Tswana Marriage Frequently Asked Questions


Key roles and Patlo- Magadi process explained

Key roles explained : Malome and Rakgadi


Bagwe-The groom’s team

Malome – Intermediary

Malome – intermediary

Who is Malome?

  • Malome basically means the connector/ link/ one who connects.
  • He is the head of delegation and the go-between and a spokesperson for the groom’s family.

What is malome’s role?

  • He is responsible for solving any problems or easing tension during bride price negotiations.
  •  He is the chief negotiator during the magadi (bride price) negotiations and throughout the entire
    marriage process.
  • He is the leader of the marriage counselling team, which is responsible for guiding and counselling
    the groom throughout the process.
  • NB: these sessions are primarily to prepare the groom for the new life ahead as well as to teach
    him the processes and procedures of Bogadi since he will automatically qualify as a member of the
    council upon getting married.

Who can take the role of malome?

  •  Malome is the groom’s uncle: the groom’s mother’s brother (eldest among them) is the main
    person. He assumes the role of chief negotiator and coordinator; everything must get his approval
    and he can delegate one of his cousins, who are distant uncles to lead in his absence.
  • A respected member of the community as may be delegated by Malome.

Qualities to look for in Malome

  • He must be a married man
  •  Good temperament
  •  Excellent communications and negotiation skills
  • Maturity, sensitivity and dependability
  • Good sense of humor
  • Cultural etiquette

Who is Rakgadi?

  •  Bride’s paternal aunt(s). Father’s sister(s)
  • Groom’s paternal aunt. Father’s sister(s)
  • Can also be a female representative from extended family
  • Bride/groom’s mother’s sister(s) (only those who are married) can also be invited to form the contingent accompanying Rakgadi.
  • Occasionally a family friend may be requested
    NB: Mmamalome refers to malome’s wife and she shares roles and responsibilities with

What is Rakgadi’s role on the bride’s side of the family?

  •  “Spokesperson” for the bride’s family
  •  Mediator between the two families during the bride price negotiations
  • If situations get tense or the prices are way out of range, the groom’s people can take her to the side and explain where they stand, and she can negotiate with the bride’s father(s)

What is Rakgadi’s role on the groom’s side of the family?

  • Supports and gives advice to the groom
  • Acts as the groom’s chief advocate during negotiations

Step 1
2. Go kokota
4.Puisano/ phetlolo
5. Tlhagela

What is pulamolomo?

  • In the Setswana patlo process, pulamolomo literally means opening one’s mouth to speak
  • There is a fee for pulamolomo and it is either a cow, goat, sheep or a fee as required by the bride’s family

What is the fee for?

  • The bride’s family require pulamolomo to initiate dialogue. This fee is paid at the beginning of the patlo process
  • Therefore the groom is asked to pay a token fee to make an official requestto speak freely and also to be heard
  • Remember, at this point the groom is not yet embraced as a family member. The bride’s family is approached with humble submission and respect since gathering these particular elders for Patlo is highly important
  • It is just a sign of respect by the groom. It gives the process a sense of dignity and is seen as a sign of ‘seriousness’ on the part of the groom.
  • By accepting the fee the bride’s family agrees to participate in the dialogue

Go kokota- Knocking on the door

What is Go kokota

  • It marks the beginning of negotiations for the bride price
  • It is sometimes called “go kokotla” which translates to ‘knocking on the door’
  • The groom’s family presents their case or proposal to the bride’s family
  • It can be understood better as an expression of interest in their daughter’s handby the groom

What is go kokota used for?

  •  It is the preliminary meeting that informs the bride’s family of the groom’s intention and taking their daughter’s hand in marriage.
  •  The bride’s family then sit and discuss the bride price and other ‘prices’ (they do
    this after the groom’s party left)

Lokwalo- Letter of response

What is Lokwalo

  • This is a response letter written by the bride’s Malome (uncle) and Rakgadi (aunt) in response to Go kokota.
  • It is in this response letter that the bride’s family, through malome and rakgadi, outline and explain their demands on the bride price.
  • They also explain their cultural/ethnic ways in the event of a cross cultural union.
  • The letter will also pronounce the Tlhagela charge, in the event that there was a child born prior to ‘Go kokota’ (concept explained below)

Who receives Lokwalo?

  • The bride’s malome and rakgadi can delegate a trustworthy family member to deliver the letter to the groom’s family
  • Acts as the groom’s chief advocate during negotiations
  • Rakgadi will receive the letter on behalf of the groom’s family.
  • They then summon a meeting of the relevant people who will then discuss the bride’s family demands on the magadi (bride price)
  •  The groom’s party will then go back to the bride’s parents home to announce whether they agree to te proposed price of to negotiate a reduction/discount.
  •  NB: the groom’s family cannot reply in writing as this will be considered disrespect to the
    bride’s family. They have to come in person and must be seated outside the yard before


What is Puisanyo?

  • At this stage, the groom’s party goes back to the bride’s family (usually the bride’s mother’s house) to respond to the demands in the Lokwalo.
  • Malome will lead the groom’s party with the help of Rakgadi, whose principal role here is to coordinate the ‘ladies’ side.
  • The groom’s party will negotiate should they feel the price is too steep…. The bride’s family can refuse or accede to their plea but at the end of this process both families would have reached an agreement,
  • It is at this stage/level that the two families now become ‘informal’ friends and in the event that a child was born prior to the marriage negotiations, a charge will be laid upon the groom for “sneaking” into the bride father’s homestead.

What is Tlhagela?

