Contributions by Mohumi Maswabi.
Botswana, (officially the Republic of Botswana (Setswana: Lefatshe la Botswana), a landlocked country located in Southern Africa, has a landscape defined by the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Delta, which becomes a lush animal habitat during the seasonal floods.
The massive Central Kalahari Game Reserve, with its fossilized river valleys and undulating grasslands, is home to numerous animals including giraffes, cheetahs, hyenas and wild dogs. The citizens refer to themselves as Batswana (singular: Motswana). Formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana adopted its new name after becoming independent within the Commonwealth on 30 September 1966.
Since then, it has maintained a strong tradition of stable representative democracy, with a consistent record of uninterrupted democratic elections and the best perceived corruption ranking in Africa for the last four years.
Facts you may not have known about Botswana:
1. When you first meet someone, how do you greet them?
When meeting, a standard greeting in English is: “Hello, how are you?” A typical Botswana greeting involves saying “dumela” and shaking hands.
2. What languages are spoken in your country?
In Botswana the official languages are Setswana and English.
3. Do you use a twelve hour clock, or a twenty-four hour clock?
Both are used, but professionally we use the twenty-four hour clock.
4. What side of the road do people drive on? What do we need to know about driving in Botswana?
Botswanans drive on the left and pass on the right. Traffic in Botswana is not a major issue, but locals are known to take their time on the road.
5. How important is punctuality?
Punctuality is important but it’s not uncommon for locals to practice ‘African time’, being slightly late.
6. Which types of music are popular? Who are some of your most popular musicians?
In Botswana South African music and American pop music are common. DSTV plays a lot of the popular international music.
Botswana has a strong hip hop scene, and has aired a national hip hop radio show, Strictly Hip Hop, to promote the genre. Motswako, a genre of hip hop, originated in Botswana in the 1990s, and is also popular in South Africa.
Folk music is also popular in Botswana. Tswana music is primarily vocal, performed without drums and makes extensive use of string instruments, particularly the guitar. In the absence of drums, a clapping rhythm is used in music with a typical call-and-response vocal style. Culture Spears is a Tswana traditional Music group comprising 5 young artists who sing in the Setswana language: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mdegk9V4bwA.
7. Are there any Traditional Dances?
The common dance styles in Botswana include borankana, phathisi, setapa, tsutsube, ndazola, Kalanga hosana, and chesa. Among other things, dance is used for storytelling. The Kuru Dance Festival takes place every two years in August, lasting up to three days.
Dikakapa is a traditional dance group formed in 2006, drawing inspiration from artists such as Seragantswana, Scar,Vee, Gong Master, and Extra Musica. Here is a music video of theirs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBNTay8kkw8.
8. What traditional Festivals are celebrated in your community?
Independence Day, commonly called Boipuso, is a national holiday observed in Botswana on September 30 of every year. The date celebrates Botswana’s Declaration of Independence from the United Kingdom on September 30, 1966.
Taking place in May, Letlhafula is an annual food festival, held to celebrate the harvest.
Founded in 2004, and taking place in March, Son of the Soil is an annual, themed, cultural festival that involves song, dance, food, and dress.
9. What are your seasons like?
The whole country has hot summers. The rainy season is short. The dry season lasts from April to October in the south and to November in the north. The south of the country is most exposed to cold winds during the winter period.
10. Tell us an interesting fact about your President?
Ian Khama is the eldest son of Botswana’s first president, Botswana-born Sir Seretse and Lady Ruth Khama, who was born in London, U.K. He was born in Chertsey, Surrey during the period in which his father was exiled to the United Kingdom due to the opposition by the colonial government and the emergent apartheid regime in South Africa to his marriage to a white woman.
He is a qualified pilot, and attended the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, where the British Army trains its officers.
Ian Khama is a member of the Board of Directors of the US-based organization Conservation International, which is also active in Botswana. Its goal is to protect nature as a source of food, fresh water, livelihoods and a stable climate.
11. What are Botswana’s major industries?
Botswana’s economy has been built on a foundation of diamond mining, prudent fiscal policies, international financial and technical assistance, and a cautious foreign policy. Its largest product export is diamonds, at 62% of overall exports, followed by nickel, copper, and gold. Outside the mining industry, Botswana also has a highly successful tourism industry, which accounts for almost 12% of the country’s GDP, and revolves around Botswana’s unique ecosystem, providing tourists with the opportunity to view a wide variety of animals including giraffes, rhino, buffalo, and one of the largest herds of free-ranging elephants in the world.
12. How do people spend their free time?
Many people spend their time socializing, shopping, and travelling around Botswana when they have free time. Excellent holidays can be had at the Chobe National Park, which provides great scenery, and wildlife viewing opportunities. Residents of Gaborone may climb to the top of Kgale Hill for an aerial view of the city, or spend some time at the Botswana Botanical Garden or the local Yacht Club.
13. What do people drink?
Alcohol: beer, spirits, wine. There are various traditionally produced alcoholic drinks. Bojalwa ja Setswana (the beer of Batswana) is brewed from fermented sorghum seeds. Other tribes, like Bakalanga, use lebelebele (millet). A commercially produced and packaged beer, Chibuku, brewed from either maize or sorghum, is a favourite drink particularly in the villages and towns.
Milk is fermented to make madila (sour milk), which is eaten on its own or added to porridge.
A favorite non-alcoholic homemade drink is ginger beer.
14. What is a popular local dish?
Mealie meal and red meat. Popular foods in remote areas include the morama bean, a huge underground tuber, and an edible fungus.
15. What do you pay for? (1 USD = approx. 10 BWP)
A cup of coffee: P23
A Coca Cola: P7
A 2-course meal for 2 people: P250
A loaf of bread: P9
A bottle of milk: P13
16. General Safety?
Botswana is generally a safe country. People should, as a general precaution, be aware of their surroundings, especially when walking around at night. Visitors should take care when walking with handbags and using cell phones while walking around. If possible, walk with someone else, rather than alone.
17. And in conclusion…
Famous (and sometimes infamous…) people from Botswana include:
Ian Khama, the current President. Khama has been the President of Botswana since 2008. After serving as Commander of the Botswana Defence Force, he entered politics and served as Vice-President of Botswana from 1998 to 2008, then succeeded Festus Mogae as President on 1 April 2008. He won a full term in the 2009 election, and was re-elected in October 2014.
Amantle Montsho, a female sprinter who specializes in 400 meter races. She represented her country at the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics, reaching the final at the latter edition. She has also competed at the World Championships in Athletics and the IAAF World Indoor Championships, and is the former World Champion over the 400m, winning in a personal best time of 49.56 in Daegu.
Duma Boko, a lawyer and politician, who is currently the leader of the opposition in Botswana, at the helm of the Umbrella for Democratic Change. The UDC has 17 seats in the 63 seat National Assembly. Boko was born in Mahalapye, a rural town in Botswana, and relocated to Gaborone in 1987 for his law studies at University of Botswana, after which he continued to study at Harvard. When the Botswana National Front split in 2000, Boko became the leader of the newly-formed National Democratic Front. He went on to establish the UDC in 2012.