The Evolution of the Botswana State: Pre-Colonial, Colonial and Post-Colonial Periods







Full text


©2012 Online Research Journals

Research Paper

Available Online at

The Evolution of the Botswana State: Pre-Colonial,

Colonial and Post-Colonial Periods

Professor Zibani Maundeni

Department of Political Science, University of Botswana, Botswana. Email:

Downloaded 4 September, 2012 Accepted 9 October, 2012

For the land that later became known as Botswana, Tswana groups and those in their proximity lost their states in the pre-colonial period (between 1300s and 1700s). Some groups never recovered and lived without states, others were able to recover and to organise some sort of states. Those who recovered to organise some states, structured them in very revealing manners, centralising power and enhancing it by requiring different ethnic minorities to relocate to the state capitals and to regional capitals. However, it was the protectorate state that fully recovered the national state by declaring protection over all pre-colonial states (and those without states) in the territory and recognising them as falling under one state from 1885 onwards. It was that state that was later inherited and modernised by the post-colonial elites. However, there are strong continuities between the pre-colonial states and the post-colonial state. This article primarily relied for its data, on the outcomes of several regional workshops organised for community leaders all over Botswana. Relying on social history as told by current communities, the article offers alternative methodology to the common one that relied on missionary records.

Keywords: Botswana evolution, cautious modernisation, ethnic minorities, peaceful development,colonial and Post-Colonial Periods.


This paper takes a historical swing to look at the collapse of the pre-colonial political states among the Tswana and their associates, and the re-discovery of the political state in the pre-colonial, protectorate and post-colonial periods. It defines the state in terms of political power and its exercise from a central place, to mobilise populations (characterised by different ethnic groups and their ethnic leaders), land and natural resources, and any other resources (including military and religious powers) to act as one political unit in its operations. Taking the political state as the unit of analysis, the paper regards any major split in the political state or any major migration away from central political authority or any major military defeat at the hands of invaders that led to the destruction of the political state, as signalling state collapse in the pre-colonial period. However, the paper recognises that state collapse in the pre-colonial period was often partial, with the traditional religion remaining intact in the concerned region even after the destruction of the political state. The paper regards as state recovery, the establishment of centralised political authority over a territory occupied by

numerous ethnic groups. It regards as stateless, those ethnic groups and lands that observed no centralised political authority over them, even if there was a centralised religious authority in the area. The paper focuses on the historical kingdoms that either collapsed or converted into chiefdoms during the colonial era and their conversion into districts after the country’s independence in 1966.

The bulk of the material for this research was collected through local democracy workshops in the different regions of Botswana. Facilitated by the author, and using a local democracy instrument developed by International IDEA for mapping levels of local democracy in Africa, the Botswana workshops attracted chiefs from different villages and elders from each region, councillors from each region, council and central government staff working in each region, members of village development committees in each region, leaders of trade unions and religious organisations in each region, as well as members of youth and women organisations. The workshops were organised by the author and the Botswana


18 Online J Afri Affairs

Association of Local Authorities (BALA). They were generously funded by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation-Botswana Office. Each workshop attracted 100+- attendants who were then randomly divided into five working groups that were required to deliberate on specified issues on the research instrument. Each working group later presented before plenary sessions which helped to enrich the data from the presentations. Each chief, from a village or a ward in large villages, was asked to lead in presenting the history of his own people and elders were present to help out. The author, who was recording and guiding the workshops, compiled a report for each region, and presented it at a Full Council meeting in each district. This helped to correct factual errors. The regional reports constituted the primary data for this article. Alongside workshops, interviews were conducted with elders associated with the traditional systems, who provided insights into the structures of the traditional political systems. This approach based on regional workshops and interviews with village and ward elders, provided alternative research methodology that assisted to unearth social history as told by current leaders of the communities. Other data came from official records compiled jointly by the district councils and the Ministry of Lands and Housing.

The argument of the paper is that the pre-colonial peoples lost their political states, but that some were able to recover. It was the colonial state that restored the political state in a more complete manner. The other argument is that the Tswana practised centralised political administration in terms of creating capitals in which human populations were concentrated and services were provided. They also practised a form of regional centralisation in which ethnic minorities in distant lands were relocated (through encouragement, compulsion and example) into regional capitals where services were provided. Furthermore there were administrative links through a chief’s representative between the regional capitals and the main capital. This paper will show that the modernisation of these systems was done cautiously and in less disruptive manners, thus, attracting the support of (rather than resistance from) the chieftaincies that they replaced.

The Collapse of the Pre-Colonial States

Pre-colonial and colonial Botswana were characterised by numerous autonomous kingdoms that occupied a huge territory- the size of France. This implied the failure to construct a state big enough to rule together all this territory. To begin with, invasions fast tracked the collapse of some states. According to the North East Local Democracy workshop1, such was the case of the pre-colonial Bawumbe-Kalanga state that was sacked by the Banyai of Shona origin in the 1500s, who themselves


1. A local democracy workshop for the North East district was held at Masunga on the 17th to 19th April 2009

were later sacked by the Barotsi and the Ndebele in the 1830s, individually and jointly, and who themselves were sacked by Cecil John Rhodes and his Rhodesians in the 1890s.

Concerning the Bawumbe-Kalanga State, Chigwedere [1 p5] argued that ‘…at least 85 % of the Zimbabwean Africans had a common ancestry and were members of one united political complex up to about 1500 and that tribal segmentation and fragmentation set in especially after 1700 to result in the multiplicity of the clans in this country, that is a familiar feature of us today’. Writing in a column in the Botswana Sunday Standard newspaper in May 2012, Jeff Ramsay, a Botswana based historian, confirmed that what was described above was the Bawumbe/Kalanga Empire. Chigwedere had claimed in his writings that that empire at its collapse had consisted of groups that developed into Tswana and Zulu kingdoms. Ironically, the collapse of the original Bawumbe/Kalanga Empire and the dispersal of its communities and rulers into the Southern Africa region meant that they assumed different identities: some consider themselves as Barotsi, others as Ndebele, others as Bakhurutshe, and so on. According to the North East Local Democracy Report, the Bawumbe rulers of Mosojane village considered themselves as Ndebele.

According to the Southern District Local Democracy Workshop Report2, such too was the case with the Bakaa and Barolong who, used to be one kingdom that was later invaded by the Barotsi, Bangwato and Ndebele kingdoms, respectively, losing significant proportions of their population and territory, factors that made state recovery almost an impossibility. The Tonota Local Democracy workshop3 confirmed that, most of the Barotsi at Tonota Village regarded the elephant as their totem, which was also the totem of the Bakaa communities. Thus, pre-colonial states that broke down and lost a significant portion of their population to invasions by other groups, found it extremely difficult to recover.

