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The term Batlôkwa (also baThlokoa, or Badogwa) refers to several Kgatla communities that reside in Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa, comprising both the followings of Tlôkwa kings and more particularly members of clans identified as Tlôkwa, or individuals who identify themselves as of Tlôkwa descent. Most of the Batlôkwa clans trace their royal lineages to Kgwadi son of King Tabane, who is the father and founder of the Batlokwa nation, and have the Tlokwe-cat as their original totem which has since become extinct due to over-hunting for its fur, which was used by chiefs.
The Batlôkwa kingdom form part of the larger group of Bakgatla people, which itself is one of sub-divisions of the Bantu-speaking peoples. In addition to the Batswana, the Bakgatla group includes Bapedi people. These different groups together are often falsely classified for convenience as 'Sotho-Tswana'. From an early stage of their history, they shared a number of linguistic and cultural characteristics that distinguished them from other Bantu-speakers of southern Africa. Most prominent was mutually intelligible dialects. Other features included totemism, preferential marriage of maternal cousins with the exception to Batlokwa who prefer marrying their paternal cousins, and an architectural style characterised by a round hut with a conical thatch roof supported by wooden pillars on the outside. Other commonalities included a style skin cloaks called Mekgahla, dense and close village settlements larger than those of 'Nguni' peoples, and a tradition of building in stone in less grassy or wooded regions.
The history of the Sotho-Tswana people is one of continual dissension and fission where disputes, sometimes over kingship ascendancy, resulted in a section of the clan breaking away from the main clan, under the leadership of a dissatisfied king's relative, and settling elsewhere. Often the name of the man who led the splinter group was taken as the new tribe's name.
The traditions of the Batswana people point to a northward origin, and indicate that their southward movement was part of the great migrations of the Bantu-speaking iron-age peoples. Usually the theory asserts that the Sotho-Tswana separated from other Bantu-speaking peoples in the vicinity of the Great Lakes of East Africa, and that they proceeded downwards along the western part of present-day Zimbabwe.
The traditions of the Barolong kingdoms indicate that at some time in the past they were all under the same ruling line of kings which claim descent from a common ancestor, Masilo. Following the death of Masilo there was a leadership crisis that resulted in the formation of the Hurutshe and Kwena clans. The Batlôkwa claim lineage from the Hurutshe clan and trace their early ancestry to Mokgatla (c1430) and Tabane (c1550).
Tabane fathered five sons, Diale (Matlaisane), Kgetsi, Kgwadi (moTlôkwa), Matsibolo, and Mosia. Each broke away to form Bapedi, Makgolokwe, Batlôkwa, Maphuthing and Basia respectively. Eight generations later, from Kgwadi, Makoro fathered Mokotjo. Chief Mokotjo the father to Sekonyela died at an early age, so his mother, Manthatisi, was regent during his minority.
Kgosi-kgolo Tsotetsi (ca. 1735) was the paramount king of Batlokwa ba Mokgalong, which was a senior branch of Batlokwa. He took over the reins after his father, Kgosi Seboloka son of Mokgalo died and he also like most of the earlier chiefs died at an early age, however by then he had already bore 6 sons by his Kgosihadi Mamohlahlwe, namely Mohlahlwe (Lebaka), Tsibela, Selemane, Leloka, Sethati and Thai. At the time of his death, his successor Mohlahlwe was still a minor, and Batlokwa made a consensus that Queen Mamohlahlwe becomes regent for his son Lebaka, therefore making her the first queen to act as a regent in the Batlokwa nation. Kgosihadi Mamohlahlwe was greatly assisted by her late husband's siblings, namely Kganye son of Thekiso and Motonosi son of Makoro. These chiefs assisted very well in the chieftainship of Batlokwa till Queen Mamohlahlwe gave way to his son Lebaka who then became the paramount king of Batlokwa.
Queen Manthatisi wife of Kgosi Mokotjo
Queen Mantatisi (ca. 1781–1836) was one of the best known, and most feared, women military and political leaders of the early 19th century. In the years of the wars related to Zulu expansion and the southern African slave trade, often referred to as the Mfecane or Difaqane, the Tlôkwa people were first known in English as the Mantatees, after Manthatisi's name, in the literature of exploration, missions and empire.
Manthatisi, the daughter of Chief Mothaba of the Basia people who were a sibling nation of Batlokwa, in what later became the Harrismith district of the Free State province of South Africa, was reportedly a tall, attractive woman. She married Mokotjo, the chief of the neighboring Batlôkwa, in a typical dynastic alliance, and is said to have borne him four sons. Mokotjo died while the heir, Sekonyela, was still too young to assume the chieftaincy, so Manthatisi acted as regent for Sekonyela.
