If you do not appreciate this village, you certainly have to pay attention when proud villagers belt out a long list of their sons and daughters, who are among Botswana’s movers and shakers.
For Maunatlala is home to gospel music icon Mmereki Marakakgoro, the first Motswana Chief Justice, the late Moleleki Mokama, Bank of Botswana Deputy Governor Moses Pelaelo, Samuel Outule, Ambassador of Botswana to the US in Washington DC, Director of Student Placement Edward Kemsley, Botswana College of Agriculture (BCA) principal Mazola Obonetse. The list is endless.Perched at the foothills of the expansive Tswapong Hills and on the edge of the Lotsane River on its last lap before it flows into the Limpopo, Maunatlala is hilly to the south and to the north is as low as a valley. Sometimes it is so quiet that one may wonder where the people have gone with only donkeys chasing each other wildly in the scorching sun. Only a few vehicles can be seen travelling from one side of the village to the other down to the Equator bar and Mophane Complex that seem to be the village centre. The only tarred road that goes into the village ends at this complex at a road junction that connects the Tribal Administration offices and Mosweu and Mokokwana villages.
Geographically Maunatlala is in the Tswapong area but the people are not Batswapong. You can tell from their dialect that it is markedly different from the Tswapong stock. As Kgosi Mapine of Maunatlala says, they are Babirwa who live among the Batswapong and Bangwato.Babirwa of Maunatlala are so conscious of their heritage that they openly brag about it.”Re babina-nare’ said Kgosi Mapine.How did they settle amongst the Batswapong?
It was after they fled from South Africa when residents settled here, the place that was initially called Kopung, named after lekopu referring to a shallow perennial stream from the hills. Then they were led by Mphato Phukula. At some point they settled in Lepokole where they were recovered by Bangwato led by Kgari. It was during the time when the fierce battle for tribal land had gained momentum. Bangwato then fled to Shoshong with some Babirwa, while others sought refuge in Lepokole.
The Lekopung villagers were still led by Phukula to Shoshong where he died.The village Sub Tribal Authority Phoophoo Mapena said Khama ordered the then immediate successor Loodi Mapena to return with Kopung residents to South Africa in 1876. Despite the return to the native country no ties were lost with the relatives that remained in Botswana, especially among the Bangwato clan.
There were regular cross border visits. In 1895 when Khama and two other chiefs returned from Britain where they sought independence, Mapena returned with his tribe from South Africa but instead of settling in Shoshong they settled in the present Maunatlala in 1896.Mapena’s first-born called Maunatlala died in 1918, while his father was still on the throne. His son Masupe then
took over. It was agreed then that the village be named after Maunatlala, as it was believed he was the village leader. The name Kopung was dropped because it just meant the water source.
Kopung no longer holds any water after the attempts to dig a borehole and use modern technology to pump water to the village. “The water source then dried up for good or maybe the ancestors were not pleased. “During Masupe’s reign there was a common dumpsite where all the rubbish from the village was piled. Once a meeting was arranged a messenger would climb to the top and announce it to the entire village.
The same was done when a resident died. One headman who once climbed the rubble to announce the death said the heap was carefully taken care of and was only swept by men. He indicates that it was the men’s duty because in their culture no woman was supposed to sweep the Kgotla. A senior Maunatlala authority was always buried in the tribal kraal because residents feared that their enemies would exhume the body and use its parts in their charms against them. As a result, there were always men who slept in the kraal to safeguard the tomb. Sometimes a very big fire was set up in the village Kgotla and each and every homestead would fetch coals to set up a fire at home as a way of keeping the village intact. Masupe died in 1949. One Direng Maunatlala took over as regent to Masupe’s son Kegolotswe was still at school. After Direng retired due to old age the rightful heir Kegolotswe who still declined to ascend to the throne and brought in his uncle Solomon Mapena to hold for him. Kegolotswe then died before he ascended his rightful throne.
The baton exchanged hands among the royal family members until the current Mapena took over.
Although Maunatlala is predominately Babirwa there are pockets of Bangwato Batswapong, Batloung, Baphaleng. At the last population census the village had a population of about 3,900. The village has never lacked social services and authorities say there are ongoing projects to boost village growth.
The construction of Lotsane dam is still in the plan while that of the Kgotla shelter is under way. Drought relief programmes are also flourishing. Through the council’s backlog eradication exercise, 18 teachers’ houses and 16 toilets are under construction. The newly opened Sub land board offices are fully operational and have revenue offices. The office services people in the Moletemane and neighbouring Tswapong villages.
There is also a modern Police Station, veterinary offices and a clinic with a maternity wing. However, there is an urgent need to construct new hostels at Maunatlala Community Junior Secondary School, which admits students from Seolwane, Mosweu and Mokokwana. The old ones were destroyed in a hailstorm and burnt by electricity, forcing authorities to erect makeshift structures.