Original Research

The rise of a raiding state: Makaba II’s Ngwaketse, c. 1780-1824

Fred Morton
New Contree | Vol 71 | a191 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/nc.v71i0.191 | © 2023 Fred Morton | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 February 2023 | Published: 30 December 2014

About the author(s)

Fred Morton, Department of History, University of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana

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Though long acknowledged for their military prowess under Makaba II (ruled c. 1780-1824), the emergence of the Ngwaketse among the southern Tswana in the pre-difaqane era has not been sufficiently accounted for, and its significance to regional developments has gone unrecognised and unexplained. Argued here is that the Ngwaketse embarked on territorial domination of southern Botswana during the reign of Moleta (ruled c. 1750 – c. 1780), when they subordinated previous inhabitants, introduced military training as part of initiation, and reached their apogee as a territorial entity prior to Makaba’s reign. The area that the Ngwaketse colonised (Gangwaketse) in Moleta’s time became during the reign of his son Makaba II a base for frequent stock raids among their neighbours and for building a formidable regional state. Their success was derived to an important degree from their use of the hilly terrain in northeastern Gangwaketse suited for stone-wall stock posts secure from their enemies. The Ngwaketse built their military might, in other words, by adapting to the landscape they colonised and shaping each of their settlements to varied local resources. Research is based on a correlation of oral histories, settlement locations, initiation and totemic lists, topographical and Google earth surveys, and field surveys and site mapping in parts of northeastern Gangwaketse and the Kanye area.


Schapera; Ngcongco; Ngwaketse; Moleta; Makaba II; Legassick; Seoke; Pitsa; Kanye; Mephato; Landscape; Stonewall settlements; Stock raiding; Kwena; Kgwatlheng; Tlhaping; Rolong; Hurutshe; Kgatla Mmanaana; Kololo; Moffat


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