While invasions played a part in the collapse of pre-colonial states, the Tswana also lost their states through internal competition. Schapera [2] noted that, the Bakwena, Bangwaketse, and Bangwato chiefdoms are commonly held to be the offshoots of what was originally one kingdom, whose senior branch is represented by the Bahurutshe; while the Batawana chieftaincy is known to have separated from the Bangwato chiefdom at the end of the eighteenth century. In short, among the Tswana, state collapse was characterised by major separation of communities that once constituted a state, and were no longer willing to live together. Such break-ups prevented the emergence of a single big and strong state that could rule the whole territory occupied by all the Tswana groups. These break-ups were confirmed in the local

2A local democracy report for the Southern District local democracy workshop held on 23-25 June 2009


A local democracy workshop for the Tonota Sub-district was held at Tonota between 31st March and 1st April 2009.


democracy workshops, each giving reasons, some of which did not match those given by another group. For instance, in local democracy workshops among the Bakwena at Molepolole4, it was reported that their separation from the Bangwato and Bangwaketse chiefdoms was amicable, as they gradually drifted away from each other looking for space. In contrast, the Serowe local democracy workshop report5 noted that the separation was characterised by tensions (but not war) due to the fact that Ngwato (their founder, was born late from the first wife of the king, prompting his half-brothers that were born first, but from the second and third wives, to want to kill him. His alleged escape led his mother (Mma-Ngwato) to break away with followers who were initially named after her, and later after her son (Ngwato). In another case noted in the Boteti local democracy workshop report6, the significant break-up between Bangwato and Batawana chiefdoms happened in the Boteti region, at Kedia village to be specific. It was reported that Chief Mathiba had two wives whose two sons, Tawana and Khama, competed for succession. Their competition and rivalry divided the whole Bangwato kingdom, leading Mathiba and Tawana to break away with their supporters to establish the Batawana state in the Ngamiland region. These break-ups prevented the discovery of a single strong Bangwato state that could govern all these territories and peoples from one point. The presence of a very large delta somewhat weakened the Batawana state and prevented it from re-organising the indigenous communities. According to an official report by the Ngamiland District Council, Ngamiland District Development Committee and the Ministry of Lands and Housing7, ‘within Botswana, the Okavango River flow 95kms in a well-defined channel, in a south-easterly direction, with 10-15 km wide floodplain, until it fans out into the perennial and seasonal swamps and floodplain. The swamps and floodplain occupy an area of about 7000-10 000km2’ [3 p72]. Thus, the length of the river required the building of numerous bridges and this was beyond the capacity of the Batawana kingdom. The report adds that apart from Maun village – the headquarters of the Batawana kingdom, ‘the rest of the sparsely populated district is made of villages and rural area settlements that are mostly located along the fringes of rivers or the delta…The main natural physical constrains in the district are the remoteness of the settlements, large distances between settlements, sandy roads, poor soils, presence of tsetse-fly, low rainfall and abundance of surface water’ [3 p72-73]. This partly suggests that this kingdom never had a large population

4A local democracy workshop for the Molepolole Administrative Authority was held in Molepolole on the 5th -7th February 2010.

5A local democracy workshop for the Serowe Administrative Authority was held on the 17th-19th August 2010.

6A local democracy workshop for the Boteti Sub-district was held at Letlhakane on the 20th and 21st August 2007.


A local democracy workshop for the Ngamiland District was held in Maun on the 30th and 31st November 2005.

which could be mobilised towards its ends. The report by the Ngamiland District Council, Ngamiland District Development Committee and the Ministry of Lands and Housing further reported that while canoes were cheap and affordable to indigenous people, they were not readily available to the Batawana rulers who also lacked a riverine culture, thus limiting their use and reach. The local democracy workshop confirmed that many settlements were inaccessible, including, Xhaxhaba, Jao, Qangwa, Xhaudumo, Mabozo, and NxauNxau. This is also confirmed by official documents where it is noted that ‘the absence of good transport links between settlements in the district remains a major issue’ [3 p54]. As a result, the Batawana chiefdom co-existed with stateless indigenous groups, without being able to re-organise and modernise them in its own image (this point will be elaborated later).

In contrast, the Bapedi communities that settled around the Tswapong hills also lost their kingdom through break-ups, invasions and traditions of splitting. According to Batswapong elders who attended the Palapye local democracy workshop8, Bapedi had moved extensively around the Transvaal area, settling at Pieterburg, Gananwa, Zoutpansberg and Blaawuberg/Mmalebogo. The Bapedi were initially led by Kgosi Golo Golo. They crossed the Limpopo River into present day Botswana around 1700 AD. They settled at Tseyse (now called Tsetsejwe), moved to Maope and Ratobo near Dilolwane and Topisi (these relocations were partly due to their culture as will be shown below). Kgosi Mapulane, who led some of the Bapedi into the Moremi area was accompanied by Sekwakwa and Ditlhonamo leading the regiments. They were together with Tshilalu’s group that later left and became the Bakalanga of Nswazi, Masunga and Tutume villages where they remained without a kingdom. This information was confirmed at the Tutume local democracy workshop. During that time, the culture of the Bapedi prohibited them from walking over sand (leaving tracks) and over tree leaves as their noise attracted Ndebele attacks. To begin with, Bapedi suffered successive invasions from Barotsi, Ndebele and Bangwato, and these influenced their culture.

Ironically, the Bapedi of Tswapong left their kingdom in South Africa, but retained the religious system after settling in the Tswapong Hills in what later became Botswana. As a result, Moremi village (Manaledi) constitute the religious headquarters of the Bapedi people who migrated from the Tswapong region to establish distant villages, freeing themselves from a single authority that collapsed in the process. For instance, Manaledi village was populated by Bapedi under kgosi Mapulane. Mapulane’s group was a combination of Bavenda and Bapedi of Sekhukhuni 1 from the Transvaal in South Africa. According to their elders and chiefs, endless wars drove them out of the


A local democracy workshop for the Palapye Administrative Authority was held on the 31st August-3rd September 2010.


20 Online J Afri Affairs

Transvaal area into the Tswapong hills. As part of their defense, Bapedi walked on rocks that they also used as war weapons by rolling them down towards their enemies. They also heavily relied on traditional medicine to fight their enemies. The Tswapong hills proved attractive because there was evidence of iron smelting, a traditional practice of the Bapedi people. The area also possessed fertile land for farming. The Lerala hills were associated with rivers and rich wild fruits. Traditional medicine was also popular as most of these Dikgosi were traditional doctors.

