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The Commonwealth



Did you know:

Novelist and human rights campaigner Unity Dow was appointed a High Court judge in 1998, the first woman to hold the post.

Scholarships for postgraduate study are awarded by Botswana to citizens of other Commonwealth countries under the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan.

Botswana was the largest producer of gem-quality diamonds in the world in 2012, a position it has held since it displaced Australia in 1999.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1966
Population: 2,021,000 (2013)
GDP: 2.8% p.a. 1990–2013
UN HDI: World ranking 109
Official language: Setswana, English
Timezone: GMT plus 2hr
Currency: pula (P)


Area: 582,000 sq km
Coastline: none
Capital city: Gaborone
Population density (per sq. km): 3

The Republic of Botswana is a large, roughly circular, landlocked plateau in the centre of Southern Africa, bordered by South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Main towns:

Gaborone (capital, pop. 244,900 in 2014), Francistown (104,600 in 2014), Molepolole (66,466 in 2011), Maun (60,263 in 2011), Mogoditshane (58,079 in 2011), Selebi-Phikwe (52,200 in 2014), Serowe (50,820 in 2011), Kanye (47,007 in 2011), Mochudi (44,815 in 2011), Mahalapye (43,298 in 2011), Palapye (37,256 in 2011), Tlokweng (36,323 in 2011), Lobatse (30,700 in 2014), Ramotswa (28,952 in 2011), Thamaga (21,471 in 2011) and Bobonong (19,389 in 2011).

Most of Botswana’s main settlements are in the south-east of the country.


There are 25,800km of roads, 33% paved. The north-south highway links South Africa with Zambia. The TransKalahari highway, completed in 1998, links Botswana to Walvis Bay on the Namibian coast, shortening the route between Johannesburg and the Namibian capital, Windhoek, and opening up the hitherto inaccessible western regions of the country.

The 888-km railway line runs north-south along the eastern side of the country from Plumtree in Zimbabwe to the border with South Africa. Exports from Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Southern Africa use this line to reach the South African ports of Durban and Richards Bay. Local railway lines service Botswana’s mining industries.

Air services operate to several regional destinations plus regular domestic flights between Gaborone and Francistown, Maun, Selebi-Phikwe, Ghanzi, Pont Drift and Kasane.

International relations:

Botswana is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Non-Aligned Movement, Southern African Customs Union, Southern African Development Community, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Botswana hosts the headquarters of the Southern African Development Community in Gaborone.


The average elevation of the country is 1,000m. To the south-east are hills, the highest being 1,491m Otse Mountain near Lobatse. In the north-west are the Tsodilo Hills, famous for rock-paintings. Also in the north-west, the Okavango river flows into an enormous inland delta, home of a great variety of wildlife. To the north-east is the salt desert of the Makgadikgadi Pans. However, about 85% of the country consists of the tableland of the Kalahari desert, a vast sandveld.


Botswana lies across the Tropic of Capricorn. The climate ranges from semi-arid through subtropical to temperate. Eastern Botswana is temperate, with enough rainfall to support arable farming, but rainfall decreases and temperature range increases westwards and southwards. Summer (October to April) is the rainy season and is very hot. Rainfall varies from 650mm per annum in the east to 230mm in the south-west. May to October is usually dry. In winter the nights can be cold and sometimes frosty, especially in the desert. Mean maximum temperature at Gaborone is 32.5°C. From August, annual seasonal winds cross the Kalahari from the west, raising dust and sandstorms.


The most significant environmental issues are overgrazing, desertification and limited resources of fresh water.


Mostly dry savannah with grasslands and thornbush to semi-desert and some true desert. Acacia, bloodwood and Rhodesian teak trees in the forest in the north-west. Forest covers 20 per cent of the land area, having declined at 0.9 per cent p.a. 1990–2010.


Wildlife is protected in the three national parks and five game reserves, extending to 105,000 sq km or 18.5 per cent of the total land area. The Okavango Delta supports a world-famous variety of water-birds and attracts thousands of animals in the dry season. The Chobe National Park, also in the north, has more than 50,000 elephants. The Gemsbok National Park abuts South Africa’s Kalahari Gemsbok NP, which together make one of the world’s biggest wilderness regions. The country has recorded 164 species of mammals, seven of which are threatened with extinction (2014).


