The economic, political and social organization of the Bantu

The economic, political and social organization of the Bantu

Economic organization.

  • Land was communally owned as it was taken to be the property of the clan or tribe
  • Mixed farming was practiced by the Bantu .They kept animals like goats, sheep, and cattle. They also grew crops like yams, milt, pumpkins, and beans.

  • Black smith was also carried out by the Bantu. For example the Sotho had developed metal industry at Mabotsa which produced iron implements.
  • Trade was also carried out by the Bantu. They bartered ostrich features, egg shells and other items with the coastal traders.
  • Hunting was practiced by the Bantu. This was more common among the Sotho. Hunting provided wild game products like meat, honey and ivory.
  • Fishing was also carried out by the Bantu .They caught fish to enrich their diet.
  • Fruit gathering was another important element in the economy of the Bantu. This was more especially done by women.

Political organization

  • The Bantu had chiefdoms which constituted a basic political unit. It included major areas of settlement, grazing grounds and neighbouring villages.

  • Among the southern Bantu a tribe was the basic political unit. It was made up of few thousands of people.
  • The tribe consisted of a number of clans and the most important clan was called the central clan and it provided chiefs for the tribe.
  • The chief among the Bantu was helped by his close relatives who held subordinate positions /offices.
  • The chief’s position was the most important in all aspects of life such as military, judiciary and religious aspects.
  • The political or judicial decision taken by the king was final.
  • The chiefs ruled according to the established rules and practices accepted by the people of the society. For example he consulted small clan councils on various matters.
  • The chiefs presided over inter – clan conflicts such as murder and territorial aggression/ land conflicts.

  • The ancestors of the chiefs were regarded as guardian spirits of the whole community and the tribe name was either taken from that of the outstanding ruler or leader.
  • Permanent ownership of land was not recognized among the Bantu.

Social organization

  • Their social relations were based on the family; hence the family formed the smallest social unit.
    19.Members of the same clan lived near one another. Their hunts formed a family compound.
  • A number of families made up a lineage under the leadership of one senior man or an elder.
  • A number of lineages made up a clan and most powerful clans provided chiefs.
  • Members of the same clan shared the common name and could not intermarry until many generations had passed.

  • Initiation ceremonies were common among the Bantu. For example the Sotho and Nguni boys were initiated into man hood.
  • Marriage among the Bantu only took place after boys had been initiated into man hood.
  • The Nguni and the Sotho were polygamous and wives were placed in different home steads with the fixed order of respect and privilege. The first wife received much respect in society.


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