For the last year, the usual peace that typifies the small, North West island of Jao flats has been in short supply.
Since the passing of its tribal leader, Johane Qhokwe in December 2019, confusion over his rightful successor has divided the community. Indeed the dispute is threatening to tear it apart.
At the centre of the storm are 63-year-old Gaboipeelwe Manja and Tsogodika Mweze, 59.
Both men claim to be the legal heir and are adamant the other is an imposter. Neither are willing to back down in their fight to be crowned Chief.
“I am the rightful heir because my great grandfather, Guniywa, was the first to be appointed a tribal leader in Jao, way back in the 1800,” insists Manja.
He maintains having served as Chairman of the Village Development Committee (VDC) for the last ten years further boosts his chiefly credentials.
“I have stayed here longer than Mweze. Jao flats is my home. I was born and raised in this village. Mweze’s family is originally from Ikoga, so he cannot claim Jao chieftaincy when some of us who have been guarding the village and serving it the whole of our lives get sidelined,” continues Manja, brimming with indignation.
It seems he may be fighting a losing battle.
In December 2020, Tawana Tribal Administration sent a delegation of chiefs to arbitrate on the matter. At the meeting, Mweze was nominated for appointment as Jao flats tribal leader, voted by the majority of the tribe.
However, Manja contends his opponent was in fact not elected by the tribe, but rather his church followers who descended to the kgotla that day.
“Majority of Jao flats residents are members of the ZCC (Zion Christian Church) and Mweze is one of the pastors there, so they basically voted for their pastor,” reasons Manja, who remains adamant he will stop Mweze from ascending to the throne.
His son, Gorata Moagi revealed they intended to write an appeal letter to the Minister of Local Government and Ntlo ya Dikgosi to nullify Mweze’s nomination.
“Mweze does not qualify to take chieftaincy of Jao. No, we cannot let that happen. We cannot be ruled by an outsider. His mother was married in Ikoga so that is where he belongs!”
Mweze, on the hand, maintains he is closer to the chieftaincy than Manja.
His mother was the daughter to one of the late tribal leaders of the village, Kwamvu Mozumbi, who died around 1994.
“My grandfather was a Jao flats chief. After he passed, the chieftaincy was given to his nephew, the now late Kgosi Johane. Besides people have elected me to lead them, so really Manja should count his loses and let it be. He is not a leader and is not even related to royalty or Jao flats. All he is after is to cause unnecessary trouble and division in the village,” stated a dismissive Mweze.
Explaining his Ikoga roots, Mweze said his mother, Keadimilwe Mweze was indeed once married in Ikoga, but ‘was brought back home in 1968’.
“I have no idea why the elders did it, but she long returned to Jao flats.”
Unable to resist throwing shade at his rival, Mweze claimed Manja’s is not even from the village.
“He is originally from Nxaraga, that is where his family is, his mother and siblings. He came to Jao flats because he was following a girlfriend. In short he is our in-law and we cannot be lead by a son-in law!”
Mweze further indicated his name has already been forwarded to the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development for further assessment and coronation dates are yet to be set.