Cultural definition of the Sotho groups

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The aim of this thesis is to understand the cultural, social and political similarities of the Bafokeng, Bakuena and Bataung lineages amongst the Sotho groups to establish whether the Basotho (Southern Sotho), Batswana and Bapedi are one people. The thesis positions itself within the context of a variety of literature, i.e. books, articles, theses and dissertations that have dealt with the three areas of the cultural, social and political definition of Sotho groups.
The literature focuses on the Basotho (Southern Sotho), Bapedi and Batswana with regard to their cultural, social and political dimensions. One Sotho group is discussed at a time, although the similarity between the Sotho groups is alluded to. Chapter two is thematic in nature, as it discusses the abovementioned literature regarding the cultural, social and political definition of the Sotho groups respectively in order to systematically establish the oneness of the Sotho in their cultural, social and political dimensions in depth.

Cultural definition of the Sotho groups

Different scholars have defined the cultural similarity of Sotho groups. The thrust of their argument is that the Sotho groups share a similar language in that they choose similar words at random from the same corpus to express the same idea. Their language becomes their cultural representation. Similar actions and co-ownership of practices make them develop one language.
Amongst scholars that discuss the cultural similarity of the Sotho, Guma (1980) says that there are definite ways and linkages or similarities in which Sotho proverbs discuss the oneness of the Sotho, e.g.:
Guma (1980:95) shows that Sesotho proverbs are similar to those of Setswana regarding grammar, sentence structure and presentation of similar concepts. Guma (1980:95) mentions that a similar situation occurs with the Sepedi. The following are examples of Sepedi and Sesotho proverbs that are similar:
The thesis adds the Setswana proverb to Guma (1967) of the similarity of the Sotho language concepts in the above examples. This thesis considers Guma’s (1980:95) view and further discusses that the words are similar amongst the three variations of the Sotho language, although each Sotho language might prefer to use particular words compared to others while constructing a similar oral text, as in the case of the proverbs above. The sharing of words show that the Sotho were together and when they had a need to talk about particular concepts in their social world, they developed a set of words for this purpose. Yule (2007:218) says talking about shared vocabulary influences how a people perceive the world. The thesis adds that a people, such as the Sotho groups, share folklore that mirrors their similar experiences or practices.
Guma (1980:94) mentions that the Sesotho proverbs use a vocabulary and unusual form of grammar that are seldom used in everyday Sesotho, while this kind of grammar and vocabulary is widely used by the Northern Sotho (Sepedi) and Setswana. Yule (2007:217) calls the similar words that a people exchange when referring to a particular concept, a category. The vocabulary inherits a group of similar words in meaning as category labels. The thesis complements Guma (1980) and Yule (2007) in that these similar words refer to concepts that the Sotho, as a people, wanted to talk about when they were together. Hence, each group or any Sotho formation is at liberty to select any of the words when presenting their ideas. The thesis explains that the selection of various words meaning the same thing across the groups means that the Sotho collectives who have formed groups can be traced from one origin.
In Guma’s collection, the Sepedi proverb kgomo ho hlabana tsa saka le tee (the cows that lock horns at each other are from one kraal) is similar to the ordinary Sesotho expression, kgomo tse hlabanang di fumanwa ka (le) sakeng le le leng. Therefore, the thesis contends that the Sotho groups share a collection of words. The expression indicating one tee has translated its place in contemporary every day spoken Sesotho from a descriptive adjective found in Sepedi to become an idiophone to! in Sesotho.
The thesis adds to Guma’s view and shows that while the same concept across the Sotho groups might be presented in various forms across the Sotho respectively, the concept does not become a different concept but is a similar word, idea or concept presented in various ways. This shows that the Sotho have the same origin as is shown by their similar language, which varies according to how the group wants to present it. A similar situation is found with the Sesotho counterpart of the Sepedi proverb ho lwana madula-mmoho (those who stay together fight) (c.f. Guma 1980:94). Sekese (2011:165) presents it in his collection of Sesotho proverbs “ho loana ba-lula-’moho. Sometimes it is presented in the Mosotho (Southern Sotho) everyday language, “ntoa ke ea malula mmoho” (a fight is for those who stay together).
The thesis adds the view that various presentations of a similar proverb in the same language show that each utterance of a language is not the same although it might be the same sentence, as a proverb is oral in nature. The thesis will show that this situation is similar to that of the two orthographies of Sesotho that indicate variations in the way of writing Sesotho that developed amongst the Basotho (Southern Sotho) of South Africa and those of Lesotho in order to identify their sovereignty while the international boundaries were drawn to separate similar people into two countries. The thesis will add that the boundaries of orthography are discounted by the same language and that the similar situation might have occurred amongst the Bapedi when they developed their own group separate from the Basotho (Southern Sotho).
