How the construction of Leobo La Bakgatla was brought to completion

ROYAL BEAUTY

The magnificent multimillion-pula Leobo la Kgotla (shelter) was officially opened over this past weekend on Saturday.

It’s a structure like no other! It sits majestically at the foot of the west side of Phuthadikobo Hill in the BaKgatla ba Kgafela’s capital, Mochudi.

Motorists, pedestrians and the public at large can’t help but marvel at the architectural splendour of the shelter every time they pass by. There had always been a growing optimism among the tribal leadership led by Motshwarelela Kgosikgolo, Kgosi Bana Sekai that the auspicious day would soon dawn when Morafe wa BaKgatla ba Kgafela would finally enjoy the comfort of their Leobo.

It had been a long time coming! The project started immediately after the ascension of Kgosikgolo Kgafela II to the throne. Kgafela, a modernist and staunch traditionalist all rolled into one, began with reviving traditional regiments in an effort to restore law and order and thereafter embarked upon the monumental Leobo la Kgotla undertaking. The Morafe was fired up.

Just like it happened with the building of the University of Botswana (UB) campus ‘Motho le motho kgomo’ campaign, Magosana were dispatched throughout the village wards to solicit monetary donations, which were used to build the Leobo foundation. When the money ran out and the tribal administration could not fully account for its use, Magosana declined to go back to Morafe to ask for more donations. This was during the turbulences between government and Bogosi jwa BaKgatla ba Kgafela!

After a long while a group of eight (8) BaKgatla men got together to revive the project, which had been abandoned and was mockingly referred to as ‘ko Foundationing’! These men were Patrick Matshenyego Ramotswetla (Chairman); Charles Modise (Vice); Louis Moroka (Secretary); Jeffery Parafine (Vice); Sylvester Rampete; Jackson Mooketsi; Radikolo Kgamanyane; and Mogomotsi Sentsho. This committee had no Treasurer.

The success of the Leobo project is credited to these patriots. They went from company to company, knocking on every door asking for donations – not money, but building materials! If they had a shortfall in bricks they would ask a company to buy them the number of bricks they needed and managed to take the project from foundation to superstructure and eventually to roofing level. But not even this gallantry could complete the Leobo.

That’s when the tribal administration turned its gaze to politicians and asked for support from the Constituency Fund administered by Members of Parliament Bright Molebatsi (Mochudi East) and Gilbert Mangole (Mochudi West) both of who contributed P1, 5 million apiece. The P3 million did not directly go to BaKgatla ba Kgafela Tribal Administration but was instead administered by Kgatleng District Council, who are responsible for procuring the required materials and keeping proper records. Once again the P3 million was depleted and quotations sought thereafter indicated that only P1, 7 million was needed to complete the project. It was the Constituency Funds once again that came to the rescue, this time via the incumbent Members of Parliament – Mabuse Pule (Mochudi East) and Mmusi Kgafela (Mochudi West), with both men pledging P1 million each.

The Leobo Committee members did a tremendous job, no doubt! For example, placing the roofing poles required a crane to lift them – the committee approached De Vet, who unfortunately did not have a crane but instead De Vet approached their partners who graciously provided it and was used on site for one month three weeks! A pole was lifted for every day of the one and half month and then tied and secured to the roof. This was an extremely laborious work. It could have cost the project a prodigious amount had the crane been hired!

As for the grass thatching, it was done by the diminutive Zimbabwean national fondly known as ‘Mfana e Mfishane’ – an artist par excellence! At the time of the visit to the Leobo, the project was only short of minor finishing touches – these being, tiles, paint as well as fire guard for the grass thatching and fire extinguishers. The wish however was to make provision for booths and a control room as well as big screens in the Leobo to enable uninterrupted telecommunication. Kgosikgolo Kgafela addressed Morafe via video call from his base in Moruleng, South Africa on the day of the official opening.

The Leobo boasts an auditorium and has a seating capacity of 604 people inside. It has a boardroom; an office for the Kgosikgolo; a reception and bedroom. There is also a kitchen and bathrooms (toilets) for VIPs. Provision has also been made for Mohumagadi Mma Matshego (Queen) to use the King’s office. In the spirit of inclusion there is a ramp for use by people with disabilities and toilets specifically for people with disabilities.

The Leobo is a magnificent structure complete with folding windows for maximum ventilation. Already, some government departments have visited BaKgatla Tribal Administration for purposes of benchmarking. Outside in the foreground, homes in the vicinity of the Kgotla will be demolished to make way for more space where Morafe can sit alfresco during various community gatherings. The consultations with the home owners has been done and they have agreed to move on the condition that they will be given keys to new houses and adequately compensated for any other loss related to the relocation.

The drawings for the Leobo structure were done by BaKgatla natives Christiaan Phaladze of CPM Architects while Carthage Matlhage was the Engineer.

Leobo La Bakgatla
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