History of Mafikeng
The Place of Stones
around Mafikeng in the Northwest Province of South Africa
was inhabited for thousands of years by the Khoisan people.
The Khoisan lived closely in tune with nature, in nomadic
groups of hunter-gatherers. Stone engravings up to several
thousand years old are often found on the rocky outcrops in
More recently the area was settled by the Tswana, of whom
some tribes (the baKwena and baGatla) are known for their
stone constructions and erection of large town.
The town of Mafeking was founded in the 1880s by
British mercenaries who were granted land by warring Barolong
chiefs in return for war service.
The town itself was laid out near their collection of farms
by British Commander Sir Charles Warren and became the administrative
centre of the region and the headquarters of the peace-keeping
Bechuanaland Border Police.
The Siege of Mafeking during the Anglo-Boer War in
1899 made the town world-famous. Colonel Baden-Powell led
the defence of town, and during the siege Baden-Powell first
used boys as "Scouts", taking messages and assisting in duties
around the town. The town's relief after 217 days made him
a hero in Britain, and his fame and popularity enabled him
to start the Scout Movement a few years later.
In South Africa under Apartheid, Mafikeng became part of
Mmabatho (mother of the people), the capital of the
supposedly independent "homeland" of Bophuthatswana. In 1994,
when Bophuthatswana was reincorporated into South Africa,
the name Mmabatho was replaced by the historical name of Mafikeng.
Today Mafikeng is the capital city of the Northwest Province
in South Africa.
The name 'Mafikeng'
Mafikeng is a seTswana word meaning "place of stones".
In seTswana, fika means stone, mafika is the
plural, and the -eng ending means "place of". (Similarly,
the province of Gauteng in South Africa is the "place of gold").
The British colonists spelt the name "Mafeking", which is
the name that most Scouts know, but it is correctly spelt