THIS book is a general
introduction to Botswana, the land and its people.
Readers are going to learn
some basic facts about Botswana including its geography and history. Also covered in the book are the nation's resources including
crops and minerals as well as tourist attractions.
The book is intended for
those who are learning about Botswana for the first time and for those who are going to Botswana. It's also intended for the
general reader who does not even intend to go to Botswana.
It also looks at some
cultural aspects of Botswana and ethnic tensions which, although not highly pronounced as in many other African countries,
pose a challenge to the nation's leadership in a country which prides itself as a role model on the continent in terms of
democracy and harmonious relations among people of different tribes and races.
Tourists and students
will find this book to be useful as an introductory work on one of the most vibrant, most prosperous, and most peaceful countries
Even those who know a
lot about Botswana may be able to learn a few things from this book.
And it's comprehensive
enough to enable the reader to know about Botswana as a country and as a nation composed of people of different ethnic and
Botswana also is one of
the very few countries on the continent whose population is mostly composed of one ethnic group and only a few others.
Yet it is a land of stunning
diversity in terms of its rich history, culture and way of life in spite of its very limited number of ethnic groups and sparse
population in a vast expanse of territory which is also one of the largest countries in Africa in terms of area.
BOTSWANA is one of the
most prosperous countries in Africa. And it has enjoyed peace and stability since independence more than 40 years ago; a rare
achievement on this turbulent continent.
It also has practised
multi-party democracy since independence, one of the very few countries in Africa to do so. It is, in fact, Africa's longest
continuous multiparty democracy.
It also has a reputation
as one of the least corrupt countries in the world, an achievement that would have been virtually impossible without robust
democracy emphasising transparency.
But it also remained economically
dependent on South Africa for decades and had to maintain economic ties with its powerful neighbour for sheer survival in
spite of its opposition to South Africa's racist policies.
Botswana is landlocked.
It's also is one of the largest countries in Africa. It has an area of about 232,000 square miles and is one of the 15 largest
countries – out of 53 – on the continent. It's also the 45th largest country in the world.
But it's sparsely populated
with only about 1.9 million people in such a vast expanse of territory. Most of them live in the eastern part of the country.
The country is sparsely
populated because it's so dry, and the Kalahari desert constitutes a substantial part of Botswana. And most areas of the country
are too arid to sustain any form of agriculture other than cattle raising and ranching.
Botswana is bordered by
South Africa on the east and south, by Zimbabwe on the east and northeast, by Zambia at a narrow strip in the north, and by
Namibia on the west and on the north. Nambia's Caprivi Strip forms the northern border with Botswana.
The country of Botswana
is mostly an arid plateau at an elevation of 3,300 feet with the Okavango swamp – commonly known as the Okavango Delta
– in the northwest, the Kalahari desert in the south and southwest, and mountains in the east. And it's predominantly
The Kalahari desert covers
about 70 per cent of Botswana's land area.
The Okavango River empties
into the vast region of the Okavango Delta and Lake Ngami, forming a huge marshaland which is also a major tourist attraction.
The Okavango Delta is the largest inland delta in the world.
The main rivers which
flow through Botswana are the Limpopo and the Zambezi, the two largest rivers in southern Africa and some of the largest on
the African continent. The third largest river in southern Africa is the Orange River in the Republic of South Africa.
The climate is semiarid
and generally subtropical with one rain season averaging 18 inches per year and supporting savannah vegetation except in the
Kalahari desert. But rainfall varies from 9 inches per year in the southwest to about 25 inches in the north.
Botswana also has warm
winters and hot summers.
The country also has strong
seasonal winds which blow from the west in the month of August, carrying sand and dust across many parts of the nation. The
sand and dust sometimes obscures visibility.
The largest city in Botswana
is Gaborone. It's also the nation's capital.
Located only 9 miles from the border with South Africa, Gaborone became the capital of Bechuanaland in 1965 as the
country headed towards independence. And for many years, it was the fastest-growing city in the world, and with an excellent
Other important cities
include Francistown and Selebi-Phikwe.
Francistown is the second-largest
city, and Selebi-Phikwe, also spelt as Selibe-Phikwe is the third-largest but much smaller than the other two.