In the Tswapong Hills, Bapedi reportedly also lost their state through a culture of relocating every time a successor took over. According to Batswapong elders and chiefs who attended the Palapye local democracy workshop, traditionally Bapedi relocated every time a new chief assumed the throne, contributing to the collapse of the state. It was reported that the word lerala, is meant to capture this practice. Lerala means those who move around every time a new kgosi assumes the reign. Examples that they gave included the following: Lerala village was populated by Bapedi people led by Sekope (and his son Ramakodilo,) and the mountain hare - mpedi is their totem. Sekope and his group came from South Africa (Blaauwberg) allegedly around 1750, and settled at Seolwane at Tsididing. They were called Baganwane. They moved to Mamahututu and then to Moremi at Lesenepole (named after a regiment leader). Ramakodile took over the chieftaincy in the Moremi area, and led his people back to Mamahututu and left others at Mokokwana (also named after a regiment leader) and Lesenepole. His son Modise took over the chieftaincy and moved towards Tsididing hills again. Modise’s son Magosi later moved into the middle of the hills. Magosi’s son, Moroka, took over and relocated the people once more. Moroka ruled the Lerala people during the conflict among the Bangwato between Kgosi Macheng and Kgosi Sekgoma 1 and his son Khama. Moroka’s son (Mokakapadi) welcomed Macheng. This attracted war from Sekgoma 1 who attacked the Bapedi/Baganwane of Lerala and dispersed them. Some went to Ngwapa. Mokakapadi and others went back to South Africa with Macheng (the deposed kgosi of the Bangwato) who later went to Gantsi. Other Lerala people went to Bobirwa - the Dandane people. Lerala as a village disappeared during that time. According to the Batswapong elders, it was also traditionally common for Bapedi to move in all directions looking for fertile land and to stake their claim

over hills and rivers. As a result, some

Batswapong/Bapedi migrated north and ended up spreading the spiritually-oriented culture to the Kalanga communities. However, some Bapedi remained in the Tswapong region and co-existed with other groups beyond their control, such as the Ndebele of Seleka and Babirwa communities.

In contrast, the San (or Bushmen) are not known to have ever had a state of their own, making them vulnerable to conquest by successive invasions from those organised

in state systems. According to several local democracy workshops, traditionally, the San also did not settle in large settlements, making organised defence almost impossible during the pre-colonial wars. The Kgalagadi District local Democracy workshop9 observed that as a result of living in small settlements, the San were scattered, most migrating to the Kgalagadi desert where there they were joined by many other groups without states. Tlou and Campbell [4 p68] noted that the desert was populated by other various ethnic groups that did not have a state, including the Bakgwatlheng, Baboloongwe,

Bangologa, Baphaleng and Bashaga. Official

documents10 add the Batlharo, Bakhothu and ‘Makaladi’ (Basetedi) to the list of ethnic groups in the district. According to Kgalagadi local democracy workshop participants, the list should also include the Barolong, Bahurutshe and Bakgatla. All these groups co-existed without a state. The San and members of other groups without a state were also found as minorities in most Tswana dominated areas where some kind of state was organised.

While some groups recovered to organise a state, such as the Bangwato, Bakwena and so on, others (such as Bawumbe, Barolong, Balete, Batlokwa, Bahurutshe, Bakaa and so on) lost it completely, and only the linguistic, performing and religious cultures remained. In short, break-ups and invasions occurred on such a massive scale, leading to the loss of the traditional state. Among the original Batswana groups such as Barolong and others that lost significant portions of their population, war was not employed to unite these kingdoms into one empire or into one state.

Internal Organisation of Chiefdoms and Service Delivery

Those pre-colonial groups that were able to recover from devastating splits and invasions, and were able to re-organise themselves into states, provided important insights into their internal structures and their capacity to deliver services. The question of how communities and individuals accessed services in fairly large chiefdoms, such as the Bangwato and Bakwena was answered in ways that are politically revealing. First, the choice of sites for capitals and other large human settlements depended on the discovery of reliable sources of water, such as rivers and pans (in the desert), on availability of farming land and wildlife, and above all, on availability of hills for defence. For instance, according to Bangwato elders who attended the Serowe local democracy workshop, the Bangwato chiefdom established its capitals at various places including at the hilly-Shoshong (where it found Bakaa people), hilly-Kedia (where it found

9A local democracy workshop for the Kgalagadi was held at Tshabong on the 17-18th May 2006.


Kgalagadi District Council, Kgalagadi District Development Committee and Ministry of Lands and Housing, Gaborone: Government Printer.


Bateti and San communities) and hilly-Palapye (where it found Batswapong people), and finally at Serowe because this last site had a high water table and became secure due to the existence of the Protectorate state. Elders of Serowe led by Shaw Mokgadi of Goo Rammala ward observed that the name Serowe derives from a place whose water table is very high (serowa sa metsi) and has plenty of water. It was reported that water-rich Serowe was initially a cattle post for the Khama family (Bangwato rulers), and later became the main capital of the Bangwato. It was further reported that Serowe was settled by Bangwato on different occasions (they were displaced by wars of that era as the flat land surrounding Serowe was not easy to defend) and was only finally made their permanent home from 1902.

In other chiefdoms, such as the Bakwena, their capital Molepolole was characterised by defensive hills, abundance of water resources, land for farming and access to abundant wildlife. According to Bakwena elders who attended the Molepolole local democracy workshop, their settlement of the area was also disrupted by pre-colonial wars through which the states lost populations and resources. It was reported that the Molepolole area used to be populated by the Bakgalagadi (named after the Kalahari Desert) people who were either displaced by pre-colonial wars or who later joined the Bakwena chiefdom as their exploited subordinates. In another instance, the Mogoditshane/Thamaga local democracy workshop11 revealed that the Bakwena chiefdom settled a refugee population of the Basetedi people (coloureds) who practised blacksmithing and gardening (both requiring an abundance of water). They were settled at Kumakwane on the perennial Kolobeng River in the Bakwena chiefdom. The Basetedi elders attending the Mogoditshane/Thamaga local democracy workshop reported that the Basetedi had been denied residence by the Bangwaketse chiefdom, who could not meet their needs. In addition, Letlhakeng, a sub-capital of the Bakwena chiefdom that was predominantly populated by Bakgalagadi people (who had previously lost their state) was characterised by beautiful scenery (because of the presence of dry valleys), abundant underground water and rich wildlife. Bakgalagadi elders reported that their ancestors and other groups established villages near pans, displacing the San, who avoided settling together with others.

In contrast, Kgatleng district local democracy workshop reported that the village of Artesia in the Bakgatla chiefdom is historically known for its spring waters which made the area very good for cattle rearing, and attracted Bakgatla chiefs. The Bakgatla elders reported that their chieftaincy survived numerous droughts due to the presence of those spring waters. The spring waters were also responsible for the Bakgatla-Bakwena wars in the 19th century, leading to the expulsion of the latter. They


A Local democracy workshop for the Mogoditshane sub district was held between 25 to 27th May 2010.

also reported that the Madikwe and Crocodile rivers meet in the Kgatleng before flowing into the Limpopo. A report by the Kgatleng District Council, Kgatleng District Development Committee and Ministry of Lands and Housing12, ‘The drainage system includes the Notwane

and Metsimotlhabe rivers and Tlhagale and

Monametsana streams that flow into the Notwane River until it reaches the Limpopo River’. Thus, these rivers eased living in the Bakgatla chiefdom.

