The Sotho-Tswana peoples are a meta-ethnicity of southern Africa and live predominantly in Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho. The group mainly consists of four clasters; Southern Sotho (Sotho), Northern Sotho (which consists of the Pedi, the Lobedu and others) and Western Sotho (the Kgalagadi and Tswana). The last group is sometimes referred to as the Eastern Sotho and consists of the Pulana, the Pai and others.
|unknown; roughly 18–25 million|
|Regions with significant populations|
|South Africa||15.585 million|
|Lesotho||2.130 million (mostly Sotho)|
|Botswana||2.160 million (mostly Tswana)|
|Zambia||655 000 ( Lozi)|
|Zimbabwe||105 500 (Tswana & Lozi)|
|Namibia||79 958 (Tswana & Lozi)|
|Mozambique||50 000 (Lozi)|
|Sotho, Pedi, Tswana, Lozi, Lobedu, Pulana|
|African traditional religion, Christianity|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Makua people, Nguni people, Venda people and Tsonga people|
The Sotho-Tswana people would have diversified into their current arrangement during the course of the 2nd millennium, but they retain a number of linguistic and cultural characteristics that distinguish them from other Bantu-speakers of southern Africa. These are features such as totemism, a pre-emptive right of men to marry their maternal cousins, and an architectural style characterized by a round hut with a conical thatch roof supported by wooden pillars on the outside. Other major distinguishing features included their dress of skin cloaks and a preference for dense and close settlements, as well as a tradition of large-scale building in stone.
The area now settled by the various Sotho-Tswana groups was reached by the Bantu expansion by about AD 500. The standard theory[year needed] asserts that the Sotho-Tswana are descended from a group that moved southward from the Great Lakes in a separate movement from the other Southern Bantu groups, proceeding along the western part of present-day Zimbabwe.
The Sotho-Tswana ethnic group derives its name from the people who belong to the various Sotho and Tswana clans that live southern Africa. Historically, all members of the were referred to as Sothos, the name is now exclusively applied to speakers of Southern Sotho who live mainly in Lesotho, and the Free State province in South Africa. While Northern Sotho, is reserved sotho speakers that inhabit northern South Africa, predominantly in Limpopo.
According to Jules Ellenberger (1912:34), the Basotho name was derived from the name "Abashuntu" a derivate of the Nguni saying "uku Shunta" meaning "to make a knot". The then Batlokwa, who were the very first people to be called "Abashuntu", used to wear a breech cloth with three ends, one of which passed between the legs and joined the other two knot behind, this mode of dress is called the tshega/tshea. This designation, through bestowed in derision, was adopted with pride by the Batlokwa, and later by other Sotho-Tswana clans similarly clothed and is thought to be the origin of the term "Basotho".
The ethnonym Batswana is thought to be antonyms that come from meaning of the Sotho-Tswana word "tswa", which means "to come out of". The name would be derived from the word "Ba ba tswang" eventually shortened to the word Batswana meaning "The Separatists" or alternatively "the people who cannot hold together". One of the chief characteristics of the Sotho-Tswana clans is the tendency to break up and hive off.
The term Tswana can be used to refer to one of the following
- All the Tswana clans residing either in Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe or South Africa
- Any member of the Sotho-Tswana clans that trace their origin from Kgosi Mokgatle.
- Citizen of Botswana regardless of linguistic or ethnic origin
- Members of the eight major Sotho-Tswana clans as defined in the Chieftainship Act of Botswana.
- Members of the Sotho-Tswana clans that reside in Botswana, South Africa that speak a standardised dialect of the Sotho-Tswana called Setswana sometimes also referred to as the Western Sotho.
- Any Sotho-Tswana clan that inhabits the Kalahari Desert basin and its eastern and south-western peripheries, unless they are Kgalagari people, who are a different Sotho-Tswana group of tribes.
