Population of ethnic Tswana is unknown – the last census to solicite ethnicity in Botswana was in 1946 (Tlou, 1985) in two districts – In Ngamiland the ethnic Tswana were half the population of the non-Tswana (7,000 vs 16 000 (Wayeyi alone) (Tlou 1985). In the Central District, the non-Tswana – the Kalanga specifically, were more the than the Tswana. The ethnic Tswana are found in the Southern part of the Country. Walter and Ringenberg (1994) estimated that the non-Tswana make 90% of the Population. RETENG, an organisation which has long advocated for national census to ask ethnicity of citizens without success did an estimate study using the 2001 Population data and estimated that the ethnic Tswana made 17.9% of the population while the non-Tswana made 60%. Since Setswana is medium of instruction in school currently about 78% of the population of Botswana are able to speak Setswana (Central Statistics Office, 2001) with varying levels of competence and comprehension.
In the nineteenth century, a common spelling and pronunciation of Batswana was Bechuana. Europeans therefore referred to the area inhabited by the Tswana as Bechuanaland. In the Tswana language, however, Botswana is the name for the country of the Tswana.
The modern republic of Botswana (formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland) is named for the Tswana people. The country's eight major tribes speak Tswana. All have a traditional Paramount Chief, styled Kgosikgolo, who is entitled to a seat in the Ntlo ya Dikgosi (an advisory body to the country's Parliament). The Tswana dynasties are all related.
The three main branches of the Tswana tribe formed during the 14th century. Three brothers, Kwena, Ngwaketse and Ngwato, broke away from their father, Chief Molope, to establish their own tribes in Molepolole, Kanye and Serowe, probably in response to drought and expanding populations in search of pasture and arable land.
The largest number of ethnic Tswana people actually live in South Africa. They are one of the larger black minorities, and the Tswana language is one of eleven official languages in South Africa. Until 1994, South African Tswana people were notionally citizens of Bophuthatswana, one of the few bantustans (similar to American Indian reservations) as planned by the Apartheid regime, 1948–1994.
The Chiefs of the following Tswana polities are all styled Kgosi (less lofty then Kgosikgolo):
Barolong Ba Ga Moroka (Putaditjaba in Free-State, SA)
Bechuana of Distinction, 1841
Bahurutshe (split before 1800 into two nameless ruling lines, the second of which split again into Bahurutshe ba Boomokgatlha and Bahurutshe Bagamoilwa, and later further split). The name may historically have been written Bahhurutshe.
Bahurutshe Ba Ga Mothogae
Bahurutshe Ba Ga Gopane
Bahurutshe Ba Ga Le-Ncoe
Bahurutshe Ba Ga Mokgoswa
Bahurutshe Ba Ga Suping
Bakgatla, split into
Bakgatla Ba Kgafela
Bakgatla Ba Mosetlha
Bakgatla Ba Mmakau
Bakgatla Ba Mocha
Bakgatla Ba Seabe (Ga-Seabe, Mpumalanga)
Bakgatla Ba Mocheche
Bakgatla Ba Ga Mmanaana
Bakwena (crocodile people)
Bakwena Ba Ga Molopyane
Bakwena Ba Mare A Phogole
Bakwena Ba Magopa
Bakwena Ba Thebe, also known as Bantwane (Ntwane, Former Transvaal now (2006) incorporated into Limpopo. This is mainly a Bangwato splinter group but they lived among Bakgatla and Barolong Ba Moroka of Thabanchu till 1902. Thus the group still have the remains of: Barolong and Bakgatla among them who still identify themselves as such, but at the same time acknowledge the new collective name of Bantwane, meaning Batlhabane)
Bakwena Boo Modimosana Ba Ga Mmatau
Bakwena Ba Morare (Madikwe)
Bakwena Ba Ga Sechele (Molepolole)
Batlharo split into: (Kuruman, SA)
Batlharo Ba Ga Lotlhware
Batlharo Ba Ga Masibi
Bapo Ba Ga Mogale
Batlhako Boo Mututu Ba Ga Mabe
Bataung Ba Moubane
Bataung Ba Hlalele
Baphuting Ba Ga Nawa
Batloung Ba Ga Shole
Bakubung Ba Ratheo (Ledig/Patsima, Mankwe, North-West, SA)