Instances of forceful relocation of indigenous communities or ethnic minorities were reported in the regions in most of the chiefdoms. For instance, relocations were reported in the Boteti, the Tswapong and Tonota regions of the Bangwato chiefdom where either water resources or naturally rich agricultural regions or defensive hills, exchanged hands in favour of the Bangwato at the main capital, and where local communities were relocated elsewhere. In one instance, the Bobirwa region, with its high concentration of rivers, had its residents relocated. According to Babirwa elders who attended the Bobirwa local democracy workshop13, the Limpopo River, forms the boundary between Botswana in the Bobirwa region and South Africa. It meets Shashe River at a point called shalimpo in the Tuli farms. Limpopo meets Tuli River in the Tuli Block. Bangwato gave this land to the British Government as payment for the establishment of a protectorate over them. Babirwa communities that lived in the Tuli Block region were relocated and the area was given out to white farmers in what came to be known as Tuli Block farms. This saw large scale relocations.

In contrast, the Gantsi area that had no chiefdom at any known time, experienced displacement of the indigenous people from the fertile and well watered lands. San elders at the Gantsi local democracy workshop14 revealed that the San occupied the Gantsi area for thousands of years. An official report by the Gantsi District Council, Gantsi District Development Committee and Ministry of Lands and Housing, ‘the most striking topographical feature in the district is the Gantsi Ridge…The ridge contains the most productive land in the district, due to its high water potential and moderate quality soils. The fact that the ridge is approximately 300kms and some of it falls outside the district means that there is high competition for productive land between ranches, villages and the nomadic life of the local inhabitants, which was dependent on wild animals’ [5 p10]. It adds that ‘the opportunities for exploiting wildlife and veldt products have been adversely affected by the increase of the livestock population, establishment of settlements within the migration routes, fencing, and drought’ [5 p10]. According to the report, the bulk of the

12Kgatleng District Council, Kgatleng District Development Committee and Ministry of Lands and Housing, Gaborone: Government Printer, 2003, p4. 13A local democracy workshop for the Bobirwa sub-district was held in Selibe Phikwe on the 28th and 29th May 2008.


A local democracy workshop was held at Gantsi Township on the 23-25th August 2005.


22 Online J Afri Affairs

land along the ridge is freehold land, constituting 8.88 percent (10 480km2). A large number of commercial farming enterprises (ranches) are found along the ridge’ [5 p1]. It also noted that ‘the first Gantsi farmers came, mainly from the Cape Province, about the turn of the present century. They settled along the Gantsi Ridge, which has long been known for its strong, reliable and shallow groundwater’ [5 p7].

According to the report, the ridge changed hands on a grand scale: ‘the Gantsi Free Hold Farms in the northern part of the district consists of 172 farms with the average size of approximately 6 340 hectares’ [5 p78-79]. The conversion of the ridge into ranches meant the loss of land and access to natural resources for the San/Basarwa’s nomadic hunting and gathering traditional economy. This plunged the majority of the Basarwa into poverty. The official report further noted that ‘the district has several RAD (consisting of highly mobile people who are also extremely poor) settlements: Xade, Grootlaagte, Qabo, New Xanagas, West Hanahai, East Hanahai, Bere, Kacgae, and Chobokwane’ [5 p7]. The establishment of large numbers of ranches along the Gantsi ridge also meant that ranching became a major economic activity in the district and most of the hunting areas within the ridge have been privatised. All these facts were confirmed by the Gantsi local democracy workshop.

Internal Organisation of Pre-Colonial States

In terms of internal organisation, research conducted through the local democracy workshops showed that several chiefdoms were organised in a centralised and regionally-centralised manner. First, chiefdoms had a capital, or the administrative and political centre, where the paramount chief and his uncles resided and where the majority of the population also lived. What is often not recognised and was revealed at the local democracy workshops, is that, to create majorities in the main capitals (where services were concentrated), subject people or ethnic minorities from distant regions were required to settle at the capital to enhance its population, its political unity and its military preparedness and to boost its economic power. Subject peoples (some of whom came as refugees) were welcomed into the capital; others were encouraged and often compelled to relocate to the capital.

For purposes of assessing governance, the primary question then becomes, which ward did they reside in? What political power did this ward have? The way these questions were handled, determined whether some groups were excluded, marginalised and oppressed, or whether they were incorporated on more equal and humane terms, marking their acceptance and mutual co-existence and their participation in the governance of the capital. According to Bangwato elders who attended the Serowe local democracy workshop, among the Bangwato (its failure to settle in one place makes it new in some

sense, providing rich data on the organisation of the state), the capital Serowe was divided into a few main administrative and political wards. It was reported that the four wards that founded Serowe in 1902, were arranged hierarchically, with Maaloso Ward for the chief. Interestingly, ‘foreign’ people (refugees, immigrants, those compelled to move to the capital) (such as Batalaote, Bapedi, Bakaa, Bawumbe) were housed in the Maaloso Ward and their residence in the chiefly Maaloso Ward made them politically and administratively senior to all other wards. The word ‘foreign’ is used inappropriately here because the Bangwato royals married from these ethnic groups, gave out their own daughters for marriage into those ethnic groups and forged mutual bonds with them. The word ‘foreign’ is used here for purposes of distinguishing the Bangwato clan from those it incorporated into its chiefdom. It was reported that marriages were used to help cement strong bonds between the Phuting clan and others that collectively regarded themselves as Bangwato.

In addition, the hereditary senior headman of the Maaloso Ward is Mathodi Mathodi (whose totem is cow [suggestive of Ndebele origins] and not the duiker or phuting clan). In addition, according to the Serowe local democracy workshop report15, it was also reported that Khama III liked the hardworking Barotsi people and invited their young and strong men from Barotsiland Protectorate in Zambia to come and work on the railway line that was being constructed in the Bechuanaland Protectorate in the 1890s and onwards, ending up establishing villages along the railway line. Most of these Barotsi men married local women and were also incorporated into the Maaloso Ward in Serowe.

