HL Deb 23 October 1956 vol 199 cc906-8

My Lords, I beg to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have any statement to make on the return of Seretse Khama to Bechuanaland.]


My Lords, I apologise to your Lordships for the length of this Answer but I think it is desirable that events during the Recess should be recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT. Your Lordships will recall that in 1950 His Late Majesty's Government then in (Alice withheld recognition of Seretse Khama as Chief of the Bamangwato tribe in the Bechuanaland Protectorate, and that in 1952 the present. Government made his exclusion from the Chieftainship permanent. Since 1950 Seretse Khama has been required to live outside Bechuanaland. Tshekedi Khama, his uncle and the ex-Regent of the tribe, although he has latterly been allowed to live in the Bamangwato Reserve, has not been allowed to take part in the political affairs of the tribe.

In August of this year, while Tshekedi Kharna was in this country on a private visit. Seretse Khama and his uncle came to see me together and handed to me a document, signed by them both, in which Seretse Khania formally renounced for himself and his children all claim to the Chieftainship of the Bamangwato tribe, and Tshekedi Kharna, who had previously renounced for himself and his children all claim to the Chieftainship, reaffirmed that renunciation. Their document stated that there was now no ground of dispute between Seretse and Tshekedi Khania and that they hoped that Seretse Khama would be allowed to return to the Bamangwato as a private person, and that both he and Tshekedi Khama would be permitted to take part in the political life of the tribe. Both Seretse Khama and Tshekedi Khania undertook to cooperate fully with Rasebolai Kgamane, the African Authority of the Bamangwato appointed by the High Commissioner.

In this new situation, Her Majesty's Government decided that Seretse Khama should be permitted to return to the Bechuanaland Protectorate as a private person and to take his family with him. Her Majesty's Government accepted Seretse's and Tshekedi's assurances of cooperation and agreed that, on Seretse's return, they should both be free to play their part in the affairs of the Bamangwato. Seretse has now returned to the Bamangwato Reserve, where there have been demonstrations of pleasure by the tribe at his return. He is at present touring various centres of the Reserve explaining his renunciation to his fellow tribesmen. The main event in this tour was a kgotla at Serowe on Thursday, October 18, where 5.000 tribesmen quietly and respectfully listened to Tshekedi Khama as well as Seretse Khania. Both have demonstrated their determination to honour the assurances they gave me of co-operation. Seretse's personal renunciation was received without dissension, although Rasebolai Kgamane, who was presiding over the kgotla as African Authority, specifically asked that any dissenting views should be expressed. These developments augur well for the future peace, unity and prosperity of the Bamangwato Reserve.

As your Lordships are aware, it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government that there should be tribal advisory councils in Bechuanaland at the headquarters of the chiefs. No such council has yet been formed for the Bamangwato. It is our intention that such a council should now be formed. Rasebolai Kgamane as the African Authority will be its chairman, and Seretse and Tshekedi have promised that they will lend their full support to him in this capacity. In these circumstances Her Majesty's Government are happy to be able to restore their ordinary personal liberties to Seretse Khama and Tshekedi Khania. It is our earnest hope that the settlement that has been reached will bring an end to dissensions among the Bamangwato and that they will now unite to work for the progress and well being of the tribe and of the whole Protectorate.


My Lords, in thanking the noble Earl for that statement, may I congratulate him on what seems to be a very sensible arrangement? And may I express the hope of noble Lords on this side of the House that all will go well, as he has hoped, with the Bamangwato tribe?


My Lords, may I be allowed to associate myself with the words of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and support the sense of gratification which must be felt everywhere on the much happier outcome of this affair.


My Lords, Her Majesty's Government are grateful for the noble Lords' words.