At the height of the Sebina chieftainship dispute in 2016, Kgosi Shathani Sebina’s father, Kgakanyane Sebina who had just retired as a Senior Tribal Authority, died.
His death brought doubts as to whether his daughter, the apparent heir to the throne, would take her rightful place, a position she had been preparing for, for over 11 years.
Compounded by the fact that she’s a woman, the 62-year-old royal faced much resistance as the chieftainship dispute threatened to tear Sebina village apart.
However, after several heated kgotla deliberations, Shathani was appointed Acting Chief (Sub-Tribal Authority) on the 1st April 2018.
In this interview, Kgosi Sebina reminisces about her journey as a civil servant and also shares her frustrations and plans for her village with Voice reporter, Kabelo Dipholo.
Q. You were recently appointed a tribal leader in Sebina. Kindly share with our readers a little bit about yourself.
A. I was born in Cape Town to Kgosi Kgakanyane Sebina and a Xhosa woman, Muriel Dlova.
I came to Botswana and Sebina village aged four and started my primary education in Sebina aged five in 1961.
I later went to Francistown Senior School before joining the civil service in 1972, under the Budget Administration Unit in the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.
Q. That was a swift rise to the world of employment. Kindly take us through your journey in the civil service.
A. Yes. It was an amazing experience for me because I was one of only two women in the unit before relocating to Francistown Revenue Services in 1976.
I worked for the Accounting General for a couple of years and at different places in Botswana, including Machaneng and Palapye.
Later I was back in Gaborone on promotion as Senior Accountant at Local Government Ministry.
In 1996, when the country was preparing for its 30th anniversary, I was the Financing Officer.
I was in charge of the entire budget for the celebrations and together with the likes of Nonofho Molefi and the late Gomolemo Motswaledi we delivered a memorable and befitting 30th anniversary.
I have to add that I also joined Boipelego Education Project as a Senior Accountant before retiring in 2001.
Q. You took early retirement. Why?
A. My father had failed in convincing my brother, who’s the second born in the family, to take-up the leadership of Sebina Ward as Headman of Arbitration.
Although the heir apparent, he was not interested in the position and gave me his blessings to take the position if I was interested.
The old man pestered me relentlessly until I gave in.
He forced me to take early retirement and, in August 2001, I was appointed Headman of Arbitration.
For 17 years I sat in that position until my recent appointment to lead the main kgotla.
So contrary to popular belief that I was handed this position by my father, it was my brother who had faith in me that I could be of service to my community!
Q. Was it a wise choice?
A. I had doubts at first because I had just left a job with better remuneration only to earn P1, 400 a month. For four years I was on this salary – it was a challenge and I had to adjust.
However, as I grew into the position I realised that it gave me a chance to interact with the people and further understand their challenges.
In 2007, I was specially elected to represent Tutume Region at the House of Chiefs.
I served in that capacity for two years and I’m happy with the contribution I made.
Q. What does your job as a kgosi entail?
A. Remember I lead the six villages of Nshagashogwe, Sebina, Makuta, Marapong, Semitwe and Nswazwi.
This is a challenge looking at the vastness of the area. My first task is to unite the people – this is what bogosi (chieftainship) is all about.
My role as a unifier is however made difficult by some people, especially bigoted men, who believe women should never hold a position in the kgotla.
There are men who never want to bow to female authority and this makes it a challenge, especially when they get support from other women.
I don’t know where people get this belief because even in the Bible, God has never said chieftaincy is a reserve for men.
We should be pulling together in the same direction to uplift our communities because we all have the skills to make our villages better.
Another problem facing bogosi today is political influence.
These two should never mix, it only achieves polarisation of the people.
Q. What challenges do you face in your village?
A. This village is slowly turning into a haven for criminals.
I won’t mince my words, Sebina is no longer an enjoyable place to live.
People are afraid to even walk in the evening. Drug abuse has reached dizzying levels and young people have turned into wild animals.
Cases of stabbings, hackings and rape are just too many.
There’s a terror group of youngsters that has brought fear to Sebina.
We need help. We need collaboration of Police and Botswana Defence Force to help fight this wayward behaviour.
The drug use in this village is an issue that was on my late father’s lips until his very last breath.
Dagga is sold like sweets in Sebina; this village has become a very dangerous place!
Q. What could be the root cause of this drug problem?
A. It’s really difficult to say, but what I know is that there’s just too much dagga in the village.
Another disturbing issue is traditional brews in the village.
Women abandon their children to go on drinking sprees.
I have about 46 students who go to school on empty stomachs because their parents are always out drinking.
Attempts to regulate the making of ‘khadi’ (wild berry wine) have hit a snag.
Brewers were issued with trading licences but they still don’t observe operating hours – their businesses can open as early as 6am and go on until the next day!
Q. Besides being a leader in the village you are also a mother.
A. I’m a mother and grandmother. I have four children (two male and two female) and six grandchildren.
I come from a big family so family means everything to me.
I’m the first born of nine children, but currently only six of my siblings are still alive.
Q. Your last word…?
A. My plea is that government should look into the chieftainship issue.
We’ve come a long way and now women can also become chiefs, but it is not enough.
Under the current arrangement, a female chief’s offspring cannot be elevated to become chiefs because they are not considered to be of royal blood.
It does not make sense because in my view if their mother is of royal blood, then they too have the same blood running through their veins.
Q. Thank God It’s Friday. What are your plans for the weekend?
A. Weekends for me are a time to attend to pressing matters in the village – it’s a time for weddings, funerals, church and a little time to spend with family.