The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Bechuanaland Protectorate

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The Encyclopedia Americana
Bechuanaland Protectorate
Edition of 1920. See also Bechuanaland Protectorate on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

BECHUANALAND PROTECTORATE, South Africa, the territory lying between the Molopo River on the south and the Zambesi on the north, and extending from the Transvaal province and Matabeleland on the east to (German) southwest Africa. Its area is about 275,000 square miles. The country forms portion of an elevated plateau 4,000 to 5,000 feet above the level of the sea, and though so near the tropics, is very healthful for Europeans. In winter there are sharp frosts and some years snow falls. The rains fall in summer, and then only the rivers are full. Cattle rearing and agriculture (production of maize and Kaffir corn) are the chief industries. Sheep thrive in some parts, but it is not a wheat country on account of the summer rains. The country takes its name from the widely spread race of people called Bechuanas, who belong to the great Kaffir race, and are divided into tribal sections, each of which has a chief. The most important tribes are the Bamangwato (35,000), under the chief Khama, whose capital is Serowe (pop. 17,000), 40 miles west of the railway line at Palapye road; the Bakhatla (11,000) under Lenchwe; the Bakwena (13,000) under Seckhele; the Bangwaketse (18,000) under Gaseitsiwe; the Batawana under Mathibi; and the Bamaliti (4,500) under Baitlotle, who is acting during the minority of Seboko, the eldest son of the late chief Mokgosi. The country can be reached from Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Delagoa Bay and Beira, the Rhodesia Railway's section of the “Cape-to-Cairo” line traversing the country and passing through Vryburg, Mositlane, Mafeking, Pusani, Kalakani, Linchwe, Magalipsi, Palachwe, Tate and Buluwayo. There are extensive forests to the northeast, and to the west lies the Kalahari desert, which only requires wells dug to make it inhabitable. The province of Stellaland is inhabited principally by Boers. The Bechuanas are a black race possessing a language in common with the Bantu races of south Africa, extending as far north as the equator. Their ancestors are said to have come from the north, and progressing southwest, met the Hottentots from the Cape of Good Hope journeying north. Since 1832 they have been at enmity with the Matabele, and in later years the Transvaal Boers on one pretext or another endeavored to occupy their country. During the native risings in 1878 the Bechuanas invaded Griqualand West, and were in turn subdued by British volunteers as far as the Molopo. When the British government withdrew from Bechuanaland in 1880, the natives, being helpless, were left to the mercy of the Boers of the Transvaal, whose harsh treatment in 1882 and 1883 led to the Bechuanaland expedition in 1884. At the beginning of the 19th century the Bechuanas were further in advance in civilization than other nations of south Africa and they are still ahead in this respect. In 1885, the territory was declared to be within the British sphere; in 1889 it was included in the sphere of the British South Africa Company, but was never administered by the company; in 1891 a resident commissioner was appointed, and in 1895, on the annexation of the crown colony of British Bechuanaland to the Cape of Good Hope, new arrangements were made for the administration of the Protectorate, and special agreements were made in view of the extension of the railway northward from Mafeking. Each of the chiefs rules his own people as formerly, under the protection of the King, who is represented by a resident commissioner, acting under the high commissioner for South Africa. The headquarters of the administration are in Mafeking, in the Cape province, where there is a reserve for imperial purposes, with ample buildings. There are assistant commissioners at Gaberones in the southern, and Francistown in the northern, portion of the Protectorate. There were 7 European and 37 native schools in operation with government assistance in 1915. The subsidized schools for Europeans are situated at Francistown, Serowe, Megalapwe, and at Lobatsi, Hildarale and Pitsani. The telegraph from the Cape of Good Hope to Rhodesia passes through the Protectorate, and is owned by the British South Africa Company. Pop. 125,350, of whom 1,692 are Europeans. Consult ‘Annual Report on the Bechuanaland Protectorate’ (London); MacNab, F., ‘On Veldt and Farm’ (2d ed., London 1900); Passarge, ‘Die Kalahari’ (Berlin 1904).

John B. McDonnell.