Too often the emphasis is on the marginalisation and oppression of minorities, without any acknowledgement that this was sometimes accompanied by their liberation as well. The liberation of subject people or ethnic minorities from each other was most visible in the Tonota region where, according to Barotsi elders, the Bakhurutshe in-laws practised a matrimonial culture, leading to the disappearance of Barotsi as a group. Barotsi men in the Tonota region who married Bakhurutshe women had their children and property registered in their wives’ names. They also reported that when Chief Tshekedi Khama of the Bangwato became aware of this practice, Chief Manyaphiri (chief’s representative from Serowe) relocated a substantial part of the Bakhurutshe population to the Boteti region, creating space for the Barotsi and their livestock in the Loomboko ward in Tonota village and towards the Shashe dam, and assisting them to appoint their own leaders, to build their own facilities, such as schools and health clinics. In this manner, the Barotsi of the Tonota region gained their identity as a distinct community, with

15A local democracy workshop for the Serowe Administrative Authority was held on the 17-19th August 2010. The report was finalised on 10th October 2010.


cultural practices of their own. In a similar case, San elders in the Boteti region told the author in interviews that the San had been suffering at the hands of Bateti people who had a diabolical practice requiring that the burial of a dead Moteti be accompanied by two San, who were buried alive (one on top and the other under the dead Moteti). They reported that this heinous practice was ended by the Bangwato, who relocated a substantial portion of Bateti to the Tutume region, while bringing Bakhurutshe in to neutralise those who remained.

The Serowe elders revealed that the second ward in Serowe, Basimane Ward, was named for Khama III’s first son. This ward was established for Sekgoma II, whose mother Mmabesi had died in Palapye (Tswapong region) and his followers. A staunch Christian, widower Khama III then married again, and established the third ward, Maaloso a ngwana, for his other son, Tshekedi Khama (who ruled Bangwato as a regent from around 1923). Lastly, the fourth ward at the founding of Serowe was called Di tima Modimo Ward, for royal uncles from the Phuting clan. This is the ward where descendants of the brothers of Bangwato chiefs were found. In some sense, this was a royalty ward per excellence, except that the chief and his sons were based in other wards where they surrounded themselves with peoples of different ethnic origins.

The Serowe elders also revealed that each ward had numerous administrative wards within it, and were led by headmen. Hereditary succession excluded women, but it was not uncommon for mothers to act as regents for their young sons. For instance, Maaloso had 47 wards

(Rammala, dinokwane, manyadiwa, morongwa,

makolojwane, teko, masilo, masoga, mathwane – (this last ward was established for Bakaa of Mmashoro who were encouraged to relocate to Serowe) and so on. On the other hand, these headmen met regularly for consultative and policymaking purposes, a practice that promoted the traditional democratic governance that Botswana is famous for. In contrast, Basimane Ward had 23 initial wards including Bohurutshe, Mosenye, Basimane kgomo, Tshipana, maoba, and so on. It was reported that all regional capitals in the Bangwato chiefdom (such as Bobonong in the Bobirwa region, Tonota in the Tonota region, Palapye in the Tswapong region, Mahalapye in the Mahalapye region, and Letlhakane in the Boteti region) had the four main wards of Moaloso, Basimane, Di tima Modimo and Maaloso a Ngwana. This was confirmed in the regional workshops held in these regions. In this, way, the Bangwato (and other chiefdoms) exported their political system to all major human settlements in their chiefdom or district. The hereditary headmen of all these administrative wards met regularly to debate issues and take decisions. Their meetings, sometimes in camera and other times in public, enhanced traditional democratic accountability. There were also kgotla meetings (assemblies) where all headmen conference with the chief and the public. Even

those from the regional capitals were required to attend. This shows that a strong sense of democratic accountability was embedded in the political culture of the chiefdoms.

Tswana chiefdoms also exported leaders. According to regional workshops in the Bangwato chiefdom, it is important to note that there existed regional capitals where some of the subject peoples or ethnic minorities lived. People in distant regions could access services by travelling long distances to the main capital, by establishing homesteads in the main capital, or by being re-grouped into regional capitals where similar services could be provided at a much lower scale, as we shall see below. In ruling their large chiefdom, Bangwato exported leaders from Serowe who re-organised distant ethnic groups (others did the same, except Batawana who mainly failed), regions and communities in their own image. For instance, Sekonyana was sent from Serowe to administer over Mahalapye, a settlement that had started as a train station, and had attracted migrants. Similarly, SegotsoNgwako was sent to go and administer Palapye, which also started as a train station. The current Palapye Township started as a train station and was initially populated by Barotsi and white Europeans who worked on the railway line. Palapye was resettled for the second time around 1910. Bangwato sent Segotso Ngwako from Serowe to become the first chief of current Palapye. Palapye Primary school was housed in the premises of the London Missionary Society.

These chiefs’ representatives re-organised the political systems of the subject people or ethnic minorities into the image of the Bangwato. In the case of the Tonota region, Bakhurutshe elders revealed that Rauwe (himself a Mokhurutshe) was the founder of Tonota village, primarily populated by Bakhurutshe people, and his son Radipitse Rauwe and his grandson Ramosinyi Radipitse were his successors. But after Radipitse, there was no local chief from Tonota for 40 years. This was because of chieftainship disputes among the royal sons and their supporters. Bakhurutshe elders further revealed that the Bangwato chiefdom intervened and Ookame Sedimo was brought from Serowe to run Tonota and its people. He was followed by Manyaphiri (the one who liberated the Barotsi) and by Raditladi all from Serowe. Effectively, the Bangwato leaders took over the chieftainship of the Bakhurutshe for 40 years. The last chief’s representative from Serowe was Bobi Tshipana after which the chieftainship reverted back to Bakhurutshe. (What makes this case interesting is that the Bakhurutshe were once senior to the Bangwato as stated at the beginning of this paper).

Another typical example of exporting leaders was revealed concerning the the Bobirwa region of the Bangwato chiefdom. Babirwa elders revealed that the three Babirwa Chiefs, Madema, Malema and Seromula had separated earlier to Tsetsebye, Semolale and Mathathane villages, respectively, achieving their


24 Online J Afri Affairs

independence from each other, and not recognising any authority above them. By so doing, they weakened what was left of their lost state and were vulnerable to any serious invasion that came their way. However, the elders reported that the Bangwato chiefdom later compelled them to re-locate to Bobonong and to live under Bangwato authority (it was further reported that Bangwato intended to send colonies of Batalaote to settle in these same villages. However, the capacity of the Bangwato chiefdom to deploy colonies was not very successful in this regard as their transportation system broke down, and a good number of the Batalaote colony settled in Sephophe). The history of the Bobirwa region can be summarised in the establishment of Bobonong Village.

Babirwa elders revealed that Khama III had authorised Modisaotsile to re-locate the scattered people, to build a London Missionary Society church in Bobonong and to turn it into a school. There was only one classroom and this was the whole church. A police station was also built. The result was that Magwasha (traditional rites of the Babirwa) were abolished and Bangwato regiments forcefully drove Babirwa children to church and to school, where they were given English names. Babirwa youth were given English names in preparation for the new world they were entering. They were also uprooted from their culture and modernised. (Interestingly, Babirwa continue the practice of giving English names to their children. In short, this has become part of their culture).

