A Personal Musing on Basotho Clans

Although Lesotho is a one tribe nation, Basotho are divided into several clans. Each clan has an animal totem that not only guides it but in many respects defines the qualities/characters of members of that clan. Understanding these clans allows not only to celebrate the diversity of the nation and its individuals but provides a basis of respecting people for who they are and how they can contribute in the community.

In my previous posting, I made a reference to the Batlokoa clan, so I will start my discussion with them and then will proceed to discuss a few others.

Batlokoa

Batlokoa venerate the wild cat. As I was once told, Batlokoa unlike any other clan reflect so much the animal they venerate. If they are geared for an attack there is no stopping them! They would for example not hesitate to knock down a wall if at all they feel using the door might delay them.

They are also very cheeky (or at least that is what I have been told). It is said Sekonyela, the chief of Batlokoa was destroyed by Moshoeshoe precisely because of this. On many occassions he used to ask Moshoeshoe who he is exactly. He would phrase his question along the lines of: ‘I am Sekonyela son of Mokotjo, who are you? The Bamokoteli in the Bakoena clan are minors, your own father is a twin and at that the youngest! Why should I really bow down to you?’

For the record, although some thought Sekonyela was contemptuous he had a valid point; but this shall be explained shortly under the Bafokeng. The point is Batlokoa are fearless, ruthless and once they have decided you are not worthy of their respect embrace yourself for a good fight for that is as certain as death is to a person.

Bataung

I am a Motaung (see my about page) so expect a slight bias! The Bataung or rather the lions and lionesses are very gracefully by the mere fact of knowing that they are the true kings and queens of the jungle. As far as history is concerned, no great war that Moshoeshoe fought was without the Bataung in the lead. Although I cannot think of a book that can be used as a reference, I assure all that on many occasions Moshoeshoe had to wait for the Bataung men under chief Moletsane before attacking. This is because Bataung are not just good wariors they are excellent military strategists as well.

As a side note, in this year’ Grahamstown Arts Festival one of the best known Mosotho composer, J.P. Mohapeloa was honoured and guess what clan he is from? Well that can’t be a difficult guess so I shan’t answer! But I shall say he is also the man attributed with the follwing words of praise to Lesotho:

‘Sotho la rona, la Moshoeshoe
Le bopiloe ke eena
Ka merabe ea lichaba
Lesotho le letle’.

Bafokeng

Ke antse tsoeleng la phokeng (I was breastfeed by a Mofokeng). Again, excuse the bias if any! Bafokeng are the intellectuals. Like the rabbit, the animal they venerate, Bafokeng are clever and can outsmart you anytime. Bafokeng are also known as fun-loving. This perhaps explains why they gave power to Moshoeshoe with ease. I say they gave their power away because according to the hierarchy of the clans they are at the top and protocol was if any high ranking chief came to your land the reigning chief steps down for that chief. However, Makara chief of the Bafokeng when he went into Moshoeshoe’s land he simply said ‘I understand you dream of being a great chief and I have brought you my people’. (I am being simplistic about it but I thought I should spare you all the details.)

This protocol was the one that Sekonyela wanted Moshoeshoe to observe. However, because Bafokeng in some sense relinguished their power to Moshoeshoe, the interpretation was that Moshoeshoe was a proxy for them. As such, he was holding power for a clan that ranked higher than the Batlokoa.

As a side note, Moshoeshoe was a nephew to the Bafokeng. His maternal uncle Makakane (not sure about his name so I stand to be corrected) played a pivotal role in the transfer of powers. I haven’t really found text to support this but understanding the role of malome (maternal uncle) in Basotho traditions, I have no doubt that the uncle played a pivotal role :D. Another side note, Moshoeshoe ensured that his most senior wives came from the Bafokeng clan so I believe this helped to legitimise his powers. This is based on my believe that behind every great man is a smart woman. ‘Mosali o ts’oara thipa ka bohaleng’.