The term Basotho can be used to refer to the following
- Citizen of Lesotho regardless of linguistic or ethnic origin
- Any member of the Sotho-Tswana clans that trace their origin from Kgosi Mogale
- Members of the Sotho-Tswana clans that came together under the leadership of Moshoeshoe during the Difaqane.
- The Sotho-Tswana clans that stay in the Free State and Lesotho that speak a standardised dialect of the Sotho-Tswana language called Sesotho and sometimes referred to as the Southern Sotho
In Sotho-Tswana society each member has a totem which is usually an animal, totems are inherited from the father and thus pass like an English surname. The totem animal had traditionally a status of veneration and avoidance: in particular, it was important not to eat one's totem. In modern Sotho-Tswana society this is not as strictly observed. Each morafe/sechaba had its own totem. When naming a clan the name of the founder could be used or the animal they venerate. An example is the Bahurutshe named after the founder Mohurutshe, or alternatively they can also be called Batshweneng after the tshwene (baboon) which they venerate, similarly Batlhako after the founder, or Batloung after the totem. For some clans the name of the founder and their totem are the same like the Bakwena and Bataung where the founders were named Kwena (crocodile) and Tau (lion) respectively.
The question of rank and seniority is one that is very important to the Sotho-Tswana. It determines a lot from family relationships, to village matters to relationships between clans and between the different tribal groups. In a family situation the issue of rank determines when a son will undergo initiation, or receive inheritance. A further distinction is also made between the senior wife and the junior wife if a man is in a polygamous marriage.
As the Sotho-Tswana lived in large villages, seniority and rank also played a part here, where the chief's homestead is situated at the centre of the village, thereafter the other citizen are grouped according to rank where the most junior members are living the furthest from the village centre. For inter and intra relationships between clans it has been a question that has occupied the Sotho-Tswana since the split that occurred between the followers of Mohurutshe and Kwena. While it is generally accepted that the Hurutshe are the senior clan, some of the other clans have disputed this, mainly the Bafokeng, Barolong and Bakgatla. The claims of the Barolong and Bakgatla has mainly been dismissed as for an example some sub clans of Bakgatla like the Bakgatla ba ga Mmakau acknowledge the Bahurutshe as senior while the Bakagatla ba ga Kgafela do not. In the case of the Barolong, the Batlhaping who are an offshoot of the Barolong acknowledge the Bahurutshe to be senior to the Barolong, while the Barolong do not. The Bafokeng maintain that their split from core Sotho-Tswana body predated the split between Mohurutshe and Kwena, and therefore they are equal in status to the Bahurutshe if not senior.
These dispute over seniority and rank were driven by the quest for benefits and independence, a senior kgosi could demand a payment of tribute from a junior chief, they could also summon a junior chief or member of his clan to kgotla for a hearing. If a dispute arose between two junior chiefs the closet most senior chief to them would be invited to resolve it. Another important factor was that a senior chief or members of his clan could not be summoned to the Kgotla by a junior kgosi or clam member. An additional factor is this question of rank and seniority was that it was determined by birth and could not be changed, this means a chief born of minor status could not change his standing relative to the other chiefs. This was mainly to discourage the split up of clans into further sub-clans and to discourage the buildup of clans through conquest and warfare.
