Mafikeng, the capital of South Africa's North West Province, is situated on the border with Botswana
Mafikeng has a fascinating history. It was previously called Mafeking
because the British colonialists had trouble with the original pronunciation (or perhaps because whoever wrote it down first got it wrong). But it was during the South African War (1899-1902) that the town really got put on the map.
Besieged by thousands of Boer soldiers, the British commander, Robert Baden-Powell, used a series of clever ruses, tricks and bluffs to keep the Boer forces at bay. Most famously, though, he realised he didn't have enough men to perform all the necessary tasks, so he recruited and trained a group of boys
to perform essential, non-combatant roles.
After 217 days, the British were relieved and the siege was over, but the lads who had run messages and stood watch didn't just fold up and go away. They were the foundation of the Boy Scout movement
, which has now spread across the world.
The region offers a gateway route to Africa
via excellent road and rail networks and an airport. Mafikeng is a rapidly growing, modern town now incorporating Mmabatho, formerly the capital of Bophuthatswana.