Mafikeng: Unearthing South Africa's Cultural Heartland

Mafikeng - North West Province - South Africa - - North West Province - South Africa -
Mafikeng - North West Province - South Africa - - North West Province - South Africa -

Mafikeng: Unearthing South Africa's Cultural Heartland

Since 1994, Mafikeng has served as the provincial capital of North West and is located on the border with Botswana; it is approximately 260 kilometers west of Johannesburg! It served as the capital of the Bechuanaland protectorate until 1965!

The Barolong Boo Ratshidi, who settled in the area in the early nineteenth century, gave the town the name Mahikeng. Later, the H in Barolong was changed to a F to conform to the standard Setswana spelling. Consequently, the town was renamed Mafikeng. The name translates to "place of rocks" in English. Lefika means rock in Setswana, and Mafika is the plural. Location is indicated by the eng at the end of Mafik eng. Gauteng becomes "the place of gold," whereas Mangaung becomes "the place of cheetahs."

Early People

Khoi and San societies were the first to establish themselves in Mafikeng. They inhabited the region for thousands of years prior to the migration of Tswana societies. Barlong Boo Ratshidi was the subgroup of Tswana society that migrated to Mafikeng.

The Barolong Boo Ratshidi established their chieftainship in the region, with Mafikeng serving as their capital (Mahikeng: Ba Rolong pronunciation). During the nineteenth century, the expanding Voortrekkers and the establishment of the Zuid Afrikansche Republic in western Transvaal posed a threat to the autonomy of the Barolong boo Ratshidi. As a result, Barolong Boo Ratshidi Chief Montshiwa requested British protection. Chief Montshiwa signed a treaty ceding his sovereignty to the British on May 22, 1884, in Mafikeng. The British government established a garrison in the town shortly thereafter. The following year, Hercules Robinson issued a decree dividing Mafikeng into two sections, one for Barolongs and the other for European settlement.

During the second Anglo-Boer War, Mafikeng was besieged by Boer forces from 1899 to 1901 (217 days) (South African War). At the time of the siege, residents of Mafikeng included Solomon T. Plaatjie. Colonel Baden Powell, who was sent to Mafikeng to protect it from a Boer invasion, was the other notable individual. During this siege, the Boy Scouts were organized for the first time and used to carry messages across towns and spy on the movements of Boer forces.

Historic Monuments

Mafikeng is the only known location with war memorials commemorating black (specifically Barolong) men and women who perished during the Anglo-Boer War. A monument honoring Chief Besele Montshiwa, commander of a regiment that fought alongside the Boer forces during the war, is also present. The monuments were constructed with funds collected from the Barolong people by the Barolong chieftainship. Prince of Wales used the Prince of Wales Road during his historic visit to Barolong Boo Ratshidi.

The Mafikeng Museum, housed in an ornate old building dating back to 1902, features a number of fascinating and diverse exhibits covering the aforementioned topics. A retired steam locomotive outside the museum, as well as displays of prehistoric artifacts, will attract children and adults, and displays focusing on Tswana culture and history tell fascinating tales of the region's people and their heritage. During the Second Boer War at the end of the 19th century, a prolonged standoff between the British and the Boers (Afrikaaner) was one of the most significant events in Mafikeng's history. The Siege of Mafikeng lasted 217 days, from October 1899 to May 1900, and this period of Mafikeng's history is covered in detail at the Museum.
A permanent exhibition is also devoted to the founder of the African National Congress, Sol T. Plaatje (ANC).

The Curator of the Museum also possesses the keys to numerous historical sites in and around Mafikeng and will be able to provide you with information about local sightseeing opportunities.

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Mafikeng - North West Province - South Africa -