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Botswana (bŏtswäˈnə), officially Republic of Botswana, republic (2020 est. pop. 2,352,000), 231,804 sq mi (600,372 sq km), S central Africa. It is bordered by Namibia on the west and north, by Zambia at a narrow strip in the north, by Zimbabwe on the east, and by South Africa on the east and south. Gaborone is the capital and largest city. In addition to the capital, important cities are Francistown and Selebi-Phikwe.
Land and People
The terrain is mostly an arid plateau (c.3,000 ft/910 m high); in the east are hills. The Kalahari Desert lies in the south and west. In the northwest the Okavango (Cubango) River drains into the vast region of the Okavango Delta and Lake Ngami, thus forming a huge marshland. Rainfall varies from less than 9 in. (23 cm) per year in the southwest to about 25 in. (64 cm) in the north. The climate is subtropical, but droughts are common.
The country's population is mainly Tswana, who speak a Bantu language and are divided into eight major groups. There are also small minorities of Kalanga, Basarwa, Kgalagadi, and other poeples. English is the official language, but Tswana is also widely spoken. More than 70% of the population follow Christianity and about 10% adhere to traditional practices.
Cattle raising and the export of beef and other cattle products and subsistence farming are the chief agricultural activities. The country's water shortage and consequent lack of sufficient irrigation facilities have hampered agriculture, and only a small percentage of the land is under cultivation. Sorghum, corn, millet, and beans are the principal subsistence crops, and peanuts, sunflowers, and cotton are the main cash crops.
Mining has become the country's economic mainstay since independence. The only known minerals in the country at the time of independence were manganese and some gold and asbestos, but significant diamond, coal, nickel, and copper deposits have since been found, as well as salt, soda ash, and potash. Botswana's diamond mines collectively make up one of the largest diamond reserves in the world, with stones mined by the government and a South African mining concern; Botswana now is also a diamond-processing and -trading center. The revenue earned from diamonds has underwritten national health-care and educational programs, and now drives Botswana's economy. The vast coal deposits are also being worked. Deposits of antimony, sulfur, plutonium, and platinum have also been found.
Although Botswana's mineral wealth has made it one of the wealthiest nations of S Africa, high unemployment remains a problem. The government is attempting to diversify the economy by building up other sectors, including safari-based tourism and financial services. Botswana, because of its landlocked position, remains heavily dependent on South Africa, which provides port facilities. Many Botswanans work in South Africa's mines, although their numbers have diminished. There are rail and road links with South Africa and Zimbabwe, its chief trade partners. Besides minerals, Botswana exports meat and textiles. Imports include foodstuffs, machinery, electrical goods, transportation equipment, textiles, fuel, petroleum products, wood, paper, and metal.
San (Bushmen) were the aboriginal inhabitants of what is now Botswana, but they constitute only a small portion of the population today. The Tswana supplanted the San, who remained as subjects. Beginning in the 1820s, the region was disrupted by the expansion of the Zulu and their offshoot, the Ndebele. However, Khama II, chief of the Ngwato (the largest Tswana nation), curbed the depredations of the Ndebele and established a fairly unified state.
A new threat arose in the late 19th cent. with the incursion of Boers (Afrikaners) from neighboring Transvaal. After gold was discovered in the region in 1867, the Transvaal government sought to annex parts of Botswana. Although the British forbade annexation, the Boers continued to encroach on native lands during the 1870s and 80s. German colonial expansion in South West Africa (Namibia) caused the British to reexamine their policies, and, urged on by Khama III, they established (1884–85) a protectorate called Bechuanaland. The southern part of the area was incorporated into Cape Colony in 1895. Until 1965, Bechuanaland was administered by a resident commissioner at Mafeking (now Mahikeng), in South Africa, who was responsible to the British high commissioner for South Africa.
