A Brief Walk Into The Lives Of The Tswana People

The Tswana People are a Banu-speaking ethnic group that resides in the southern part of Africa such as Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa. They are mostly found in Botswana and are the most dominant tribe in the country.

Currently there are over 16 million Tswanas living in Batswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Botswana is a country of Be-Tswana people, one member of this country is Mo-Tswana and their language is Se-Tswana.

The tribe is made up of 4 ethnic groups which include the Nguni, Soho-Tswana, Shangaa-Tsunga and the Benda. They are well known for their unique characteristics including the Setswana food and cuisine. They are sometimes refer to as the Western Sotho.

The history of this tribe goes back to the 18th century. Most people who lived more than two thousand years ago are believed to have been Bushmen. They were often herders and agriculturalists.

Around the 17th & 18th centuries, the polities of this tribe, under the reign of the chiefs moved into Botswana from the south and the east. Some of them were responding to the emergence of the Zulu state and the European coloners. However, when the missionization of this ethnic tribe began in 1816, It led to the Tswana polities embracing the migrant labour economy, which was centered in South Africa, on trade, and Christianity. In 1885, the British declared the area the Bechuanaland Protectorate, making three Tswana kings visit Britain in 1895.

During the visit, the kings petitioned to remain under the rule of the British, rather than be governed by the British South Africa Company. The administration of the British strengthened the role of the Tswana chiefs, leading to the dominance of the Tswana laws and customs throughout the country.

Religious Beliefs of the Tswana

During the pre-colonial era, most of the Batswana believed in a supreme being called Modimo, who was thought to be a creator and director who was distant and remote. They also believed in the ancestors also known as Badimo. The Badimo had a significant influence on the daily activities of the members of the tribe, and therefore, appeals to them were made with sacrifices, prayers, and appropriate behavior.

However, in the early 19th century when the missionaries arrived with the Batswana, they brought about education, Christianity, schools and the western values in the tribe. Today, most of the Batswana belong to the African Independent Churches, which embrace the Christian and non-Christian beliefs, myths, and practices.

Setswana Food

One of the most popular types of food in culture is called Bogobe, which is made from sorghum or millet. Another favorite food that is sorghum porridge is Ting.


One food that is very familiar to many is the Seswaa. It is the national dish in Botswana. It is frequently served at weddings, funerals, and other celebrations. Seswaa is a pounded or shredded meat, which is often served alongside Bogobe. Another trademark food of this tribe is Madila. Madila refers to sour cultured milk, which is prepared from goat and cow milk, for a specified period until which the milk matures for consumption. It was prepared traditionally using a Lekuka, which is a leather sack or bag.


Ceremonies held by this tribe differs as some certain life cycle event like birth, marriages, bride-wealth payment, circumcision etc while other ceremonies are tied to the agricultural cycle such as those to make rain, to initiate planting, and the rituals for first-fruits. Though these ceremonies are no longer practiced regularly like before.

Perhaps the most iconic part of the ceremonies is the Tswana culture clothing. Batswana wear a cotton fabric known in Setswana as Leteisi and Sotho as Shweshwe. There are various dresses for different occasions. Most people long for the Tswana traditional wedding ceremony since it gives one the chance to have a glance of the Tswana traditional wedding dresses.

The Tswana culture is also another admirable culture in the southern part of Africa. Due to popularity, most people visiting Africa often tend to visit the beautiful country of Botswana, to enjoy the culture of the Batswana.

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