University of Botswana History Department

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Page 1. Extracts from Documents (A-J):

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The documents on this page outline administrative changes during the colonial period. Extract A is about the unilateral British imposition of colonial sovereignty in 1891-92, which took powers away from Tswana states. Extract B shows how Tswana chiefs attempted to rebuild a treaty form of relationship with the British imperial government. Extract C shows "parallel rule" after more effective central administration began after 1900. Extract D shows the alternative model of direct rule over chiefs in South Africa, and Extract E is about Rey's central administrative reforms 1929-30. Extract F shows how "parallel rule" had degenerated by 1949.

Extract G is the judicial report suppressed until the 1980s, because it revealed the subordination of colonial administration to white settler interests in the region. Extract H shows the devaluation of chieftainship in the 1950s-60s. Extract I is on the colonial roots of "Bushman" and "remote area dweller" policy. Extract J is on administrative and financial constraints on state development at the time of independence.

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EXTRACT A:'Palapye the Wondrous,' 1893

[Cape Argus, 'Palapye the Wondrous', 1893]

Last year, without any warning and without consulting the chief, an Assistant Commissioner - Mr J.S. Moffat - was sent to Palapye with power to levy taxes, issue licences, hold courts, and perform other acts of government. To many men it appears that in this action on our part Khama has just ground of complaint. He formulates his case against us as follows:-

"Years ago I offered to the British government much of my country; I offered to throw it open to the English on certain conditions - in fact I gave them a free hand. I believed in the English, in their justice and good government. They declined my offer, and I hear no more of the matter.

And now, without formal conclave and agreement, when I should have the opportunity of consulting my headmen, and putting all important matters fairly before my people, they proceed to place a ruler in my town, so that I myself, before I can buy a bag of gunpowder, have to go and obtain a permit.

This is not fair or open-handed; it puts me in the wrong with my tribe, who say, 'How, then, is Khama no longer chief in his country?' and I feel deeply that I am slighted and made small. All my life I have striven for the English, been the friend of the English, have even offered to fight for the English, and am I at last to be treated thus?"...

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EXTRACT B: Petition of Khama to Colonial Office, 28 June 1895

[Petition of Khama and his headmen to Rt. Hon. Joseph Chamberlain, Secretary of State for the Colonies, 28th June 1895]:

The petition of the undersigned Chief and Headmen of the Bamangwato tribe, resident at Palapye, in the British protectorate, humbly showeth:-

That your petitioners have heard with alarm that their country is to be placed under the Government of the Chartered Company, or under that of the Cape Colony. Your petitioners placed themselves under the British Government some years ago, believing that it was a wise and righteous government which would not oppress them simply because their skins are black; and they still wish to remain under the Government of the Great Queen.

Your petitioners have heard that you are about to hand over our country over to others because it costs you too much money to protect it. They see that you have spent too much money in maintaining soldiers who have done harm and not good in their country; and they would point out that no quarrel or disorderliness has ever occurred in their tribe to call for the interference of these soldiers. They know it is necessary to have police for the punishment of those who do wrong; but they think the Government might withdraw the soldiers and save much money.

Our Government may place absolute reliance on the loyalty and orderliness of your petitioners, and upon their willingness to contribute towards the administration of their country. Your petitioners have offered on more than one occasion to pay Hut-tax, and they venture to repeat the offer made by the Chief to his Excellency the High Commissioner, in a letter dated February 13, 1895. But your petitioners earnestly pray that Her Majesty's Government will not hand them over to the Chartered Company or to the Cape Colony.

Your petitioners do not know much about the Government of the Cape Colony, except that it does not protect its natives from the white man's liquor. But your petitioners have heard much of the injustice and oppression which the Chartered Company inflict upon the tribes who live in the north; and your petitioners fear very much lest they should be killed and eaten by the Company. For your petitioners see that the Company does not love black people; it loves only to take the country of the black people and sell it to others that it may see gain.