After Mokotjo's death the Batlôkwa ba Mokotleng faced military encroachments by the amaHlubi people who were fleeing their homes in neighboring Natal. Made refugees themselves, Manthatisi who was then a Regent for her son Sekonyela commanded the Tlôkwa into the Caledon valley, driving out other Sotho communities living there. Her troops seized the crops and cattle of the people they attacked, leaving a trail of destruction and devastation.
Her reign of military conquest extended as far as central modern day Botswana. At the height of her military and political power her army was estimated to contain forty thousand fighters. However, she eventually suffered a series of defeats beginning in Bechuanaland in January 1823. Peter Becker describes the developments during this period when he states that:
"Meanwhile Mmanthatisi was approaching with forty thousand men, women and children. It was January 1823, the time of the year crops were ripening and food was usually plentiful. But the Wild Cat People were compelled to live frugally, for so great had been the chaos brought about by lifaqane in general and the plundering of Mmanthatisi, Mpangazita and Matiwane in particular that entire tribes had vanished from their settlements even before they had tilled their fields in preparation for planting. Indeed, the Central Plateau swarmed with hunger-stricken stragglers and small, detached parties of bandits. Apart from roots, bulbs and berries, there was little food to be found in the veld, certainly not enough to feed so large a horde as that of Mmanthatisi."
Nonetheless, the most prosperous of the Bechuana chiefs, Makaba of the Bangwaketsi, made a firm decision not to surrender to Mmanthatisi without a struggle. The same above-mentioned author, Peter Becker, continues by saying that:
"Meanwhile, the old Chief had decided not to surrender to Mmanthatisi without a fight. He called up every available warrior, garrisoned every pass leading to his capital, and with the guile for which he was famous, prepared traps into which he planned to lead his aggressors.
"Since her flight from the Harrismith district Mmanthatisi had managed to brush aside all opposition in the territories she traversed, but now in the stifling bushveld of Bechuanaland she was to come face to face with a foe whose fighting forces were as numerous as, and also better fed than, those of the Wild Cat People. The vanguard of Mmanthatisi's army strode into ambuscades; large groups of men topped headlong into concealed pitfalls and met their death beneath volleys of barbed javelins. A battle broke out, in the course of which hundreds of the invaders were massacred. Before the situation could develop into a rout Mmanthatisi suddenly disengaged her armies and retreated with her hordes to the east. Thus Makaba became the first Sotho chief to repulse the formidable Wild Cat Army, and to this day he is spoken of as the 'Man of Conquest.'"
Because Of Manthatisi’s notoriety, all Sotho-Tswana raiders became known as “boo-Mmanthatisi”, or “Mantatee Horde” by the English. Known also as the “Destroyer of Nations”, she was only stopped from entering the Cape Colony by British Forces near Aliwal North. Eventually Manthatisi settled her people on the Marabeng Mountains.
Although portrayed as an evil woman by some contemporary Europeans, she was a strong, capable and popular leader, both in war and peace. Her popularity is clearly indicated by the fact that instead of her people being known as Tlôkwa, they became known as ‘Manthatisi’. Unlike other chiefs who fell victim to the Difaqane wars, she successfully kept her people together in the midst of frequent raids by Nguni groups to the south.
After Mmanthatisi's son Sekonyela reached maturity he took control of the baTlôkoa social structures and military.
Kgosi Sekonyela was born in 1804 near Harrismith next to the Wilge River. When Kgosi Sekonyela was still a minor, with his mother, Mmathatisi, acting as regency, she sent him away from the Tlôkwa to protect him from political rivals. He rejoined the Tlôkwa in C1824, after his mother had led the Batlôkwa during the early Difaqane wars. Amidst the social and political chaos which gripped the present Free State and Lesotho regions Sekonyela continued to build the Tlôkwa into a major military power. When the worst phase of the wars ended in the early 1830s he settled on the naturally fortified mountains near the Caledon River.
Kgosi Sekonyela's major rival for control of northern Lesotho was Moshoeshoe, the founder of the Sotho kingdom. For twenty years the two rivals raided each other and competed for adherents from among the many refugee bands in the region. Moshoeshoe – much the better diplomatist-gradually outstripped Sekonyela in numbers of supporters. In November, 1853 Moshoeshoe attacked and defeated Batlôkwa ba Mokotleng which Sekonyela fled to Winburg. After this defeat the people under Sekonyela disintegrated, some went to Lesotho where they were absorbed into Moshoeshoe’s state, others to Eastern Cape with a substation portion fleeing north to present Tshwane region in Gauteng.
Sekonyela later obtained land in the Herschel district of the Eastern Cape where he died in 1856.
