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Southern Sotho

The Southern Sotho peoples are a diverse group that includes almost 2 million South Africans, many of whom live in the area surrounding Lesotho, and 1.6 million residents of Lesotho. The Southern Sotho were unified during the reign of King Moshoeshoe I in the 1830s. Moshoeshoe established control over several small groups of Sotho speakers and Nguni speakers, who had been displaced by the mfecane. Some of these communities had established ties to San peoples who lived just west of Moshoeshoe's territory. As a result, Southern Sotho speech, unlike that of Northern Sotho, incorporates a number of "click" sounds associated with Khoisan languages.

Bantustan - Qwaqwa

Southern Sotho peoples were assigned to the tiny homeland of QwaQwa, which borders Lesotho, during the apartheid era. QwaQwa, a bantustan that comprised two entirely geographically separate areas that were essentially grossly overcrowded rural slums. QwaQwa came into being ‘after the creation of a Territorial Authority for Basotho BaBorwa (as QwaQwa then was) in 1969, and was meant to be the ethnic “homeland”ť for South African South Sotho.

QwaQwa was a bantustan (“homeland”) in the central eastern part of South Africa. It encompassed a very small region of 655 square kilometers (253 sq mi) in the east of the former South African province of Oranje Free State, bordering Lesotho. Its capital was Phuthaditjhaba. It was the designated homeland of more than 180,000 Sesotho-speaking Basotho people.

The name Qwaqwa means "whiter than white". Some say the frequent snow on the Drakensberg mountain peaks led the San to call the region Qwa-Qwa (whiter than white). Others say it refers to the white sandstone cliffs in the area. The area is situated in the Drakensberg mountains and used to be known as "Witsieshoek" (White corner - an easy translation), after the farm that was originally situated there. Looking at the area from a distance, these white rock formations stick out, and there are many of them, each rock formation is a "wit", and plenty of them would be "witsies". Furthermore the area is situated in a corner between Freestate, KwaZulu - Natal and Lesotho (So the complete translation would sound something like the following: White boulders of various size sticking out of the surface in this corner of the country). Qwaqwa was therefore more than just whiter than white, it also refers to the multitude of these rock formations.

The South Sotho people are also refered to as Basotho, and the capital of the homeland was called Phuthaditjhaba. The area is situated at heights of between 1,600m and over 3,000m. Originally there were two tribes of South Sotho people settled there (late 1870's), the Kwena and the Tlokwa tribes, although they lived separate the Kwena were allowed to rule the Tlokwa.

In 1969 the area was combined into a single territory, and called KwaKwa (until it was realised that this spelling would make them part of a West African sub-group), later that year it was changed to Qwaqwa. On 01 November 1974 QwaQwa was granted “self government”, with Kenneth Mopelii as Chief Minister. Mopeli served as Chief Minister throughout QwaQwa’s existence.

QwaQwa was declared "self-governing" in 1974, but Chief Minister Kenneth Mopeli rejected independence on the grounds that the homeland did not have a viable economy. Only about 200,000 Sotho people lived in QwaQwa during the 1980s.

Most of the country's registered physicians (most of whom were general practitioners) lived and practiced in urban areas. This pattern was the result of a progressive gravitation to cities and large towns since 1948. Some of the homelands' medical staffs showed even greater anomalies. QwaQwa, for example, had only two doctors.

A community of more than 300,000 people, Botshabelo, was incorporated into QwaQwa in 1987. Officials in the homeland capital, Phuthaditjhaba, and many homeland residents objected to the move, and the South African Supreme Court returned Botshabelo to the jurisdiction of the Orange Free State a short time later.

The homeland continued to be an overcrowded enclave of people with an inadequate economic base until the homelands were dissolved in 1994. After 27 April 1994 QwaQwa was reunited with South Africa, together with the nine other homelands. It is now part of the Free state province, with Phuthaditjhaba serving as the seat of Maluti a Phofung Local Municipality.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2016 20:18:08 ZULU