The Inconvenient Indigenous: Remote Area Development in Botswana, Donor Assistance and the First People of the Kalahari

By Sidsel Saugestad | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6.
Bantu and San:
Relations and Categorisations

In the Kalahari debate, and in other debates about the shifting location and interaction between population groups, a recurrent theme is the question of what constitutes an appropriate time-perspective. As the discussion in the previous chapter shows, it is important and of interest to trace historical occupation of a territory as far back as historical and archaeological methods can take us. However, for the purpose of the present analysis, a much shorter time perspective is required. The main concern is to understand the present day relationship between two categories of people, and the historical background or explanation of this relationship is relevant insofar as we can specify 'the nature of continuity' (Barth 1981:111) between actors and events situated in history, and present day encounters. In other words, it is not the objective history we are after, but history as it is perceived by present day actors, who use it to understand, explain and justify the present. Bearing in mind that 'the past in the present' everywhere may be contested, history can help explain events by identifying the processes behind the contemporary distribution of peoples, territories and control.


Brief settlement history

Tlou and Campbell date the presence of Bantu people in the western Transvaal and south-eastern Botswana to the period around AD 1200 (1984:57–61). For several centuries (up to early 1800), Tswana presence was concentrated almost exclusively to this relatively small section of the land at both sides of the present border, while some Kgalagadi had settled in parts of present day Kgalagadi District and some northern parts of Central District as early as the mid-1500s (ibid.:67).

Developments in South Africa, pressure from white settlers, and the population explosion about 1800 led to the Difaquane (time of troubles) in 1820, which again led to more extensive movements of Tswana tribes into territories that now make up Botswana. During the 19th century, other Bantu groups added to the diversity of cultures in Botswana: the Kalanga moved in from the East, the Mbukushu and Yei from the North, the Herero and Mbanderu from the West. The last numerically significant influx of Herero followed the German-Herero war around 1900. Thus the history of origin and arrival of contemporary Tswana and other Bantu-speaking people in Botswana is relatively short: apart from in the most south-easterly part it spans less than two centuries.

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