Another Bangwato royal (chief Ngwato) took over from Modisaotsile, and continued with the modernisation of the region, including the protection of white-owned farms in the Tuli Block. Overseers from Serowe were placed around Bobonong to look after Bangwato cattle-posts and crop fields, and to protect white-owned farms. The benefits of Bangwato rule over the Babirwa have been that this region has produced a very educated population that has come to dominate the Botswana bureaucracy and economy, making any radical resistance impossible. (A later paper will analyse the negatives of Bangwato rule). However, a difficulty arose recently when the position of Chief’s representative was localised, requiring a local from Babirwa to take over. Unaccustomed to having an imperial local chief with political and administrative powers over all the Babirwa, they have found it extremely difficult to agree on whom to appoint, and have actually appealed to the central government to assist in resolving the issue.

Babirwa elders also revealed that Bobonong, the capital of the region, had 32 original wards, which had grown to 38 at the time of the local democracy workshop in 2008. There was a good reason for the village to have so many wards. Each village in the Bobirwa region had a ward in Bobonong where it was expected to re-locate. The main kgotla belonged to Bangwato and was the headquarters of the area. The other wards included Pudipedi, Dandani of Batswapong and Ndebele, Mothobi

ward of Bakalanga and Borotsi. These wards were generally known as Legigo, which consisted of five wards, including Pudipedi, Makala of Babirwa, Dandani and Mothobi. There were also the Bapedi from Zimbabwe who settled in the Bobirwa area, and were required to relocate to Bobonong. There is a Bakgatla ward for Bakgatla who settled at Lentswe le Meriti and were expected to re-locate to Bobonong. All these wards were headed by hereditary headmen who were required to attend all meetings at the main kgotla in Bobonong, and helped to promote democratic accountability. Bobonong acquired a larger population than all the other villages, and was made the headquarters of the Bangwato and that of the region. At the time of the local democracy workshop, Bobonong had one senior secondary school (for forms 4 and 5), three junior community secondary schools, eight primary schools, three private day care centres, one primary hospital and three health clinics. One health clinic focused on HIV/AIDS and started home based care before anywhere else in Botswana. Thus, regional capitals have helped to bring services to people in faraway areas.

Another notable development in the Bobirwa and Boteti regions was the fact that Khama III and Tshekedi Khama who succeeded him, sent colonies to settle among the local people. In the first instance, Batalaotse people were sent to settle in the Bobirwa region. In the second instance, Bakhurutshe were sent to settle in the Boteti region. According to Batalaote elders who attended the Palapye local democracy workshop, the aims were primarily political and administrative, to break the power of the seemingly large Batalaote and Bakhurutshe groups that could pose a threat to Bangwato dominance, and to neutralise the ethnic minorities in those regions. The other competing aim, discussed above, was to defuse chieftainship rivalry among the Bakhurutshe that threatened the stability of the Bangwato chiefdom, and to free land for the Barotsi who had actually settled at Tonota before the Bakhurutshe came, and faced extinction in terms of identity loss as their children born of Bakhurutshe wives took the identity of their mothers.

In the second instance, ethnic minorities in distant regions re-organised themselves in the image of the Bangwato, to reap the same benefits. According to elders who attended the tutume local democracy workshop, this was more evident in the Tutume area among the Bapedi, Batalaotse, Bawumbe, Ndebele and Bakaa. It was revealed at the local democracy workshop in Tutume that Memwe (a Motalaote) was among the first to cross from Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) into Bangwato chiefdom. Memwe crossed the Maitengwe River around 1919 and Khama settled him on the border. Memwe was made the overseer of the boundary with Rhodesia. When Mpapho joined him (another Motalaote), Memwe moved his village to the end of the border. Mazua also joined them. Initially each chief was independent and equal to the others, but subordinate to the Bangwato chiefdom. Some


of Memwe’s fields provided crops for the Bangwato chieftaincy, and people in the region were required to farm them. All the other chiefs were then subsumed under Memwe. In actually fact, a Bangwato chief’s representative who also doubled as a tax collector was sent from Serowe and was based at Memwe Village until he moved to Sebina Village which became the headquarters of the region. It was during that time that large white crop storages (matula machena) were built in the Maitengwe region, to provide Serowe with grains.

Elders of the Tutume region reported that Bangwato had exported Rasebolao to rule the region in the early 1900s, with headquarters at Majamboba Hill. Rasebolao then moved his administration to Sebina Village (whose local chieftainship was in the hands of the Bakaa ethnic group) and was the senior chief there. As a result, Sebina became the headquarters of what later became the Tutume region, and people from other villages were encouraged to relocate there. Sebina remained the headquarters until Rasebolao went back to Serowe and a sub-chief from the region was elected to be the chief’s representative or senior chief at Sebina. For instance, sub-chief Modie from Madikwa was made senior chief at Sebina, sparking competition from villages around Tutume River that incorporated themselves into one very large village, and therefore becoming the regional capital. It was further revealed that most of the large villages in the region such as Tutume, Nkange, Maitengwe were named after rivers passing near groups of small villages. The rivers proved to be neutral names that were accepted by the majority of the people in the villages that had to be grouped together. For instance, Maitengwe Village (named after a river) consists of Mpapho, Mazua, Matema, Memwe, Guthu and New Sabasi villages. However, it was the newly established Tutume Village (predominatly populated by bapedi, Bawumbe, Bateti and Ndebele ethnic groups, in no order) that was able to encourage numerous small villages to grow into each other, into one large centre that finally became the headquarters of the region where services are concentrated such as hospitals and colleges.

Modernising the state in the colonial and post-colonial periods

The argument of this article is that local governance in colonial and post-colonial Botswana was crafted cautiously in ways that incorporated the traditional features of the old administrative set up that it replaced, avoided the re-drawing of boundaries and maintained existing domination arrangements over ethnic minorities. Initially, with the establishment of a Protectorate by Great Britain in 1885, these independent Tswana kingdoms and other ethnic minorities were protected, re-united in some loose way, and downgraded to chiefdoms. This meant that their independent kings came to be regarded as chiefs, recognising only one queen or king, of England. Political decisions had to be ratified by the British Government.

This was politically and administratively important, implying that crucial decisions were now transferred to Great Britain. However, the boundaries of what became the Tswana chiefdoms, their capitals, regional capitals and the ethnic minorities that they controlled, were preserved during the protectorate era (1885-1966).

