The voice of a young man reverberates across the Bakwena southern hills. Dithubaruba wee! There is a response from the massive crowds that have come to this hallowed spot of the Bakwena. Today the crocodiles have come out of the water to play. Their call is clear and solid. The historians inform us that Dithubaruba is the Bakwena moshate! It was a capital of the Bakwena between 1853 and 1863, before they moved to Molepolole. What remains of this capital is the well-preserved stone ruins that can be reached by climbing the southern side of a hill, a short drive from the main kgotla of Molepolole. As a Mongwaketse man I lay claim to this piece of land too since gallant Bangwaketse have been here before – many many years ago. It all started in 1824 with an offensive from the Bakololo under the leadership of one sinful Sebetoane who attacked the Bakwena of Moruakgomo. The Bakwena fled their moshate, Dithubaruba, into the Kgalagadi desert. Having defiled this hallowed ground, the Bakololo made it their own village – a post from which other neighbouring Tswana kingdoms were raided repeatedly and cattle, women as well as small stock were plundered. However, the tables turned in 1826 when the marauding group of my people, the militant Bangwaketse arrived to restore dignity to this violated terrain. Under motswarelela bogosi, Kgosi Sebego, the Bangwaketse “with cowhide shields, spears and battle-axes surrounded the village,” and at dawn, their battle cries disturbed the peace of these still hills as they charged into the village with resulting chaos. So as a Mongwaketse man as I sit here in the company of the Bakwena ba ga Sechele I feel at home knowing that my ancestors, those fearless warriors, have at some historical point delivered this space from the blood stained hands of the Bakololo back into the hands of the Bakwena whom in the words of Ramsay like all Sotho-Tswana groups are “ultimately the people of this ground, the children of Modimo once protected by the very son of the earth – Tintibane.” I must be careful not to give too much credit to the Bangwaketse since Dithubaruba has been defended against the Boers incursion before by Sechele (Ramokonopi) at that epic battle of Dimawe after which he brought together the various merafe at Dithubaruba, amongst them being the Balete, Bakgatla, Bahurutshe, Bakaa and many others.
Today however we gathered to remember that lefatshe le a lwelwa, le sirelediwa ke beng. I am in the company of politicians: Patrick Masimolole, Vincent Seretse, Leach Tlhomelang, Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri, Boometswe Mokgothu, Shima Monageng and others. What brings us together is a celebration of Sekwena culture. The old Mokwena poet Rabojalwa Keetile is here. I have heard him before together with Moroka Moreri. I am delighted because I am confident that today there is going to be a festival of poetry. I get more than I bargained for – more old poets come to the podium and set the stage alight as they deliver dikgafela to Kgosi Kgari and Mohumagadi MmaTumagole. Rabojwala doesn’t disappoint. His poetry is long and historical, laced with cutting humour. “Ke bona ba bangwe ba ntse ba edimola phetelela; a le fa e le metsi a tee le one ga ba a ba siela.” Young poets take to the stage one after another and demonstrate that Sekwena poetry is in safe hands. Truth be told: Kweneng has the greatest concentration of absolutely outstanding poets. Kgosi Kgari Sechele can afford to smile; his poets are amongst the finest in all Botswana. And the poetry is not just by men; women too deliver some electrifying verses. Arguably, the best poem of the day was delivered by a woman, Gaadirelwe Boipuso Leatso, who brought tears to my eyes. As I watch and absorb the Sekwena culture, they feed me kabu which I am in no doubt that many believe it is indigenous to the Batswana, not knowing that it came to the Tswana through the Portuguese traders while the word kabu is itself of Afrikaans etymology having been adapted from the Afrikaans word: kaboemielies. I was later to be blown away by Dipela tsa ga Kobokwe – they are arguable Botswana’s finest traditional dance troupe. They are many. They take to the stage like a band of Sechele’s fearless warriors. Their dance is authentic and speaks to the Setswana soul. If there is an image that one can conjure of Sechele’s warriors, the closest picture is that of Dipela tsa ga Kobokwe. I have never seen a group that is as forceful and as precise in its performance as this one. Their performance belongs to the ages and the world. They should be performing the stages of Germany, USA and England bringing glory to this country. To keep them within the Botswana borders is to steal fresh air from God’s universe.
So I left the Dithubaruba celebrations a proud Motswana. The last few years have seen a resurgence of cultural resuscitation initiatives. Examples of these are bogwera and bojale of the Bakgatla ba ga Kgafela, the Domboshaba celebrations of the Bakalanga, as well as the Bathoen II celebrations of the Bangwaketse. There has also been an increased interest in Setswana cuisine, Tswana names and indigenous music. All of these collectively in a small way contribute to our self-discovery as a people. So until next year when we gather at the meeting of the warriors, where Kgosi Sechele once ruled supreme, I will have in my mind the battle cry of a Mokwena young man: Dithubaruba wee!