An important distinction needs to be made when discussing Sotho-Tswana clans is to distinguish between the different clans and the various sub-clans below them. This means distinguishing between clans sharing the same totem like the crocodile but are distinct such as the Bapo, Bakwena, Bangwaketse and Bafokeng of Phokeng. In distinguishing between sub clans an example are the Bakgatla who separated into the Bakgatla ba Kgafela and Bakgatla ba ga Mmakau over who should lead the clan. One faction defied the usual tradition of male leaders and acknowledged the female, Mmakau, as their kgosi. Those who supported Kgafela then broke away. Further offshoot from the Bakgatla are the Bakgatla ba Mmanaana, Bakgatla ba Mmakau and Bakgatla ba Motsha who all have the kgabo as their totem. The Bakgatla ba Mmakau would later give rise to Bapedi, Bakholokoe, Batlokwa, Baphuti and Basia clans  If a dispute was to arise between any of the offshoot clans like the Basia and Baphiti then the Mmakau chief would be tasked with resolving it as their senior
- Moshoeshoe I - Founder of the Basotho nation
- Moshoeshoe II - Paramount Chief of Lesotho
- King Letsie - Reigning King of the Basotho
- Queen 'Masenate Mohato Seeiso - the queen consort of Lesotho
- Pakalitha Mosisili - Former Prime Minister of Lesotho
- Ace Magashule - Secretary General of the African National Congress, Former Premier of the Free State
- Tom Thabane - Former Prime Minister of Lesotho
- Ntsu Mokhehle - Former Prime Minister of Lesotho
- Leabua Jonathan - Former Prime Minister of Lesotho
- Mosiuoa Lekota - South African anti-apartheid activist, Member of Parliament. And the current President of the COPE
- Hlaudi Motsoeneng - South African radio personality and broadcasting executive
- Kgalema Motlanthe - 3rd President of South Africa 
- Lesetja Kganyago – Governor of the South African Reserve Bank.
- Edward Lekganyane - the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) leader
- Engenas Lekganyane -the founder of Zion Christian Church (ZCC)
- Sefako Makgatho - second President of the African National Congress, born in Ga-Mphahlele village
- Malegapuru William Makgoba - Doctor
- Thabo Makgoba - South African Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town
- David Makhura – premier of Gauteng Province
- Julius Malema – political leader. Former leader of the ANC Youth League. Commander in Chief of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF)
- Mampuru II - King of the Pedi (1879 - 1883)
- Richard Maponya – South African businessmen and founder and first president of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce (NAFCOC). Born in Lenyeye, Tzaneen.
- Cassel Mathale – third premier of Limpopo province
- Lebo Mathosa - Musician
- Kenneth Meshoe – politician
- Peter Mokaba – former politician. Former leader of the ANC Youth League
- Lydia Mokgokoloshi – actress
- Sello Moloto – former premier of Limpopo province
- Trott Moloto - Former South Africa National Soccer Coach
- Mathole Motshekga- Politician
- Aaron Motsoaledi – Minister of Health, South Africa and nephew of Elias Motsoaledi
- Caroline Motsoaledi - South African political activist and wife of Elias Motsoaledi
- Elias Motsoaledi - South African anti-apartheid activist and one of the eight men sentenced to life imprisonment at the Rivonia Trial
- Es'kia Mphahlele - writer, educationist, artist, and activist.
- Letlapa Mphahlele – former President of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC).
- Gift Ngoepe - the first black South African, and the sixth South African to sign a professional baseball contract when he signed in October 2008
- Lilian Ngoyi - anti-apartheid activist.
- Maite Nkoana-Mashabane – Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, South Africa
- Ngoako Ramatlhodi – first premier of Limpopo province
- Gwen Ramokgopa - Deputy Minister of Health, former MEC of Health in Gauteng Province
- Mamphela Ramphele – Former Director at World Bank. Former principal of the University of Cape Town.
- Sello Rasethaba – businessman
- Thabo Sefolosha – American basketball player. His father Patrick Sefolosha was a musician from South Africa.
- King Matsebe Sekhukhune – son of King Sekwati. He fought two wars: first successfully in 1876 against the SAR and their Swazi allies, then unsuccessfully against the British and Swazi in 1879 during the Sekukuni Wars.
- Joshua Pulumo Mohapeloa - Music composer
- Lira - South African singer
- Mpho Koaho - Canadian-born actor of Sotho ancestry
- Terry Pheto - South African actress
- Sankomota - Lesotho Jazz band
- Kamo Mphela - South African dancer
- Fana Mokoena - South African actor and Member of Parliament for Economic Freedom Fighters
- Kabelo Mabalane - South African musician and 1/3 of Kwaito group Tkzee
- Presley Chweneyagae - South African actor. He starred in the film Tsotsi, which won the Academy Award for Foreign Language Film
- Khuli Chana - South African hip hop artist
- Caiphus Semenya – musician
- Caster Semenya – athlete, Olympic Games medal winner
- Judith Sephuma - Musician
- King Monada - famous artist.
