In the context of traditional (rural) Sotho and Tswana society:
1. A meeting place, especially an enclosure in a village used for villagers’ assemblies, court cases, and meetings of the village’s leaders. Cf. inkundla sense 2.
1840 B. Shaw Memorials
303Morokos Kotla had no attractions yesterday; we went and sat down in it, but we could not bear to remain.
1846 H.H. Methuen Life in Wilderness
253We..reached the cotla, or place of assembly, set apart in all native tribes for the purpose of holding public meetings.
1857 D. Livingstone Missionary Trav.
15Near the centre of each circle of huts there is a spot called a ‘kotla’, with a fireplace; here they work, eat, or sit and gossip over the news of the day.
1871 J. Mackenzie Ten Yrs N. of Orange River p.
xxiiThe proceedings at which Mackenzie made his speech were not in church but in the khotla, or public courtyard.
1878 P. Gillmore Great Thirst Land
305At eight we breakfasted, and at nine went down to the kotla to visit the young King.
1895 J. Widdicombe In Lesuto
55All trials are held in public in the open Khothla, to which every full-grown man has access.
1923 G.H. Nicholls Bayete!
98The Queen..began to enter the Lekhothla. The chiefs stared aghast at this breach of their customs...Were women to take part in their pitsos?
1930 S.T. Plaatje Mhudi (
95Unlike the rest of the crowd massed in the khotla, these three apparently had not not come from their homes.
1951 H. Davies Great S. Afr. Christians
107Khama called the tribe together, told them that he disliked but would not prohibit heathen ceremonies, but they must not be performed in the kgotla or public courtyard.
1968 A. Fulton Dark Side of Mercy
27The Chief had summoned the men of the clan to the Khotla and opened the pitso by telling those assembled that the season had been poor, the crops bad, the cattle infertile.
1984 Sunday Times
1 Apr. 21The white Lady Khama, other members of the famous Khama family and chiefs met in an immensely moving, impressive ceremony in the enclosure of the dusty Kgotla — chief’s meeting place — beneath the towering rocks of the holy hill and royal graveyard in the traditional, picturesque village of Serowe.
1990 City Press
17 June 17The next day, villagers assembled at the Kgotla to ask Lotlangtirang about the money.
2. A court of law composed usually of important people from a village or area. Cf. ibandla.
1924 E.B. Ford Waterfalls
10To-morrow shall the ‘Khotla’ try thy case..?
1934 Cape Argus
29 Jan. (Swart)A native who feels himself wrongly punished by a kgotla — a native court such as that recently was the origin of the Tshekedi trouble — may appeal.
1961 M.A. Wall Dominee & Dom-Pas
22When the Dinokana men came from the Rand in two chartered buses the following Saturday (13th April), they held an illegal kgotla in the absence of the deposed Chief, where they ‘tried’ the ‘rebels’ who had denounced the Chief’s domestic misgovernment, and condemned them to death.
1974 Sunday Express 30 June 20The accused is not allowed a defence when he appears before the makgotla, a tribal bush court.
1974 Sunday Times
27 Oct. (
2An indication of local concern with crime has been the re-emergence of the traditional legkotla, or tribal court.
c1976 H. Flather Thaba Rau
215Meriama’s father Mashale had just finished presiding over the kgotla or tribal court.
Apr. 35Speaking to villagers at Bapong, Pace discovered the strongroom has come to be accepted as the village jail, especially reserved for people who needed ‘softening’ up before they appear before the kgotla.
3. An assembly of the people of a village or area, usually for the discussion of some important matter. Cf. ibandla, imbizo, inkundla sense 1.
1950 H. Gibbs Twilight in S. Afr.
56He showed acumen by calling a kgotla (assembly) of the tribe, numbering roughly 500,000, and asking them to accept Ruth, his white wife, as their chieftainess.
1958 A. Sampson Treason Cage
46There was a slow and heavy ritual of formality, in keeping with the traditions of kgotlas, or tribal debates.
1970 P. Becker in SABC Bulletin 23 Feb. 25But the kgotla serves another significant purpose: It gives all Bantu, even the very humblest among them, the right to bring their grievances to the notice of their superiors.
1978 Daily Dispatch
24 Oct. 6Following the spate of lightning incidents, the villagers asked for a kgotla (meeting) to be held and summoned 30 traditional witchdoctors to cast their bones and find out who was responsible for the lightning.