Britain provided for the eventual transfer of Bechuanaland to the Union of South Africa; in succeeding years, however, South Africa's attempts at annexation were countered by British insistence that Bechuanaland's inhabitants first be consulted. The rise of the National party in South Africa in 1948 and its pursuit of apartheid turned British opinion against the incorporation of Bechuanaland into South Africa. Although Bechuanaland spawned no nationalist movement, Britain granted it internal self-government in 1965 and full independence as Botswana on Sept. 30, 1966. Shortly after, Botswana became a member of the United Nations. Seretse Khama, grandson of Khama III, was elected the first president, and served until his death in 1980, when he was succeeded by Ketumile Masire.
In the period after independence, the country generally maintained close ties with its white-ruled neighbors and refused to let its territory harbor guerrilla operations against them. Prior to Zimbabwe's independence in 1980, however, Botswana became a refuge for guerrillas. In the years before a multiracial government was established in South Africa, Botswana was the target of South African reprisals.
Despite the increased importance of mining in the Botswanan economy, unemployment has been a problem since the 1970s, as subsistence farming has become less profitable and migrant workers have returned from the South African mines in search of work. By 1997, Botswana also had one of the highest rates of HIV infection (25%). On the political scene, the Botswana National Front, an organization acting on behalf of labor, had grown in popularity since independence, but elections in 1989 and 1994 again gave the ruling Botswana Democratic party (BDP) a majority in the national assembly.
President Masire resigned in 1998 and was succeeded by his vice president, Festus Gontebanye Mogae. Mogae won election to the presidency in 1999, after the BDP retained its hold on the national assembly. The BDP remained in power after the Oct., 2004, national assembly elections, and Mogae was subsequently reelected president. In Apr., 2008, Mogae resigned and was succeeded as president by Vice President Seretse Khama Ian Khama, son of Botswana's first president.
Despite some unhappiness with Khama among BDP members, the party faced a divided opposition and again won the national assembly elections in Oct., 2009, and Khama was then elected to a full term. The BDP and Khama also were returned to power after the Oct., 2014, elections, but those elections were marked by attempts to intimidate opposition politicians and media harassment. Khama, whose tenure in office was marked at times by authoritarian tendencies, resigned in Apr., 2018, and Mokgweetsi Masisi, the vice president, succeeded him. In the Oct., 2019, elections the BDP was returned to power despite Khama's having broken with Masisi and campaigned against him and the party; Masisi subsequently was elected to a full term.
See Z. Cervenka, Republic of Botswana (1970); A. Sillery, Botswana (1974); J. M. Chirenje, A History of Northern Botswana, 1850–1910 (1976); C. Colclough and S. McCarthy, The Political Economy of Botswana (1980); L. A. Picard, The Politics of Development in Botswana (1987).
Republic of Botswana, state in southern Africa. Member of the British Commonwealth (until 1966, the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland). Borders on the Republic of South Africa in the south, Namibia (South West Africa) and Zambia in the west and north, and Southern Rhodesia in the east. Area, 600,400 sq km. Population, 629,000 (1969 estimate). Capital, Gaborone (Gaberones). It is divided administratively into districts.
Constitution and government Botswana is a republic. The operant constitution, which came into force on Sept. 30, 1966, was adopted not by the parliament of Botswana but by the government of Great Britain. Under the constitution, the president is head of state and of government. He is elected for five years through parliamentary elections; each candidate for parliament must announce which of the presidential candidates he is going to support, and the candidate who receives the support of more than half of the elected members of parliament becomes president. The president has broad powers; he is the commander in chief of the armed forces, he appoints the vice-president and ministers, he summons and dissolves parliament, and so forth.
The supreme organ of legislative power is the parliament (National Assembly), which consists of the president, a single house, and the attorney general. Of the 35 deputies of the National Assembly, 31 are chosen by the population for five years on the basis of universal, direct suffrage by secret ballot, and four are chosen by the National Assembly. All citizens who have attained the age of 21 may vote. The government of Botswana is a cabinet of ministers consisting of the president, vice-president, and not more than six ministers. There is a House of Chiefs, which is a consultative organ of 15 members.
The organs of local administration in the districts are elected district councils and, in the large cities, city councils.
The judicial system of Botswana comprises local courts, which review cases on the basis of the norms of customary law, city courts, the high court, and the court of appeal.