According to Mokwana (2009:32), the Bapedi and Basotho (Southern Sotho) were together, but as the Bapedi chiefdom developed, they formed their own group and claimed a separate territory different from that of the Batswana and Basotho (Southern Sotho). Mokwana (2009:32 quoting Prinsloo, 1979), has this to say:
The literature from Prinsloo (1979) mentions that the Bapedi migrated from somewhere in central Africa to Southern Africa through Botswana. This is where they came into close contact with the Batswana people, as is evidenced in their linguistic borrowing from Batswana. At Gaborone, the Bapedi separated into two groups. One group joined the Batswana and another group went further south to occupy an area called Lesotho. While in Lesotho, a conflict brewed between Sekhukhune I and his brothers. The problem was solved by allowing Sekhukhune and his followers to claim their own territory across the Vaal River, which served as a boundary between the two conflicting groups. Sekhukhune held his first “Mphato”(initiation school) called “Makwa” at the river, which was subsequently named “Lekwa”.
At the time that Mokwana (2009) mentions, there was no historical or geographical place called “Lesotho”. Although Mokwana (2009) calls the area Lesotho when the Bapedi and Basotho (Southern Sotho) were still together, the country and the name was acknowledged much later when the area was separated from the Freestate and (modern) Lesotho came into being in 1966, when Basutholand achieved independence.
Ellenberger (1997) mentions that the Bafokeng left Botswana and settled south of the Highveld where they were followed by other lineages who liked their governance. The Bapedi lineage was one of the lineages who followed the Basotho (Southern Sotho), as Mokwana (2009:32) and Ellenberger (1997:20) mention that the Basotho (Southern Sotho) and Bapedi were together.
Mokwana (2009) shows that Sekhukhune 1 showed leadership qualities while among the Basotho (Southern Sotho) and took his people of the Bapedi to form another Sotho kingdom. Sekhukhune boasted about his achievement of having a country by saying, naga ya ka e tloha Lekwa, e fella kwa Lebepe (my country stretches from Lekwa [Vaal] to Lebepe [Limpopo]) (c.f. Pitje, 1950:56).
The thesis will assert that similarities between the Basotho (Southern Sotho), Bapedi and Batswana exist because they were once together. Mokwana (2009:32) also attests to Sepedi being similar to Setswana, but omits to mention that there are also similarities between the Sepedi and Sesotho. Consequently, this thesis will give a systematic explanation of the Sotho language to show that similarities exist across the Sotho groups, as they come from the same origin.
The thesis will show that as the Sotho moved around to find their separate territories and settled in different places, the geographical distance could also have played a part in the usage of language and the development of language variations. The Sotho groups developed three various local conventions of language according to each group of the Basotho (Southern Sotho), Bapedi and Batswana, i.e. the differences in the language of the Sotho are not original, but are artificial variations that can be discounted, as the languages of the Sotho are similar and of one origin.
Guma (1980:94) adds another dimension to the variety of Sotho languages showing the same origin, e.g. the Sesotho proverbs, bohwera ha bo na molai (thieving propensities are incurable) and boroka bwa duma (things are favourable for you).These Sesotho (Southern Sotho) proverbs consist of words that are seldom used in contemporary Sesotho everyday language. Although there is nothing unusual about the grammar in the above Sesotho proverbs, the words bohwera and boroka are still often used by the Sepedi and Setswana speakers.
During the Sotho news slot on SABC 2, a Mopedi lady ’Malibuseng Sebatana, who presents the weather, normally says to the news presenter after he has read news, Khaitsedi ya Baroka ke leboha lesokwana (My brother from the Baroka clan, thanks for the slot). The sentence is also similar in Sesotho and Setswana, with a variation in Setswana of leboga instead of leboha in Sesotho and Sepedi. The difference is [ga] instead of [ha], but the meaning of the word is the same.
The word baroka is predominant among the Bapedi and is the variation of boroka meaning ho ba wa Baroka (to be one of the Baroka’s), which is a Sotho clan of the rain queen Modjadji, associated with the Bapedi lineage. The words associated with this clan are found in the above Sesotho proverb. Actually, the entire above Sesotho proverb is regarded as being made from archaic Sesotho words in a contemporary Sepedi sentence. The Mopedi would say Ke duma nama (I yearn for meat) instead of the Sesotho ke lakatsa nama (Guma, 1980:94).
The Mosotho often choose to use lakatsa (yearn) instead of duma that a Mopedi uses, in their respective languages. The Batswana use the word bohwera found in Sepedi, written as bogwera where the [h] of the Bapedi becomes [kg] in their language to mention lebollo (initiation). The word in the ordinary language, not the jargon (special language) of lebollo, means friendship and is often used by the Batswana and Bapedi, while the Basotho (Southern Sotho) prefer mokgotsi or motswalle. This thesis is in line with Guma’s view above when it shows that the Sotho use a similar collection of words in their language; the difference is in how they prefer to use the words, as the above examples show.
According to Guma (1980:94), the Sesotho dictionary explains bohwera as “crowd, noise, joy” and “company of boys at circumcision”. Breautz (1991) amongst the Batswana, Monnig (1967) amongst the Bapedi, and Ellenberger (1997) amongst the Basotho (Southern Sotho), show that the initiation institution that teaches the Sotho people their culture and social way of life is similar across the three groups. The thesis expands on the above literature sources, as it describes the similarity between the Basotho (Southern Sotho), Batswana and Bapedi. It will discuss Sotho groups sharing the same words because of giving these groups a similar outlook.