The vast majority of the
people in the country are the Bantu-speaking Batswana. They live mainly in the southeast around Gaborone, the nation's capital
which is close to the border with South Africa.
There are also a few San
and Khoi, so-called Bushmen, who live mostly in the Kalahari desert. And they have lived in the region that later came to
be known as Botswana long before Bantu groups arrived from the north in the 1400s - and 1500s.
In recent years, Botswana
also has been flooded by immigrants from Zimbabwe looking for jobs. The majority of them go to South Africa but there is a
very large number of those who stay in Botswana, most of them illegally.
Their plight is a direct
result of the fast-track land reform programme launched and implemented by the government of Zimbabwe under President Robert
Mugabe that led to the seizure of land from white farmers; an ill-conceived policy which led to the disruption and destruction
of the economy, forcing millions of people to flee their homeland. Their first destination was and continues to be Botswana.
But there are many
people in Botswana who don't want them in their country. Probably the majority don't. As one Zimbabwean, Innocent Madonko,
stated in an article in a Zimbabwean newspaper, The Chronicle, entitled, “Commentary on Poor Treatment of Zimbabweans in Botswana”:
“Xenophobia against Zimbabweans in Botswana has
reached alarming levels amid allegations that locals are being brutally assaulted and subjected to dehumanising and humiliating
treatment by authorities in that country. Zimbabweans are also being deported en masse from Botswana and told never to set foot in Gaborone or risk being thrown in jail.
crime – they voted President Mugabe into power and 'assisted' the Government 'to take land from whites.'
and till your land. What do you want in Botswana when you have taken land from whites?' they are repeatedly asked by the Botswana
police who now conduct regular hunts to flush out Zimbabweans.
cross-border traders, shoppers, immigrants and travellers this week revealed gross human rights abuses by law enforcement
agents in Botswana.
male travellers and immigrants complained of brutal assaults at the hands of Botswana’s notorious Special Support Group
(SSG), army and police, female immigrants related harrowing tales of demeaning sexual abuse.
said they are stripped naked, losing their money and other valuables to the police, some of whom demand sex from Zimbabwean
illegal immigrants 'to save you from jail'.
accused male officers of indecently assaulting them. 'They put their hands into our undergarments and touch our private parts
during searches. Body searches on female immigrants are done by male officers, especially the SSG, which at times strips us
naked,' said an 18yearold female interviewed in the border town of Plumtree yesterday. Some officers demanded sex from female
border jumpers, she said.
has intensified its drive to rid the country of Zimbabweans. Thousands of Zimbabweans have been flushed out of Botswana this
year. Entry requirements for locals into Botswana have also been tightened.
sources in Gaborone said Botswana had tacitly declared war on Zimbabweans in the country – a scenario which was likely
to strain relations between the two nations.
are being rounded up on a daily basis. They are being sent naked into prison cells where they are denied food for weeks. The
beatings are severe in prisons. “Authorities take their money. Roadblocks have also been set up all over the country
to fish out Zimbabweans. There is open hatred for Zimbabweans here,'the sources said....
interviews at Plumtree Police Station, the deportees complained of beatings, sexual abuse and being denied food. Said Mr Wilbert
Ngwenya (28) of Bulawayo: 'The SSG came to my house in Francistown at night. They bulldozed their way into the house and started
beating me up. My neighbours also joined and beat me with fists and booted feet. "The SSG had sjamboks and sticks. They were
ruthless and told me to go back to your (President) Mugabe in Zimbabwe.'
deportee, Mr Morgan Mpofu (27) said: 'During the course of the beatings, they will be telling us to go back to Zimbabwe where
we are chasing away whites. They say we will starve because we can't farm and are chasing whites.'
Thandazani Maphosa (20) of Bulawayo said he had been detained at Gerald Prison outside Francistown for three days without
food. 'I was on the verge of passing out due to hunger when a sympathetic officer gave me a sandwich. The treatment we receive
in Botswana is dehumanising,' he said....
