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Ascendance of the Batswana - Sotho tribes from the South

Modern day Kwa-Zulu Natal

Prior to the troubled times (difaqane) attendant upon the present day Zululand, the inhabitable western part of Basutoland and the adjoining country were occupied by the baTswana - baSotho tribes, such as the baFokeng, baTlokwa, baTaung, baKwena, baQwaqwa, baKgolokwe, baSia, and numerous others.

There were the people who had come from the West, such as the Phuthing, Kgolokwe, Sia, and Tlokwa, and, as later arrivals, the Lihoya (Dighoya) and Taung ; and there were others who had come from the East, viz. the Phuthi, who probably formed part of the old Sotho population of Swaziland. All these tribes lived peacefully and comparatively undisturbed until 1822, when the first fugitive Nguni hordes, fleeing from Natal, broke over the Drakensberg into their territory, and a new era was ushered in. As elsewhere, tribes were ousted from their homes and began to wander about. Political chaos and famine reigned. The Tlokwa under Mmanthatisi set out on a career of rapine and conquest, but ended up by sustaining great losses themselves. Mmanthatisi (born. 1784 – 1847) was the leader of the Tlokwa people during her son's minority from 1813 until 1824. She came to power as the regent for her son, Sekonyela, (Lents'a) following the death of her husband Kgosi Mokotjo (the previous kgosi).

The Batlokwa (Ma-Ana Nkwe) are a branch of the Bakgatla section of the Bantu speaking communities which originated from the Great Lakes and Northern Central Africa. Batlokwa are said to have been a breakaway branch of the Bakgatla which is another Bahurutse section of the Tswana people. During the time of Kgosi Mokotjo (the husband of Mmanthatisi), the Batlokwa lived in Nkoe (also spelled Nkwe) and then later moved to Sefate. The name of the Batlokwa capital reflected their totem – the leopard. Mmanthatisi was known as a strong, brave and capable leader, both in times of peace and war. She was referred to by her followers as Mosanyane (the tiny one) because of her slender body.


Sebetwane and his followers trekked northwards through Botswana and the Kalahari until they reached the upper waters of the Zambesi. Here they founded the so-called Kololo kingdom of Barotseland, in which Southern Sotho language and custom still survive to a considerable extent.

Modern day Lesotho and Free State

Meanwhile in Basutoland itself Moshoeshoe followed another course. With great political wisdom he accepted all stray people who came to him for protection, warded off the attacks of Mzilikazi's Ndebele, built up a great tribe, and, extending his rule, founded what we know to-day as the Basuto Nation of Lesotho". At one time probably all the Southern Sotho were under his control. This ceased when the boundaries of Basutoland or Lesotho were defined. Since that day the Sotho in the Orange Free State have lived a detribalized existence, with the exception of the two tribes in the Witzieshoek reserve. The few tribes resident in the Transkei remained under chiefs.

King Moshoeshoe I

The policy of Moshoeshoe and his successors was to put their kinsmen in charge of areas, as governors, all over the country. This favoured the general trend of development towards uniformity in custom and language. The process is not yet complete, but its end is in sight. In Lesotho Chiefs with large tribes of this description are, for instance, the Paramount Chief himself and Seeiso, both in Maseru district, and Tsepo Nkuebe and Solomon, both of Quthing district.

A Basotho tribes of baKwena were found under Chiefs Mopeli of Buthabuthe, Motsoene of Leribe, Sekhonyana and Khoabane of Maseru, and many other chiefs, as well as under Jeremiah Moshoeshoe and Khorong Lebenya in the Transkei. Where also existed the baHlakwana tribe under Motheo Sibi. The Fokeng live mostly in the North, in Berea and Mafeteng districts. The Khoakhoa under Matumane and the Kholokoe under Qobela live in Buthabuthe distrift. Tribes of Sia and Taung are found especially in Mafeteng.

The very mountainous parts of Eastern Lesotho have been partly occupied by a mixed population drawn from all tribes ; but the districts in question (Qacha's Nek and Mokhotlong) also harbour the Tlokwa of Mosuwe. Another branch of baTlokwa lives in Mount Fletcher distrift under Chief Scanlen Lehana. The baPhuthi are represented by the large tribe of Chief Bereng in Mohales Hoek, by some other small ones in Quthing, and by some groups living in the Transkei area, where they were subject to chiefs not of their own tribe.

In the Northern districts, finally, were a number of tribes known as maTebele, under such chiefs as Boshoane in Leribe and Berea, Madihotetso in Leribe, and others. They are people of the Nguni extraction who settled in these parts very long ago, and have in part adopted the customs and language of their Sotho neighbours. Little more is known about them, their history also being practically unrecorded.

Modern day Swaziland

Before the 1800s the present Swaziland was partly occupied by the Pai and Pulana clans which are categorised as the Northern Sotho group. The southern part of Swaziland was occupied by clans of Nguni origin. These Northern Sotho clans were driven out during the Nguni rule of Mswazi around 1840 – 1875). The remaining Sotho clans were named the abeSuthu or amaKhandzambili and absorbed the Swazi language. Amongst the Khandzambili some of the clans were transformed into Nguni clan names as Bhembe, Gama, Gamedze, Magagula, Maseko, Nkambule, and Sukati. There is a direct relationship between the Pulana’s bagaMasego and the Nguni’s Maseko clan.

Source: The Bantu-speaking tribes of South Africa.