The Republic of Botswana shares a common border with South Africa in the South, Namibia in the West and North, Zimbabwe in the East, and Zambia in the North.
Botswana is inhabited by people of predominantly Tswana origin (collectively called “Batswana”) whose recorded History can be traced back to the 14th Century. These early inhabitants of Botswana were the San and Kho societies. These societies were later joined by the Batswana societies who moved to the areas around 1000 years ago. It is also around this period that large chiefdoms known as Toutswe in the area of Sowa pan and Tswapong Hills developed. These large chiefdoms were later eclipsed by the powerful Great Zimbabwe. Towards the 18th century Batswana society was subdivided into eight principal chieftaincies currently forming part of the modern Republic of Botswana. Towards the end of the 19th Century Botswana became a British protectorate retaining internal autonomy on matters relating to Tswana laws.
Britain did not introduce economic development in the area; the area remained undeveloped until the discovery of diamonds in the 1970s. As a result, the protectorate was economically dependent on the South African economy. Many Batswana people worked in South Africa as migrant labourers and some were sent to South Africa to receive their education. As a result of this close connection, they were influenced by political developments there. In the early 1950s to mid 1960s, many South Africans fled to Botswana seeking refuge from the Apartheid government. Their presence in Botswana encouraged Tswana nationalism and the growing demand for independence. The colonial government responded by creating a legislative council, which was rejected by the Batswana because it divided power equally between White (10 percent) and Black people. South Africa's Pan Africanist Congress also influenced the thinking of Botswana leaders like Motsamai Mpho and Kgalemang Motsete who were educated in South Africa. Their Bechuanaland People's Party began to demand that all White people should leave Botswana.
Sir Seretse Khama, a member of the legislative council, formed a party of moderate Batswana, the Bechuanaland Democratic Party (BDP). People in rural areas and moderates in towns supported this party, but moderates wanted to adopt the Westminster model and traditional leadership. They were also against the socialist principles of Bechuanaland Peoples Party. They preferred a democracy similar to the British system of democracy. The British government also preferred to work with this party because it was not against the presence of White people in Botswana. The colonial government arranged for an election in 1965. These were the first general elections in Botswana, and were won by the Botswana Democratic Party. The BDP continued to build its government according to the Westminster system. Because of social, cultural, and political differences between Britain and Botswana, the Westminster model was changed to make room for these differences. In 1870, three DIKGOSI (Botswana traditional leaders) made representation to the British Government regarding the threat of their territory’s annexation by the Dutch and German settlers. With the earnest support of some local British organisations and individuals, the lobby for protection succeeded in 1885, resulting in the Bechuanaland Protectorate. After 80 years as a British protectorate, Bechuanaland attained self-government in 1965, becoming the independent Republic of Botswana on September 30, 1966, and maintaining a position of stability and harmony ever since. Sir Seretse Khama was elected the first president and served until his death in 1980. Democracy in Botswana married Tswana traditional practices of governance and the Westminster model . The Tswana kgotla, meaning a traditional assembly, was made part of government structures. To make room for traditional leaders, the government created the House of Chiefs. The House of Chiefs was modelled according to the House of Lords of the United Kingdom. But its role and structure are very different from the British House of Lords. The Botswana House of Chiefs brings in local political structures into the Westminster democratic model. It is a house for eight Tswana paramount chiefs to represent their ethnic groups and to advise government on matters affecting customary law. Like the British House of Lords, members of the House of Chiefs are not elected.
The National Assembly is also modelled on the British system. Differences are that it has an executive president who is the head of state as well as head of government. The separation of the judiciary and the legislature exists only in terms of common law. In customary law, chiefs, within their respective kgotlas, act as the highest judges. The House of Chiefs cannot obstruct a bill passed by the national assembly for more than a year. Their role is to advise the government on matters relating to customary affairs.
The National Assembly is made up of the government and opposition party. The party that wins the majority of votes in the election forms a government. Only one party has ruled Botswana since independence in 1966. However, this has not undermined economic development and the country's democratic principles of governance.