Abigail Moyo (18) of Lundi Park suburb in Gweru said sexual abuse of female immigrants was rife in Botswana. 'The police and
the SSG always force themselves on us. Some girls are released from prison after spending some time with the authorities at
their houses,' she said....
a consortium of businessmen in Bulawayo has pledged to form an association to assist Zimbabwean immigrants, cross-border traders
and travellers to Botswana.
group plans to lobby the Government to put in place stringent entry requirements for Botswana and South African nationals
to protest the ill-treatment of Zimbabweans in the two countries.
we are saying to the Government is that we have been too lenient to them (Botswana and South Africa) yet they are hostile
towards our people. For instance, we require visas to go to South Africa and yet South Africans have a free reign in Zimbabwe.
We treat the Batswana nationals here with respect but they do not return the favour to our people in Botswana,' said Mr Charles
Bernard Choto, the managing director of Bensa Power and Mechanical (Pvt) Ltd, a Botswana-based company, said it was time the
two countries' nationals treated Zimbabweans with respect.
is enough. Batswana and South Africans must treat Zimbabweans with respect. We want to send a signal to law enforcement agents
in Botswana that if they ill-treat our people there, we will do the same to their nationals here. After all, Zimbabweans are
developing these two nations. We will end up having to resort to a tit-for-tat scenario. Our association will make sure that
for every Zimbabwean harassed in Botswana or South Africa, ten of these countries' nationals will face our wrath here, he
Mr Tinashe Chikara, who is also behind the formation of the new association, said the Botswana Government had
always been sympathetic to whites in Zimbabwe, hence the xenophobia against the country's nationals.” - (Innocent Madonko,
“Commentary on Poor Treatment of Zimbabweans in Botswana,” in The Chronicle, Zimbabwe, 2 October 2002).
wrath has been directed against other Africans as well. But it's also the kind of hostility which should be looked at in its
proper context; which does not mean it's justified. But it may be understandable, taking into account the enormous burden
Botswana has to bear when coping with the influx of these immigrants.
Many people from other
African countries have also moved to Botswana because of its thriving economy and stability. And the influx has sometimes
led to tensions between the immigrants and the people of Botswana who feel that they are being swamped by foreigners who flee
their home countries because of economic and political problems in those countries.
Yet, Botswana is just
another African country in terms of history and evolution. It has just done better, far better, than most countries on the
continent whose leaders should emulate what Botswana has done instead of presiding over economies which make it impossible
for their people to survive and thrive in their home countries, forcing them to seek greener pastures elsewhere including
The country of Botswana
got its name from the Tswana, the largest ethnic group in this former British colony. Before independence, it was known as
The people of Botswana
are collectively known as Batswana regardless of race and ethnicity.
The term “Batswana”
is also used to identify the country's largest ethnic group who constitute the vast majority of the total population. Their
language is called Setswana.
There are about 80 per
cent Batswana – also known as Tswana – and 11 per cent Kalanga who are the second-largest ethnic group.
The Kalanga, whose language
is known as Ikalanga and is a “dialect” of Shona, the main language of Zimbabwe, live mostly in Zimbabwe. About
190,000 of them live in Botswana. Some sources claim their population is bigger than that.
Linguistic evidence suggests
that the Kalanga originated from South Africa in what is now the Limpopo and Drakensberg area and settled in the northern
part of Botswana and Zimbabwe.
They live mostly in northeastern
Botswana. And those in Zimbabwe across the border with Botswana live mostly in the southwestern part of their country around
Bulawayo and whose dominant tribe is the Ndebele who also migrated from South Africa.
The third-largest group
in Botswana is the Basarwa with about 3 per cent of the population. They are Khoisan and the largest group among the so-called
The rest including
the Kgalagadi and whites constitute about 7 per cent of Botswana's population. In fact, Botswana
has one of the highest percentages of white citizens in Africa. Whites constitute about 3 per cent of the total population.
That's about 57,000 of
them in a country of about 1.9 million people. And most of them speak English or Afrikaans which are also the main languages
spoken by whites in neighbouring South Africa.
The Batswana, who the
largest ethnic group, originally came from South Africa where they are still known as the Tswana.
In terms of ethnic identity,
the Batswana in Botswana are not different from the Tswana in South Africa. They are the same people but use different names
to identify themselves because they live in two different countries which also happen to be neighbours.
The Tswana lived as herders
and farmers when they came into contact with Europeans and the majority of them still live that way although a significant
number of them have also adopted new lifestyles as a result of modernisation – Westernisation – and migration
to urban centres.
