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From Botoana, Bechuana and lastly Batswana

From Botoana, Bechuana and lastly Batswana

The question of id-entity is always accompanied by a perplexing endeavor to uncover truth that oft times the answer thereto is married by “hard to swallow” evidence even for the one who embarks upon such a journey.

The story regarding the origin and identity of our people throughout the planet is clouded by fabrications conceived in the minds of colonizers. These distortions became superimposed upon many a people as their identity. Hence, historically when one digs into the past, one is faced with the stark reality that the labels with which some of us identify are simply scars, marks and badges of colonial domination. Today we wear them with dignity.

We learn in M’tam that one who tells lies does not rise from their bed uttering falsehoods until the sun sets. Even one who tells lies will sometimes tell the truth. The brain does not invent but simply produces copies from previous exposures.

Many attempts have been made to answer the question “Who are the Batswana and what does their name mean?”, but sadly the riddle is yet to be solved. Some say that the word Batswana means those who abandon each other while others state that it refers to the similarities of their phenotype. Other ideas which may hold some credibility suggest that the name has to with a military strategy employed by Batswana. It is said that Batswana when faced with the enemy, they split into groups that made it difficult for the enemy to annihilate them. One of my good friends of royal descent informed me in times past that Batswana were very strategic in concealing their identity. They did this by splitting from each other in groups and assumed a completely new tribal identity with its own language and customs. This strategy has led to their survival.

To partially answer the question on the identity of a people called “Batswana” we circumspectly look into the analogues of Europeans.

“Dr. Livingstone is accredited for having been the first European to translate the Bible into Sechuana language. On page 172 of his Seventeen Years of Exploration he mentions a tribe of negroes called Botoanas. Apparently these people occupied the area of Lake Ngami which is north of present day Botswana. I ask the reader to keep this word “Botoana” in mind as we investigate. Dr. Livingstone seems to rapidly move from the use of the latter word and eventually settles with Bechuana in reference to the same people.”

Why then a progression from Botoana to Bechuana? Batswana used various methodologies to conceal their identity amongst which include using different clan/tribal names for identity. This was accomplished through an ancient knowledge which gave rise to the different abaNtu/Bantshu dialects found throughout the planet.

After spending two years of proselyting among the “Botoana” as he refered to them, Dr. Livingstone soon found out that his knowledge of Sechuana made it easier for him to communicate with various abaNtu peoples spread across Central and Southern Africa.

In the Introduction of Grammar of the Bechuana – James Archbell writes concerning the Kafir (isiXhosa, isiTembu, isiMpondo and isiZulu) languages and Sechuana as follows:

“Of the two sister languages, the Sechuana appears to be the most extensively spoken…..
A dialect of the Kafir, as spoken by the Amazulu, is also the language of that small portion of Amazulu which, under the chief Mtzilikatzi, wasted, a few years ago, the vast plains of central Africa, near the Kuruman and Kurrichene. In 1837 this marauding tribe was broken up by the emigrant Boors, rendering it probable that now the remains of the scattered tribes of Bechuanas may re-occupy their former localities.”

“Sechuana, comprising a variety of dialects, only slightly differing from each other, appears to be a branch of an extensive language spoken through all Africa, from the northern boundary of the Cape colony, as far as the equator. On the west coast of this extensive territory the Damaras, a tribe visited by Mr. ARCHBELL at Waalvisch Bay, and again by way of Great Namaqualand speak a dialect of Sechuana. In Congo, Angola and Loango, the languages spoken are evidently of the same class.”

“The natives of Delogoa Bay, the Makooa tribes, extendsing from 17⁰ to 4⁰ south latitude, the Sowauli or Sowaiel who dwell beyond the Makooa, as far as 2⁰ north latitude, the Monjou who are supposed to be so far in the interior as two or three months’ journey north-east from Mozambique, speak languages only slightly differing from Sechuana spoken near the Cape colony.”

From two different sources it appears that their study and knowledge of Sechuana, coupled with that of other languages from regions they evidently visited, led them to conclude that the various dialects spoken from Central Africa to the Cape colony were essentially “Sechuana” dialects having a common root.

What then is Sechuana? Where did it come from? Why is it found in the Andaman Islands among the Jarawa people? Its remnants are found in the Arabic, Coptic, Hebrew, Phoenician, Akkadian, Greek and Sanskrit to name a few. Who are the Batswana is an even more perplexing inquiry. This is an open question. A messenger I am.

Nape ‘a Tshukudu.

By Adrian Bogopane

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