Batlokoa History

Batlokoa are also known as baThlokoa or Badogwa refering to several Kgatla communities that are found in Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa, comprising both the followings of Tlokoa kings and more particularly members of clans identified as Tlokoa, or individuals who identify themselves as of Tlokoa descent. A majority of the Batlokoa clans trace their royal lineages to Kgwadi son of King Tabane, who is the father and founder of the Batlokoa nation, and have the Tlokwe-cat as their original totem which has since become extinct due to over-hunting for its fur which was used by Kings.

                                                           Batlokoa totem – nkoe


Batlokoa kingdom form part of the larger group of Bakgatla people, which is one of the sub-divisions of the Bantu speaking nations. In addition to Batswana or ‘Western Sotho’, Bakgatla group includes baPedi classification of Northern Sotho nation. These different groups together are often falsely classified for convenience as ‘Sotho-Tswana’. From an early stage of their history, they shared a number of linguistic and cultural characteristics that distinguished them from other Bantu-speakers of Southern Africa. Most prominent was mutually intelligible dialects. Other features included totemism, preferential marriage of maternal cousins with the exception to Batlokoa who prefer marrying their paternal cousins, and an architectural style characterised by a round hut with a conical thatch roof supported by wooden pillars on the outside. Also common was the style skin cloaks called Mekgahla, dense and close village settlements larger than those of ‘Nguni’ nations, and a tradition of building their homes with stone in less grassy or wooded regions.

A history of the Sotho-Tswana nation is one of continual dissension and fission where disputes, sometimes over kingship ascendancy, resulted in a section of the clan breaking away from the main clan, under the leadership of a dissatisfied king’s relative, and settling elsewhere. Often the name of the man who led the splinter group was taken as the new tribe’s name.

The traditions of the Sotho-Tswana nations point to a northward origin, and indicate that their southward movement was part of the great migrations of the Bantu-speaking iron-age nations. Usually the theory asserts that the Sotho-Tswana separated from other Bantu-speaking peoples in the vicinity of the Great Lakes of East Africa, and that they moved downwards along the western part of the present day Zimbabwe.


The traditions of the Barolong kingdoms indicate that at some time in the past they were all under the same ruling line of kings which claim descent from a common ancestor, i.e. Masilo. Following the death of Masilo there was a leadership crisis and despute which resulted in the formation of the Hurutshe and Kwena clans. The Batlokoa nation claim its lineage from the Hurutshe (Bahurutshe) clan and trace their early ancestry to Mokgatla during 1430 and Tabane during 1550.

Tabane gave birtht to five sons, Diale (Matlaisane), Kgetsi, Kgwadi (moTlokoa), Matsibolo, and Mosia. Each one of them broke away to form Bapedi, Makgolokwe, Batlokoa, Maphuthing and Basia respectively (Diale = Bapedi, Kgetsi = Makgolokwe, Kgwadi = Batlokoa, Matsibolo = Maphuthing and Mosia = Basia).

Eight generations later, from Kgwadi, Makoro gave birth to Mokotjo.  Chief Mokotjo got married to Manthatisi and gave birth to Sekonyela. Unfortunately Chief Mokotjo died at an early age and Manthatisi became regent during his minority.

King Tsotetsi:

King Tsotetsi during 1735 was the paramount king of Batlokoa ba Mokgalong, which was a senior branch of Batlokoa. He took over the reigns after his father, Chief Seboloka son of Mokgalo passed on and he also like most of the earlier chiefs died at an early age, however he had 6 sons his Queen Mamohlahlwe, namely Mohlahlwe (Lebaka), Tsibela, Selemane, Leloka, Sethati and Thai. At the time of his death, his successor Mohlahlwe was still a minor, and Batlokoa made a consensus that Queen Mamohlahlwe becomes regent for his son Lebaka, therefore making her the first queen to act as a regent in the Batlokoa nation. Queen Mamohlahlwe was greatly assisted by her late husband’s siblings, namely Kganye son of Thekiso and Motonosi son of Makoro. These chiefs assisted very well in the chieftainship of Batlokoa till Queen Mamohlahlwe gave way to his son Lebaka who then became the paramount king

Queen Manthatisi wife of Chief Mokotjo:

Queen Mantatisi during 1781–1836 was one of the best known, and most feared, women military and political leaders of the early 19th century. In the years of the wars related to Zulu expansion and the southern African slave trade, often referred to as the Mfecane or Difaqane, the Tlokoa nation were first known in English as the Mantatees, after Manthatisi’s name, in the literature of exploration, missions and empire.