Thus the Protectorate state and the post-colonial states preserved the boundaries of the old kingdoms. This was despite the fact that some of the lost chiefdoms such as those of the Balete, and Batlokwa were very small in terms of landmass, measuring only 1492 km2 combined. These actually qualified to be classified as ethnic minorities, however, instead, their territories were merged into the South East district even though they had separate land boards and separate chieftaincies. Fortunately, according to Batlokwa and Balete elders who attended the South East District local democracy workshop16, there was no history of atrocities between them, enabling co-existence, regarding each other as ‘cousins’ in a mutual reinforcing way. However, even then, the two communities were asking for separation.

In their proximity was another lost chiefdom, that of the Bakgatla, measuring 7600km2. The Bakgatla chiefdom became the Kgatleng district. Bakgatla elders who attended the Kgatleng district local democracy workshop17 reported that the bulk of the Bakgatla population had remained in South Africa, while the leaders had run from Persecution at the hands of the Afrikaners, into Botswana. But the fact that the small Bakgatla chiefdom became an independent district was a very cautious way of modernising chiefdoms into local governance structures. Another small district was that of the North East, which measured some 5993km2. It used to belong to the Tati Mining Company, whose land was bought back by the Botswana state, freeing its people from company exploitation and bondage.

In contrast, some districts were very large in terms of landmass and were not partitioned into functionally administrative areas. This was another cautions way of modernising Tswana chiefdoms into districts. For instance, according to official records18, the Central district, the Bangwato chiefdom, covered an area of 146 531 km2, or one third of Botswana, making it the largest district in the country, 98 times the size of the South East district. At the time of the workshop, the Central District Council had 152 councillors, making it extremely hard for each of them to speak at council meetings. Some of these councillors lived more than 400 kilometres away from Serowe, the seat of the district council.

According to councillors and council staff who attended the Serowe local democracy, such long distances contributed in making it impossible for the public to attend

16A local democracy workshop for the South East District was held at Mokolodi on the 29 and 30 January 2008.

17See footnote 12. 18

Central District Council, Central District Development Committee and Ministry of Lands and Housing, Gabotrone: Government Printer, 2003.


26 Online J Afri Affairs

council meetings, which were supposedly open. In terms of good local governance, according to the Central district council staff, a territory this large deserved to be curved into several districts in accordance with administrative and democratic limitations (involving limited administrative reach, people having to travel long distances to get services, including licenses, inadequate communication facilities and so on). However, good governance was sacrificed for political stability which the boundaries of the old chiefdoms provided. Similarly, there were other very large districts in terms of landmass such as the Ngamiland District (Batawana Chiefdom), measuring 109 130 km2, the Kweneng (Bakwena Chiefdom) District measuring 38 122 km2, and the Southern District (Bangwaketse Chiefdom) measuring 26 876 km2.

According to urban local democracy workshops in Gaborone, Lobatse and Francistown19, the protectorate state introduced urban areas and farms, including Gantsi Farms, Gaborone Farms, Tati Company Concession Lands and Chobe Farms. In addition, most of the first urban centres such as Gaborone, the current capital city, Francistown and Lobatse had been established in the former crown lands that belonged to the British Protectorate Government. Expansion of the cities, meant the buying of white-owned farms, and retaining their names for the emerging residential and business areas. For instance Broadhurst Farm was bought and its land added to the Gaborone City. The new township came to be known as Broadhurst. In short, the Botswana government neither interfered with the already existing chiefdoms, nor with their traditional boundaries, even though mineral rights were taken away. It is only in the 21st century that the post-colonial state is seizing tribal land and incorporating it into urban centres.

However, in a ‘third-world’ country where infrastructure, communication and administrative reach were limited and where modernisation was still occurring, good local governance should have required their partitioning into more manageable territories. Some of these, such as Ngamiland District were deep in the Kalahari Desert, where shifting sands slowed down movement, where the mass of the population remained scattered in small settlements, uneducated and unemployed, where swamps divided communities and where livestock diseases were very common, necessitating the erection of numerous fences that further divided the communities. A huge district whose population was generally poor and uneducated would have benefited from partitioning and from the setting up of several regional headquarters.

However, any such re-drawing of boundaries would have altered the landmass of the different chiefdoms and this had the potential to spark their resistance, and even

19A local democracy workshop for Gaborone was held in Gaborone City in 2002; A local democracy workshop for Francistown was held in Francistown City in 2004; A local democracy workshop for Lobatse was held at Lobatse Town in 2005.

crystallise their rejection of the new state, factors that could have easily mobilised them into organised, even armed resistance against the Botswana state. Worse for Botswana, the country had no military to counter any potential armed resistance from the chieftaincies at that time. A policy of partitioning chiefdoms into manageable districts could have created political instability that could have further limited the administrative and developmental reach of the state. This is because in regions characterised by armed groups opposed to the state, its officials become at risk of being abducted or even killed, its infrastructure at the risk of being bombed and destroyed, its citizens at the risk of being displaced and made refugees, hence limiting the reach of the state in a much more serious sense. Unstable and violent political confrontations also limit the existence of democratic processes and institutions. Luckily for Botswana, the boundaries of the local governance structures (districts and their institutions) coincided with those of previous chiefdoms for the purposes of compromising with the traditional-oriented chieftaincies, thus avoiding political instability, disruptive political behaviours, and quick modernisation that could cause alienation. In short, there was no re-drawing of boundaries in terms of either administrative governance or easy service delivery. Politically, the non-redrawing of district boundaries was a necessary compromise to accommodate the interests of the Tswana chiefdoms, to encourage their participation in the new Botswana state and to promote political stability.

It is only recently (2000s) that large districts started being carved into administratively manageable areas. For instance the Central District has been carved into the Serowe Administrative Authority, the Palapye Administrative Authority, the Tonota sub district, the Botete sub district, the Bobirwa sub district,the Mahalapye Administrative Authority and the Sefhare sub district. What this means is that the old chiefdoms are being carved into sub districts. Even then, the better managed districts that replaced the more functional chiefdoms are doing well with the partitioning. However, the poor districts such as Ngamiland, are struggling to implement this policy. What is worse is that administrators and technicians often refuse to be transferred to such poor districts, preferring to resign and join the private sector.

At district level, according to the staff attending the district based local democracy workshops, the Botswana state created administrative institutions to compete with the old and to help modernise the administrative and political systems. Post-colonial Botswana created numerous functional-directed institutions that were independent of each other, divided into civil servants controlled by a central government minister and into elected boards controlled by the civilian leadership of the district or hereditary leaders. Land boards were created to administer tribal land; district commissioners were created to deal with central government staff at the district level, marriages, and so on and; district councillors were created


to democratise the local politics, local infrastructure development and to run services such as education and health.