  • Tlhagela is usually a cow, paid by the groom to the bride’s father through malome and rakgadi as compensation and/or apology for sneaking into his yard without permission… it can be seen more as a sign of restoring respect and dignity tothe bride’s family for having a child before marriage.
  • It is usually in the form of a cow to be slaughtered by the groom’s party, who will then cook it all for the bride’s family. It is upon the discretion of the bride’s malome to decide whether they share with the groom’s party or not. The bride’s mother will usually talk to his brother (malome to the bride) to be linient with the groo’s party.
  • It is however acceptable nowadays for some families to charge in the form of money, though this is still very rare across Botswana.
  • NB: tlhagela is not necessarily a charge but rather a way to repair dignity and a sort of apology by the groom for
    disrespecting the bride’s family.

Who pays Tlhagela?

  • Tlhagela is meant to be paid by the groom, partly to show that he is man enough to take responsibility for his actions
  • However, his father can pay or uncle on behalf of his nephew.

Step 2
1. Go Pega
2. Magadi/ Bogadi
3. Pholoso
4. Lenyalo
5. Go apesa
6. Tao
7. Go isa ngwetsi

Go Pega: forever hold your peace 
What is Go Pega?

  • Go Pega is when the two families have agreed on the bride price and it marks the beginning
    of major festivities.
  • This is the time before the actual paying of Bogadi (bride price) and it is at this point that the groom and bride’s names are published/ publicized so that if anybody has reservations towards the two getting married, they should come forward before the groom pays bogadi/lobola

Who does Go pega?

  • This is done by the village chief/ headman if it is a cultural wedding but nowadays it is very common to do it through the District Commissioner’s office.

Bogadi/Magadi-Bride Price

What is Bogadi?

  • It is the bride price or lobola paid by the groom to the bride’s parents as a form of appreciation to the family for raising his future wife as well as to signify to them his ability and capability to take care of their daughter.
  • It is not a price to ‘buy’ a wife in the Setswana context, but rather a token of appreciation as stated above

In what form is Bogadi?

  • The bride price is normally paid in the form of strictly heifers (virgin female cows). The number of cows differ from one tribe/culture to the next but they range from four to eight in some regions)
  • The groom is sorely responsible for paying the bride price
  • His uncle and father can also contribute a cow each as a sign of support.
  • It is however important to also note that for families that do not have cattle posts, the price is alternatively cash, which is calculated according to an agreed price for each ‘cow’

Who receives Bogadi?

  • The price is received by the bride’s malome and rakgadi on behalf of their respective siblings (Malome on behalf of his sister- the bride’s mother; and rakgadi on behalf of her brother- the bride’s father).
  • Malome, the bride’s uncle is also entitled to one cow from those that were paid as a token of appreciation for having led the successful negotiations and many other activities towards the wedding.
  • Rakgadi, the bride’s aunt will only get her reward when the heifers give birth to the very first calves…usually a year or so later.
  •  Otherwise the rest of the money or cows will be kept by the bride’s parents.
  •  NB: in the event that the bride’s parents have both passed on, it is malome who takes the responsibility to disperse the bogadi amongst deserving family members.

Pholoso- End of forever hold your peace

What is Pholoso?

  • This is the last stage prior to the big celebration. It is at this stage that the bride and groom’s names are removed from the public notice boards provided:
    1. No one has come forward to oppose the marriage
    2. None of the two (bride and groom) has changed their mind
  • Pholoso marks the beginning of the wedding celebrations (lenyalo/ setapa).

Lenyalo: The Wedding Celebration

  •  By the time the groom pays his bogadi, he is considered a traditionally married man
  • It is however not until he and the bride are paraded before the public and the two families during the lenyalo/setapa ceremony.
  • All members of the community are invited and the two families are introduced publicly.
  • This marks the beginning of a bond and relation between the two families and the elders will narrate the two family trees for the younger generation to get to know each other
  • The celebration can take the form of a “white wedding’ or traditional Tswana wedding celebration
  • The groom has to provide food and a cow to be slaughtered at the bride parents’ house as well as at his own parents’ house for the two legged celebrations.
  • All are normally invited and a big feast is shared amongst all regardless of relations.

Go Apesa- Dressing up the Bride

What is Go Apesa

  • In the Setswana culture, after bogadi and lenyalo, a woman has to be separated from the single, unmarried women in her community.
  • This is done through dressing up the bride in the traditional
  • Khiba/Leteisi/mogagolwane (African attire worn with a blue shawl).
  • The dress/ uniform is strictly reserved for the married woman so as to differentiate them fro unmarried ones…. So that society give them the respect they deserve.
  •  It is also meant to encourage others to get married and have that dignified appearance.
  • The bride is dressed up by the senior uncle’s wife (mmamalome) or one of the aunties and the dressing up works as a prelude to the final stage in the Tswana wedding process; Tao (marriage conselling)

Tao- Marriage Counselling

What is Tao?

  • This is when the elderly, married members of the community are invited together with the two families to provide marriage counselling and direction to the newly weds.
  • It is done on the day of the celebration just before sunset and it is done in secret.

Who attends Tao?

  •  It is attended by all elderly, married people
  •  It is led by Malome and Rakgadi but the aunts (bride or groom mother’s sisters) also have an important part to play.
  • The groom is taken aside of the bride and is surrounded by the elderly who do not only teach him how to treat his wife, but also share their own experiences. This is done at the kgotla (traditional meeting place for men) The bride on the other side hears from the women, usually inside her mother’s house.

Go isa Ngwetsi- Delivering the Bride

  • Please note: This usually marks the end of the celebration and it is done at sunset.

What is Go isa Ngwetsi?

  • After the counselling session, the ladies (married) from both families will lead the
    bride in a line of ululations to the groom mother’s house
  • This party is led by both Rakgadi and Mmamalome
  • This signifies the bride’s repatriation from her paternal family to join her new family where she will start her very own.
  • The contingent will be carrying on their heads, all the presents given the bride by her friends and family.

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