Prior to independence, Botswana was called Bechuanaland Protectorate. The protectorate status was extended by the British Government on 31 March 1885 following requests made by BatswanaDikgosi (chiefs), Khama III of Bangwato, Sebele I of Bakwena, and Bathoen I of Bangwaketse. The three (3) Dikgosi feared invasion of their territories by other groups such as the Shona, the Ndebele and the Boers. Initially, most Batswana Dikgosi, except the three Dikgosi, were suspicious of and resisted British protection. The Dikgosi eventually agreed but cautioned that protection should not entail British rule, but protection against external threat.
During the time of Bechuanaland Protectorate, various attempts were made to incorporate the territory into Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and the Union of South Africa (now South Africa). However, due to fierce opposition from Batswana Dikgosi, some British missionaries, and later, the nationalist leaders, such attempts were defeated.
Emergence of Political Parties
The first political party in Botswana was the Bechuanaland Protectorate Federal Party, formed in 1959. It was led by Leetile Disang Raditladi. The party was short-lived and some of its prominent members such as Philip Matante, Prof. Kgalemang T. Motsete and Motsamai Mpho subsequently formed the Bechuanaland People’s Party (BPP), under the leadership of K. T. Motsete.
In 1961, the Bechuanaland Democratic Party (BDP) was formed under the leadership of Sir Seretse Khama.
During 1963 and 1964, a series of constitutional discussions about self-government and a founding constitution took place. These talks were motivated in part by the desire to prevent the incorporation of Bechuanaland into the Union of South Africa.
In June 1964, Britain accepted proposals for democratic self-government in Botswana. In 1965, the seat of Government was moved from Mafikeng, South Africa, to newly established Gaborone. That same year, 1965, Motsamai Mpho left the BPP to form the Botswana Independence Party (BIP).
The first general elections were held in March 1965. The result was a landslide victory by the BDP, which won 28 of the 31 contested seats. The remaining three (3) seats were won by the BPP-Matante faction, while the BIP lost completely. Shortly after the 1965 elections, in an atempt to unite the opposition, another party, the Botswana National Front (BNF) was formed. On the 30 September 1966, an independent country was born, the Republic of Botswana, under the Presidency of Sir Seretse Khama. He led the country until his death in 1980. He was succeeded by the then Vice President, Sir Ketumile Masire, who retired from office in 1998. The then Vice President, Mr. Festus Mogae, assumed the Presidency and retired in 2008. The current President, Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, the then Vice President and son of the founding President, became the President.