Who Was Breutz?

During a career spanning five decades, Paul-Lenert Emil Breutz (1912-99) compiled the largest set of oral histories of Batswana collecting oral traditions from more than 100 Setswana-speaking communities located across present-day South Africa and Botswana.

Between 1953 and 1968 much of the information he gathered was published in eight paperbacks, known as the Tswana ‘tribes’ series. Unfortunately, all of these volumes are currently out of print.

His immense effort resulted in additional publications culminating in his 1989 self-published compendium, “A history of the Batswana and origin of Bophuthatswana: a handbook of a survey of the tribes of the Batswana, S. Ndebele, QwaQwa, and Botswana.” While Breutz’s various works have served as a gold mine for many scholars, his legacy has been relatively neglected. His obscurity is undoubtedly due in part to his upbringing as a Nazi social scientist and subsequent status as a state ethnologist working for the Apartheid regime. Notwithstanding this baggage his accounts endure as invaluable evidence for reconstructing early Setswana society. In the words of Jan Boeyens and Fred Morton: “Though Breutz’s mind was skewed by racism, his craft of recording the past was systematic, based on knowledgeable informants he interviewed and guided by the ethnological and language tradition of his doctoral studies at the Hamburg School.

Editor's Comment
Gov’t, Balete should bury the hatchet

The acrimony that seemingly characterised the relationship between the Malete Land Board on behalf of the Botswana government and Kgosi Mosadi Seboko and the tribe, should now be water under the bridge as the tribe has finally gotten what it has been fighting for - the land.Kgosi Mosadi has articulated an instance upon which she was allegedly summoned to the State House by the Head of State, Mokgweetsi Masisi where the former claimed she was...

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