- Master KG - famous artist and composer of the popular song Jerusalema.
- Katlego Danke - South African actress
- Connie Ferguson - Botswana born South African actress
- Shona Ferguson - Botswana born South African businessman, actor, film producer and co-founder of Ferguson Films
- DJ Fresh - Botswana born South African radio personality
- Goapele - American singer with Setswana ancestry
- Thebe Kgositsile - American rapper, father is Keorapetse Kgositsile
- Mpule Kwelagobe - Former Miss Universe
- Kagiso Lediga - South African stand-up comedian, actor and director
- Gail Nkoane Mabalane - South African actress, model, media socialite, businesswoman and singer
- Kabelo Mabalane - South African kwaito musician, songwriter and actor. He was a member of the kwaito trio TKZee
- Maps Maponyane - South African television presenter, actor, fashion designer, speaker, model, voice over artist, philanthropist and entrepreneur
- Bonang Matheba - South African media personality
- Tim Modise - South African journalist, TV and radio presenter
- Tumi Morake - South African comedian, actress, TV personality, and writer. Current presenter of "Dirage" on Motsweding Fm
- Cassper Nyovest - aka Refiloe Maele Phoolo, South African hip hop artist
- Hip Hop Pantsula - South African artist
- Manaka Ranaka - South African actress
- Dolly Rathebe - musician and actress
- Rapulana Seiphemo - South African actor
- Tuks Senganga - aka Tumelo Kepadisa, Setswana rapper
- Boity Thulo - South African actress
- Redi Tlhabi - Journalist, producer, author and radio presenter
- Emma Wareus - Former Miss World First Princess
- Zeus - aka Game Goabaone Bantsi, Botswana born Setswana rapper
- Khotso Mokoena - Athlete (Long jump)
- Pitso Mosimane – South African football former player and coach – current manager of Al Ahly in the Egyptian Premier League
- Molefi Ntseki - Former football coach for Bafana Bafana
- Steve Lekoelea - Former football player for Orlando Pirates
- Aaron Mokoena - Former football player for Jomo Cosmos, Blackburn Rovers, and Portsmouth FC
- Thabo Mooki - Former football player for Kaizer Chiefs and Bafana Bafana
- Abia Nale - Former football player for Kaizer Chiefs
- Lebohang Mokoena - Football player for Moroka Swallows
- Jacob Lekgetho - Former football player for Moroka Swallows
- Vincent Pule - Football player for Orlando Pirates
- Ben Motshwari - Football player for Orlando Pirates
- Lehlohonolo Seema - Retired footballer, Coach of Chippa United
- Lebohang Maboe - Football player for Mamelodi Sundowns
- Reneilwe Letsholonyane – South African footballer
- Itumeleng Khune – South African footballer
- Victor Mpitsang – South African cricketer, fast bowler who has played for South Africa, currently cricket National Convenor of Selectors
- Lucky Lekgwathi – Former South African footballer
- Dikgang Mabalane – South African football player
- Marks Maponyane – retired South African football player
- Amantle Montsho – Former world 800 metres champion
- Kaizer Motaung – Former South African footballer and chairman of Kaizer Chiefs
- Kaizer Motaung Junior – Former South African footballer
- Katlego Mphela – South African footballer
- Kagiso Rabada – South African cricketer, debut for South Africa in November 2014 and by July 2018 he had topped both the ICC ODI bowler rankings and the ICC Test bowler rankings aged 22
- Jimmy Tau – Former South African footballer
- Percy Tau – South African footballer
- Baboloki Thebe – Commonwealth 800 metres silver medalist. 4x4 Commonwealth gold medalist
Politics, royalty, activism, business and economicsEdit
- Frances Baard - Organiser of the African National Congress (ANC) Women's League and Trade Unionist
- Bathoen I - Former Kgosi (paramount chief) of the Ngwaketse
