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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Tswana concepts of custom and law
Author:Schapera, I.ISNI
Periodical:Journal of African Law
Geographic term:Botswana
customary law
Abstract:When discussing rules or modes of conduct, Tswana generally referred to them collectively as mekgwa lemelao (plural forms respectively of mokgwa and molao; le- is a conjunctive formative). In the standard Tswana dictionary, mokgwa is defined as 'a custom, a habit, a peculiarity', and molao as 'a law'; and when used together in a single phrase they were usually translated 'custom(s) and law(s)' or, since the word order was flexible, 'Law(s) and custom(s)'. In several recent publications, Comaroff and Roberts say that the 'conventionally used' translation of mekgwa lemelao as 'customs and laws' is 'unfortunate' and 'misleading'. They contend that mekgwa lemelao are an 'undifferentiated normative repertoire' and 'a somewhat amorphous repertoire'. The present author shows in this paper that, on the contrary, mekgwa and melao were clearly distinguished, even if not always absolutely separated, in meaning, content, origin, and treatment when violated; and within each category there were at least some well-defined divisions (such as moila among mekgwa, and, among melao, the kinds of wrongdoing listed in this paper). - Notes.