IU. A. IUDIN
Natural features Botswana occupies the vast, sloping, internal-drainage basin of the Kalahari and the plateaus surrounding it. The average elevation is 800–1,000 m; it rises to 1,200 m in the west. The terrain is flat; in the east it is slightly hilly. Precambrian rocks of the African platform are deposited at the base. The sedimentary cover is represented by Upper Cretaceous and Cenozoic deposits.
The climate is subtropical, with sharply continental features. The climate in the north is tropical. The average January temperature is between 21° and 27° C, and the July temperature is about 16° C. Precipitation is 500–600 mm a year. The southwestern and central regions are the most arid (less than 250 mm per year), with desert savanna prevalent. For most of the year, moisture is maintained in this area only in salt lakes and deep in the sands of dried up channels (in wells); farming without artificial irrigation is impossible. In eastern Botswana, which is irrigated by tributaries of the Limpopo River, savanna has developed on reddish-brown soils. In the north of the country is the intracontinental delta of the Okavango River.
Animal life is rich and varied; there are lions, leopards, jackals, hyenas, zebras, and antelope. There are also numerous lizards and snakes (python, cobra, black mamba, and others).
Useful minerals include coal in the eastern part of the country and manganic ore and asbestos in the southeast. Considerable deposits of copper-nickel ore have been discovered in the Selibe-Phikwe region and deposits of coal and diamonds in the Orapa region. Beds of salt and natural soda have also been prospected.
Population The bulk of the population of Botswana is made up of peoples belonging to the Bantu language family, such as Bechuana (about 80 percent of the population), Mashona, and Pedi. There are also Bushmen, who live in the Kalahari and the delta of the Okavango River. There are several thousand Europeans. The most widespread language is Chuana (Setswana), which belongs to the southeastern group of the Bantu language family. The state language is English. Over two-thirds of the native population adheres to local traditional beliefs; some are Christians (primarily Protestants). The Gregorian calendar is official. The population is distributed primarily in the eastern part of the country. About 90 percent of the economically active population engages in livestock raising. The main cities are Kanye (37,000), Serowe (37,000), Molepolole (32,000), Gaborone (14,000), Mochudi (19,000), Lobatse (8,000), and Francistown (13,000).
Historical survey The history of Botswana prior to the 19th century has received little study. It is clear that the Bechuanas who settled the territory of Botswana came from what is today Transvaal (a province of the Republic of South Africa); they drove the Bushmen—the indigenous population of the country—into the interior regions of the Kalahari. The Bechuanas struggled over the centuries against tribes that encroached upon their territory. The wars with the Zulu tribes were particularly bloody and devastated the country during the first decades of the 19th century. At the same time, regular contacts were established with the Europeans, whose penetration of Botswana increased after 1820 (the first Christian mission was established in that year). In the middle of the 1850’s, the Boers began to seize the lands of the Bechuanas. However, the Bechuanas exploited conflicts between the English and the Boers and succeeded in defending their independence for three decades. In 1885 much of the land of the Bechuanas was annexed to the English possessions in South Africa. The English government declared the northern lands of the Bechuanas (the territory of present-day Botswana) a protectorate under the name Bechuanaland.
The English colonizers seized the best lands in the protectorate and transferred them to European companies and individuals. At the same time, Great Britain kept the tribal structure inviolate, leaving internal administrative functions to the tribal chiefs (a system of indirect administration). The supreme chiefs were subordinate to the British commissioner for Bechuanaland, who was in turn subordinate to the British high commissioner; the latter also administered Basutoland and Swaziland. Great Britain’s policy in the protectorate aimed at turning it into a supplier of the labor force for the farms and mines of South Africa; and by 1910, when the British dominion of the Union of South Africa (from 1961, the Republic of South Africa) was established, Bechuanaland was totally economically dependent on it.
