Sacred Batawana tree stops offices being built
Leaning heavily to the right, like a stooped but wizened elder who has seen many decades come to pass, it looks as if a heavy gust of wind might blow the old tree down.
However, as well as mighty roots, the ancient mophane tree that stands lopsidedly in the middle of Maun Main Kgotla also has divine rights!
The tribal leadership are adamant the tree is not to be touched under any circumstances – an unexpected revelation that has delayed the construction of new offices at Maun Tribal Administration due to commence last week.
According to the construction plan, a block of offices in the form of a flat is to be built in front of the kgotla, covering the space where the tree stands.
“When the contractor showed up on site, preparing to clear the space including cutting trees and removing any undesired objects before construction, dikgosi stopped them,” revealed an insider.
Confirming this, Senior Chief Representative at the Kgotla, Kgosi Oleyo Ledimo told The Voice that as royals they simply could not allow the tree to be felled as it is a proud symbol of Batawana royal history.
“That Mophane tree has been there since the beginning of Batawana chieftaincy. If you look at some of its stems, they dried and fell and they were left there. Instead people use them as seats because no one is allowed to move any part of that tree from there. It is taboo to use even its branches for firewood,” explained Ledimo.
Continuing the history lesson, he further highlighted that just like in other tribal administrations, each kgotla has its own unique customs, taboos and traditions that have to be respected.
“Bogosi institution has taboos and customs. That Mophane tree is our identity and part of our history, so as much as we welcome developments, we also have to protect our roots.”
Although he admitted bogosi were consulted and involved in the mapping and drawing of the offices, Ledimo says they did not realise the building would eat so much space and encroach into the tree.
“What we have requested is that the building be moved backwards to create the space where people will sit during kgotla meetings and other kgotla activities. That tree has to be left alone because people sit under it during sunny days when they are attending kgotla meetings, so it serves an important purpose in that regard as well,” added Ledimo.
Another community leader, spokesperson for Batawana paramount chief, Kgosi Tawana Moremi’s regiment, Matsaakgang, Douglas Mokenane reiterated Ledimo’s stance.
“That is the only tree in the kgotla that provides shade during meetings. When the kgotla is full, majority of people sit under that tree and use its fallen trunks and exposed root as seats, that’s our way of doing things and celebrating where we come from,” mentioned Mokenane.
He further noted that traditionally when a kgotla is set-up, rituals are made to strengthen the kgotla.
“The Mophane tree is symbolic and plays a big part in that,” he ended emphatically.