Mafikeng is the capital of the North West. The origins of Mafikeng (Mahikeng – “The place among the rocks”) date back to the time of the “Mfecane” (meaning “Crushing”), the historic all-out war in the early nineteenth century amongst the African tribes in southern Africa. During this time whole communities of peoples were destroyed or displaced in their flight from the larger warring tribe of Mzilikazi. The town was officially established in the 1880s by mercenaries on land granted to them by Barolong chiefs in return for services rendered during the tribal wars.
After the town’s establishment, the periods of unrest did not end. In 1885 the Warren expedition was sent to restore to the Barolong land that had been stolen from them. They erected two forts, Kanon Kopje and Warren’s Fort, on either side of the Molopo River.
Probably the most significant historical event in Mafikeng was the seven-month siege by Boer forces during the Anglo-Boer War. When the town was relieved after 217 days, euphoria in Britain ran so high that it actually led to a new word in the English language. The word “maffick” means to “exult riotously”.
The town was the starting place of the famous Boy Scout Movement. During the Boer Siege, the English boys could not attend school owing to the daily bombardment of the town. When the boys became ill-disciplined and bored, the Commander of the British forces in Mafikeng, Colonel Baden-Powell started the Movement to keep the boys occupied with tasks such as assisting the aged, delivering the mail and acting as messengers.
During the siege, Sol Plaatje, an African man, wrote his unique version of the siege in the: “The Boer War Diary of Sol T. Plaatje: an African at Mafikeng”. In 1912 Plaatje became one of the founding fathers of the South African Native National Congress, a forerunner of the ANC.
When the independent homeland of Bophuthatswana was established, Mafikeng became part of the neighbouring town of Mmabatho (“Mother of the People”). Since the homeland’s reincorporation into South Africa in 1994, the town of Mafikeng has resumed its original name. Until 1965 it was the administrative seat of the Bechuanaland Protectorate (now Botswana), a unique instance of the administrative centre of a country being situated outside its borders.
Adventure And Sport
Anglong at Lotlamoreng Dam: “The great water of the king” Dam is about 5 km from Mafikeng on the road to Vryburg. Cool green lawns, barbecue area, refreshment kiosk, pub, swimming pools and picnic and fishing spots all around the dam’s edge make it a popular spot for relaxation.
Bird watching at Cookes Lake: Breathe in the fresh air, share stories around the campfire and enjoy a tasty barbecue at Cookes Lake, a popular bird watching spot.
Diving at “Wondergat” sinkhole: Divers use Wondergat (“Wonder Hole”), a natural sinkhole, for training purposes. The hole is 70 m wide and no one is quite sure how deep it is. The Matabele chief, Mzilikazi, reputedly used the hole as a place of execution.
Golf: The nineteen holes of the Leopard Park Golf Club in the western suburbs of Mafikeng are set among attractive water features. A modern clubhouse, two bars, a lounge and games room also form part of the club. Leopard Park also hosts the Leopard Park Golf Festival in October. The Mafikeng Golf Club lies on the outskirts of town and has nine holes.
Mmabatho Stadium: The stadium seats over 70 000 people and is becoming an important South African soccer venue.
Water sport at Disanang and Modimola Dams: The tourist can enjoy fishing and other water sports at the Disanang and Modimola dams.
Archaeology And Palaeontology
San rock art at Thaba Sione Village: The village of Thaba Sione is situated 60 km to the southwest of Mmabatho. Some prime examples of San rock art can be seen on huge rocks on a hill in the centre of the village. The villagers still use the site for rainmaking ceremonies.
Cultural Calabash Festival: Established 10 years ago the annual North West Cultural Calabash has grown from a one-day event to a series of mini-festivals held during the year in five regions that culminates into a weeklong cultural fair. Mafikeng hosts its Cultural Calabash in the Mafikeng Centre in Mmabana Cultural Centre.
Mmabana Cultural Centre: The Mmabana Cultural Centre in Mmabatho encourages cultural enrichment through learning. The community puts the art, dance, music, drama and sports facilities to good use
Lotlamoreng Dam Cultural Reserve: Lotlamoreng Dam Cultural Reserve is not only a sanctuary for different species of plants and waterfowl it is also home to a Cultural Village which portrays life in 10 different traditional African villages.
Entertainment And Shopping
Megacity Shopping Centre: The Megacity Shopping Centre is one of the larger shopping centres in the province. The centre houses several shops, including national chain stores, banks, food outlets and a cinema.