The Bechuanas did not reconcile themselves to colonial rule and took action to oppose the forcible appropriation of their lands by foreigners. The anticolonial struggle became particularly intense in the 1920’s and 1930’s. In 1933, on the insistence of Tshekedi Khama, the regent of Seretse Khama (the juvenile chief of the Bamangwato tribe—the largest in Bechuanaland), an Englishman who had offended African women was sentenced and subjected to a public flogging. On learning of this “native” trial of a white man (an incident without precedent in the history of colonial Africa), the British high commissioner sent a punitive expedition armed with machine guns and artillery to the protectorate. Tshekedi was removed from power and banished. But the indignation which the commissioner’s actions provoked in Bechuanaland and other countries forced the English government to disavow the commissioner and to reappoint Tshekedi as regent. During World War II (1939–45), 10,000 Bechuanas participated in the combat operations of the English Army in the Near East and Europe.
The postwar upsurge in the national liberation movement in Africa had a considerable influence on the liberation movement in the protectorate. The People’s Party of Bechuanaland—the first political party in the country—arose in 1960; it advocated that the country be granted independence. In 1962, Seretse Khama established the Democratic Party of Bechuanaland (DPB), which also demanded that the country be granted independence. It rapidly became the largest mass organization in the country. Under these circumstances the English government was forced to make concessions. Bechuanaland was granted internal self-government in 1965. In March 1965, elections for the Legislative Assembly were held. They brought victory to the Democratic Party, which received 28 of the 31 seats. A government headed by Seretse Khama was formed. On Sept. 30, 1966, Bechuanaland was proclaimed the independent Republic of Botswana. In accordance with the country’s constitution that had come into effect, the Legislative Assembly began to fulfill the functions of a National Assembly, and Seretse Khama, the head of government, became the president of the republic. On Oct. 17, 1966, Botswana was accepted into the UN. However, it remained within the British Commonwealth. The government of Botswana declared the goal of its domestic policy to be the creation of a democratic, multiracial society and the aim of its foreign policy, the strengthening of friendship with other young independent African states. It condemned the policy of apartheid. However, taking into account its geographic situation and its traditional economic ties, it was forced to cooperate, to a certain extent, with the Republic of South Africa—particularly in the area of economics. On Mar. 6, 1970, the governments of the USSR and Botswana reached an agreement on the establishment of diplomatic relations.
L. N. RYTOV
Political parties The Botswana Democratic Party (until 1966, the Democratic Party of Bechuanaland) was established in 1962. It has been the ruling party since 1965. It is based on the support of the tribal aristocracy and a segment of the intelligentsia. The Botswana People’s Party (until 1966, the People’s Party of Bechuanaland) was founded in 1960. It is the main opposition party and enjoys the support of a segment of the intelligentsia. The Botswana Independence Party, which was founded in 1962 by a group of the progressive intelligentsia, was a splinter from the People’s Party (until 1966, it was the Independence Party of Bechuanaland). The Botswana National Front (until 1966, the National Front of Bechuanaland) was founded in 1965. Its declared aim is the unification of opposition forces for a democratic reconstruction of the society.
L. N. RYTOV
Economy Botswana is an economically backward country, highly dependent on the Republic of South Africa. The economy is one-sided and unevenly developed—a legacy of the colonial period.
AGRICULTURE. The basis of the economy is agriculture, which retains vestiges of precapitalist relations. The most important branch of agriculture is livestock raising. In 1967 the livestock population included 1,105,000 head of cattle; 717,000 goats; 151,000 sheep; and 33,000 horses, donkeys, and mules. About nine-tenths of the livestock is found on African farms; the bulk is concentrated in northern regions. The tribal aristocracy owns large herds. Livestock raising is extensive and primarily oriented toward meat production. Cattle are pastured year-round on natural pastures. Frequent droughts, epizootic diseases, overuse and exhaustion of pastures, and inadequate water supply constitute obstacles to increasing the livestock supply. Farming is developed only in the eastern and northern regions of the country. Only 5 percent—3.2 million hectares—of the land suitable for cultivation is exploited. The farms of Africans, who employ primitive methods of cultivating the land, are oriented only toward the needs of the farmer. Sorghum (durra), which plays the leading role in the feeding of the African family, millet, corn, wheat, legumes, and pumpkins are grown. The overwhelming portion of commodity farm produce comes from the farms of European émigrés, who inhabit the less arid eastern regions and employ modern methods for the cultivation of the land. In addition to the crops listed above, the European farms grow peanuts, tobacco, potatoes, sunflowers, citrus fruits, and cotton. The country’s agriculture suffers greatly because of the continual absence of much of the able-bodied male population (by estimates, about 30 percent), who are forced, as part of the contracting system, to work for certain periods in mines and on European farms in the Republic of South Africa and Southern Rhodesia.
