Saturday, May 1, 2010

Seboko sa Makgolokoe

The origin, social structure, belief system and heroism of makgolokoe is encapsulated in the 'praise song".
(lekgolokoe le kotswana
le hlaba kgoho ka lemao ka sebonong
ke ise ho mokgoloane kgorong
kere bona morena ke hlabile
ke motho wa kgetsi sedutla majwe
ya hlahang bopedi hwa matso
ya hlahang mokgatluwa tloopo)

The makgolokoe totem is the small buck "phuthi" (makgolokoe a ana phuthi). This is a small, beautiful shy buck that is endemic to the eastern free state and large parts of south southern africa. it is a legendary little buck that supposedly suckles its young before dawn and if under attack will run till the hooves come off. Legend has it that the King of Makgolokoe who was under attack and cornered in battle was forwarned of the movements of his enemies and saved by this little buck (phuthi). Historically makgolokoe would not kill or eat 'phuti' and are the clan that take the leading role and responsibility in the cnservation of this species. I am not sure if this cultural practice is still respected and upheld today.

A totem (ho ana ) is a cornestone of nature conservation amongst African people as each clan is responsible for a particular animal in nature. The Bafokeng, Batloung, Basiya, Bakubung, Bakgatla, etc will each have 'phoofolo eo bae anang'.

Vusi Moloi under the blog Zulumathabo has given a comprehensive disposition on the history of Makgolokoe. I will cover some issues that i believe needs further clarity and were not covered in his article. In particular i will try to derive meaning from our praise song.

lekgolokoe le kotswana: this describes a warrior clan that preferred a knob-kerrie as a preferred weapon of combat. A knob-kerrie is a fighting stick with a carefully carved and rounded head. Its weight is asymetrically distributed and as such requires proper body posture, superior upper body strength and well conditioned physically fit body to use as an effectual weapon in combat. It cannot be thrown at the enemy and thus requires close combat and contact for succesful utilisation towards victory. This tells us that Makgolokoe, whilst characteristically relatively short, are a clan of a historically well built and courageous people. This is confirmed by the fact that Wetsi did not loose a direct fight with the Boers but fought untill he was holed up in Wetsishoek (lehaeng la wetsi).

ke hlaba kgoho ka lemao ka sebonong, ke ise ho Mokgolwane kgorong kere bona morena ke hlabile: This is agreeably the most controversial and least understood part of the praise song. It is being continually editted by adults when teaching children because of sensitivity to the langauge used. For instance the last part of this sentence as it was tought to me by my father said " kere morena ke lehlabile Letebele' . Offcourse this is not good langauge to use since it is derogarative and not in line with our current constitution, especially provisions for equality and non-descrimination. But the importance of this statement is that it puts the praise song in its correct historical context and content. The chicken in this case is an indirect reference to the 'Letebele" people who were killed and defeated by Makogolokoe in battle. Following the victory off course Morena Mokgolwane would be notified of the defeated enemy. It is important to note that Basotho use the term Letebele as a generic description of people of Nguni decent. It is possible that judging from the historical location of Makgolokoe, the statement refers to combat with the AmaZulu during the Difaqane internecine wars. It is in one of these battles perhaps where the buck "phuthi" saved the King Of Makgolokoe.

Ke motho wa kgetsi sedutla majwe: Makgolokwe are the decendents of Kgetsi, a king who apparently was also a traditional healer. This is the person who carried a bag that is overflowing with stones. These cannot be ordinary stones. They cannot be germstones either, because Makgolokoe do not have a pre-colonial culture of mining, using or trading in precious stones. But they are known to be accomplished and respected traditional healers (dingaka). Through the bones and stones (ditaola) they can see the future, diagnose illnesses, drive away evil spirits (eg thokolosi) and prescribe correct herbs and medicine for a vast range ailments. This is in a way consistent with the fact that a dominant number of Makgolokoe are know by the name Moloi under which there are two branches (Moloi wa Maphale and Moloi wa Tshele). Tshele on the hand makes an important bridge between Makgolokwe and Basiya. There are many reasons that have been advanced on why we are called Moloi:
  • arises from the practice of intermarriage that is historically acceptable and common amongst Makgolokoe. This practice is generally frowned upon by other people and could have given rise to the name Moloi (motho ya nyalang kgaitsedi ya hae oya loya)
  • aknowledgemnt of the skills and capacity of Makgolokoe as superior herbalist and traditional healers
  • acknowledgement of the ability of Makgolokoe to outwit their enemies in battle and subdue any resistance to their rule

ya hlahang bopedi hwa matso: Makgolokoe, according to this statement share a common origin with the Bapedi. They may have later joined up with Basotho as they trekked southwards and settled in the Lekwa valley (Thaba Kgolokwe). A group of Makgolokoe under the leadership of Morena Wetsi trekked further south and settled in present day Qwa Qwa (used to be called Witsiehoek). To a large extend Makgolokoe, now,identify themselves as Basotho and a very small number are conversant with and use the Makgolokoe langauge.

ya hlahang mokhatluwa tloopo: Makgolokoe are historically a proud people. They love their bodies and have distinctive decorative fashion signatures and styles. Both in terms of clothing and hair style. The most charecteristic of these is 'tloopo'. When shaving, the hair at the crown of head is not touched. In fact the hair at the crown is not only left untouched but is carefully styled, woven, and dressed in decorative bids, pieces and continually moisturised. "Tloopo' also has a number of cultural traditional meanings and signify a number of spiritual practices that will be dealt with in the article that follows this one.


  1. Good day sir , Moloi ha se Tshele le Maphale feela. Empa hona le Leubane eo eleng ntlu e kgolo honale Mtsemela le Motawana eleng ntlu e nyenyane. ke ntlu tse hlano he tseno tsa ha Moloi. Ke ne kere ke hlakise eo taba feela.