Your petitioners have already given the Company the right to dig for minerals in their country, and they say: "Let the Company be satisfied with the minerals, and, as for us, let us continue to be the children of the Great Queen."

Your petitioners have caused these words to be written on the 28th of June, 1895. We are loyal subjects of the Great Queen, and our names are as follows:-

KHAMA (Chief of the Bamangwato)

SEKGOMA (son of Khama)

KGAMANE (brother of Khama)

GOROEAN (son of Kgamane)

SERETSE (brother of Khama)

KEBAILELE (brother of Khama)

IKITSEN (brother of Khama) and 128 others.

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EXTRACT C: Simon Ratshosa, 'My Book on Bechuanaland Protectorate' c.1931 (Botswana National Archives): (on R. C. Williams):

There is nothing more memorable in Bechuana history than the action and character of this great white chief. He had a body suited to the character of mind, and which became command, he could roar like a lion when law is transgressed, and thunders there and there when duty is not performed to his satisfaction. The Bechuana nicknamed him "LORATE".

I heard him saying to Khama, "Had I been resident Commissioner during your son's revolt, your son could not have deserted you, for I should have deported all the ring leaders".

Sir Ralph knew native much, and therefore generally trusted them but little, [but] when he knew any man to be good like Khama, he reposed in him an entire confidence. His skill as Resident Commissioner was directed by practised wisdom and common sense acquired from the many years he had spent in different parts of south Africa. He rarely made mistakes and he provided for every possible contingency from the strength of his courage and his will which always aimed high. To rule the native was his pride, that he earned for himself the great name "Kgosi Lorate".

He had behind him a strong personality, Mr. Barry May, as Government Secretary. His shrewdness and inflexible determination was beyond compare when dealing in native cases, and yet he could not speak the language.

A ruler as capable as he, has never been in the Bechuanaland.

Yes, he had vices in his Administrations, and great ones but they were vices of a great mind. Ambition which aimed high, the malady of every extensive genius of a great man.

The first glance at him when you enter his presence for the first time produces an arresting impression upon you. Even if you are not aware of his identity, you feel at once as you look into his stern but ugly face that you are in the mouth of a hungry lion or in the presence of greatness of an extraordinary superiority. The law-breakers, white or black or even the chiefs who are today looked upon as paragon of perfection, he looked upon with contempt, and treated with cruelty when they receive their doom.

He could scream like a wounded elephant, tables turned up-side-down, papers thrown here and there as if by magic or a cyclone, the walls of his office shake as if by earth tremor at the thundering order of this great chief.

He would never permit himself to be oil-influenced by his subordinate officials, to this point he was very sarcastic.

He cared not even for his own staff, when wrong is committed, was imperious and arbitrary and was severe to all who opposed his plans but above all he took a deep interest in the police that was one of his standing pride.

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EXTRACT D: Howard Rogers, Native Administration in the Union of South Africa, (Pretoria: Government Printer for Native Affairs Department, 2nd edn. 1948, pp.12-13).

Under sub-section (7) of section two of the Native Administration Act, 1927, the Governor-General may recognise or appoint any person as a chief or headman in charge of a tribe or location and may depose any chief or headman, and is authorised to define their powers, duties and privileges.

As a rule chieftainship or headmanship vests in a particular family and the person who is entitled under Native custom to the office is appointed to the position.

Appointed chiefs are required-

Appointed Chiefs and Headmen shall-

Any infringement of the regulations or neglect of duty or any misconduct shall, in addition to any penalty imposed by any law, render a chief or headman liable to suspension from office or fine or reprimand or reduction of emoluments or summary dismissal.

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EXTRACT E: Sir Charles Fernand Rey, Monarch of All I Survey: Bechuanaland Dairies 1929-37 (Gaborone: The Botswana Society, 1988), pp. 3-4:

Sunday 13 to Saturday 19 October 1929 (at Mafeking):

I wandered around poking my nose into all the offices, and shaking hands with everybody… I am simply horrified at the utter lack of organisation, the confusion, lack of discipline, and general sense of muddle. Everybody does any and every job: no one is responsible for any one thing; no papers can ever be found when wanted; the Government Secretary (the principal man) loafs in at 10.30 (hours being 9 to 5); the staff is scattered about in five different buildings; and most of their time is spent running about from one office to another and looking for papers.

