chapter  9
36 Pages

Servitude, Slave Trading, and Slavery in the Kalahari

WithBarry Morton

Though indigenous systems of African servitude have received steadily increasing attention, the issue has yet to be raised insofar as the region south of the Zambezi is concerned. Isaac Schapera, to this day the most eminent scholar of the BaTswana, is the first to have portrayed botlhanka/bolata as a form of servitude. In the nineteenth century, however, the only available definitions of the SeTswana term botlhanka restrict the meaning to "servitude, a state of servitude" or "slavery" and batlhanka, to "servants," "inherited servants," or "slaves." The slave expedition recorded in the most detail was that taken by Viljoen, Swartz, and Hendrick Van Zyl in 1869. By the 1870s, the exporting of slaves from Ngamiland appears to have subsided perhaps because the only route to the Transvaal was gradually obstructed by the BaNgwato kgosi, Khama III. BaTswana used batlhanka almost entirely for economic purposes, in contrast to other African societies in which slaves also performed political, social, and military functions.