The lifestyle of many
people in Botswana has also changed because of the nature of employment, especially working in the mines and other modern
sectors of the economy.
But most of the people
live the traditional way as they have for hundreds of years, besides modern conveniences being accessible to a significant
number of people whose lifestyles have also changed because of external influence and modernisation.
The so-called Bushmen
have resisted external influences but have sometimes been forced by the government to change their lifestyle and modernise.
In 1885, the area of what
is Botswana today came under British control and came to be known as the Bechuanaland Protectorate.
The protectorate was established
when the Bechuana people – the Tswana – led by Khama the Great and other chiefs sought protection from the British
against the Boers in Transvaal, the northern province of South Africa, who wanted to take over the territory when Transvaal
was a republic under Boer – predominantly Dutch – control.
The Tswana fought
the Boers and after the British established a protectorate called Bechuanaland, the Tswana were split into two groups.
The northern part of the
protectorate later came to be what is Botswana today, and the southern part of the territory was incorporated into the Cape
Colony of South Africa in 1895. Today, that portion is now part of the Northwest Province of South Africa.
And the majority of the
Setswana-speaking people live in South Africa today, not in Botswana.
From 1909 – 1955,
South Africa made several attempts to annex Bechuanaland, what is now Botswana, but failed to do so mainly because of British
opposition to the idea. South Africa also wanted Basutoland, now Lesotho, and Swaziland to become part of its territory.
But in 1909 the people
of the three territories – all of which were under British rule – were assured by their colonial rulers that they
would not be forced to become part of the proposed Union of South Africa which was formed in 1910.
The union itself was a
product of the British since they are the ones who ruled South Africa. And the territories of Basutoland, Swaziland and the
Bechuanaland Protectorate, themselves under British rule and collectively known as the High Commission Territories, were covered
under a provision which stated that they could be incorporated into the Union of South Africa in the future although they
were deliberately left out when when the union was formed.
When the National Party
came to power in South Africa in 1948 and instituted apartheid and withdrew from the Commonwealth in 1961, the idea of incorporating
the three British territories into the union was abandoned.
In 1948, Bechuanaland
was thrown into turmoil when Seretse Khama, heir to the throne of the leading Bamangwato tribe, married a white English girl,
Ruth Williams, when he was in Britain where he attended Oxford University.
The marriage created
a storm. And Ruth Williams' family members were subjected to all kinds of insults not only in Britain but from different people
in other countries including the United States. According to Jet magazine, a black American publication, Chicago, in its report “Seretse
Khama's Inlaws Tell of Insults,” 17 July 1952:
Khama's sister-in-law, Muriel Williams, while taking a vacation in America, said the political tempest caused when her sister,
Ruth, married Chief Khama has not entirely died down.
mother still gets insulting letters from people here in America, South Africa and a few English people,' she said.
marriage to my sister caused a greater storm in England than the White-Cannon marriage stirred up here because, after all,
my brother-in-law is an international figure and a ruler,' Miss Williams declared.
America, she is house guest of Josephine Fulton in Chicago. The women met when Miss Fulton visited England last year.”
Some of his people, the
Bangwato, were also opposed to the marriage. The British, who were also opposed to the marriage and were then the rulers of
Bechunaland, forced Seretse Khama to live in exile. But when he renounced his claim to the chieftainship, he was allowed by
the British colonial rulers to return to Bechuanaland in 1956.
His people still accepted
him as their leader and supported him when he formed the Bechuanaland Democratic Party (BDP) in 1962 which led the country
to self-government in 1965.
From the time it became
a British protectorate, Bechuanaland had its capital in South Africa. Until 1961, Bechuanaland was administered by a resident
commissioner in Mafikeng, South Africa, who was responsible to the British high commissioner for South Africa.
In 1965, the capital was
moved from Mafikeng, South Africa, to Gaborone which had been established as the new seat of government for Bechuanaland.
The first general election
was held in 1965 and the Bechuanaland Democratic party (BDP) won an overwhelming majority. Seretse Khama became prime minister.
The country won independence
from Britain on 30 September 1966 and was renamed Botswana. Sir Seretse Khama was elected by the national assembly as the
first president of the new republic.
Seretse Khama served as
president until his death in 1980. Almost 30 years later, his son, Ian Khama, a soldier, also became president of Botswana
in April 2008.
