Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Bechuanaland

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BECHUANALAND, an extensive tract in South Africa, inhabited by the Bechuanas, extending from 28° S. lat. to the Zambezi, and from 20° E. long, to the Transvaal border. Until 1895 Bechuanaland included the Crown Colony of British Bechuanaland and the Bechuanaland Protectorate. In that year the Crown Colony was annexed to Cape Colony, and the Protectorate placed under the administration of the High Commissioner. The Protectorate has an area of about 275,000 square miles; and extends from the Molopo river in the S. to the Zambezi in the N., and is bounded on the E. by the Transvaal province and Matabeleland, and on the W. by Southwest Africa. Pop. about 125,000.

Bechuanaland is a portion of an elevated plateau 4,000 to 5,000 feet above the level of the sea, and, though so near the tropics, is suitable for the British race. In winter there are sharp frosts, and snow falls in some years. The rains fall in summer, and then only the rivers are full. It is an excellent country for cattle; sheep thrive in some parts, and there are extensive tracts available for corn lands; but it is not a wheat country on account of the summer rains. It can be reached from Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Delagoa Bay, and the Zambezi, the railroad from the former being extended from Kimberley, Vryburg, Mafeking, Palachwe, Tati, and Bulawayo. There are extensive forests to the N. E., and to the W. the Kalahari Desert.

Gold has been found near Sitlagoli, and there are indications of gold-bearing quartz reefs in many directions. Diamondiferous soil is also said to exist in several localities; indeed, diamonds were discovered at Vryburg in the autumn of 1887.

The province of Stellaland is principally inhabited by Boers, and the remainder of the country by Bechuanas. The Bechuanas are a black race, possessing a language in common with the Bantu races of South Africa, extending as far N. as the equator. The Bechuanas have divided up within the last 150 years, and comprise the Bahurutse, Bamangwato, Bakwena, Bangwaketse, Barolongs, Batlapins, and Batlaros. Each tribe has an animal as an emblem, or heraldic sign, which it is said they hold in esteem. They have since 1832 been at enmity with the Matabele. 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. The system of government among the Bechuanas would be termed in Europe local government. All important matters are decided in the public assembly of the freemen of the town, but matters are previously arranged between the chiefs and headmen. During the British-Boer War of 1899-1900, Mafeking was the scene of one of the most determined and successful defenses in history.