Kgosi Sekonyela's downfall is commonly attributed to his personal defects-to the love of war by which he alienated his neighbours, and to the rough treatment by which he alienated his own people, Conversely, Moshoeshoe's rise to power is commonly attributed to his love of peace and to his benevolence. Basically Sekonyela was not able to become successful as well as Moshoeshoe, because, after 1829, he was poorer than Moshoeshoe. The Tlôkwa had to kill and consume many of their cattle during the early years of the difaqane, and it seems that they never fully recovered their former prosperity. Moreover, they suffered further heavy losses in the war with the Korana and their allies in the early 1840s. Sekonyela, therefore, was not in a position to attract and blind thousands of followers to himself by sustaining them. Hence, to a large extent, his raids on his neighbours' herds, and his unpopularity among his own people. Moshoeshoe, however, retained most of his cattle during the difaqane, and in 1829 conducted two richly rewarding raids against the Thembu. Thereafter his wealth far surpassed Sekonyela's, and it was mainly because of this that he was able to attract and hold so many followers. The territorial expansion of the Sotho naturally brought them into conflict with the Tlôkwa, and in 1853, after the British had indicated that they were not prepared to interfere in this dispute, Sekonyela was overwhelmed by Moshoeshoe's superior forces.
The Batlôkwa clans reside in Botswana, Lesotho & South Africa; it is not known how many baTlôkoa there are as a specific census has not been done.
In South Africa, the Batlôkwa are found in significant numbers in the six of the mainland provinces, namely North West, Gauteng, Limpopo and the Free State, Kwazulu-Natal and Eastern Cape.
In the North West the Batlôkwa settled in the region called Tlôkwe near the Potchefstroom, We also do find Batlokwa at Molatedi Village ( Kgosi Matlapeng, Letlhakeng-Montsana Village ( Kgosi Sedumedi), Tlokweng Village (Kgosi Motsatsi). They are part of the Setswana language grouping portion of the Sotho–Tswana. They arrived in the area in the 1820s and are not part of the Batlôkwa who had been led by Chief Sekonyela, as they had seceded at an earlier period. There is also scattering of the Batlôkwa found all over the North-West.
In the Limpopo province, they are found in a place called boTlôkwa, north of Polokwane. Here the Batlôkwa are part of the North-Sotho language grouping. They arrived in the region after separating from the Batlôkwa who had fled to the Tshwane region after the defeat of Sekonyela by Moshoeshoe. The main Tlôkwa clan in the area is the Batlôkwa Ba Ga Machaka and Ramokgopa. The two had separated in a quarrel for chieftaincy, with Ramokgopa ultimately residing in the eastern regions called Mokomene, in Limpopo. Another grouping under Kgosi Manthata was moved to Mohodi next to Senwabarwana in 1977 also as a result of chieftaincy quarrels with Batlôkwa ba Mphakane under Kgosi Machaka.
These areas produced important people such as:
- Collins Ramusi
- Tumelo Mokoena
- Hugh Masekela
- Gwen Ramokgopa
- Kgosiyentsho Ramokgopa
- Matome Zakea Seima, a writer, publisher and lawyer
- Kgalamadi Ramusi
- Babsy Selela
- Mamphela Ramphele, Lehotlo Moshokoa, Caiphus Semenya
In the Sesotho language grouping, the Batlôkwa are mainly found in the Eastern Free State region which is their area of jurisdiction with five distinct Batlôkwa branches in the area, namely
- Batlôkwa ba Mokgalong (Tsotetsi)
- Batlôkwa ba Mota
- Batlôkwa ba Morakadu
- Batlôkwa ba Makalakeng
- Batlôkwa ba Nasatse Patso
- Batlôkwa ba Lehana
- Batlôkwa ba Masene
The above-mentioned branches of Batlôkwa still share similar cultural and linguistic elements in their respective areas. Batlokwa ba Mokgalong also known as Batlokwa ba Tsotetsi trace their descendency to Modungwane who was popularly known as Molefe who is the father of all the branches of Batlokwa. Batlokwa ba Mokgalong are recognised under the Free State House of Traditional Leaders, and are still struggling to acquire back their land which was stolen by the colonialists under the then Black Administration Act, to be latter returned in 1991, with the recognition of Paramount Chief. Lebaka David Tsotetsi. After the death of Chief Lebaka, his son Nkgahle Bert Tsotetsi took over, and mysteriously became recognised as a Senior Traditional Leader instead of his initial status of a Paramount Chief, in what seemed to be a political cover-up of the senior house of the Batlokwa nation.
