Tswana people

A congregation of Tswana people with David Livingstone, an illustration created by the London Missionary Society circa 1900
Total population
c. 6 million
Regions with significant populations
 Botswana c. 1.61 million[1]
 South Africa 4,067,248 (Tswana-speakers)[2]
Tswana language
Christianity, African Traditional Religion.
Related ethnic groups
The Sotho, The Northern Sotho, The Khoisan people
Person Motswana
People Batswana
Language Setswana
Country Botswana

The Tswana (Tswana: Batswana, singular Motswana) are a Bantu-speaking ethnic group who are native to Southern Africa. The Tswana language belongs to the Bantu group of the Niger–Congo languages. Ethnic Tswana made up approximately 79% of the population of Botswana in 2011.[1]

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.

Dynasties and tribes


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.[3]

The principal Tswana tribes are the:

South Africa

The largest number of ethnic Tswana people actually live in South Africa. They are one of the largest ethnic groups in the country, and the Tswana language is one of eleven official languages in South Africa. Until 1994, South African Tswana people were nationally citizens of Bophuthatswana, one of the few bantustans (or homelands, roughly analogous to American Indian reservations) as planned by the Apartheid regime, 1948–1994. There were over 4 million Tswana speakers in the country in 2012.[4]


Tswana are notable minorities in a number of neighbouring countries, especially Namibia and Zimbabwe.


  1. 1 2 "CIA – The World Factbook". Cia.gov. Retrieved 2012-10-01.
  2. "Census in Brief" (PDF). Statssa.gov.za. Retrieved 2012-10-01.
  3. "Botswana History". Lonely Planet. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  4. "Census in Brief" (PDF). Statssa.gov.za. Retrieved 2012-10-01.
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