"Dib Dib Dib and all that" Mafikeng by CatherineReichardt

Mafikeng Travel Guide: 9 reviews and 21 photos

Not many people go to Mafikeng as tourists ... and neither did I.

I had to attend a meeting with North West Province's provincial authorities in Mmabatho organised just before the Christmas break, which is over a four hour one way drive from Johannesburg. My schedule was too restricted to stay overnight, but I didn't want to take the risk of driving exhausted, so once my meeting was finished - and mindful of the opportunity to put another uncolonised destination on the VT map, I mentally checked down my options as I grabbed a spot of lunch ...

Mmabatho ... mmm ... an artificial apartheid creation as the capital of the bizarrely fragmented Bophuthatswana bantustan (tribal homeland) and now recycled into the administrative capital of North West province. Only an oversized soccer stadium in the middle of the veld - passed over as a World Cup venue - and an expanse of government offices to recommend it ... think I'll pass on that level of excitement ...

Mafikeng ... a historic town so close to Mmabatho that it's impossible to say where one ends and the other one starts ... didn't they have a siege there? Much more interesting ...

They did indeed have a siege, but that was back in the days of the Empire, when South Africa was embroiled in the Boer War and 'Mafikeng' was mispelled as 'Mafeking'. At that time, Mafeking was a dusty town on the border with the Bechuanaland Protectorate (now Botswana) ... and unwittingly the point of convergence for some monumental celebrities, including Baden Powell (commander of the British forces and latterly the founder of the Scout movement), Sol Plaatje (luminary of the embryonic African National Congress) and Winston Churchill's cousin Lady Sarah Wilson, who is generally accepted as having been the first woman war correspondent. It was also the location of one of the largest Boer War concentration camps in which Afrikaaner women and children were interned under unspeakable conditions and died in droves.

It is only since I started writing on VT that I have started to explore the Boer War history of my adopted country, and I have been appalled by the extreme suffering that was inflicted on the Afrikaaner nation during this conflict - a reality that gets conveniently forgotten in British righteous indignation over the establishment of German concentration camps in the Second World War that were based on the model that they had themselves created. There are tours of the Zulu Wars battlefields in KwaZulu Natal, but the equally interesting legacy of Boer War history is largely negected from a tourist perspective: for those keen to learn more about this fascinating but tragic period of colonial history, also refer to my Potchefstroom, Machadodorp and Klerksdorp pages.

It is interesting to note that in fact the name 'Mafikeng' is itself a corruption of the term 'Mahikeng', meaning 'the place among the rocks'. The history of warfare in this region predates the Anglo Boer War, as this was the location of an intense period of inter-tribal warfare at the beginning of the nineteenth century. This conflict was known as the 'Mfecane' (meaning 'Crushing'), when the territorial expansion of the Ndebele under the leadership of Mzilikazi - a former lieutenant of Shaka Zulu - lead to wholesale destruction of communities throughout the area.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:A forgotten town of immense historic significance, and well worth a stop en route for Botswana
  • Cons:Rather remote, so not worth a specific trip unless scouting or the Boer War are your passion(s)
  • In a nutshell:Spiritual home of the woggle
  • Last visit to Mafikeng: Dec 2010
  • Intro Updated Jun 3, 2011
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CatherineReichardt

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