Mafikeng, Central Region

Formerly, and rather confusingly, known as Mafeking and originally named Mahikeng, Mafikeng is today the capital city of the North West Province that lies on the border with Botswana about 260 kilometres west of Johannesburg. Mmabatho, its neighbour, held the title of capital of the province for about five minutes after which a reshuffle left Mafikeng in the privileged position, reducing Mmabatho to little more than a suburb of the new capital city.

In 1885 the Warren expedition was sent to Mafikeng to restore stolen land back to the Barolong people. During their stay two forts were built on either side of the Molopo River, Kanon Kopje and Warrens Fort. Artillery shells can still be found at the site which has a commemorative plaque and offers an elevated view of Mafikeng.

The Kgotla, a tribal meeting place of the Barolong Boo Ratshidi, is nearby in Motshiwa and has a monument to the Barolong who died in action during the Siege of Mafikeng in 1899-1900. In 1960 a small display relating to the Siege of Mafikeng was set up in the town hall, an ornate building with pressed iron ceilings, which is now the Mafikeng Museum. The exhibits have been augmented to reflect the culture and history of the area and to commemorate the Anglo-Boer War centenary.

Mafikeng is a worthwhile visit purely for its history during the Second Boer War in 1899 when the then town was famously besieged. Known as the Siege of Mafeking, it lasted 217 days and turned Robert Baden-Powell into something of a national hero.

More interestingly still was the diary kept by Sol Plaatje, a journalist and politician, during the siege. It became not only a valuable historical document but also the first known diary kept by a black person during the war. You can visit his home, his office and printing works.

You don’t need to be drawn into the history of Mafikeng in order to enjoy a visit, however. The game reserves in the area alone deserve mention. The Mafikeng Game Reserve is 4600 hectares of open Kalahari grassland and acacia thorn scrub - real African landscape through which the Molopo River winds - where one is almost guaranteed of a view of white rhino, buffalo, gemsbok and giraffe. Alternatively, the Botsalano Game Reserve, just west of Mafikeng, is home to open Kalahari thornveld and over 2000 ‘head’ of animals and 200 bird species.

In the vicinity

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Mafikeng as a destination

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