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1.1 Preface to the Introduction
1.2 Contesting Sotho groups similarity
1.3 Aim
1.4 Rationale
1.5 Theoretical framework
1.6 Literature review
1.7 Research sources
1.8 Structure of the argument
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Cultural definition of the Sotho groups
2.3 Social similarity of Sotho groups indicating significant stages of life.
2.4 Political dimension of Sotho groups
2.5 Conclusion
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Smith’s theory of ethnicity in the explanation of the Sotho.
3.3 Gellner’s theory of ethnicity in the explanation of the Sotho.
3.4 Conclusion
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Sotho language variety as a cultural aspect
4.3 Minor differences in Sotho varieties of language
4.4 The name Basotho
4.5 Ntswanatsatsi as the myth of the Sotho
4.6 Duplication of place names by the Sotho groups
4.7 Similar totems representing Sotho identity
4.8 Conclusion
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Similarity among the Sotho regarding birth and raising children
5.3 Similarity between Sotho groups initiation into adulthood
5.4 Similarity of Sotho groups marriage practices
5.5 Similarity in Sotho groups treatment of death practices
5.6 Conclusion
6.1 Introduction
6.2 The village as the smallest unit and its role in political relations
6.3 Similarity of the chiefdom as a larger political unit amongst the Sotho groups
6.4 Similar traditions of how the Sotho political structures operate
6.5 Similar role of a chief as a leader across Sotho groups
6.6 Conclusion

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