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Ponatshego Mothibi

After the death of her father Kgosi kgolo ya Batlhaping Isaac Mothibi back in the year 2013, it was left unseen who would lead the Batlhaping tribe into a new era, the future of Batlhap-ing was left uncertain and in the cold, the question that was making the rounds by then was “who will take over from Chief Mothibi? who led Batlhaping for many years with respect and dedication”. Chiefs and their advisers had sleepless nights in trying to resolve the matter by finding a suitable candidate, as it is said in Setswana “ Ga bo itlodiwe mme bo a tsalelwa”

Born in Sekhing village in the North West Province, a sophisticated woman of career and a beauty, whilst growing up she had no single idea that one day she would be between a rock and a hard place, with the responsibility of leading Batlhaping tribe, never in she her young sober mind had she thought that her life would be so difficult to such an extent that she would be forced to abandon her own chosen career to do what the African Gods has called her to do.

I caught up with kgosi kgolo ya Batlhaping Ponatshego Mothibi in finding out exactly how dif-ficult was it for her to leave everything she has worked hard for over the years only to accept the responsibility to lead the Batlhaping tribe.

Kgosi thanks for making the time for talking to us, take us through your childhood memories, how was it like for you growing up:
Like most people I never had it easy growing up, for a while I grew up under a disadvantage background but fortunately for me it never took that long, before I knew it my father became a chief and as the last born of the family I was spoiled *laughs* , so all in all I had a normal upbringing.

How was it like growing up in a royal family, with the father being the head of the village?
To be honest it was very exciting, actually at some point I was lost because I had no idea that I was growing up under a royal family and my father was the head of the village, I was still very young but I remember crowds of people used to come to our home almost every day, sometimes they would bring gifts lots of them *laughs….* that on its own made me happy.

Growing up were you ever treated special from other children considering the fact that you came a chieftaincy home?
This one is a bit funny but is the truth, I started school at an early age of 5 years and I never got the chance to attend crèche, so whenever I was tired from a long day, the principal would bring me a blanket and a pillow for me to rest, whilst the rest were busy learning in class. I never got my report at the end of the year though *laughs*, so it meant I had to repeat grade 1 all over again the following year. I used to get special treatment from all teachers at Sekhing Primary.

Do you ever feel that you are trapped between the rock and a hard place? Looking at the fact that you are the daughter of a chief
Yeah most people expect you to live a holy and clean life, forgetting that you are also a human despite your family background, being the chief’s daughter comes with a lot of responsibilities and you have to live to expectations but at times it is just too much, after all I am a human being just like others and I live a normal life.

In 2014 the Batlhaping Tribe lost a chief in Kgosi Mothibi, but you lost a father how did that affect you?
The whole situation did affect me negatively but there was nothing much I could do but to be strong. You know my father was not only a parent to me but a father to his community, but the love he had for his family was unconditional, we did had our ups and downs as a family, but we contained the situation. It was very heart breaking when we learned of his passing away, to me it still pains my heart and I miss him every day of my life. At times I wish he was still alive because there are instances where I need him as a father. *Deep Sigh* but life goes on.

Throughout the years what lessons did you personally learnt from your father’s role as a chief?
Throughout the years my father taught me that “Bogosi ga boitlhodiwe mme bo a tsalelwa”, the manner in which he was conducting his chieftaincy and presenting himself in front of the community was professional. You would think he was during the time when the great Kgosi Galeshewe, the way he was so filled up with knowledge was great, he would gather his people and share the history of Batlhaping. I must say that he was an intellect when it came to the history of his people. Oh I just loved him, I wish, I so wish I had a chance to steal his brain, he was a true genius.

The decision you took to give up your career clearly it is never an easy thing for a person, how difficult was it for you to reach that decision
*Sigh*…. Believe me it was not easy for me to leave my day time job to take on the responsibility to lead the nation of GA BA MOTHIBI; I had to sacrifice my career to protect their legacy moving into the future. I had passion for what I did whilst I was still working at the Municipality and I don’t think it is a train smash for me, as I will use the experience I gained over the years in terms of operations and the duties, for me I would say they are more or less the same.

Was there any special criteria that was used to select possible candidates to contest for the chieftaincy of Batlhaping after the death of your father?
I would not say that there was a special criteria that was used but what happened is: my late brother Okaeng was bound to succeed my father, unfortunately he passed away in 2011. He has left behind a son (Obakeng) who is rightfully the chief of BA GA MOTHIBI, the family had to sit down

Personally how did you come to the decision of accepting the responsibility of leading the tribe?
Well it is was a personal decision and I couldn’t be selfish in this instance, I had to accept the responsibility in order to protect the legacy of Batlhaping, as I have alluded my nephew is still young and has to complete his studies first and prepare himself for this position. We as the royal family believes that “Bogosi bo masisi-ke khupe”, so he is still not well informed about the whole administration and he will be lectured by the elders in grooming him up for the responsibility, fortunately for me I used to observe what my father was doing, sometimes I would go through his documents and that gave me insight. So in simple terms to answer your question the decision was not that hard to make and I made it not for myself but to protect the legacy of our people.

Fair enough… do you ever feel pressurized especially considering the fact that you are a female chief?
Not that much, actual my mission and vision here is to prove a point that women too are capable of being leaders, not just leaders but good ones. Given a fair amount of opportunity and support women are capable leaders, most people predicts failure way before we can take charge of our responsibilities in any sector. That on its own makes women to cramp up and be afraid to take charge because of the failing stigma that is attached to them. In my instance I put my heels aside and do what I am supposed to do, which is to lead the Batlhaping Tribe into a new and successful era and I have no doubt in my leadership ability despite of my gender.

We wish you all the best in your new role as chief
Thank you very much for the opportunity given, I am very much honored Pula!!!