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Protectorate Apostates to Bogosi (Part I)

Publishing Date : 05 September, 2017

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A prologue to this entire story is that: to apostatise against a thing was to abandon it into unbelief and or into another belief, typically out of ignorance. In like sense, to apostatise Bogosi, which remains the personification of Tswana law and judicial system, before, during or after colony status was to enter into unbelief and into an in-personification of Tswana law and tradition. Legislation or its absence cannot mutate divine law. But it can prohibit illicit and unconstitutional legal provisions.   

The ‘Bechuanaland Protectorate’ was put in place because of the threat that the Tswana tribes experienced from the activities of ‘Boer freebooters’ who encroached on their territory from the south and to counter Germany’s occupation of Namibia. Dikgosi were helped in this campaign to establish a Bechuanaland Protectorate, not a colony, by Britain, by such Scottish missionaries as John Mackenzie (1835-1899), who lived at Shoshong from 1862-76. He documented his campaign in a book, Austral Africa: Losing it or Ruling it, which was an account of events leading to the establishment of the protectorate.

Help also came from the saintly James Davidson Hepburn, author of “Twenty years in Khama Country”. An extract from the London Missionary Society reports of year ending 31 March 1894 said of Hepburn: ‘He devoted himself, with a noble self-forgetfulness, to the interests of the Bamangwato tribe, suffering in mind and body through his exposure to fever in his endeavour to establish a mission among the Batauana of Lake Ngami, and has left a monument more enduring than brass in the Christian community, which he had nurtured and cared for with many prayers and tears since 1870." LMS had begun work among Batswana around 1816.

In January 1885 the British cabinet decided to send a military expedition to South Africa to assert British Sovereignty over the contested central and southern African territory. Sir Charles Warren (1840-1927) led a force of 40 000 imperial troops north from Cape Town. After making treaties with several African chiefs, Warren announced the establishment of the Bechuanaland Protectorate in March 1885. Bechuanaland protectorate was technically a protectorate, not a colony. Initially Chiefs were left in power; ‘to rule much as before’. British administration was limited to police force to protect the protectorate border against other European ventures.

In 1886 a British land Commission awarded 92% of Batlhaping and Barolong land south of Molopo to whites. In 1888 the Rudd Concession became the basis of Cecil John Rhode’s British South Africa Company (BSACo) claims to Zimbabwe. In 1889 most Batswana Dikgosi objected to colonial rule at the Kopong conference. BSACo was awarded in the same year the royal charter to administer Botswana and central Africa in the name of the British Crown.

On June 30 1890 overriding native objections, the British through an Order-in Council granted themselves the right to exercise colonial control over Botswana through the Foreign Jurisdictions Act. (!) The Protectorate extended northward to include Ngamiland and Chobe dominated by the Tawana state. On 9 May 1891 British Government gave administration of protectorate to the High Commissioner for South Africa who started to appoint officials into Bechuanaland, and the defacto independence of chiefs ended. Protectorate was administered from Mafikeng.

In 1891 a second Order-in Council gave the High Commissioner absolute administrative powers on the basis of the Bramestone Memorandum, which legally defined Bechuanaland Protectorate as:
 “an uncivilized territory to which Europeans resort in greater or small numbers, and where, inasmuch as the native rulers of the territory are incapable of maintaining peace, order and good government among Europeans, the protecting power maintains courts, police and other institutions for the control, safety and benefit of its own subjects and of the natives”.



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