There is going to be a cleaning of the Augean stables.

Sunday 20 October to 17 November 1929:

It is terrible to think that I have not written up my diary for a month. But I do not think that even in my strenuous life I have often been as busy as during these last four weeks.

In the four weeks I have been at work I have established a single registry in place of the six different ones they had; drafted a complete set of instructions for the conduct of business; built on two new rooms and reconstructed two others' brought the staff into line so that now they jump to the word of command and show signs of life and spirit (and even of dawning intelligence); introduced a new system of registering papers and correspondence, handling them and dealing with them; substituted one card index registration for eighteen different registration books; made them use the telephone and orderlies to take messages instead of running around like rabbits to talk to each other; given Daniel and myself a Private Secretary - and all out of existing staff and material, without adding a man or spending any money to speak of.

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EXTRACT F: Michael Fairlie, No Time Like the Past, (Durham, England: Pentland Press, 1992),pp.140-41:

At Molepolole the quiet district routine continued [as acting District Commissioner in 1949] .Once a week or so I would go to the kgotla for a chat with the chief [Kgosi Kgari Sechele] and any of his councillors who happened to be present. It was pointless to go there in the afternoon as by then scarcely anyone but the treasurer was quite sober - drunkenness was one of the matters I regularly, and no doubt pompously, raised atthe kgotla. Many of those present, including the chief, would study the ground while I spoke but a brave minority would often speak in support. I would then go and check the cash at the treasury.

One day I found a large discrepancy, and the treasurer disclosed that the chief had been borrowing money from the treasury for his own purposes, but would of course repay later.This irregularity could not [be allowed to] continue so I invited the chief to call at my office. In order to have a witness, I asked [chief clerk K.M.] Kgopo to be present. I asked him to refund the money at once and I heard no more until, three days later, I was asked to go to Mafeking to answer a complaint made by Chief Kgari. We met in [Government Secretary] Gerald Nettelton's office. Kgari was accompanied by his Mafeking lawyer, Mr Fraenkel, who said I had insulted the chief by speaking to him rudely in front of a commoner. I explained the circumstances, which Kgari had failed to mention, and after some talk it was agreed he should immediately pay back the money. [But] I left for Molepolole with the firm impression (although nothing was specifically said) that I had mishandled the whole affair and embarassed [the colonial] government as well.

Back at Molepolole, Kgopo told me that the tribe were fully aware of what had hapened and were unanimously delighted.

Nevertheless, from that time on I began to feel disillusioned with Bechuanaland. Many of my [younger colonial district officer] colleagues felt the same way. All of us had served in the forces during the war and it may be, with our slightly broader outlook, we were impatient with the lackadaisical rule of our older colleagues. This was unfair. Most of them had served in Bechuanaland,usually starting as clerks or policemen, and had no experience of other ways of doing things. Neither had we, but we were ready to try new solutions, even though we might get no support from Gerald Nettelton and his contemporaries.

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EXTRACT G: Extract from Walter Harragin (chairman) 'Report of the Judicial Enquiry re Seretse Khama of the Bamangwato Tribe', Pretoria, High Commissioner's Office, 1st December 1949]

Our conclusions on the questions referred to us in the terms of reference can therefore be recorded as follows:

In finding that Seretse Khama is not a fit and proper person to discharge the functions of a Chief, we wish to emphasise the fact that, should conditions change, as they well might in a variety of ways, Seretse Khama should be allowed to assume his duties as Chief. He is admittedly the lawful and legitimate heir and, save for his irresponsibility in contracting this unfortunate marrage, would be, in our opinion, a fit and proper person to assume the chieftainship.

