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Royal Bafokeng Nation (South Africa)

North West Province

Last modified: 2020-01-04 by bruce berry
Keywords: bafokeng | crocodile |
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Image by Valentin Poposki, 09 Sept 2019 See also:


The Royal Bafokeng Nation is the ethnic homeland of the Bafokeng people, a Setswana-speaking traditional community. The Royal Bafokeng occupy an area of some 2 000 km2 in the North West Province of South Africa, approximately 200 km west of Pretoria adjacent to the world renowned Sun City resort. The Royal Bafokeng rose to some prominence during the 1980s when they demanded compensation and royalties from mining companies who were mining platinum in the area.  The world's largest platinum reserves are to be found here and the agreement reached between the mining companies and the Royal Bafokeng Administration has resulted in the Bafokeng receiving  considerable amounts in compensation payments and annual royalties.  The term "Bafokeng" refers to both the tribal grouping as well as the land its members inhabit.
Bruce Berry, 13 Mar 2003

The Royal Bafokeng is a Tswana-speaking tribe. The "Royal" seems to me to be a means of emphasising that they have a king - the tribe's name is actually Fokeng or Bafokeng (a member of the tribe would be called a Mofokeng).  The emphasis on the king, or paramount chief, puzzles me, since most or all the Bantu-speaking tribes have paramounts, and since 1994 all those paramounts have been styled "king".  The king's residence is at a place called Phokeng (also the main settlement of the tribe). That's not "Fokeng" spelt differently. In Setswana, PH stands for a P with aspiration. I'm not quite sure how the two words are connected.

The Batswana are inclined to build large traditional "villages" that sprawl across the countryside like towns or cities, in contrast with the villages of the abeNguni (Zulu, Xhosa and others) who build small villages, originally comprising a single household of a man (with his own hut) and his several wives (each with their own hut) and their children and cattle (the cattle kraal being central to the settlement).  The Afrikaans word for such a Tswana "city" is "stat", spelt differently from the Afrikaans for "city" (a settlement in the Western image), which is "stad".
Mike Oettle, 13 Mar 2003

Royal Bafokeng flag

According to the Kgosi's Facebook page, the Royal Bafokeng Nation recently changed its flag and emblem.  The basic design of the flag remains the same as its predecessor, but the order of the stripes is now green, beige/yellow and light blue with the Royal Bafokeng emblem in the centre.  The South African national flag is also no longer displayed on the bottom stripe.
Valentin Poposki, 09 Sept 2019

[Royal Bafokeng flag] image by Jarig Bakker, 13 Mar 2003

The present Kgosi (Setswana for King) is Leruo Molotlegi, the 36th recorded Bafokeng king.  His father,  Lebone Molotlegi II (on the throne between 1996 and 1999) was the designer of the original flag of the Royal Bafokeng Administration, the traditional authority responsible for administration in the area.  The flag was designed in 1995 and comprises three horizontal stripes of light green, light blue and beige, with the Bafokeng logo in the centre.  The green symbolizes the algae found in the water in the area and is a reference to the everlasting nature of the Bafokeng kingship. The blue symbolizes water and the source of life for the community while the beige represents the sand found in the rivers.  For the Bafokeng, algae represents a blanket and the sand, a mattress.  Below the logo, in the center of the beige stripe is a South Africa flag. This symbolised that the Bafokeng recognise that although they are distinctive, they are nevertheless an integral part of South Africa.
Bruce Berry, 13 Mar 2003

Royal Bafokeng emblem

Image sent by Valentin Poposki, 09 Sept 2019

Most Setswana tribes, like other South African tribes, have an animal that symbolises the nation. The crocodile is the genealogical totem of the Basotho-Batswana people, who include the Bafokeng, and hence the Royal Bafokeng Nation. Thus the crocodile is an element in the Royal Bafokeng's emblem and flag.  In the flag, the crocodile is moving towards water, which the Bafokeng people believe to be a sign of contentment. The crocodile is depicted by other Basotho-Batswana groups with its mouth open whereas the Bafokeng depicted their crocodile with its mouth closed.

The new emblem of the Royal Bafokeng features a traditional shield with two crocodiles as supporters above the motto "A e wele Metsing", which literally translated means "Let there be peace".
Valentin Poposki, 09 Sept 2019 and Bruce Berry, 13 Mar 2003

 [Royal Bafokeng emblem] image from this website, reported by Dov Gutterman, 13 Mar 2003

The logo of the Bafokeng is a modern representation of the Bafokeng totem, the crocodile, hence the symbolism of water in the flag as a whole.  The crocodile of peace has long been the recognized totem of the Bafokeng people.  A statue at the royal residence at Legato depicts the crocodile of peace and, having a short tail and only two legs, is representative of a human being.  The short tail, and closed mouth, also emphasizes non-aggression as the Bafokeng people believe that a long tail would imply aggressiveness.  The posture of the crocodile denotes movement towards water, which the Bafokeng believe to be a sign of contentment. 

Behind the logo are a crossed pick and shovel, which refer to the common economic activities in the area, namely mining and agriculture. 
(Source: My paper presented at the XIX ICV in York in July 2001 entitled "Royal Standards in Southern Africa" which can be found here.    
Bruce Berry, 13 Mar 2003