© 2018 Dr. M. Sheppard

Botswana Kanye Households People Lands Cattle-post Crafts

Family Settlements- The Kgotla

Plan of a typical Kgotla

Plan of a typical sub-kgotla and households

A household lives within a lwapapa . Lwalapa  can have two meanings according to context:

1. The whole area or yard in which a family build their houses in their sub-kgotla.In the plan below  the Headman's Iwalapa there are 3 houses.

2. The mud-walled and floored enclosures built around individual houses of the yard. These walled areas may link two houses together. Such walled areas are often originally built and/or re-decorated for weddings and Botsetsi parties.

Way of Life/Settlement Patterns

Kanye is the capital of the Bangwaketse District and the surrounding land, Southern District is under the Chief.

The tribal boundaries were defined soon after Botswana became a Protectorate in 1885. The sub-villages are administered by Headmen who act on behalf of the Chief. The district also includes lands for ploughing, and separate areas where livestock are kept - the cattle-posts. Traditionally it also included the tribal hunting areas, but in modern times hunting has been severely restricted.~

Family and Kinship Organization

Paternal kin build together in an area called a kgotla (plural dikgotla). Homes traditionally consist of various separate, round or oblong, thatched houses (and nowadays zinc roofed, multi-roomed houses), the family builds these separate houses in its yard. The entrance and the first house of a new yard face towards a central area where there is typically a common cattle kraal and meeting place.~

Legitimate sons have a right to build in their father's kgotla. Daughters can build there but their houses should not face towards the kraal. Sons of unmarried daughters should not build in their mother's kgotla but ask for land elsewhere.

The head of the paternal kin, the first son, is the head of the kgotla, but particularly the adult males help and advise him. Disputes are initially settled at this basic kgotla level. If they cannot be settled then they are referred to the main kgotla of that section of the village,  (by the 1934 Native Tribunals Proclamation the original 165 Ngwaketse kgotla courts were combined into 13 Junior Tribunals). If cases cannot be resolved by these courts they maymay then be referred to the Chief's main kgotla, the Senior Tribunal.

Maternal kin are also very important, particularly the Malome the mother's brother. As will be seen in other sections, many examples are given of the importance of this relationship on a number of traditional occasions.

The whole village is divided into separate dikgotla. The small dikgotla are under a main kgotla. Typically the people from the smaller dikgotla are usually the patrilineal kin of their main kgotla. Or when they were absorbed into the Bangwaketse nation in the past from the other nations they were sometimes settled under one of the Chief's male relatives as their headman. These original main dikgotla over time filled up, so new generations extended into smaller surrounding dikgotla that were still under the Headmanship of their main kgotla. When a kgotla started, a man would build his yard (lwa-wapa) where he had been granted land by his Headman or the Chief. This would face his cattle kraal. His next brother would make his yard next to his older brother on the right (facing the kraal), the next brother on the left, and so on alternating between right and left. The founder would be the Headman and his house always faces the kraal. His oldest son would build his yard behind the Kraal (opposite, facing his father's yard), the next son to his right, and the next to the left, etc. This next generation would eventually build their own kraal behind their father's with the entrance facing the oldest brother. As this kgotla filled up, the next generation would make their new kgotla nearby, with the first house facing towards their Headman's etc.

Each kgotla is protected by traditional medicine, the kraal and the yards are doctored by that kgotla's traditional doctor. (These traditional doctors are appointed and registered by the Chief to protect each kgotla in Kanye and sub villages.) When an individual builds a new yard he must call his kgotla's traditional doctor to protect it. Various examples are given of families where they have not done this, usually due to it being against the Christian teaching of their Church. In such families people will point to madness, or uselessness of the children as evidence that they are not protected, and harmed by the protections of their neighbouring yards. When the traditional doctor "puts" the kgotla he often makes certain rules, for example, in some dikgotla one is not allowed to carry water through the kgotla, or cattle-dung, as this is believed to challenge the protective powers of the kgotla.

Traditionally the Chief was the ultimate power. He was not an absolute ruler but all elders (old men) were his advisers. They would attend disputes with him and give their opinions, he would listen to all their comments before coming to a final decision.

Traditionally he was the Rainmaker and head of all traditional religion, being invested with these powers on his coronation. However, since Bathoen 1 was converted to Christianity many of these practices officially disappeared. Many people do still wait for the official announcement from the Chief's Kgotla that it is time to go and plough.

Since Independence many of the traditional powers of the Chief have been limited further. There is now a Southern District Council, with elected councillors, which is financed by the central government. This has taken over many of the traditional responsibilities of the Chief, for example, this is responsible for social services, primary education, local administration etc. Employees are appointed through the central government controlled Unified Local Government Service. There is also Central Government represented by the District Commissioner. This has its own administration of District Officers, Fire Rangers, Police (in addition there are tribal police). Besides the kgotla courts there is the Magistrates Court, this also falls under the District Commissioner. This usually deals with more serious crimes and any appeals against verdicts from the Chief's kgotla.

Families related through the male line (patrilineal kin) live in an area called a  kgotla (the plural is dikgotla). Within their kgotla they live within separate yards, called lwa-lapa, in which they typically build various houses  - round thatched single roomed houses called rondavels or oblong  thatched or two roomed houses.  These separate dwellngs are often often surrounded by mud-walled and floored enclosures built around individual houses of the yard. These walled areas may link two houses together. Such walled areas are often originally built and/or re-decorated for weddings and Botsetsi parties (see later sections). Such an enclosure is called a lwa-lapa.

The dikgotla are all built in a similar traditional way Each group of households faces a central meeting place with a cattle kraal  for when cattle are brought to the village.