1991 Weekend Argus
26 Jan. 8Some of the crowd that attended the ‘Battle of the Okavango’ kgotla (village gathering).
4. A council, usually one comprising a chief and the elders of his people and ruling over the people. Cf. ibandla. Also attributive.
1951 H. Davies Great S. Afr. Christians
124He had mastered the proverbial lore and vivid expressions of Sotho and he took his place as adviser in the khotla.
1957 A.A. Murray Blanket
26Phiri turned to Lepotane. ‘Come into the khotla hut,’ he said.
1961 M.A. Wall Dominee & Dom-Pas
21A complaint made against him years before, in 1952, by members of his own kgotla, was revived by the Native Affairs Department in 1956.
8 Apr. 10‘After this incident, we were not allowed to keep cattle on our land,’ says Mr. Simon Makodi, who is a khotla delegate.
1977 Weekend World 13 Mar. B1The lekgotla is responsible to the Lebowa Government for the control of unauthorised influx of people into its area and for the prevention and detection of crime.
1981 Sunday Times
14 June 3In an interview with the chief and Kgotla councillors at Saulspoort, one disillusioned councillor maintained that Sun City brought no advantages.
1987 M. Holmes in Leadership Vol.6 No.
49The inter-racial marriage was an event beyond the ken of the conservative tribal council, the kgotla. Yet by June 1949, most members of the kgotla had accepted it. Many in ‘enlightened’ Britain frowned on it.
1988 E. Mphahlele Renewal Time
168Madam and those who think like her also wanted my people who have been to school to choose those who must speak for them in the — I think she said it looks like a kgotla at home who rule the villages.
II. Transferred senses, used mainly among Sotho and Tswana peoples.
5. Any gathering. Cf. ibandla.
1970 M. Dikobe Marabi Dance. 19The woman had had Marabi party dances and brandy gatherings of well dressed men, as well as a beer kgotla — meeting.
a. people’s court sense 3. Also attributive.
13 May 16Yesterday..the Zone 7, Meadowlands lekgotla flogged a 15-year-old youth after he had been found ‘guilty’ of molesting a school-girl.
22 Aug. 7We formed the first lekgotla here in Naledi during December last year. There are now 20 makgotla in Soweto, each with its executive committee. More are being formed weekly.
1977 P.C. Venter Soweto
156The measure dates back to the early forties, when strong-armed men ruled in the squatter camps and shanty towns; bloody floggings were inflicted, and the makgotla courts saw to it that the punishment fitted the crime.
Feb. 13The Ward Four lekgotla, started in 1977 after a local woman was assaulted by a man who although turned in to the police was released and not prosecuted.
b. A group or gang of vigilantes, often composed of members of a people’s court, which patrols a township, ostensibly to maintain law and order; a member of such a group or gang. Also attributive.
1976 Scotsman in J. Sikakane Window on Soweto (
30The Justice Minister..is considering giving legal status to tribal vigilante groups in the townships...These groups, known as makgotla, have operated unofficially in Soweto for several years. They work by tribal law and occasionally administer public floggings.
1982 Reader Dec. 6A makgotla beats a young man in Soweto.
1982 Reader Dec. 7The makgotla group is also trying to fight crime. But the way they fight crime makes some people worried. People say makgotla go in groups and carry dangerous weapons.
29 Dec. 13A newly elected Soweto councillor..has called for a halt to the makgotla (vigilante) activities in the townships.
1990 R. Malan My Traitor’s Heart
65Mrs Ramathlape claimed that the men behind the kidnapping were makgotla — members of a tribal vigilante movement that had recently been dispensing rough justice in the townships.
7. A burial society.
1982 G. Mvubelo in Frontline
Nov. 21The importance of death is shown by the Makhotlas, or Burial Societies. These, the real, traditional, makhotla, have nothing to do with the vigilante groups you see of in the newspapers. The real makhotla are supported by everyone...When death occurs among one of the members, they bury the deceased with all expenses arranged and paid.
A meeting place, especially an enclosure in a village used for villagers’ assemblies, court cases, and meetings of the village’s leaders.
A court of law composed usually of important people from a village or area.
An assembly of the people of a village or area, usually for the discussion of some important matter.
A council, usually one comprising a chief and the elders of his people and ruling over the people.
A group or gang of vigilantes, often composed of members of a people’s court, which patrols a township, ostensibly to maintain law and order; a member of such a group or gang. Also attributive.
A burial society.