Batawana Tribe of Botswana

Botswana means 'land of the Batswana', the tribal people who inhabited the area of land now known as Botswana and parts of South Africa. The ancestry of the Batswana can be traced back to the mid-14th century, when the son of a Kwena chief, Malope, left present-day Pretoria to settle around what is now the Zeerust area of the western Transvaal. After three centuries, eight identifiably coherent groups emerged. The other Batswana groups are the Batawana, the Bakgatla, the Barolong, the Balete and the Batlokwa. Three quarters of the Batswana now live in South Africa. The remaining Batswana in Botswana constitute about half of the population. Historically, the leadership structure of a tribe, or morafe, consisted of a kgosi, who was the chief and a member of the royal family, his family members and their servants. The kgosi was the ultimate authority, who devoted all his time to the tribe and was constantly on hand to help people with their problems. He was responsible for law and justice, defence, the health of the tribe, controlling the wealth and bringing rain. He maintained control of his armies by placing close members of his family at the head of every regiment. Although many of the kgosi's powers have now been assumed by the state, he still plays a central role in the community life.

The Batswana are predominantly a pastoral society. Traditionally, wealth lies in the ownership of cattle, and many laws and traditions revolve around cattle ownership and the transfer of these animals between families. The kgosi had the power to repossess cattle for a family's misdemeanours and to redistribute the confiscated beasts. A bridegroom's family was required to transfer a bogadi (dowry) of cattle to his bride's family for marriage. A man would therefore marry his cousins knowing that when his children in turn married their cousins, the cattle given for his wives would come back to him.

The Batswana had a traditional social security system by means of the extended family. All members of a family had rights to and duties of support, meaning that a working person could be responsible for the support of over ten other people. Due to the influence of Western society, the extended family system is breaking down.

ndividual ownership of tribal land was not recognised and a person was only granted use of the land. Once the person had left the land, another was able to apply for its use. Nowadays a person can be granted user rights which can either function as a security against loans or sold to someone else, with the profit going to the user.

Urbanisation has had a major effect on the social and cultural life of the Batswana. The influence of the tribal system is diminishing, and negative effects include an increased crime rate and other social problems inherent to Western urban living.

The language spoken by the Batswana is Setswana, which is also the national language. There is a dialectal difference between regions, but people don't have any difficulty communicating to those from other regions.