership of the Dutch Reformed Church in 1892. Consequently, he publicly announced that he would divorce two of his three wives, prohibit traditional customs like bogwera and bojale and decided "to follow the precepts of the Christian faith and to rule as a Christian chief for the rest of his life." In practice, however, his people still continued to carry on their traditional customs. While he himself would not allow his heir, Kgafela, to attend the boys' bogwera ceremony in 1902, he stipulated that Christian parents could decide for themselves whether or not to allow their sons to attend. The impact of Linchwe's decision to become a Christian had an immediate impact as scores of the Bakgatla followed his example and "the church grew spectacularly."
As a practising member of the DRC, Linchwe gave considerable moral and material support towards the spread of the gospel as well as education in the Pilanesberg. At the turn of the century, Linchwe, for example, personally paid the teacher-evangelist, T. Phiri's annual salary of £45. When Phiri's house was burnt down with the rest of the border village of Malolwane by the Boers, during the Bakgatla-Boer war (1899-1903), Linchwe afterwards made a donation towards its rebuilding. After Phiri's ordination and his annual salary had been increased to £88, Linchwe contributed almost half of it.
Linchwe was a wealthy chief, with large herds of cattle on both sides of the border between Bechuanaland and the Transvaal. With this cattle, he was able to meet the expenses of his chieftaincy on both sides of the border. During the South African War of 1899 – 1903, Linchwe sided with the British, against the Boers due to a number of historical grievances he and his people had against the Boers. (See 'Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela'). In early November 1899, following the arrival of Rhodesian troops and the news that chief Khama of the baNgwato had just repulsed a Boer commando attack at Selika Kop, Linchwe told W.H. Surmon, the Assistant Commissioner for the Southern District, based at Gaborone, that he was ready to fight the Boers and asked for arms. Linchwe dispatched three Kgatla regiments which received British arms and ammunition. Chief Linchwe strongly supported his regiments throughout the war. With their arms and ammunition being continually re-stocked by the British military authorities at Mafikeng, Kgatla fighters became so effective that throughout the Pilansberg that they drove large numbers of Boer farmers off their farms. After the war, Lentswe was disappointed that, having fought with the victorious British, his people would not get back their land which they had lost to the Voortrekkers over a century earlier. However, with the large numbers of cattle his warriors had looted from Boer farms during the war, Linchwe bought additional land for his people in the Pilansberg. This, in turn, boosted Linchwe's chiefly authority among all his people. Politically, Linchwe gained enormous prestige and authority among the Bakgatla on both sides of the border. This was why he was able to install his brother Ramono as his deputy in the Pilansberg in 1902, despite British official resistance to the move. Linchwe died in 1924, following a stroke he had suffered four years earlier.  

[1] This entry on Linchwe is drawn largely from Bernard Mbenga, "The Bakagatla-baga-Kgafela in the Pilansberg District of the Western Transvaal from 1899 to 1931," D. Litt et Phil thesis, University of South Africa (June 1996).

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

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