Bakuena

Bakuena venerate the crocodile. They are generally regarded to make best business men and politicians. Anybody understanding the link between these two professions indeed should understand the character of Bakuena. To those who might need a hint, let me put it this way, not all deals should be taken as personal, the deals are simply made with the greater good in mind! Moshoeshoe the founder of the Basotho nation was a Mokuena. When I do get around to writing all I know about him please just bear this in mind.

Basia

Basia venerate the cat. They are proud, confident and although tame, they are not easily subdued. If you have ever heard of the expression: “you don’t own a cat; a cat owns you!” then you can possibly understand why Basia are not subdued. Another thing about Basia is that they can be self centered. I suppose the tendency to put SELF first might also have to do with the fact that they own and are not owned.

Bats’oeneng

The animal totem for the Bats’oeneng is the monkey. One word comes to mind when it comes to the description of the Bats’oeneng and this is “masene” – ingenious. Sometimes their ingenious is as defined by the expression: “monkey see, monkey do” ! This being the case, one has to remember that looks can be deceiving. Furthermore, that the ability to act doesn’t mean the “action” has been thought through!

Makholokoe

Makholokoe are amiable and good-natured people. They venerate the domestic fowl (aka chicken). If you like, you may interpret their cautious behaviour as chicken-like but this doesn’t mean they can’t defend themselves: for they can! They simply may not be able to do so with the finesse of good warriors.

Other Clans

As suggested before, there are many other clans with their own defining qualities, for example, we have Matebele who are good fighters and medicine men. We also have clans such as: Bahlakoana, Batloung, Baphuthi, Barolong, Bakubung, etc





Occasionally, I aim to please: so I have finally decided to create a wiki of sort that includes a limited listing of praise songs of Basotho clans. If you can't see the wiki, you can also click here to access it.

To all who inspired the creation of this wiki, thank you so much for taking time to interact. I realise at some point I lost the courtesy to even acknowledge your comment postings. I apologise and hope at the very least you find your answers in the wiki, which is and will continue to be work in progress.

Likhomo!

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46 thoughts on “A Personal Musing on Basotho Clans

  1. Fro the fact I know that I am a Msotho Molefe is my surname.
    I need to know what is the way of prise them self (Ho ethoka)

    As I was told by my uncles that I am Mosotho.
    Plz if ther is somebody out there who need to help me with the way the Batlokoam prise them selfs plz do so.

    all I know the batlokoa unlike any other clan they reflect so much the animals they venerate.

    We (Batlokoa) are also very cheeky.
    Or please reffer me to book or anything that can help me

    Regards
    Thami Molefe

  2. I am a Cape Town born Msotho, I started learning about being a Sotho when I went to initiation school & damn it was tough but managed to know my dithoko & songs I belong to the Bafokeng clan & will do my upmost best to learn more about Bafokeng, … oa Mahase,o a hasa Rampawane, a hasa dikgomo,a hasa dinku,a hasa batho,Mohoana Phoekeng!

    • As you embark on your learning, remember not to take the words in your praise song for granted! Each word though poetic is meant to tell “thee” story of your own family. For example, my mother is “Mofokeng oa maotoana a finyela …”. She is the descendent of the same Makara who gave the leadership of the Bafokeng to Bakuena. “Maotoana a finyela” (disappearance of the footprints) in fact captures at very high level this story. Makara and his people created an illusion that they had crossed a river whilst they hadn’t! They left single direction footprints on the river bank, which means they walked and backtracked together with their cows … how genious is that? I am not going to finish the story but my point is: engage with the words and find out why and how the son of Mahase, scattered the cows, the sheep and the people of …!

    • helabo ngoaneso ke mosotho oa mafeteng lesotho seboko sa ka ke mofokeng kaekae hothoe oa ‘mamaotoana finyela surname ea ka ke Rapitse thusa ka seboko seo sa bafokeng ke lakatsa hose ruta bana ba ka hle mofokeng!

  3. Hi

    I’m Mosotho, ka seboko ke Mofokeng wa ha Tsele wa lekotoane.
    Could some one please tell me more about lithoko tsa Bafokeng ba Tsele?

