THE BECHUANALAND PROTECTORATE
By A. SILLERY*
HAVE just come back from the Bechuanaland Protec- torate, a country I last saw in 1950, when it was convulsed by the Seretse affair: the Bamangwato tribal administra- tion had broken down and had been taken over by a British Officer; Serowe was full of police; there were journalists (and what journalists !) everywhere. When I left the Protectorate wee weeks ago, the native administration was being efficiently run by Rasebolai, who regarded himself as nothing but a Manager, put in solely to get the tribal machinery going, in Which he has admirably succeeded; and all was quiet. -Bechuanaland will not be quiet for long. Seretse has come 1°111e. His return, admittedly, is hedged round with conditions. He has renounced the chiefship for himself and for his children, and Tshekedi has reaffirmed his own earlier renunciation. The chiefship will thus fall into abeyance : instead, there will be an Advisory Council. Both Tshekedi and Seretse will be free to play their part in the affairs of the Bamangwato and have Promised to co-operate with Rasebolai. The Government hopes `that this settlement will enable the for to forget their differences and to unite in working tor the progress and well-being of the tribe and the whole of Bechuanaland.' The oddest thing about this arrangement is that anyone Should think it will work. It looks neat enough on paper, and Would doubtless be suitable if Seretse were mayor of a small English town, obliged for some reason to stand down and make Way for a deputy. But he is nothing of the sort. He is the chief of a most chief-conscious tribe, and he cannot abdicate. Tribal law' does not contemplate any such thing and, whatever the Bamangwato may say now, in the long run they will not permit Ir to happen. Seretse will find himself forced into the leading Part. Nor is it easy to envisage a man of Tshekedi's personality sitting happily as an ordinary member of a tribal advisory council. 'Co-operation,' to Tshekedi, means wholehearted *Formerly Resident Commissioner of the Bechuanaland Protectorate. acceptance of his (Tshekedi's) point of view, and I foresee that Seretse pushed on by the tribe, and Tshekedi by his own force and vitality, will between them make the proposed administra- tion impossible. This will be a pity, for of all the Khama family Rasebolai is in many ways the best, and the Bamangwato could do far worse than be guided by this wise and just man.
Let us concede that the probable outcome of the new arrangement might not be apparent to British politicians, accustomed as they are to chairmen, ministers and even prime ministers who pop in and out of office with great ease as part of the game. But can Seretse and Tshekedi be equally naive? Here we must remember that Seretse has been away from his country for a long time and may be out of touch, while Tshekedi, like his father Khama before him, has always been prone to identify tribal opinion with what the chief thinks best. At the very beginning of the affair he seriously miscalculated popular reaction, and if he has genuine faith in the new plan, it looks to me as if he has miscalculated again.
From the day of his return Seretse will be subject to pressure from the tribe to withdraw his renunciation and to take up the chiefship. Such pressure will be difficult to resist.