In Kwazulu-Natal, Batlokwa are found in the Nqutu Municipal Area in a place called Maseseng, Mokgalong; which is named after Chief Lesesa who settled there in the late 1800s after the British requested assistance in the form of warriors from King Leteka of the Batlokwa ba Mokgalong. Leteka in response sent through his junior brother, Prince Lesesa, with his warriors, who joined the Batlokwa ba Mota who had already settled in the Nqutu area with the Hlubi's, and together they succeeded in winning the battle and subsequently capturing King. Cetshwayo of the Zulu's. In return, the British signed a treaty with Batlokwa to reside in the area, however as it was custom for the senior house to rule, Lesesa was supposed to be the leader of Batlokwa in the area, however, he made an agreement with Mota to let him rule, as they had already been there before him and his people. Lesesa also played a pivotal role in the struggle to acquire land back from the colonialists, and in 1905 he was joined by Josiah Tshangana Gumede (ca. 1867-1946) and King Moloi of the Makgolokwe Tribe, who went to England in order to deliver a petition to the British Government, in order to try to acquire land back that was taken away from them before the Anglo=Boer War.
In the Eastern Cape, Batlokwa are found in the Herschel and Mount Fletcher area under Chief Kakudi and Lehana respectively.
In Lesotho the Batlôkwa are one of the three main Sotho-Tswana clans who speak Sesotho. Their current Leader being Kgosi Ntjaqetho Sekonyela of Tlokoeng Mokhotlong District.
Batlôkwa arrived in Botswana in 1887, settling in Moshwaneng on the Notwane River, after being led by Kgosinkwe Gaborone from the Tshwane area in South Africa following the split with another Tlôkwa clan that went to settle in Batlôkwa north of Polokwane-Pietersburg. The land they settled in was given to them by Kgosi Sechele after they acknowledged the overlordship of the Bakwena. The capital of Botswana Gaborone is named after Kgosinkwe Gaborone.
The Batlôkwa in Botswana are unique from the other Tlôkwa clans in that their totem is the thakadu (ant-bear). This totem was chosen after the Batlôkwa were in the wilderness and became thirsty and hungry. They found a catch of the daywater from the many holes dug by thakadu, which has been the totem since that time. Batlôkwa then started drinking from such holes and since then they decided that nobody should harm the ant bear and it must be protected at all costs.
During this time in the wilderness, Mmakgosi was expecting and after drinking water from one of the dugout holes, she gave birth to a son who was named Marakadu. He said that Marakadu was named after the thakadu - the saviour, adding that since then Batlôkwa agreed to change their totem from nkwe to thakadu and that is how they became dithakadu as they are known today. Marakadu then begot a son called Mosima, a hole dug by thakadu from which they obtained water. Mosima then begot a son called Motlhabane - who begot Mokgwa - a savanna shrub under which Mmakgosi delivered. Mokgwa then begot Taukobong. The name was chosen because there were no blankets and they opted for animal skins to keep warm. According to Kgosintwa, Taukobong had three sons from different wives named Makaba, Molefe, and Tshekiso. He said that this was the time when Batlôkwa were at Itlholanoga - the snake eye, near Rustenburg. While Makaba died without children, however he had engaged a woman called Nkae and to keep the royal lineage growing, Molefe from the second wife was called in to father children for Nkae. Molefe then bore three sons in the house of Makaba, namely Bogatsu, Phiri and Semele. Traditionally, the children were not his but his elder brothers Makaba. Molefe became the regent chief because Taukobong died while they were still young. However, when they had matured, Phiri suggested to his brother Bogatsu that they should take over the chieftainship from Molefe, this created enmity between the two with Phiri constantly plotting to kill Molefe. He said that sensing danger, Bogatsu then instructed Molefe to choose two of his favourite wards and ran away. In his determination to kill Molefe, he said, Phiri pursued and attacked Molefe but it was Phiri who was defeated and killed. Molefe did not return to Itlholanoga but continued with the journey until they arrived in Botswana where they asked for land to settle on from Kgosi Sechele of the Bakwena.
The Batlôkwa share similar customs and tradition as other Sotho-Tswana clans. Depending on the area that they live in the speak normally one three languages which are Setswana, Sesotho or Northern Sotho. Sesotho, Northern Sotho and Setswana are largely mutually intelligible. Like most Sotho-Tswana society, the Batlôkwa are adapting to a rapidly urbanising population and culture. In rural areas, traditional culture remains an important force in daily life. Customary law still plays a vital role, and their unique culture of marrying their paternal cousins. In each region's urban areas, which are cosmopolitan, multi-racial and multi-cultural, western cultural norms are predominant.
1 Military History Journal - Vol 1 No 3 A comparative study of strategy in bantu tribal warfare during the 19th century by Dr. PETER BECKER
2. Interview with one of the Ba-tswana elders Gaborone sheds light on Batlôkwa history 29 March 2006
3. Popular Politics in the History of South Africa, 1400-1948, Paul S. Landau, Cambridge University Press
4. Botswana's search for autonomy in southern Africa By Richard Dale
5. Dictionary of African historical Biography - By Mark R. Lipschutz, R. Kent Rasmussen pg 210