Mokopane, Waterberg

Once known as Potgietersrus, Mokopane lies about two hours' north east of Pretoria, not far from Polokwane, in the heart of the Waterberg.

For years Potties - as the locals, both black and white, still call it - has functioned as a farming support town, serving one of the wealthiest farming communities in the country; farms producing mealies, tobacco, wheat and cattle. Mokopane initially flourished with the combined forces of a huge tobacco co-op and a more general co-op. But good times depended completely on the rains – as long as they were consistent, business thrived.

The droughts of the 1970s placed Mokopane under strain – there were no local dams to support farmers and boreholes were not an option with the falling water table. Farming became less profitable. Further pressure mounted as tax concessions and subsidies were revoked, leaving farmers less able to compete in the world food market, particularly with the added deregulation of the international agricultural market.

Since then, although some of the wheat, tobacco, cotton, maize and citrus farms continue, many of them have become game farms. Tourism is encouraged and visitors head here for the attractions that include Makapansgat Caves.

Makapansgat Caves are a World Heritage Site. During a particularly vehement raid in 1854 by the Voortrekkers who established themselves here, the local tribe used the caves in which to hide. They were held under siege for 30 days, during which time two thousand people died in the cave from starvation.

Despite its wretched past, the caves have important relevance for archaeologists who have found remnants that date back over three million years, revealing evidence of controlled fires and the remains of Australopithecus africanus - modern man's direct ancestor.

Attractions include: the annual Kierieklapper festival, the Arend Dieperink Museum, the Doorndraaidam Nature Reserve, the Mokopane Biodiversity Conservation Centre, Big Five game viewing and San rock paintings.

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