HC Deb 18 December 1952 vol 509 cc245-8W
99. Mr. Awbery

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what decision was reached on the subject of the chieftainship by the kgotla of the Bamangwato tribe held at Serowe on 10th November.

Mr. J. Foster

No decision was taken by the kgotla held on the 10th November and the meeting was adjourned until after the planting season.

100. Mr. Brockway

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if he will make a statement regarding the kgotla of the Bamangwato tribe in Bechuanaland which was called on 10th November to appoint a new chief.

Mr. J. Foster

This kgotla was convened at the request of a number of Bamangwato elders. At a preliminary conference held at Serowe on the 6th, 7th and 8th October, which was also attended by the chiefs of all the other tribes in the Protectorate, about 80 headmen and other influential men from all parts of the Bamangwato Reserve, decided almost unanimously that the time had come for the tribe to designate a new chief and that a kgotla for that purpose should be held during the first half of November.

A kgotla was accordingly convened by the District Commissioner as Native Authority on 10th November. It lasted for two days. The speeches showed that opinion was undecided and that the tribe had not yet made up its mind. The District Commissioner, therefore, adjourned the meeting until after the planting season without a decision of any kind being reached. The decision to adjourn was well received and the majority of the tribesmen at once departed for their lands.

101. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if he will recommend an amnesty for the prisoners sentenced in connection with disturbances at the kgotla of the Bamangwato tribe when the permanent exclusion of Seretse Khama from the chieftainship was announced.

Mr. J. Foster

No. These prisoners has been found guilty of most serious charges, namely assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm and public violence, arising out of grave disorders in which three policemen unfortunately lost their lives. The disturbances did not take place, as the hon. Member suggests, when the Government's decision on Seretse's future was first announced, but two months later in a deliberate attempt to defy authority.

102. Mr. Benn

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations whether he will make a statement on the Government's policy towards the chieftainship of the Bamangwato following the kgotla held in Serowe on 10th November.

Mr. J. Foster

Her Majesty's Government's policy, which was announced in my statement in the House on 27th March and subsequently embodied in the Bechuanaland Protectorate (Bamangwato Succession) Order-in-Council No. 1031 of 1952, remains unchanged.

103. Mr. Benn

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations to give an assurance that Her Majesty's Government will at all times keep adequate British forces available in Serowe to enable the District Commissioner to deal with any emergency that may arise without calling on outside police help from the Union of South Africa or Southern Rhodesia.

Mr. J. Foster

Measures have been taken to strengthen the police force in the Bechuanaland Protectorate to enable it to deal, without recourse to outside assistance, with any situation that may ordinarily arise in the Reserve. The permanent stationing of larger forces would not be justified. In an emergency the Administration must be free to seek such additional assistance as it deems necessary. On more than one occasion in the last three years Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have been greatly indebted to the Government of Southern Rhodesia for their response to requests for police reinforcements.

104. Mr. Grimond

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what steps it is proposed to take to enable the social and economic development of Bechuanaland to continue during the vacancy in the chieftainship of the Bamangwato.

Mr. J. Foster

The Bamangwato Reserve, although the largest, is only one of eight tribal areas in the Bechuanaland Protectorate. In the other seven tribal areas social and economic development has been maintained. Colonial Development and Welfare funds available for social services, economic betterment, etc., up to 1956 total approximately £1 million and expenditure from this source is currently at the rate of about £160,000 per annum. The Colonial Development Corporation has initiated two major projects, a ranching scheme in the north and an abattoir and cold storage capable of handling the present cattle exports of the whole Protectorate. A mission, which includes as members Chief Bathoen of the Banwaketse tribe and Tshekedi Khama, has been examining further development possibilities in the Kalahari and will shortly report.

In the Bamangwato Reserve similar development has been hampered by the prolonged controversy about the chieftainship, but the Administration now hopes to make progress which will undoubtedly be expedited with the appointment of a new chief.

105. Mr. Benn

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, what plans Her Majesty's Government have to replace the present direct rule of the Bamangwato tribe by a more democratic form of self-government within the tribe.

Mr. J. Foster

Her Majesty's Government are anxious that a more representative form of local government should eventually be established in the Bamangwato Reserve, but the initiation of such reforms is more likely to be acceptable if it follows rather than precedes, the appointment of a new chief. As my noble Friend's predecessor stated in another place on 31st March, "the Bamangwato and their allied tribes are so wedded to chieftainship as an institution that the first essential is to fill the office of chief."

Mr. Benn

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations whether the District Commissioner was authorised by Her Majesty's Government to make the statement he did at the kgotla in Serowe on 10th November in which he told the Bamangwato that reforms would be delayed until the tribe had selected a new chief.

Mr. J. Foster

I assume that the hon. Member is referring to remarks in which the District Commissioner explained that the alternatives before the kgotla lay between the designation of a new chief and the continuation of the present system of direct rule. He required no specific authority for calling the tribe's attention to factors of which they must obviously take account.