INDUSTRY. There is only slight development of industry. Reserves of high-quality coal have been prospected in the eastern part of Botswana, in the Mamabula region. There is exploitation of deposits of asbestos and maganese ores (in the region of Kanye), which are controlled by foreign (primarily English and South African) capital. The output of manganese ore fluctuates between 4,000 and 20,000 tons (5,000 tons in 1967) and of asbestos, between 1,000 and 2,000 tons (800 tons in 1965) per year. Notable among manufacturing enterprises are the slaughterhouse and cannery in Lobatse. There are also small enterprises producing bone meal, oil (in Francistown), soap (in Lobatse), and beer (in Serowe).
TRANSPORTATION. Railroads from South Africa to Southern Rhodesia pass through Botswana (634 km within Botswana). The network of highways totals about 8,000 km. There are airfields in Kanye, Molepolole, Gaborone, and other points.
FOREIGN TRADE. There is an unfavorable balance of trade. Livestock produce accounts for over three-fourths of the value of exports (animals and meat, hides, canned meat, bone meal, and so forth); manganic ore is also exported. Food products (grain, flour, and so on), textiles and ready-made clothing, commercial consumer goods, agricultural implements, building materials, petroleum products, and motor vehicles predominate among imports. Over two-thirds of the country’s imports and three-fifths of its exports go to the Republic of South Africa, with which Botswana is united in a currency and customs union. Botswana’s other foreign trading partners are Great Britain, Southern Rhodesia, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The country does not have its own monetary unit; it uses the currency of the Republic of South Africa and Southern Rhodesia.
A. S. POKROVSKII
Medicine and public health Infectious diseases predominate among the native population and noninfectious diseases, among the European population. Pockets of typhoid and typhus, yellow fever, frambesia, and leprosy were recorded in 1964. Malaria and urogenital schistosomiasis are prevalent in the territory irrigated by the left tributaries of the Limpopo River, where about 80 percent of the population of Botswana is concentrated. Malaria, trypanosomiasis of the Rhodesian strain, necatoriasis, and trachoma are prevalent in the delta region of the Okavango River and the valley of the Linyanti (Chobe) River; taeniarhynchus infestation and plague are encountered. Characteristic of the southwestern region are trachoma, common syphilis, malnutrition diseases, myiasis, mycoses, and enzootic plague.
In 1966, 11 general hospitals with 1,240 beds (2.1 per thousand of population) and nine public health centers with 133 beds were functioning in Botswana. There were 21 doctors working (one doctor for 27,000 residents), of which 13 were in state service, 41 doctors’ aides, 182 midwives, and two pharmacists.
With the aid of the World Health Organization in 1964, 120,300 people were inoculated against smallpox, 1,000 children were inoculated against poliomyelitis, and 5,000 people were inoculated against typhoid; 86,200 people were vaccinated against tuberculosis.
M. P. STRADOMSKAIA and P. N. SAMYKIN
VETERINARY SERVICES. The primitive nature of distantpasture livestock raising and the presence of a great number of carriers of communicable diseases (the tsetse fly, mites, and ticks) determine the pathology of agricultural animals in Botswana. Veterinary sanitation is inadequate. Horse plague (seven outbreaks in 1965—66), nodular dermatitis, and ulcerative lymphangitis of cattle are prevalent. There is trypanosomiasis in the delta of the Okavango; in northeastern sections there is theileriasis and ephemeral fever; in the east there is rickettsial disease (hydropericardium) of cattle (42 outbreaks in 1966). The cattle population is afflicted by brucellosis (81 outbreaks in 1966), tuberculosis and particularly helminthiasis (cysticercosis, echinococcus, nematodiasis, and taeniasis), and coccidiosis. Malignant anthrax (28 outbreaks in 1965–66) and emphysematous carbuncle (181 outbreaks in 1965–66) are frequently recorded, because the corpses of animals are not buried.