    Kind regards

    Reitumetse

  4. i am a mosotho,currently studing fine art at nmmu in port elizabeth. though my mother is a motswana,it just so happened that my parents carry the same clan name, that being ke mokoena. being raised in a semi-western culture i am finding it difficult to design a totem pole that will send a message that i stay true to my roots,but not to neglect how i have been raised. what i know is that my clan animal is a crocodile,but i would love to know more about my clan aside from the designs on our blanket that portray our staple grain and other artistic aspects of the basotho nation, that will help me design a totem that is true to me and other basothos of my generation.

    • I wish I could help with your design but I am uncertain how. Basotho are fundamentally humble people renowned for their hospitality. To many, they appear as simple souls and yet they have so much depth. An exploration on the characteristics of each clan merely begins the process of understanding the depth. So if I were to speak for our generation I would advice on a totem pole that has a degree of distortion in it. Mainly to drive the message that there is more to what the eye can see ….

  5. i also do have to add the fact that the original surname that my family carries is moremoholo,please help me out with web-sites and other sources of material that could make this journey easier for me

    • I truly wish I could assist you but the truth is that this knowledge remains in the memories of our own elders. The challenge for each one of us is to find an elder or two in our own families and engage them with the view to document the knowledge they possess.

  6. I am a Cape Town born Mosotho, I started learning about being a Sotho when I went to initiation school. But i want to know Bakuena ba nkopane

    • @ Teboho Klip
      Wena o ngoaneso hantle.

      O le bewana la kadi ea tsolo maila ho ngoatheloa, motho ea sajeng sengoatheloa a jang polokoe e felletse, asajeng motshehare a jang ha miriti e theha ho theha e meholo yadi otloana. Bare lengope le le fatiloe ke mang, le fatiloe ke Nkopane a batla seboko sa hae sa Monaheng.

      Hope that help wena Koena

  7. mofokeng wa maotwana finyela okaka dinaledi, ha reja hare madimane re madimana ntweng… Re ana phoka. Rona bana ba lemenong phokeng re ma rithitha dirope….. My surname is tswana im mogari i dnt knw y we havin a s.sotho clan n we grew up speaking s.sotho aswell

    • Hle mme Mamello obitsitse dithoko sa hae ha monate hle. Osenepile eka o Mofokeng.
      Lebao kae hle mme?

  8. I WAS BORN IN PORT ELIZABETH IN EASTERN CAPE KA SEBOKO KE MOTAUNG OA HA HLALELE,SEBATA I WAS RAISED BY MY GRANDPARENTS MY FATHERS PARENTS I KNOW WHERE THEY CAME FRM,MY GRANDFATHER WAS BORN AND RAISED IN LESOTHO MAFETENG TAUNG HA MOLETSANE THEN MOVED TO FICKSBURG,I’M PROUD OF MY CULTURE BUT MY PROBLEM IS I WENT TO FICKSBURG FEW YEARS BACK I FOUND MY RELATIVES WHEN WE CHAT I FIND THAT THEY’VE CHANGE SEBOKO SAYING THEY ARE MATEBELE MAPELE BT BADIMO BAKA THEY SAY WE ARE BATAUNG CLAN PLZ PPL GUIDE ME ON THIS

    • Sesotho can be both simple and difficult!

      This said, for me the key question becomes: balimo ba hlabetsoe na? If no ceremony has been performed to notify the ancestors you remain Motaung! After-all you should remember that in Sesotho, ngoana ke oa khomo. You may interpret this in many ways but the practicalities remain the same: when a child is born, he/she is given a name and a welcoming ritual is performed. This ritual involves slaughtering because the ancestors are also being notified of the new addition to the family so that they can protect and guide the child throughout life.

      Again, while I may not know the exact circumstances, in my mind you remain under the protection of balimo ba taung. To really get to the root of things, I think you need to consult with the elders in your family. Best of luck.

