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Home » Volume 55 Issue 4- February-March 2018 » Feature » Article Details

Tobane: A tribe of the Batlokwa people.

During the Mfecane, the infamous period of widespread chaos and warfare among indigenous ethnic groups in Southern Africa, several Sotho Tswana communities dispersed and had to endure hundreds of miles barefoot in inhospitable veld. The impact of Mfecane was felt far beyond as people fled from the strong Zulu armies to as far as Tanzania and Malawi in the North East and Barotseland in Zambia to the North West.

In Botswana to the South of the majestic Limpopo River lies the sleepy village of Tobane.

The village was named after a tranquil tributary that runs across the village to the northwest and visible when one enters the village after a 10-minute drive from the copper mining town of Selibe Phikwe.

Here one of the most formidable communities to settle after intense periods of disarray was the Batlokwa Ba-ga Mmachaka. This group traces its lineage to Batlokwa’s most revered tribesman Kgosi Sekonyela and his mother Mmantatisi.

They have the Kgama or the red hartebeest as their totem. At the small village’s kgotla Kgosi Botsile Rakwadi, a headman of records explains the culture and the history of the Batlokwa Ba-ga Mmachaka.

“Kgosi Mmachaka ke ene yo re utlwang fa a tsile a eteletse bo Rraagwe mogolo Kgosi pele fa batla ba tswa Aferika Borwa nako ya madubedube. Ka mabaka a dintwa le dipheretlhego tse dingwe morafe wa Batlokwa o ne wa phatlhalala ba bangwe ba sala ko Tlokweng gone ko go tlwaelesegileng ele legae la Batlokwa.

Ke jaaka o bona le direto tsa rona di sa tshwane. Rona re bina kgama bone ba bina thakadu,” explains Kgosi Rakwadi.

When the tribe arrived in the Bangwato territory then under the leadership of Kgosi Khama III they settled in Shoshong which was then the Ngwato capital.

Due to large groups arriving in this area Kgosi Khama let the Batlokwa relocate to Serorome (Palapye) before they moved to Makome (Mmadinare) and finally Sheleketa, present day Tobane. The name Tobane according to kgosi Rakwadi was derived from the kalanga word ‘too bona’ loosely translated to ‘we shall see’.

Word has it that an old man of royal lineage Kgosi Manakane Mudongo uttered these words after a certain faction of the morafe questioned his leadership credentials.

This followed chieftainship rows about who the rightful heir to the throne was. Mudongo was of kalanga origin and upon relocating from Serorome up north Kgosi Khama had appointed him to lead the tribe. This did not settle down well with the concerned faction.

“Kgosi Khama o ne a tla a ba phatlalatsa gape a bo a laela Kgosi Mudongo gore a ntshe bo rralekgotla ba tle go senka lefatshe. Ke gone ka moo ba feletseng ba tla go bona legae mo godimo ga thaba go bapa le yone noka ele ya Tobane.

Le jaana diphuphu tsa Batlokwa bao ba ntlha go goroga ha di sale foo,” he added pointing southwards to the historic Tobane ruins.
Kgosi Mudongo led the Batlokwa to the village of Tobane and had succeeded Motswagole Motlhasedi who had gone to stay with his uncle Simon Ratshosa in Serowe after the death of his mother. Motswagole, Kgosi Motlhasedi’s grandfather grew up in Goo-Ratshosa ward in Serowe

"Kgosi Mudongo ke ene a rweleng tshaba e a tla ka yone gone fa. Ba bangwe bane ba fetela ko pele ko merafeng ya Matebele mme yare gontse go ya ba bangwe Batlokwa ba boa ba sena go utlwalela gore ba ga bone ba mo Tobane,” he added.

Like any other tribe Batlokwa baga Mmachaka in Tobane uphold the traditional system of mephato and kgotla. There are four main kgotla’s in Tobane with Ko Kgosing being Goora Manakane, then followed by Goora Mpuzumoka, Goora Manowe and Goora Marabu.

Tobane is replete with unique cultural, historical and natural heritage sites. These heritage resources are a clear indication that the region contributed immensely in the development of farming societies along the Motloutse River basin. Sites such as Tobane, Sojwane hill ruins and the Mmatau sacred hill prove that early farming communities settled here many years ago.

Documented information at the sites reveals that the area played a role in the socio economic and political development of the farming communities of the Greta Zimbabwe and Bakalanga state known only as Butua.
Kgosi Rakwadi explained that up to now communities living around Tobane use some of these sites as rain making shrines and places of ancestral worship. Some of these sites are venerated by the local people while others are considered to be an abode of badimo or ancestral spirits.

Sojwane ruins forms part of the cultural remains left by different cultural groups that settled here during prehistoric times. Oral traditions suggest that they were named after a young herdboy, Sojwane, who was swallowed by a large snake guarding the ancient rites of the hills.

Several natural and cultural areas with a strong bearing on socio political aspect of Tobane are found here. Deep natural fissures and holes known locally as magopo which are known to be a reliable source of water for both domestic animals and people are found here.

Perhaps the most outstanding feature of these hills is a winding snake-like engraving on a granite boulder which is interpreted as the remains of the mythic snake that swallowed Sojwane. Oral traditions suggest that Sojwane and fellow herd boys disappeared into a hole which used to exist at the lower end of the boulder. Just near this feature is the sacred cave where people of Tobane, especially “ ba ba sa tlholeng ba ala…”  make offerings of traditional beer to appease ancestors to bring rain.

Quizzed on the strong cultural beliefs Kgosi Rakwadi admits to differing religious beliefs and cultural interpretation and explains that even the ‘bogosi bo thaetswe mo tumelong ya sedimo,
At the main kgotla Kgosi Mothasedi spots a Saint Engenas ZCC badge on her dress, a church popular with the people here. ENDS

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