His whole name is Seretse
Khama Ian Khama and he was a Lieutenant-General when he became president. He was also the leader of the Botswana army which
is officially known as the Botswana Defence Force (BDF).
Botswana also suffered
for many years especially in the seventies and eighties because of its opposition to apartheid and support for racial justice
in South Africa.
It was subjected to many
reprisals by South Africa's apartheid regime including an attack in Botswana's capital on 14 June 1985 directed against South
African freedom fighters based in the city.
South African troops raided
the headquarters of a South African black guerrilla group based in Gaborone and killed 16 persons in one of the most dramatic
military attacks on the countries of southern Africa by the apartheid regime.
Botswana provided sanctuary
to refugees and anti-apartheid activists from South Africa in the seventies and eighties but couldn't do more to help them
because of the country's dependence on its white-ruled neighbour and because of South Africa's military might.
Botswana was almost totally
dependent on South Africa economically in terms of access to the sea and employment for tens of thousands of its citizens
working in the mines in the land of apartheid.
The apartheid regime continued
to pursue its campaign of destabilisation in Botswana and other neighbouring countries to discourage them from supporting
the struggle for racial justice in South Africa.
But in spite of that,
Botswana and other countries in the region did not stop providing material, moral and diplomatic support to the freedom fighters
until apartheid ended in 1994.
Botswana was also attacked
by the forces of the white-minority regime in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, because of its support to the freedom fighters in that
And through all those
years, and in spite of all the problems including attacks by the apartheid regime and the Rhodesian forces the country had
to endure, Botswana enjoyed unprecedented economic growth unmatched on the continent.
In fact, the country has
had one of the highest economic growth rates not only in Africa but in the entire world for decades since independence in
When the country won independence,
the only known minerals during that period were manganese and some gold and asbestos. It was not until large deposits of diamonds,
nickel and copper as well as other minerals were found in the following years that the country's fate and fortunes dramatically
changed. And it has never been the same since then. In fact, Botswana has some of the largest diamond deposits in the world.
The discovery of substantial
mineral deposits in the 1970s rejuvenated Botswana's impoverished economy, fuelling unprecedented economic growth.
It is the export of diamonds
probably more than anything else which has fuelled Botswana's economic growth since the 1970s.
In fact, Botswana's diamond
mine at Jwaneng is the world's largest. And it provides many jobs for the people of Botswana. The country also is the largest
producer of diamonds in the world, surpassing South Africa.
Not only have diamonds
played the biggest role in fuelling the country's economic growth; they constitute more than one-third of Botswana's gross
domestic product (GDP) and 70 – 80 per cent of its export earnings.
Foreign investors have
played a major role in the country's economic development especially when American and British interests developed a major
diamond mine at Orapa. And a large copper-nickel mine began production at Selebi-Pikwe in 1975, boosting the country's economic
Mining is the largest
sector of the economy and diamonds the dominant mineral. Other minerals such as copper, nickel, asbestos, manganese, iron
ore, silver, soda ash, potash, and salt have also played a significant role in the country's economic development.
The country also has vast
deposits of coal. Its coal deposits are considered to be some of the largest in the world and there are plans to convert coal
into liquid fuel for motor vehicles and industrial plants.
Other minerals have also
been found. They include platinum, sulfur, plutonium, and antimony.
And in 2007, large quantities
of uranium were discovered. Mining is projected to begin by 2010.
Cattle raising and export
of meat and hides are some of the main economic activities in Botswana and the country is far ahead of most of the countries
on the continent in terms of ranching. Its climate has been compared to that of Texas in the United States where ranching
is also a major economic activity.
Another important sector
of the economy is textile production although it's dwarfed by South Africa's next-door because of the highly developed nature
of the economy of Botswana's southern neighbour. Still, the manufacture and export of textiles continues to be a major economic
activity in Botswana.
Botswana also has a vibrant
agricultural sector but it's not large like mining.
include maize, groundnuts, sorghum, millet, sunflowers and beans. Cotton is another important cash crop but water shortage
and lack of sufficient irrigation facilities have hampered agriculture. And only a small percentage of the land is used for
farming and growing crops.
South Africa is the principal
trade partner and the primary market for Botswana's beef.