- Manne Dipico - first premier of Northern Cape province, South Africa
- Winkie Direko - former premier of Free State and former chancellor of University of Free State
- Unity Dow - Botswana former High Court judge, author, activist, Minister
- John Taolo Gaetsewe - Trade unionist, member of the ANC and General Secretary of SACTU, Robben Island prisoner, banned person
- Khama III - King of Botswana
- Ian Khama - Fourth President of Botswana
- Seretse Khama - First President of Botswana
- Moses Kotane - South African politician and activist
- David Magang - Botswana lawyer, businessman and politician
- Supra Mahumapelo - South African politician
- Mmusi Maimane - South African politician
- Toto Makgolokwe - Paramount chief (kgosi) of the Batlharo tribe of South Africa
- Lucas Mangope - Former President of Bophutatswana
- Quett Masire - Second President of Botswana
- Mokgweetsi Masisi - President of Botswana
- Joe Matthews - South African politician
- Naledi Pandor (née Matthews) - South African politician and minister
- Festus Mogae - Third President of Botswana
- Mogoeng Mogoeng - Chief Justice, South Africa
- Job Mokgoro - South African politician and academic
- Yvonne Mokgoro - Former South African Constitutional Court Justice
- Brian Molefe - South African businessman, appointed CEO of Transnet in February 2011, and CEO of Eskom in April 2015
- Popo Molefe - first premier of North West province, South Africa
- Dipuo Peters - South Africa politician, former Minister of Transport and Minister of Energy from 2009 to 2013
- Edna Molewa - South African politician
- Leruo Molotlegi - King of the Royal Bafokeng Nation
- Ruth Mompati - South African political activist
- James Moroka - one of the ANC Presidents (1949 to 1952)
- Dikgang Moseneke - South African judge and former Deputy Chief Justice of South Africa
- Nthato Motlana - Prominent South African businessman, physician and anti-apartheid activist
- Bridgette Motsepe - South African businesswoman
- Patrice Motsepe - South African billionaire mining businessman
- Tshepo Motsepe - First Lady of South Africa as the wife of Cyril Ramaphosa, the President of South Africa
- Sebele I - Former Chief (Kgosi) of the Kwena — a major Tswana tribe (morafe) in modern-day Botswana
- Molefi Sefularo - South African politician
- Abram Onkgopotse Tiro - South African student activist and black consciousness militant
- "Sotho | people". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 18 August 2020.
- Westphal, E. (April 1956). "The Eastern Sotho: A tribal, historical, and linguistic survey (with ethnographic notes) of the Pai, Kutswe, and Pulana Bantu tribes of the Pilgrim's Rest district of the Transvaal Province, Union of South Africa. By D. Ziervogel. Pretoria: van Schaik, 1954. Pp. ix + 215, map. 25s". Africa. 26 (2): 203–204. doi:10.2307/1156850. ISSN 1750-0184.
- André Croucamp and Bea Roberts (2011) A short history of the Bakgatla ba Kafela, Totem Media (Pty)Ltd, p 1
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 October 2014. Retrieved 21 October 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 October 2014. Retrieved 21 October 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Profile: South Africa's Kgalema Motlanthe". BBC News. 13 December 2012. Retrieved 22 August 2020.
- Mesthrie, Rajend (1995). Language and Social History: Studies in South African Sociolinguistics. p. 49. ISBN 0-86486-280-6.
- Setiloane, Gabriel M. (1976). The Image of God Among the Sotho-Tswana. ISBN 90-6191-007-2.
- Totem Media. (2010). Mining the Future – The Bafokeng Story. ISBN 978-1-77009-824-4.
- Kobus du Pisani. (2010). The Last Frontier War:Braklaagte and the Battle for Land Before, During and After Apartheid. ISBN 978-9-03610-090-8.