The earliest inhabitants of Botswana were San or Basarwa (Bushmen) who have been in the area an estimated 30,000 years. Their nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle has left few traces except rock paintings (there are some 3,500 paintings at 350 sites in the Tsodilo Hills). More technologically advanced and powerful pastoral and agricultural Bantu groups moved in from the north­west and east around the first and second century CE. The first Setswana-speaking group, the Bakgalagadi, arrived sometime in the 14th century. While there was plenty of land, the different peoples coexisted peacefully but in the early 19th century, Mzilikazi (a captain of Zulu chief Shaka) broke away and led a Zulu force northwards. The local people were scattered and forced into more arid lands.

The upheavals of the region were greatly exacerbated when, from around 1836, the Boer Trekkers, escaping British rule, began to arrive and displace other groups. In the 1840s British missionaries David Livingstone and Robert Moffat established stations among the Bakwena; Moffat translated the Bible into Setswana.

In 1872 Khama III became chief of Bamangwato, one of the tribes of the Batswana group. A capable general and Administrator, he secured immunity from Matabele raids and increased order and stability. To avoid Boer rule, particularly after the discovery of gold at Tati, Khama asked for British protection; this was given in 1885. The terms were that Khama retained control of administration, law and justice, while Britain was responsible for security.

The territory south of the Molopo river was annexed to the Cape Colony in 1895 while the rest remained under British protection as Bechuanaland. A capital was chosen at Mafikeng, a town settled almost exclusively by Tswana-speaking tribes. At Mafikeng, which was actually in South Africa, outside the Protectorate, the now global boy scout movement was started by Lord Baden-Powell. Bechuanaland successfully resisted pressure to grant mining concessions to the British South Africa Company and also (in 1909) successfully resisted becoming part of South Africa.

Over the next half-century, the country languished: it became a provider of cheap labour for South Africa’s mines, education and welfare were neglected, and the administration came entirely into colonial hands.

In 1923 Khama III died; his son and successor, Sekgoma, died after being in power only two years. Three-year-old Seretse Khama then inherited the leadership, with his uncle, Tshekedi Khama, as Regent.

Seretse Khama’s accession in 1950 changed the tone of Bechuanaland politics. While studying law in London, he married a white English woman. This was rated as a serious breach of tribal custom in Botswana, and also in racially segregated South Africa and Rhodesia. Seretse Khama was forced to stand down as chief of the Ngwato. The UK yielded to pressure and held him in exile until 1956. On his return to Bechuanaland, Seretse Khama campaigned for change and in the 1960s founded the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). Its policy sought a non-racial and democratic but traditional society in which chiefs and traditional courts still had a role.

In 1960 a representative legislative council was set up; there was now a formal negotiating mechanism and independence was achieved in a series of peaceful moves. Central authority was strengthened, the position of the chiefs and African courts defined. The seat of government was transferred from Mafikeng to Gaborone. In the pre-independence elections of 1965, the BDP won 28 of the 31 elective seats. The country achieved independence as a republic on 30 September 1966 with Seretse Khama as President.

Seretse Khama led the country from 1965 until his death in 1980, when he was succeeded by Dr Quett Masire, formerly

Vice-President, who was knighted as Sir Ketumile Masire in 1991.

Although the BDP had easily won every election since multiparty democracy was established in 1965, in the general election of 1994 the main opposition party, the Botswana National Front (BNF), won 13 seats (37 per cent of the vote) as against the BDP’s 27 seats (54 per cent), with the smaller parties failing to win any seats.

In November 1997 at the age of 73, President Masire announced he would retire in March 1998. On 1 April 1998 Festus Mogae, who had served as Vice-President since 1992, was sworn in as President. He also became leader of the BDP. The only new member of Mogae’s first cabinet was Ian Khama (son of former President Sir Seretse Khama), who retired as commander of the Botswana Defence Force to take up the key post of Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration and was appointed Vice-President in July 1998.

Botswana: Africa's success story
In 2016 Botswana celebrates its Golden Jubilee. Gained independence in 1966 as 2nd poorest nation in the world & the British said has the lowest chances to succeed as a viable country. We share its achievements. Due to time & space limitations I could not write everything.

Botswana History

Learn more about Botswana on The Commonwealth site
Society, Economy, Constitution & politics, History and Travel.
By Sandra Murphy (pdf)
An African Success Story: Botswana (2001) (pdf)

Botswana, South Africa Documentary Nature and Animal Film

Gaborone 2016 - Botswana
Gaborone was built from scratch by Batswana at indepenced 1966. Botswana was the 2nd poorest nation, today has highest standard of living in Africa, free education up to tertiary. Free healthcare. Pictures & Videos courtesy of Aljazeera, Lucian Coman, Imagelounge, ProVision,

Business in the Commonwealth
Web site of the Country

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