Tusk Mmabatho Casino Resort: The resort combines the Leopard Park Golf Club, the Mafikeng Game Reserve and the Tusk Hotel and Casino into a relaxing getaway with all the modern sources of entertainment as well as game viewing opportunities.
Fauna And Flora
Botsalano Game Reserve: : The 5 800-ha Botsalano (Friendship) Reserve is 30 km north of Mafikeng on the Ramatlhabama Road. The park vegetation includes acacia and karee woodlands and open grasslands. The reserve is principally used as a breeding facility. Its white rhino-breeding programme is considered to be one of the best on the continent. The reserve is home to many other animals such as giraffe, hyena, kudu, gemsbok, waterbuck, zebra and many species of birds. The abundance and variety of ground orchids are not so well known. Visitors can use one of the camping sites, if they wish to camp out in their own tents or sleep in their caravans, and game drives, guided and controlled hunting and hiking are some of the activities on offer. Accommodation in the reserve is a rustic tent camp with a number of tents for those interested in a truly African experience. The Mogobe camp is situated close to an attractive dam that allows opportunities for game viewing and photography. A small conference facility and “lapa” can also be reserved.
Cookes Lake Reserve: The Cookes Lake Reserve is situated on the southern outskirts of Mafikeng. It is home to a number of different species of birds. The camping site and caravan park has well-equipped ablution block facilities.
Mafikeng Game Reserve: The 4 800 ha Mafikeng Game Reserve is home to a large number of animals that thrive on the plains, such as giraffe, zebra, and various species of antelope, buffalo, rhino, warthog and ostrich. It is also a breeding centre for, among others, the white rhino. The flat plains in the reserve make it easy to spot the game as well as the various species of birds, such as the waxbill and finch families. A new youth education programme has been introduced to give young people a better insight into the role conservation plays in society. The Scout Centre of Excellence for Nature and Environment trains students in management, leadership and team building skills. Unfortunately there are no overnight facilities within the reserve itself, but there is a picnic site for day visitors and Cookes Lake Reserve, which is close to the Mafikeng Game Reserve, offers camping and caravanning facilities.
Mmabatho Botanical Park: The Mmabatho Botanical Park protects several indigenous and exotic plant species.
Molopo Game Reserve: The Molopo Game Reserve is situated on the outskirts of Mafikeng and its far western section lies against the Botswana border. This 23 876 ha reserve was established in 1987 and is home to animals such as cheetah, brown hyena, caracal, black-backed jackal, white rhino, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, impala, wildebeest, gemsbok, warthog and a several species of antelope. Some 120 species of birds, which include the tawny and Marshall eagle, white-backed vulture, and the lappet-faced vultures, can also be viewed. Various game viewing roads and trails run through the reserve. Visit the Phepane riverbed that is millions of years old and once contained a large body of water. Numerous artificial waterholes have been constructed, ideal spots for visitors to watch game congregate. The reserve accommodation consists of two campsites, the Motopi Camp and Phiri Camp, with full camping facilities. The nearby town of Vorstershoop also offers accommodation.
History And Architecture
Barolong Kgotla (meeting place): The traditional tribal meeting place where the Barolong Chief Montshoia once used to meet with his people, is close to Kanon Kopje.
Barolong Monuments: Two monuments erected in honour of the Barolong who died during the Mafikeng Siege and their chief Kgosi Besela Montshoiaare situated close to the Mafikeng Siege Museum.
Concentration Camp Cemeteries: There are two concentration camp cemeteries near the town. The wives and children of Boer soldiers who refused to surrender to the British were buried in Mazezeru. The cemetery in Magogoe became the last resting place of the wives and children of the men who had surrendered. Remains of African woman and children have also been found in both these cemeteries.
Convent House: The Convent House (or Theresa House), dates back to 1889. It used to be the home of the Sisters of Mercy, a group of Catholic nuns who came to the town to run a boarding school for children of the officials of the Bechuanaland Protectorate.
First Anglo-Boer War Concentration Camp: During the Siege of Mafikeng, a refugee camp was established to house some of the Boer families. After the Siege, the camp was relocated further west along the Molopo River. When the British started their “scorched earth policy” (systematic burning of Boer farms and possible hiding places), Boer women and children were forcibly moved into the camp. This became the first concentration camp in South Africa. Conditions in the camp were atrocious. In April 1901, Emily Hobhouse visited the camp and after her report, the camp superintendent was dismissed on account of gross negligence.