Manthatisi, the daughter of Chief Mothaba of the Basia people who were a sibling nation of Batlokoa, in what later became the Harrismith district of the Free State province of South Africa, was a tall and very attractive woman. She married Mokotjo, the chief of the neighboring Batlokoa, in a typical dynastic alliance, and is said to have borne him four sons. Mokotjo died while the heir, Sekonyela, was still too young to assume the chieftaincy, so Manthatisi acted as regent for Sekonyela.

After Mokotjo’s death, Batlokoa ba Mokotleng faced military encroachments by the amaHlubi people who were fleeing their homes in neighboring Natal. Made refugees themselves, Manthatisi who was then a Regent for her son Sekonyela commanded the Tlokoa nation into the Caledon valley, driving out other Sotho communities living there. Her troops seized the crops and cattle of the people they attacked, leaving a trail of destruction and devastation.

Her reign of military conquest extended as far as central modern day Botswana. At the height of her military and political power, her army was estimated to contain forty thousand fighters. However, she eventually suffered a series of defeats beginning in Bechuanaland (today known as Botswana) in January 1823. Peter Becker describes the developments during this period when he states that:

“Meanwhile Mmanthatisi was approaching with forty thousand men, women and children. It was January 1823, the time of the year crops were ripening and food was usually adequate. But the Wild Cat People were forced to live frugally, for so great had been the chaos brought about by lifaqane in general and the plundering of Mmanthatisi, Mpangazita and Matiwane in particular that whole tribes had disappeared from their settlements even before they had tilled their fields in preparation for planting. Indeed, the Central Plateau swarmed with hunger-stricken stragglers and tiny, detached parties of bandits. Apart from roots, bulbs and berries, there was little food to be found in the veld, certainly not enough to feed a group of people as large as that of Mmanthatisi.”

Nonetheless, the most prosperous of the Bechuana chiefs, Makaba of the Bangwaketsi, made a strong decision not to surrender to Mmanthatisi without a fierce fight. The same above-mentioned author, Peter Becker, continues by saying that:

“Meanwhile, the old Chief had decided not to surrender to Mmanthatisi without a fight. He called up all available warriors, blocked every pass leading to his capital, and with the guile for which he was famous, prepared traps into which he planned to lead his aggressors.

“Since her fight from the Harrismith district Mmanthatisi had managed to remove all opposition in the territories she traversed, but now in the stifling bushveld of Bechuanaland she was to come face to face with an enemy whose fighting forces were as numerous as, and also better fed than, those of Mmanthatisi. The vanguard of Mmanthatisi’s army strode into ambuscades; large groups of men topped headlong into concealed pitfalls and met their death beneath volleys of barbed javelins. A battle broke out, in the course of which hundreds of the invaders were massacred. Before the situation could develop into a rout Mmanthatisi suddenly disengaged her armies and retreated with her people to the east. Because of this, Makaba became the first Sotho chief to defeat and  repulse the formidable Wild Cat Army, and to this day he is spoken of as the ‘Man of Conquest.'”

Because Of Manthatisi’s notoriety, all Sotho-Tswana raiders became known as “boo-Mmanthatisi”, or “Mantatee Horde” by the English. Known also as the “Destroyer of Nations”, she was only stopped from entering the Cape Colony by British Forces near Aliwal North. Eventually Manthatisi settled her people on the Marabeng Mountains.

Although she was looked at as an evil woman by some contemporary Europeans, she was a strong, capable and popular leader, both in war and peace. Her popularity is clearly indicated by the fact that instead of her people being known as Tlokoa, they became known as ‘Manthatisi’. Unlike other chiefs who fell victim to the Difaqane wars, she successfully kept her people together in the midst of frequent raids by Nguni groups to the south.

After Mmanthatisi’s son Sekonyela reached maturity he took control of the baTlokoa social structures and military.

Chief Sekonyela:

Chief Sekonyela was born in 1804 near Harrismith next to the Wilge River. When Chief Sekonyela was still a minor, with his mother, Mmathatisi, acting as regency, she sent him away from the Tlokoa to protect him from political rivals. He rejoined the Tlokoa tribe in during 1824, after his mother had led the Batlokoa during the early Difaqane wars. Amidst the social and political chaos which gripped the present Free State and Lesotho regions, Sekonyela continued to build the Tlokoa into a major military power. By the time the worst phase of the wars ended in the early 1830s he settled on the naturally fortified mountains near the Caledon River.

Chief Sekonyela’s major rival for control of northern Lesotho was Moshoeshoe, the founder of the Sotho kingdom. For twenty years the two rivals raided each other and competed for adherents from among the many refugee bands in the region. Moshoeshoe – much the better diplomatist-gradually outstripped Sekonyela in numbers of supporters. In November, 1853 Moshoeshoe attacked and defeated Batlokoa ba Mokotleng and Sekonyela fled to Winburg. After this defeat the people under Sekonyela disintegrated, some went to Lesotho where they were absorbed into Moshoeshoe’s state, others to Eastern Cape with a substation portion fleeing north to present Tshwane region in Gauteng.

