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Mahikeng – formerly known as Mafikeng[1] (see name history below) – is the capital city of the North-West Province of South Africa. It is most well known internationally for the Siege of Mafeking, the most famous engagement of the Second Boer War.

Located on South Africa's border with Botswana, it is 1,400 km (870 mi) northeast of Cape Town and 260 km (160 mi) west of Johannesburg. In 2001, it had a population of 49,300. In 2007, Mafikeng was reported to have a population of 250,000 of which the CBD constitutes between 69,000 and 75,000. It is built on the open veld at an elevation of 1,500 m (4,921 ft), by the banks of the Upper Molopo River. The Madibi goldfields are some 15 km (9.3 mi) south of the town.



Mafikeng headquarters of the [[Barolong Boo Ratshidi]] people. The town was founded by Molema Tawana; Born c. 1822, died January 1882. Born in Khunwana during the difaqane period, Molema was the son of Kgosi Tawana of the Tshidi Barolong. He was brother, and close confidant, of Montshiwa, who later ruled over the chiefdom. During the time that the Tshidi Barolong resided at Thaba Nchu, where they found refuge during the difaqane, or period of turbulence in the 1820s, Molema was converted to Christianity by the Wesleyan missionaries based at Thaba Nchu. Molema's son and heir, Silas, was educated at Healdtown college in the former Transkei.

Molema led an advance guard to scout out the area along the Molopo river in 1857. This was an environment known to them from having previously resided in nearby Khunwana. Molema settled at Mafikeng (known in its early years as “Molema’s town"), while the main body of the Barolong under Montshiwa followed. However, Montshiwa did not feel safe at Mafikeng, due to the close presence and rapacity of the Boers in the Transvaal, and led his followers to Moshaneng in the territory of the Bangwaketse in present-day Botswana. Molema remained at Mafikeng to ensure that the Barolong retained a presence there. Several of Montshiwa’s other brothers were also stationed at crucial sites in the proximity of the Molopo. Molema had on several occasions to use all his diplomatic skills to prevent Boer incursion and settlement near Mafikeng. Not surprisingly, he has been described as a man of "strong personality and exceptional gifts...and Montshiwa's chief counsellor in vital matters". (S.M Molema:35)

After negotiations with Molema, Montshiwa decided to return to Mafikeng in 1876. Molema was a firm believer in Western education, having attended Heraldtown, and opened a school for the Barolong once they had settled in the district. Molema became a farmer and businessman, between being advisor to his brother Montshiwa. He died in 1882. One of his sons, Silas Molema, became a Doctor and historian of the Barolong. (see S.M. Molema). . The settlement was named Mafikeng, a Setswana name meaning "place of stones".[2] Later British settlers spelled the name as "Mafeking". It was from Pitsani Pothlugo (or Potlogo), 24 miles (39 km) north of Mafeking, that the Jameson Raid started, on December 29, 1895.

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