Our findings may therefore be summed up shortly as follows:-

We, with regret but no hesitation, are unable to recommend the recognition of Seretse Khama as Chief of the Bamangwato Tribe because -

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EXTRACT H: Notes on a Meeting between Her Majesty's Commissioner and the Chiefs at Lobatsi on the 14th April 1964 - as reproduced in Jack Parson, ed. Succession to High Office in Botswana: Three Case Studies (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, Monographs in International Studies Africa Series No. 54, 1990), pp. 441-42.

para 46. Kgosi Linchwe said that he personally was not able to see that the House of Chiefs would be of real value. He remained opposed to the idea but he was nevertheless prepared to do his duty and serve in the House as a temporary measure while the electorate of the country was still immature. He thought that the Chiefs were the pillars which held the tribes together and that if he relinquished the chieftainship in order to enter politics it would be a dereliction of his duty. If it were not for the political immaturity of the electorate, however, he would resign as a Chief and stand for the Legislative Assembly rather than be classed with the traditionalists. His Excellency [Her Majesty's Commissioner] said that he personally did not believe that the House of Chiefs would become a depository for outworn traditionalists.

para 47. Kgosi Bathoen said that the Chiefs no longer had the absolute power which their fathers had had, and they did not in fact wish to oppose change so long as the change was reasonable. He felt that all the Chiefs felt as Kgosi Linchwe did, [and] all were prepared to serve under the correct conditions. He himself was not a traditionalist. His aim was the same as that of Government and the politicians. He only differed from them in one respect, in that he felt genuinely that the chieftainship was important to the future of the country. He would also resign as a Chief, did he not [if he did not] feel that the sufferers would be both the Government and the people themselves.

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EXTRACT I: George B.Silberbauer, Report to the Government of Bechuanaland on the Bushman Survey (Gaberones: Bechuanaland Government, Feb.1965), p.133: Chapter X


(1) Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Apart from these arguments in favour of the conservation of the [Central Kalahari] Reserve and its animal population, there is the fact that it is the home of between three and five thousand Bushmen who have expressed their wish to remain where they are, in their present environment, and who wish to remain where they are, in their present environment, and who wish to follow their present life [as] hunter-foodgatherers, without interference or encroachment by other people [-] and [who] have asked only that they be provided with drinking-water.

The retention of Bushman in the Reserve would appear to be a reversal of the policy of economic advancement advocated for the rest of the Bushmen of Bechuanaland.The resolution of this paradox is that it is not intended to preserve the Bushmen of the Reserve as museum curiosities and pristine primitives,but to allow them the right of choice of the lifethey wish to follow.Those in the Reserve have free right of movement across its borders and, if they wish, may abandon their hunting life in the Reserve and may join and align themselves with the Bushmen outsidethe Reserve. They have extensive links, both social and economic, with Bushmen on the [Ghanzi] farms and in other districts and can communicate with them whenever they wish, so would not be cut off from developments in the outside world.

It should also be borne in mind that this freedom of movement includes those Bushmen who originally came from territories now included in the Reserve and who now wish to return a hunter-foodgatherer's life in the Reserve if they can be provided with water-holes to anable them to survive, and that these people will re-settle in the Reserve.

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EXTRACT J: Republic of Botswana, Planning Officer's Manual, (Gaborone: Government Printer for Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, 2nd edn. June 1986), pp.1-3/1-4:


1.7. Botswana's tradition of preparing comprehensive national development plans goes back at least to the Transitional Plan prepared before Independence. Although many developing countries produce such documents, Botswana is unusual in the consistency with which they have been prepared and the extent to which they have actually guided Government's policies and expenditures.

1.9. Botswana's situation at Independence dictated the forms of planning that were practical.The country was extremely poor, the data basewas very weak,and the economic instruments to Government were unusually limited. There was, for example, no discretion to set tariffs independently and Botswana had no independent currency. These constraints set the pattern of planning from the outset. In particular:

1.10. As the economy and the Government have grown in size and sophistication, the planning system has developed in the following ways:

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Copyright © 1999 Neil Parsons
Last updated 28 June 2000