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Last Updated: Sunday, 31 August, 2003, 01:20 GMT 02:20 UK
Botswana gets first female chief
Mosadi Seboko is draped in a leopard skin to  mark her authority as she was installed as Botswana's first female paramount chief
Seboko says she respects tradition but wants to move forward
A single mother and former bank manager has been officially installed as Botswana's first female paramount chief.

Draped with a leopard skin to mark her authority Mosadi Seboko on Saturday became one of the most powerful female tribal leaders in Africa.

Female traditional leaders are rare in Africa but following the death of her brother and father - the former paramount chief of the Balete people - elders selected her as their leader in 2001.

But partly because some men challenged her legitimacy, her official inauguration ceremony was delayed until now.

A relative said she had all the right qualities for her new position.

Before the time had not yet come, now the time has come for a woman to be leader
Galatwe Kgari
"She is a born chief. She is calm, she is caring... she is intelligent," said Leabile Mokgosi, one of her uncles, at the ceremony on Saturday.

Others said it was appropriate to have a woman as chief now.

"Before the time had not yet come, now the time has come for a woman to be leader," said Galatwe Kgari.

As paramount chief she is one of eight traditional leaders in the country and presides over matters of community disputes among the Balete people, who number some 30,000.

She also oversees the tribal lands and serves in the House of Chiefs.

She is among two women chiefs in the 15-member House of Chiefs, where she has been appointed chairwoman.

The House of Chiefs advises the government on matters of custom and tribal property.

'Buffalo's strength'

Thousands flocked to the village of Ramotswa, about 30 kilometres (19 miles) south of the capital, Gaborone, to catch a glimpse of the new paramount chief.

The five-hour ceremony was also attended by the president, priests, chiefs, diplomats and community leaders.

Poems comparing Ms Seboko's power and strength to the buffalo, the symbol of the Balete, were recited. In her hands she held a shield and a spear.

Mosadi Seboko, centre, receives blessings from church ministers as she is officially installed as Botswana's first female paramount chief
Church leaders have given Seboko their blessing
"Use it if troubles come, but it's best to use your mouth to fight," said another of her uncles, Mareko Mosiele, as he handed her a spear.

In a speech, Ms Seboko said she would honour tradition while moving her people forward.

"I feel honoured and humbled to be part of a tradition and history... Rally beside me with tolerance as we take the Balete forward."

She also spoke of the need to fight Aids in Botswana - which has the highest HIV infection rate in the world, with about one in three adults carrying the virus.

Cattle, a symbol of wealth in Botswana, is traditionally given as a gift.

But keeping in line with new traditions, the new paramount chief was presented with a Toyota four-by-four pick-up truck filled with household gadgets - a washing machine, vacuum cleaner, computer and printer.

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