Sekonyela later obtained land in the Herschel district of the Eastern Cape where he died in 1856.

Chief Sekonyela’s downfall is commonly attributed to his personal defects and to the love of war by which he alienated his neighbours, and to the rough treatment by which he alienated his own people, Conversely, Moshoeshoe’s rise to power is commonly attributed to his love of peace and to his benevolence. Basically Sekonyela was not able to become successful as much as Moshoeshoe, because, after 1829, he was poorer than Moshoeshoe. The Tlokoa people had to kill and consume many of their cattle during the early years of the difaqane, and it seems that they never fully recovered their former prosperity. Moreover, they suffered further and heavy losses in the war with the Korana and their allies in the early 1840s. Sekonyela, therefore, was not in a position to attract and blind thousands of followers to himself by sustaining them. Hence, to a large extent, his raids on his neighbours’ herds, and his unpopularity among his own people. Moshoeshoe, however, retained most of his cattle during difaqane, and in 1829 conducted two richly rewarding raids against the Thembu. Thereafter his wealth far surpassed that of Sekonyela, and it was mainly because of this that he was able to attract and hold so many followers. The territorial expansion of the Sotho naturally brought them into conflict with the Tlokoa, and in 1853, after the British had indicated that they were not prepared to interfere in this dispute, Sekonyela was overwhelmed by Moshoeshoe’s superior forces.

Where to find Batlokoa?

The Batlokoa clans reside in Botswana, Lesotho & South Africa; however, it is not known how many baTlokoa are there as a specific census has not been done.

In South Africa:

In South Africa, the Batlokoa are found in significant numbers in the six of the mainland provinces, namely North West, Gauteng, Limpopo and the Free State, Kwazulu-Natal and Eastern Cape.

In the North West the Batlokoa settled in the region called Tlôkwe near the Potchefstroom, We also do find Batlokoa at Molatedi Village (Chief Matlapeng, Letlhakeng-Montsana Village (Chief Sedumedi), Tlokweng Village (Chief Motsatsi). They are part of the Setswana language grouping portion of the Sotho–Tswana. They arrived in the area around 1820’s and are not part of the Batlokoa who had been led by Chief Sekonyela, as they arrived there at an earlier period. There is also scattering of the Batlokoa found all over the North-West.

In the Limpopo province, they are found in a place called boTlôkwa, north of Polokwane. Here Batlokoa are part of the North-Sotho language grouping. They arrived in the region after separating from the Batlokoa who had fled to the Tshwane region after the defeat of Sekonyela by Moshoeshoe. The main Tlokoa clan in the area is the Batlooa Ba Ha Machaka and Ramokgopa. The two had separated in a quarrel for chieftaincy, with Ramokgopa ultimately residing in the eastern regions called Mokomene, in Limpopo. Another grouping under Chief Manthata was moved to Mohodi next to Senwabarwana in 1977 also as a result of chieftaincy quarrels with Batlokoa ba Mphakane under Chief Machaka.

These areas produced important people such as:

  • Collins Ramusi
  • Tumelo Mokoena
  • Hugh Masekela
  • Gwen Ramokgopa
  • Kgosiyentsho Ramokgopa
  • Matome Zakea Seima, a writer, publisher and lawyer
  • Kgalamadi Ramusi
  • Babsy Selela
  • Mamphela Ramphele, Lehotlo Moshokoa,Caiphus Semenya

In the Sesotho language, Batlokoa are mainly found in the Eastern Free State region which is their area of jurisdiction with five distinct Batlokoa branches in the area, namely

  • Batlokoa ba Mokgalong (Tsotetsi)
  • Batlokoa ba Mota
  • Batlokoa ba Morakadu
  • Batlokoa ba Makalakeng
  • Batlokoa ba Nasatse Patso
  • Batlokoa ba Lehana
  • Batlokoa ba Masene

The above-mentioned branches of Batlokoa still share similar cultural and linguistic elements in their respective areas. Batlokoa ba Mokgalong also known as Batlokoa ba Tsotetsi trace their descendency to Modungwane who was popularly known as Molefe who is the father of all the branches of Batlokoa. Batlokoa ba Mokgalong are recognised under the Free State House of Traditional Leaders, and are still struggling to acquire back their land which was stolen by the colonialists under the then Black Administration Act, to be latter returned in 1991, with the recognition of Paramount Chief Lebaka David Tsotetsi. After the death of Chief Lebaka, his son Nkgahle Bert Tsotetsi took over, and mysteriously became recognised as a Senior Traditional Leader instead of his initial status of a Paramount Chief, in what seemed to be a political cover-up of the senior house of the Batlokoa nation.

