Setswana society expects and requires its members to have "botho",
which is derived from "motho" (a human being). Botho refers
to the possession of the good attributes associated with a good human
being, in other words, qualifying one to be called a human being.
Any person, regardless of his/her social standing, who is found wanting
in any of those positive attributes that constitute a motho, is
regarded as having 'no botho'.
The yardstick for botho is a package of positive human attributes, including
good-manners (maitseo), kindness, compassion, humility, respect,
and living up to the expectations of society and one's particular role.
In short, botho can be referred to as a yardstick for good behaviour
which is consistent with the expectations and cultural norms of Setswana
society. That code of behaviour includes good manners, helpfulness, politeness,
humility and consideration for others, respect for older people and many
more positive attributes expected of a human being.
Morero (Consultation and Consensus Building)
Batswana strongly believe in the value of consultations within society.
The process of morero (consultation) at inter-personal, family,
and community levels is considered an invaluable asset in the ability
to reach and sustain agreements.
At the national level, public service officials and politicians, including
the President, regularly travel throughout the country to consult ordinary
citizens on various government programmes and other issues of national
or local concern. In this way, most citizens do not feel left out of the
decision-making process of their country.
Failure to consult tends to generate negative responses since people interpret
it as an indirect statement that either they do not matter, are inferior,
or in the case of the family unit, not significant enough to be worth
consulting. Although consultations tend to be time consuming, the consensus
they bring about creates a lot of harmony both within families and in
society as a whole. The modern system of government in Botswana has benefited
greatly from this culture of morero.
The traditional Tswana society had wide-ranging religious practices because
of the diversity of tribes and their origins. There was generally a strong
belief that ancestors always watched over one's daily activities. There
were therefore various religious practices intended to honour and appease
the ancestors, for example, after the harvest, a portion of the crop would
be offered to the ancestors as a 'thank you' or to ask them for assistance,
such as bringing the rains.
Christian Missionary groups such as The London Missionary Society, The
Dutch Reformed Church and, much later, The Roman Catholic Church, set
up their churches in early Botswana and gained converts into the Christian
faith. To-date Christianity accounts for around 80% of the religions practised
in Botswana, although many people still maintain dual religious practices,
between Christianity and traditional religious worship.
Dingaka and Bongaka (Traditional Doctors and Traditional Medicine)
dingaka (traditional doctors) have a very extensive knowledge of
medicinal herbs and plants. Botswana's diverse vegetation provides a rich
source of medicinal plants, which are exploited for traditional healing
purposes and, to a limited extent, herbs for commercial uses.
The various herbs, roots, leaves, barks and so forth are known to cure
a range of illnesses including snake bites, pain, common flu, impotence
and many more. Other plants are believed to be excellent aphrodisiacs.
The medicinal herbs have been used over the centuries by dingaka,
whom the Missionaries called 'witch doctors', to heal and cure diseases
for which there were no modern medicines. Their practice is called bongaka.
In addition to their knowledge of medicinal plants, the traditional doctors
claim to have extraordinary powers, ranging from the power to order lightening
to strike someone, providing lucky charms for job promotion, fixing unsteady
marriages, etc. Using their divining bones (bola), the traditional
doctors claim to be able to detect their client's problems and even give
protective medicines to solve them.
is a general recognition of the importance of traditional medicine within
the health delivery system of Botswana. Those who wish to practice are
required to register with the Botswana Dingaka Association and
their practice is regulated. With more exposure to other foreign beliefs
and education, however, a growing number of citizens dismiss this type
of medicine and its practitioners as quacks and cheats. Nonetheless, there
are others, even amongst the educated, who use the services of the traditional
doctors and keep it a closely guarded personal secret.
Like many societies, Botswana has its fair share of superstitious beliefs.
Unusual occurrences are interpreted by some people as a sign that something
bad is going to happen. A nocturnal animal which suddenly ran through
a village in broad day light, for example, would most certainly send some
people into a panic over what would happen in the village.
There are, however, other occurrences which have very positive interpretations,
such as a chicken that broods all-day long, signalling the unexpected
arrival of guests.
In the Tswana society, there is an interesting range of "do's" and " don'ts"
which have been passed on from generation to generation and are based
on mere superstition. Some of the beliefs appear to have been deliberately
crafted by the originators to serve a useful purpose in society.
Under the traditional set-up, for example, a lady who has just delivered
a baby is housed separately, closely looked after, and pampered for at
least three months. During the latter period, her food, utensils, clothing,
etc. are completely separated from those of the rest of the household.
The consequences for contravening these prohibitions include imbecility,
bed-wetting, etc. Out of fear of such consequences, the rest of the family
usually co-operates and, of course, the child and its mother have an obvious
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