The Department of Water Affairs provided water services, the Botswana Power Corporation was established to provide electricity wherever it was feasible, and the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation was established to provide telephone services. However, the autonomy of these service providers, led to fragmented services, and extremely poor coordination. For instance, the land board is known to demarcate and award plots for occupation in areas where the council has not opened roads and not built schools, where the Power Corporation has no plans of extending the electricity grid and where reticulated water is not even in the pipeline for the area. This disjointed manner of providing services is even visible in the small districts. Fragmented service is the norm and local democracy had not yet arrested the situation. The existence of so many local institutions also means that they call for separate kgotla meetings and expect the people to attend all of them, an impossibility characterised by apathy. Even NGOs are hardly participants in the debates of these new institutions.

More positively, according to the staff of several district councils, the local administrative institutions incorporated an element of democratic accountability, even though carrying a heavy central government control. For instance, Botswana created land boards, consisting of trained administrators and technicians who were hired, promoted and disciplined by a central government ministry, constituted the secretariat and carried out the planning and zoning of land use that had to be approved by the elected members. But the land boards also have elected members who came from the area and who oversaw and approved all their transections. In short, the personnel of the land board is accountable to the central government that has hiring and firing powers, with an elected component without powers to interfere in its operations, providing oversight functions only.

Similarly, Botswana created a limited number of geographically based district councils and town councils, placing their technical and administrative staff under the control of the central government, thus denying the elected officials supervisory and controlling powers. Even though central government controls were strong in the districts, ensuring the even distribution of resources and personnel, uneven development is still visible. What is more, all mineral rights in the districts were transferred to the central government, and the districts became beneficiaries of evenly distributed hand-outs from the central government.

In contrast, the abundance of surface water in the Ngamiland district attracts a wide variety of wild life. According to official records and researchers, the district is home to Moremi Game Reserve, Chobe National Park, Makgadikgadi National Park, Nxai Pan National Park. The game reserves and other wild life management areas cover a total area of 37 501km2 or 34.3 percent of

the district’s total area. The other 54 040km2

or 49.6 per cent is communal areas reserved for community use. Thus wild life constitutes an important component of the socioeconomic factors of the district.

According to Sebotho [6] ‘there is the Moremi Game Reserve which covers an area of 3800km2, spanning part of the Okavango Delta. A great diversity of bird and animal life occurs in this reserve. In addition, there are the Nxai Pans National Park and the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park. Together they cover an approximate area of 7300km and host many grazers such as zebras, springboks and impalas, which graze on the extensive grassy pans that cover the area’ [6 p20]. According to her, no hunting of any kind is allowed in the game reserves and this alienates the local communities that see these areas as a major subtraction from their livelihoods. In addition, the management of the protected areas exclude traditional local conservation skills, thus constraining local participation. For instance, ‘the local communities surrounding Moremi Game Reserve are equipped with knowledge about the protected area, but this knowledge is in most cases not considered in the management of protected areas’ [6 p18]. The absence of co-management and the marginalisation of local communities in the management of protected areas were observable at the Ngamiland local democracy workshop when even former managers of these areas were either hostile to or distant from the current wild life officials and did not seem to share any commonality with them.

Sebotho [6] correctly observed that the end result of such anti-community management designs was to satisfy the interests of the state and to perceive local communities as threats to wild life areas. This is a constraint on local participation. ‘The culture of respecting ownership or guardianship of resources by the local community has been lost in the systematic centralising of wild life management and removal of right of local communities is highly resented by some local communities’ [6 p20]. However, commercial hunting and other safari activities take place in the wild life management areas (WMAs) such as Kwando and Okavango.

According to official records20, ‘in general, WMAs were designed to provide migratory corridors and buffer zones around protected game reserves and national parks…From a management perspective, wild life utilisation is carried out through the medium of WMAs that are legally entitled to undertake consumptive and non-consumptive and regulate the operation of: hunting safaris comprising trophy hunting for species such as elephant, lion and leopard; plains games usually undertaken in conjunction with trophy hunting; and bird shoots; and game nature drives: guided walks providing hiking trails over one or several days and /or horse-back safaris; elephant back safaris’. On the other hand, pollution of the delta accompanies the prosperity of

20See fotenote 6, p133.


28 Online J Afri Affairs

the safari companies. Poor enforcement of waste management laws enables safari companies to dispose of waste in the delta, threatening the lives of those communities that are dependent on fishing. Some participants of the local democracy workshop even demanded that safari companies should commute from Maun rather than be permanently based in the delta.


This paper discussed the loss of the pre-colonial Tswana states and others in their proximity (and the absence of the state among other communities), and their partial revival, and the full recovery of the single state in the colonial and post-colonial periods. It employed regional based workshops as a method of data collection, leading to the production of reports of each region. This regional workshop method meant, inviting traditional leaders and elders in a region, members of village and ward

development committees, council and central

government staff, councillors, youth and women organisations to a two day workshop to discuss the evolution of local democracy and of the political life of their region. Executed through working groups, plenary sessions (where elders were invited to publicly share their knowledge of the history of their communities), and interviews with traditional authorities and elders, this method of data collection proved to have an in-build truth and reconciliation mechanism into it, helping to expose past wrong doing and past good governance between ethnic communities and helping to explain the stability of the Botswana state in an African continent characterised by ethnic rivalry and political instability. It is a data collection method that could be modified and used elsewhere in Africa and in the third world to unravel ethnic tensions and state instability.

The article showed that building on a pre-colonial state legacy (that promoted the concentration of human populations in central capitals and regional capitals, and the liberation of ethnic minorities from each other, and the use of mass-relocations and the deployment of colonies), the colonial and post-colonial states inherited the boundaries, capitals, regional capitals and traditional institutions of the pre-colonial chiefdoms, and avoided political disruptions. The article showed that treading carefully and aiming to win the hearts of the organised chiefdoms in the modernisation effort, and not adopting radical methods of state re-organisation that could have alienated them, the post-colonial state was able to pursue and to achieve peaceful development (such that even diamond mining did not bring ethnic rivalry and competition with the post-colonial state) that has won Botswana the fame of being one of the most peaceful state in the continent and in the third world.


[1] Chigwedere A. The Karanga Empire, Harare: Books for Africa, 1985; P. 5.

[2] Schapera I. Tribal innovators: Tswana chiefs and Social Change, 1795-1940, London: Athlone Publishers. 1975.

[3] Ngamiland District Council, Ngamiland District Development Committee and Ministry of Lands and Housing. District Development Plan. Gaborone: Government Printer, 2003.

[4] Tlou T, Campbell A. History of Botswana, Gaborone: Macmillan. 1997.

[5] Gantsi District Council, Gantsi District Development Committee and Ministry of Lands and Housing. District Development Plan. Gaborone: Government Printer, 2003.

[6] Sebotho DL. Prospects for local community participation in Wildlife Resource Use in Moremi Game Reserve, Ngamiland, Botswana’, Research Proposal, MSc, University of Botswana, 2002.



Related subjects :