The Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela people of the North West province have been through centuries of trials and tribulations, conflict and scattering, finally establishing themselves in both South Africa and Botswana. Because their lands proved to be part of the platinum-rich Bushveld Igneous Complex, they now have access to mineral wealth.

Did you know?

Bakgatla is a derivative of the word kgabo which means monkey, the totem animal of the Bakgatla.

The Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela people are a sub-group of the Tswana, people who live in the North West province of South Africa and in Botswana.

The timeline of the history of this clan is punctuated with alliances and conflict, as it was forged during the era of the Difaqane (the scattering) in the early 1800s, when southern Africa was in social turmoil.

By the mid-1800s, the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela were living in the Pilanesberg area near the site of the present-day Sun City resort in villages on a large number of farms they had leased from the Boer Republic. Part of the lease deal was that the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela would provide farm labour to the Boers and join them on various raids on other tribes.

In 1870s, Commandant Paul Kruger (later to become President Kruger) went to the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela chief, Kgamanyane, demanding free labour for a dam he was building. The men were to be harnessed to carts like animals.

History often swivels on a moment of madness. Kgamanyane refused, Kruger had him publicly flogged and a large contingent of Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela left the Pilanesberg area and went into what is today known as Botswana.

Settling in the Mochudi area, Kgamanyane’s son, Linchwe, eventually succeeded his father as chief of the clan. The flogging was never forgotten, however, and the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela allied themselves with the British in decades to come, including during the bitter period of the South African (Anglo-Boer) War.

After the war, the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela on both sides of the border lost much of their hard-earned land, but then they slowly began buying back farms, especially around Pilanesberg.

No one realised that in 1924 a massive platinum find would take place on land belonging to the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela. The area was part of what became known as the Bushveld Igneous Complex, full of massive deposits of chrome and platinum group metals.

In the years that followed, the leadership of the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela formed joint ventures with various mining groups and now manage their share of the wealth in the interests of their people.

Tourists can visit a display depicting the history of the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela people at the Mphebatho Cultural Museum, located in an old school house in Saulspoort, about 35 km from Sun City.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Mphebatho Cultural Museum
499 Moruleng Boulevard, Saulspoort
Tel: +27 (0)14 556 1194
Cell: +27 (0)73 097 0504 (Paige Jautse)
Cell: +27 (0)76 471 0055 (Virginia Pilane)

Sun City Resort
Tel: +27 (0)14 557 5110

How to get here

The Mphebatho Cultural Museum is in the North West province district of Saulspoort, Moruleng, about 25km from Sun City, accessed from the R510.

Around the area

Visit the Pilanesberg Game Reserve near Sun City where you can see the Big Five.

What will it cost

It costs R30 for adults and R20 for children and pensioners.

Length of stay

Set aside two hours for your visit to the Mphebatho Cultural Museum.

Where to stay

Sun City is your closest holiday resort and one of South Africa’s tourism hot spots.

Related articles