Ga-Rona building: The Ga-Rona building was designed along the lines of a ‘kgotla’, a traditional Tswana village meeting place. A bust of Chief Besele Montshioa can also be seen. The building houses the headquarters of the North West provincial government and is in the western suburbs of Mafikeng.
Kanon Kopje (Cannon Hill): The fort on Kanon Kopje was built in 1885 by the Warren Expedition, sent to restore stolen land to the Barolong people. Stone Age people first occupied the site some 8 000 years ago. The hill affords the visitor a spectacular view of the town and surrounding areas.
Mafikeng Siege Cemetery: The historical Mafikeng Siege Cemetery contains graves dating back to the Mafikeng Siege and the Anglo-Boer War. Nine-year old Frankie Brown, who was the youngest member of the Siege cadets, was buried in the cemetery. A row of military crosses marks the graves of British soldiers who died during the Game Tree Attack on 26 December 1899. The largest grave is that of Andrew Beauchamp-Proctor, South Africa’s most highly decorated airman during the First World War.
Mafikeng Museum: The Mafikeng Museum (1975) is established in the old town hall. The building, completed in 1903, is elaborately colonial with beautiful pressed steel ceilings. The museum exhibits depict the Anglo-Boer war, as well as the history and culture of the region. A dedicated “Siege of Mafikeng” room paints a starkly realistic picture of the Siege.
Makweteng Ruins: The ruins of the old Mfengu settlement, Makweteng, can be visited. The Mfengu people are of Xhosa origin. They settled in the area in 1890. In 1962, the inhabitants were forcibly removed under the Group Areas Act of 1950. They were subsequently resettled in the Montshiwa Township. Masonic Lodge: Before being sent off to St Helena as prisoners-of-war, captured Boer soldiers were held at the Masonic Lodge.
Methodist Church: The stately Methodist Church was built in 1885 by General Warren and the Barolong and is distinctive on account of its exceptional brickwork. It was built to replace the chapel that was built by Silas Molema and subsequently destroyed during the siege.
Molema House: This house museum in Montshiwa was built in 1920 and is also known by the name of Maratiwa (“Feel at home, you are most welcome”). The museum honours the memory of Dr Seetsele Modiri Molema and Sol Plaatje, both at one time prominent members of the African National Congress (ANC). Dr Molema was arrested in 1952 during the Defiance Campaign and banned from South Africa in 1953. He studied Medicine at the University of Glasgow – his dream being to train as many nurses as possible to help his people. He also wrote a number of ethnographic and historical books. Sol Plaatje also lived in Molema House at one time. Plaatje was a journalist who also wrote a book about the Siege of Mafikeng from a Black perspective. When Plaatje moved out of Maratiwa, he and his family moved into a house named Seweding and lived there until 1910, when he moved to Kimberley. The house no longer exists but the line of pepper trees and the cattle kraal can still be seen. The first Setswana protest newspaper, Koranta ea Bechuana, was printed in 1910 in Plaatje’s newspaper office.
St John the Evangelist Anglican Church: St John the Evangelist Anglican Church was designed by Sir Herbert Baker and commemorates the Siege of Mafikeng. Bricks from Lobatse in Botswana and red sandstone from the Matopo Hills in Zimbabwe were used to build the church.
University of the North West: The striking examples of modern architecture on the campus of the University combine with the excited voices of young students to create an atmosphere of vibrancy and activity.
Warren’s Fort: Warren’s Fort lies within the boundaries of the Imperial Reserve. Work on the fort started in 1885 and the building has remained almost completely intact. The Warren Expedition built this Fort, as well as the one on Kanon Kopje, after its arrival in Mafikeng in 1885.
Warren’s Weir: The weir provided sustenance to large numbers of horses, for example those used by the Warren expedition in the 1880s and by the fighting forces during the Siege of Mafikeng.
Wondergat (Wonderhole): The water hole is a vast natural network of caves that are underwater. Diving instructors use these tunnels to train their students.
International School Of South Africa: The school has students from all over the Africa continent.
North West Institute of Hotel and Tourism Management: The Institute is in Mafikeng.
Recording Studio: The studio in Mmabatho has recorded music for such international successes as the “Lion King”.