There were 17 veterinarians in Botswana in 1966. Prophylactic measures are virtually never employed.
M. G. TARSHIS and I. A. BAKULOV
Education The first primary schools in Botswana were opened in the early 19th century by the London Missionary Society. There were no secondary schools in the country before the middle of the 20th century. The first upsurge in the area of education—prompted by the strengthening of the national liberation struggle—occurred after World War II. Most of the schools belong to local communes; there are also state and missionary schools. Education is directed by the Ministry of Education. There is no universal compulsory education law.
Children six years of age are accepted into the seven-year primary schools. Instruction is in Chuana up to the fifth grade; thereafter it is in English. The complete secondary school is five years, divided into two cycles (three and two years of instruction). In the 1968 school year there were 78,900 pupils in primary schools and over 2,300 in secondary schools; there were 592 students in vocational schools. Primary school teachers are trained in the pedagogical college in Lobatse (322 teachers in the 1968 school year). Instructors for the secondary schools essentially come from the Republic of South Africa. There are no institutions of higher education in Botswana.
V. Z. KLEPIKOV
Press and radio The country did not have its own newspapers and periodicals during the colonial period. The following are published in independent Botswana (1970): Botswana Daily News—the official daily government bulletin, in Chuana and English; Theresanyo—a monthly organ of the Democratic Party, in Chuana; Kutlwano—a weekly in Chuana, the organ of the Ministry of Information; Masa—the organ of the People’s Party, in Chuana; and Phuo Phaa—the organ of the National Front, in Chuana and English.
There has been radio broadcasting since 1966. The radio station (government-run) is in Gaborone. Broadcasting is in Chuana and English.
L. N. RYTOV
Folk art The folk art of Botswana has received scant study. Woodcarving is widespread; household utensils are decorated with carved geometrical designs; carved spoons with handles in the shape of schematic figures of people and animals (mostly giraffes) are frequently encountered. Simple bracelets, strings of beads, and so on are made out of glass beads, copper wire, and iron. The traditional type of folk dwelling is the round hut without windows, with a large conical roof of reed or straw.
REFERENCESNoveishaia istoriia Afriki, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1968. Pages 540–41.
Schapera, I. Migrant Labour and Tribal Life: A Study of Conditions in the Bechuanaland Protectorate. London, 1947.
Schapera, I. The Tswana. London, 1953.
Halpern, J. South Africa’s Hostages. London, 1965.
Munger, E. S. Bechuanaland, Pan-African Outpost or Bantu Homeland. London-New York, 1965.
Stevens, R. Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland. London .
Facts About Botswana. Gaborone, 1969.
Official name: Republic of Botswana
Capital city: Gaborone
Internet country code: .bw
Flag description: Light blue with a horizontal white-edged black stripe in the center
National anthem: “Fatshe La Rona” (Our Land)
Geographical description: Southern Africa, north of South Africa
Total area: 224,710 sq. mi. (582,000 sq. km.)
Climate: Semiarid; warm winters and hot summers
Nationality: noun: Motswana (singular), Batswana (plural); adjective: Motswana (singular), Batswana (plural) Population: 1,815,508 (July 2007 CIA est.)
Ethnic groups: Tswana (or Setswana) 79%, Kalanga 11%, Basarwa (or “San”) 3%, other (including Kgalagadi, Herero, Bayeyi, Hambukush, Khoi, and European) 7%
Languages spoken: Setswana 78.2%, Kalanga 7.9%, Sekgalagadi 2.8%, English (official) 2.1%, other and unspecified 9%
Religions: Christian 71.6%, Badimo 6%, other 1.4%, unspeficied 0.4%, none 20.6%
|Botswana Day||Sep 30|
|Boxing Day||Dec 26|
|Labor Day||May 1|
|New Year's Day||Jan 1|
|President's Day||Jul 16|
|Public Holiday||Jan 2, Jul 17, Oct 1|
|Sir Seretse Khama Day||Jul 1|