In Kwazulu-Natal, Batlokoa are found in the Nqutu Municipal Area in a place called Maseseng, Mokgalong; which is named after Chief Lesesa who settled there in the late 1800s after the British requested assistance in the form of warriors from King Leteka of the Batlokoa ba Mokgalong.  Leteka in response sent through his junior brother, Prince Lesesa, with his warriors, who joined the Batlokoa ba Mota who had already settled in the Nqutu area with the Hlubi’s, and together they succeeded in winning the battle and subsequently capturing King. Cetshwayo of the Zulu’s. In return, the British signed a treaty with Batlokoa to reside in the area, however as it was custom for the senior house to rule, Lesesa was supposed to be the leader of Batlokoa in the area, however, he made an agreement with Mota to let him rule, as they had already been there before him and his people. Lesesa also played a pivotal role in the struggle to acquire land back from the colonialists, and in 1905 he was joined by Josiah Tshangana Gumede around 1867-1946 and King Moloi of the Makgolokwe Tribe, who went to England in order to deliver a petition to the British Government, in order to try to acquire the land back that was taken away from them before the Anglo Boer War.

In the Eastern Cape, Batlokoa are found in the Herschel and Mount Fletcher area under Chief Kakudi and Lehana respectively.

In Lesotho:

In Lesotho, Batlokoa are one of the three main Sotho-Tswana clans who speak Sesotho. Their current Leader being Chief Ntjaqetho Sekonyela of Tlokoeng Mokhotlong District.

In Botswana:

Batlokoa arrived in Botswana in 1887, settling in Moshwaneng on the Notwane River, after being led by Kgosinkwe Gaborone from the Tshwane area in South Africa following the split with another Tlokoa clan that went to settle in Batlokoa north of Polokwane-Pietersburg. The land they settled in was given to them by Chief Sechele after they acknowledged the overlordship of the Bakwena. The capital of Botswana Gaborone is named after Kgosinkwe Gaborone.

Batlokoa in Botswana are unique from the other Tlokoa clans in that their totem is the thakadu (ant-bear). This totem was chosen after Batlokoa were in the wilderness and became thirsty and hungry. They found a catch of the water from the many holes dug by thakadu. Batlokoa started drinking from such holes and since then they decided that nobody should harm the ant bear and it must be protected at all costs from that day it became their totem.                                                              Ant bear as a totem

During this time in the wilderness, Mmakgosi was expecting and after drinking water from one of the dugout holes, she gave birth to a son who was named Marakadu. He said that Marakadu was named after the thakadu – the saviour, adding that since then Batlokoa agreed to change their totem from nkoe to thakadu and that is how they became dithakadu as they are known today. Marakadu gave birth to a son called Mosima, a hole dug by thakadu from which they obtained water. Mosima fathered a son called Motlhabane – who fathered Mokgwa – a savanna shrub under which Mmakgosi delivered. Mokgwa then fathered Taukobong. The name was chosen because there were no blankets and they opted for animal skins to keep warm. According to Kgosintwa, Taukobong had three sons from different wives named Makaba, Molefe, and Tshekiso. He said that this was the time when Batlokoa were at Itlholanoga – the snake eye, near Rustenburg. While Makaba died without children, however he had engaged a woman called Nkae and to keep the royal lineage growing, Molefe from the second wife was called in to father children for Nkae. Molefe then bore three sons in the house of Makaba, namely Bogatsu, Phiri and Semele. Traditionally, the children were not his but his elder brothers Makaba. Molefe became the regent chief because Taukobong died while they were still young. However, when they had matured, Phiri suggested to his brother Bogatsu that they should take over the chieftainship from Molefe, this created tension between the two with Phiri constantly plotting to kill Molefe. He said that sensing danger, Bogatsu then instructed Molefe to choose two of his favourite wards and ran away. In his determination to kill Molefe, he said, Phiri pursued and attacked Molefe but it was Phiri who was defeated and killed. Molefe did not return to Itlholanoga but continued with the journey until they arrived in Botswana where they asked for land to settle on from Kgosi Sechele of the Bakwena.

Batlokoa Culture:

Batlokoa share similar customs and tradition as other Sotho-Tswana clans. Depending on the area which they live and the language they speak, normally one of the three languages being Setswana, Sesotho or Northern Sotho. Sesotho, Northern Sotho and Setswana are largely mutually intelligible. Like most Sotho-Tswana society, Batlokoa are adapting to a rapidly urbanising population and culture. In rural areas, traditional culture remains an important force in daily life. Customary law still plays a vital role, and their unique culture of marrying their paternal cousins. In each region’s urban areas, which are cosmopolitan, multi-racial and multi-cultural, western cultural norms are predominant.

More is still coming!!!