On this date in 1966 Botswana, officially the Republic of Botswana (Lefatshe la Botswana), became independent within the British Commonwealth. Botswana is a landlocked country located in Southern Africa. The citizens refer to themselves as Batswana (singular: Motswana). Botswana was formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, but adopted its current name after becoming independent. Since independence it has maintained a strong tradition of stable representative democracy, with a consistent record of uninterrupted democratic elections.
Botswana is topographically flat, with up to 70% of its territory being the Kalahari Desert. It is bordered by South Africa to the south and southeast, Namibia to the west and north, and Zimbabwe to the northeast. Its border with Zambia to the north near Kazungula is poorly defined but at most is a few hundred meters long.
Botswana is one of the most sparsely populated nations in the world. Around 10% of the population lives in the capital and largest city, Gaborone. Although once one of the poorest countries in the world—with a GDP per capita of about US$70 per year in the late 1960s—Botswana has since transformed itself into one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, now boasting a GDP per capita of about $18,825 per year as of 2015, which is one of the highest in Africa. Its high gross national income (by some estimates the fourth-largest in Africa) gives the country a modest standard of living and the highest Human Development Index of continental Sub-Saharan Africa.
In the 19th century, hostilities broke out between Tswana inhabitants of Botswana and Ndebele tribes who were making incursions into the territory from the north-east. Tensions also escalated with the Dutch Boer settlers from the Transvaal to the east. After appeals by the Batswana leaders Khama III, Bathoen and Sebele for assistance, the British Government put Bechuanaland under its protection on 31 March 1885. The northern territory remained under direct administration as the Bechuanaland Protectorate and is modern-day Botswana, while the southern territory became part of the Cape Colony and is now part of the northwest province of South Africa. The majority of Setswana-speaking people today live in South Africa.
When the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910 out of the main British colonies in the region, the Bechuanaland Protectorate, Basutoland (now Lesotho) and Swaziland (the High Commission Territories) were not included, but provision was made for their later incorporation. However, their inhabitants began to be consulted by the UK, and although successive South African governments sought to have the territories transferred, the UK kept delaying; consequently, it never occurred. The election of the Nationalist government in 1948, which instituted apartheid, and South Africa’s withdrawal from the Commonwealth in 1961, ended any prospect of incorporation of the territories into South Africa. An expansion of British central authority and the evolution of tribal government resulted in the 1920 establishment of two advisory councils to represent both Africans and Europeans. Proclamations in 1934 regulated tribal rule and powers. A European-African advisory council was formed in 1951, and the 1961 constitution established a consultative legislative council.
In June 1964, the UK accepted proposals for a democratic self-government in Botswana. The seat of government was moved in 1965 from Mafikeng in South Africa, to the newly established Gaborone, which sits near its border. The 1965 constitution led to the first general elections and to independence on 30 September 1966. Seretse Khama, a leader in the independence movement and the legitimate claimant to the Ngwato chiefship, was elected as the first President, going on to be re-elected twice.
The Tswana are the majority ethnic group in Botswana, making up 79% of the population. The largest minority ethnic groups are the BaKalanga, San or AbaThwa also known as Basarwa. Other tribes are Bayei, Bambukushu, Basubia, Baherero and Bakgalagadi. In addition, there are small numbers of whites and Indians, both groups being roughly equally small in number. Botswana’s Indian population is made up of many Indian-Africans of several generations, from Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritius, South Africa, and so on, as well as first generation Indian immigrants. The white population speaks English and Afrikaans and makes up roughly 3% of the population.Since 2000, because of deteriorating economic conditions in Zimbabwe, the number of Zimbabweans in Botswana has risen into the tens of thousands.
Fewer than 10,000 San are still living the traditional hunter-gatherer way of life. Since the mid-1990s the central government of Botswana has been trying to move San out of their lands. The U.N.’s top official on indigenous rights, Prof. James Anaya, condemned Botswana’s actions toward the San in a report released in February 2010. The San are very well known to anthropologists because fieldwork among them has greatly advanced the study of human prehistory and overturned many long held, but false, notions concerning foraging and domestication. Generally the San reject materialism, wealth, and personal power which makes them endearing to many, but relatively powerless in modern geo-politics.
The official language of Botswana is English although Setswana is widely spoken across the country. In Setswana, as in many Bantu dialects, prefixes are extremely important. These prefixes include Bo, which refers to a country, Ba, which refers to a people, Mo, which is one person, and Se which is a language. For example, the main ethnic group of Botswana is the Tswana people, hence the name Botswana for its country, the people as a whole are Batswana, one person is a Motswana, and the language they speak is Setswana.
The traditional foods of Botswana are generally fairly basic, including a lot of boiled grains, such as sorghum and maize – staples of much of Africa in one form or another. However, mopane worms may be a little exotic for Western tastes. They are the caterpillar stage of a common moth that are harvested by locals and either eaten directly (raw or cooked) or preserved by drying or smoking. You can buy them canned online, preserved in brine.
Seswaa is a traditional meat dish of Botswana, made of beef, goat, chicken or lamb meat. It’s usually served as a festive dish for weddings, parties and the like, so seems perfect for Independence Day celebrations. Fatty meat is boiled on the bone in big kettles over an open fire until tender (with a lot of salt), and then shredded or pounded. It is often served with pap (maize meal) or sorghum meal porridge. You should use tough, stewing cuts which you can boil for a very long time. You don’t need a more detailed recipe but here’s a video I like because the commentary is in Setswana.