With about the same area
and climate as Texas, Botswana has specialised in cattle raising for decades.
Financial services also
constitute another important sector of the economy. And Botswana's capital, Gaborone, is one of the most important financial
centres in southern Africa and on the entire continent.
Gaborone also is the headquarters
of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the largest and richest economic bloc on the African continent. It has
fourteen member countries including the continent's powerhouse, South Africa, and some of the potentially richest countries
on the continent: the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Angola.
The other member states
are Botswana itself, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mauritius, and Madagascar.
Seychelles was also once a member of SADC from September 1997 until August 2005.
The economic bloc also
promotes political and social integration. It also deals with security matters affecting the region and works closely with
the African Union (AU), with Botswana playing a central role as the headquarters of this regional organisation. And it plays
an important role in the economy of Botswana.
Tourism also is one of
the main sectors of Botswana's economy.
For decades since independence,
tourists from South Africa and Zimbabwe visited Botswana and many of them went to gamble at the casino in Gaborone. They also
went to hunt, fish, watch birds and photograph at the parks in the Okavango Delta region, the Chobe game park and the Khutse
Botswana has some of the
best bird and game sancutaries on the African continent and tourism is still growing fast because of the country's extensive
nature preserves and good conservation practices.
And visitors from the
region still go to Botswana in large numbers although tourists from Zimbabwe became a rare sight after Zimbabwe's economy
collapsed in the late 1990s.
Botswana also draws tourists
from around the world, mainly from Europe and North America and is one of the major tourist destinations in Africa like Kenya
Other attractions include
Stone Age rock paintings on the cliffs of Tsodilo Hills which is the highest point in Botswana.
The Kalahari desert covers
much of southern Botswana and the Okavango River forms an extensive swamp in the northwest.
But in spite of having
a strong economy, Botswana has not been spared the scourge of drought that has ravaged the economies of many African countries
through the decades including the ones in southern Africa. For example, from 1981 to 1982, drought destroyed about 75% of
the nation's crops. It was one of the worst natural disasters in the nation's history and on the entire continent and the
country was forced to appeal for international aid to prevent starvation.
Droughts are relatively
common in Botswana although the country has a subtropical climate. And it has continued to experience periodic droughts through
the decades. It also has limited fresh water supplies, making things much more difficult in a country which also faces serious
problems of desertification and overgrazing.
But Botswana has been
able to develop and prosper because of good leadership, good policies, fiscal discipline and proper management of its resources
unlike most countries on the continent which have mismanaged and squandered their resources because of corruption, tribalism
and outright incompetence.
Careful management of
resources and proper planning has enabled Botswana to transform itself from one of the poorest countries in the world to a
middle-income nation with a per capita income of $15,000 in 2007.
Some sources claim Botswana
is already a high-income country with a per capita gross domestic product of $29,516 in 2008.
That's in sharp contrast
with most countries in Africa whose per capita income is less than $500 in spite of the fact that many of them are potentially
richer than Botswana in terms of natural resources including minerals and arable land.
The Democratic Republic
of Congo, a country even richer than South Africa in terms of minerals and potentially one of the richest countries in the
world, is a typical example. Others include Tanzania, a country also rich in minerals and abundant agricultural land but whose
socialist policies ruined the economy for decades.
The list goes on and on,
leaving Botswana virtually in a class by itself.
In fact, Botswana has
been accorded the highest status by two major investment services as the best credit risk in Africa.
For years, the country
has earned the highest credit rating in Africa and one of the highest in the entire world. It also has billions of dollars
in foreign exchange reserves unlike most countries in Africa. Most of the billions in other African countries have been stolen
and deposited overseas by corrupt leaders and government officials.
In 2004, Transparency
International identified Botswana as the least corrupt country in Africa and had higher ranking than many European and Asian
Botswana has also been
rated by the World Economic Forum as one of the two most economically competitive nations in Africa. The other one is Mauritius.
Also many mining companies
from different countries have offices in Botswana, attracted by the country's potential growth of the mining sector, its vibrant
economy and competitiveness as well as transparency.
The country is unquestionably
one of the best investment areas in the world. It's also one of the best to live in, not just to visit. It also has excellent
race relations between blacks and whites as well as other non-blacks.
But, in spite of its economic
Willie Seth, Botswana and Its People,