  9. Any 1 who can help me with seboko sa basia batobatse bathokoana ka malla.i like 2 knw more how they praise them self

  10. Ke kopa thuso ka seboko saka. I was born in the Free State but grew up in Gauteng. My mother is a motswana while my late father was a mosotho, which makes me a mosotho. The problem is that i was brought up by my motswana grang mother who was not interested in telling me about my backround as a mosotho since my parents divorced when i was two years old. Ke mofokeng oa maotoana finyela. Can somebody please email me the whole totem about bafokeng ba maotoana finyela.(PLS write it in sesotho)

  11. Nna, ke Refilwe and ke mosotho ka seboko ke Mofokeng wa Mamareakoma andand I’m glad I did this tonight. There’s nothing as sad as a person not knowing her roots like me. I’m really intrigued by this and will like to know more. My family is planning on throwing a get-together in December and it’s title: “Itsebe Phoka” and I want to go there knowing a lot…Ke kopa thuso hle.

    • nna ke Mofokeng wa Tshele. We rae currently trying to compile a history and totems for All Bafokengs known. Anyone with informatuion please help us.

  12. Dumelang Basotho Maapara-kobo a matle. Bathong ke mosotho wa mona Free State, Bloemfontein ka tshebetso, haeso ke toropong e bitswang Bultfontein.
    ke kopa thuso ka seboko sa Bakubung.. ho ye ho thwe…” mohlaamatsana mohloka-kodi, mo-tseba tsa babang, kubu e kaa ka ntlo ya moseme…” ke tla thaba haholo ka thuso eo e jwalo.
    Ke proud haholo ka sesotho ( puo, moaparo, botjhaba, moetlo, jj) mme ke rata hore ke tle ke rute le bana ba ka bao Modimo a tlang ho nkadima bona. Thusang hleng.

  13. Dumelang hleng batho ba heso,nna ke mofokeng wa lehoana la botlalana Afrika Borwa(Mafikeng).
    Empa ntate waka o tle a mpolle hore,re ma tshwara thebe batho ba ho tseba ho tshwara dihlomo.Joale nna nka rata ho tseba haholo ka batho bana baa bitswang mathebeng…ba fumanwa ho kae haeba
    ba sale teng lesotho?

  14. Siboko Mthimkhulu,”Mthimkhulu,Bhungane,Hadebe,Ndleb’entle zombini,nasele” look under Mahlubi – under google “isizwe samahlubi”

    Hope it will be of help

  15. i would like to know more about Makhoakhoa, I’m from the free state in south africa and family is in lesotho, now no body is there to teach us about our clan praises and our tribe

  16. Mathe, hona ke monyaka!! Ke tla khutlela qepheng lena hape. Likhomo khabane ea Moshoeshoe, pele-ea-pele ka mosebetsi ona.

  17. ke mokoena wa Ntai, i would like someone to please praise me. All i know my late father use to say” Ke Mokoena ke Ntai wamma rabeng” i cant go any further than that, if anyone knows please help me.

  18. Ntate ke goletse gare ga batswana, seboko saka sere, ke motsieng wa ga masiana moganapuso, mokatoga phoka. A seboko sa Molokele ke sa batswana kana basotho?

    • Ha ke motona, ke tauhali!

      Seboko sa hao ke sa Batswana, empa ho latela kamoo u itokang ka teng, u shebahala u amana le Bafokeng. The relation to Bafokeng, of course, is not surprising since Phokeng the home of Bafokeng is in Rustenburg — the former homeland of the Tswana people.

  19. ey Mathe my name is Lienyane do you have any idea what my name means, my granma passed away before i could ask her..any clue?

    • I wish I could be of assistance but sadly I can’t be of much help :-( All I can say is that is a taung name. You are named after one of Hlalele’s children and this means, at a minimum, you should feel very honoured ;-)

  20. Ke kopa ha thusa ngoaneso Reitumetse ka Bafokeng -ba-ha-tsele,Ba ha lekotoane batho ba ha ‘Mamullana motlatla lekoekoe ke la ba ha tsele, ha ba ke be ba etse lerata ha ba suela bana marapo a maotong le a matsohong!

  21. nna nka rata ho tseba haholo ka kamano ya ka le Bataung Ba Moletsane hobane ke hola boMahlatsi ba ithoka ka seboko seo empa ha ke fuputsa ke fumana hore Mahlatsi o tswala ho Makhoakhoa tlasa Bakoena. Na e be ho ne ho na le Mahlatsi Taung ha Mooletsane.

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