© 2018 Dr. M. Sheppard

Botswana Kanye Households People Lands Cattle-post Crafts


There are three main types of roofing:

Women’s Thatch, Men’s Thatch and Zinc roofs. Rafters are erected first to  hold the roofing.


These are fixed into place by men. They have been cut at the Lands or Cattle-post. The roofing rafters are attached to the upright supports around the outside of the rondavel

Women’s Thatch

This is usually a softer thatching grass typically collected out at the Lands or Cattle-post. Several women help. A younger woman is laying the thatching grass whilst others ensure she is spreading it evenly and symetrically to reduce the rain leaks and/or wind damage.

The owner of the house will provide refreshments for all the helpers!

Men’s Thatch

“Men’s Thatch” is much more durable and specialist thatchers will thatch the roofs using this method. A reed-like grass is used for this and is purchased in bundles of a “double hand span”. First the rafters must be erected on the roof, a task also undertaken by local “specialists”.

A local roofer shapes and fixes the rafters - these are often bought from a building supplier. The Thatcher thatches the bundles of reeds to the rafters

The bundles are passed up to the thatcher

Thatching in  the bundles securely to withstand storms and high winds, overlapping them to make them water tight

For additional strength they are also secured to the rafters from inside the house, using thongs or strong string

Finally a zinc cone is fixed to the top of the roof to deflect heavy rain and make the roof more watertight. These cones are typically made locally by the local metal workers - the Masesuru people. The house owner purchases a sheet of zinc from local stores, the roofer provides the required dimensions and the Masesuru metal workers fashion  the sheet into the required shape which the roofer then fixes on the roof.

 Increasingly many people are building houses with zinc roofs. The corrugated sheets are purchased from building suppliers. Zinc roofs require less maintenance but the houses are not nearly as cool as the thatched ones and are very noisy during heavy rain. Also the thatched houses are much cooler during the Summer heat and the gap between the top of the walls and the thatch allows for natural ventilation.