Since its independence the Republic of Botswana has gained International stature as a peaceful and increasingly prosperous democratic state. It is a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth, the African Union (AU), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The secretariat of SADC is housed in the capital of Botswana, Gaborone. Before its independence in 1966, Botswana was a British protectorate known as Bechuanaland. It was also one of the poorest and least-developed states in the World. Botswana is formally a multiparty constitutional democracy. Each of the elections since independence in September 1966 has been freely and fairly contested and has been held on schedule. The Country's small white minority and other minorities participate freely in the political process.
Botswana's 2020 population, is estimated at 2,351,627 people at mid year according to UN data. Botswana population is equivalent to 0.03% of the total World population.
WHAT AN AMAZING DESCRIPTION OF OUR BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY... IRRESPECTIVE OF WHERE YOU ARE IN THE WORLD NOW! 😍
I sit here quietly thinking about what it means to me to be South African, a visitor to South Africa, or even African. So it seems easier to rather explain the effect that this unique land has on me...
The perfume of rain on African soil. The scent of woodfires drifting across the Highveld on winter evenings. There's a very distinctive aroma just as one starts coming into George / Knysna / Plett (I've never figured out which herb it is), in much the same way the smell of Wild Sage defines the area around Santawani in Botswana. The odour of thatch in a game lodge. The bouquet of dust and the various plants when one gets into the bush, sometimes a whiff of something dead. The tang of the ocean at the seaside. The smell of ‘moer’ coffee over an early morning fire, or the delicious aroma of roasting meat over flames – whether you call it a braai or shisa nyama (but definitely NOT a barbeque, a barbie, or a ghastly NZ sausage sizzle!)
There is also something about the light here. “Santorini Blue”... I don’t know if that’s an actual colour, but it seems to describe the hue of the highveld sky on a winter’s day to perfection. We live in “big sky” country – whether blue, or orange in sunset, or dark grey and rent by lightening, or velvet black and filled with stars that seem close enough to touch – the sky is ever present. As is the moon. I am always aware of the moon, from a sickle moon to the full fecund globe that is full moon. Silver light gilding thorn trees, juxtaposed against dark shadows on the savannah, is not a sight one easily forgets.
The caw of the ubiquitous, raucous Hadedah in suburbia, the burbling call of a rainbird (Burchell’s Coucal) when a thunderstorm is on its way, the beautiful Diederick’s Cuckoo announcing the arrival of spring, the screech of a Barn Owl, or the evocative call of the Fish Eagle. Jackals calling as the sun goes down, a lion’s roar quite literally making the air reverberate, or the chilling whoops of the hyenas. The cacophony of barking geckos that start up as the sun goes down over Deception Pan, or a veritable orchestra of frogs around a pan in the summer months. Cicadas shrilling on days so hot that the air shimmers, or a nightjar calling in the dead of night in the bushveld.
Days of withering heat often followed by the lightest cool breeze, just as the sun is setting. A gentle little wind, which plays with your hair like an absent-minded lover, reminding you that the cool of the night will soon be with you. Walking in the bush very early in the morning, the sun’s rays catch the dew on spiders’ webs, reminding you that life, both seen and unseen, is all around you. Trout fishing as the sun peeps over the horizon in Dullstroom, so cold that the water droplets freeze on your line…
The colours of this land are not subtle either. The blood red of the coral tree, the green metallic glint of sunbirds, the striped black and white hide of the zebra, or sapphire blue of a kingfisher. The miles and miles of yellow and orange daisies in Namaqualand in September, or pink and white swathes of cosmos along the roads in April. The lilac and turquoise of the roller, the tawny hide of a lion or the emerald green of a little dung beetle that makes its appearance in the summer months. From the golden dunes of the Namib to an unimaginable number of greens in the Knysna Forest. All vivid and arresting.
Talk to me of Morrungulo or Tsodilo Hills, the great Drakensberg, Platteland 'dorps' and the great Karoo. The warmth of Sodwana Bay or the icy kelp forests of the Atlantic Ocean. Of wine farms and fynbos in the Cape, to meerkats and diamonds in the north. Show me our people, in so many hues, with brightly coloured traditional costumes – and even brighter smiles.
All of this creates a frisson of excitement, passion each and every day, a vivid, immediate sense of being alive that I have found nowhere else….
These are my people. This is my land.
Because I am, at the very core of my being, a child of Africa! ❤️