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Architectural Heritage

Lobatse – A Town of Oddities and Contrasts

Lobatse – A Town of Oddities and Contrasts

By Sandy Grant

The one thing about Lobatse which is absolutely certain is that there is no other town in the country which is anything like it. But that isn’t too surprising because there are three Lobatses and which of these three a visitor first sees depends on the direction from which they have come. To enter Lobatse from Gaborone and the north, for instance, is to enjoy European or white Lobatse. To enter Lobatse from the south, from Mafikeng or Kanye is to experience Asian Lobatse whereas the visitor coming from the east, from South Africa and the Jubilee border gate is to see African Lobatse.

Racial division was a common characteristic of old colonial towns with the railway line usually providing a convenient boundary between the whites on one side and the black or brown people on the other. Lobatse was a little more complicated in being divided not only amongst three main racial groups but in possessing sub groups, such as the abattoir and the railway employees, who lived in their own housing localities. Independence in 1966 may have swept away institutionalised and structured racialism but the old centre of Lobatse was shaped by those factors and the town can only be understood today in those terms.

Lobatse's tree lined gateway and the High Court Building

Let’s start with white Lobatse which, prior to Independence possessed most of the standard ingredients of a fully fledged colonial town. Today this part of the town still begins with the eucalyptus plantation which puts down an immediate marker, trees, greenery and space and comes to an end at the railway station. The area was attractive, and remains so today. It had a tarred, tree lined road which was constructed for the 1947 visit of King George and Queen Elizabeth and the two princesses. The trees apparently came later being planted by G.A. Germond, the British Divisional Commissioner South for the opening of the High Court in 1956. It had generous road margins, and attractive colonial housing.

It possessed two hotels, the Lobatse Hotel in the main street now partly demolished which dated from pre-2nd world war days, and Sid Milner’s famous Cumberland Hotel which he established in Lobatse believing that this was to be the new national capital. It had its own hospital and surprisingly its own mental hospital. It had its own well appointed whites only secondary school, its own airstrip, golf club, cricket ground, granaries – for the freehold farmers outside town – High Court and attached jail, its own Anglican Church, its own block of Commonwealth Development Corporation Offices and its own abattoir. It also had its own railway station and stores, one being Sir Russell England’s wholesale store near the station which sold gas bottles and insurance cover. Many of the other stores were owned by white South Africans who, disturbed by the prospect of Independence and majority black rule, put their businesses up for sale. The Indian community snapped them up and by doing so made the first major inroads into what had been previously an entirely white settlement.

Sid Milner’s famous Cumberland Hotel

Today the old white Lobatse is well worth studying. Many of the old bits and pieces are still very much in place but there have been many significant changes. The old whites only school died at Independence and is now a major senior secondary school. Much of Lobatse’s architectural heritage in this area has been demolished or left to rot. Germond’s large, attractive pro-consular residence, complete with swimming pool, has been abandoned but is still recoverable. The large one story office block of the Commonwealth Development Association is also abandoned and left high and dry and many of the old colonial houses, including one occupied by Seretse and Ruth, have been demolished. It is a mystery why the government, which promotes tourism as a maximum priority, should allow such important elements of its history and heritage to be lost. But heritage aside, old buildings can be restored and re-utilised and in places where there is a shortage of office accommodation and housing it is surprising that the government should prefer to let its older properties disintegrate rather than sell them off and bring in much needed new revenue.

The modest, old High Court, where the Legislative Assembly helped to usher in Independence, was superseded in 1994 by a modern architectural colossus. Unusually the older building was not demolished to make way for the new.

Of the hotels, the old Lobatse hotel, where British army officers were billeted in World War II is a gonner. It is of great importance that the Lobatse Council and the various planners who will be involved recognise the strong, very individual characteristic of Lobatse’s main street – curiously named Khama 1 St. because absolutely no one knows who this man might have been – and ensure that this is maintained and strengthened. The Cumberland is still mercifully un-modernised which is just as well because it occupies a special, central place in this country’s modern history. Almost everyone who was anyone must have stayed there and all the others who didn’t, would have eaten there – it being a routine of the later 1960s to drive down the awful dirt road from Gaborone, to enjoy the Cumberland’s famed cooking and then return and drive all the way back.

Gone too, inevitably, is the old airstrip and cricket ground being replaced by the huge Lobatse Clay Works and Lobatse Tile Company. Russell England’s granaries – were there eight of them? – have also gone. When major physical features have been demolished it is often difficult to remember where they once stood. Were those old granaries in the way of the new giant Geological Department block or of some other needed development – so that they had to go? Disregarding the usual compulsive arguments, it has to be a mistake to demolish major physical features which contribute to the personality of a town and give it difference. Everything is re-usable. If those eight or so granaries had been painted in eight different colours, as an attempt to bring them into public consciousness, their importance might have been better understood. And new plans drawn up for them.

Dr Sbrana’s old mental hospital has been replaced by a new mental hospital of a size which is quite stunning. A colleague, when recently viewing it, suggested flippantly that the projected figures which had determined the size of the new facility indicated that half of the entire population would be patients and the other half would be looking after them! If the scale of this gigantic new mental hospital is anything to go by, the future is indeed bleak.

Dr Sbrana’s New Mental Hospital

And then there is the abattoir. Without personal involvement or connection with the place, it is difficult to grasp how enormously important it is to Lobatse. It is only recently that I found that it possessed an entire, almost invisible housing estate. For a visitor, BMC is an entrance gate, a well watered green lawn, oleanders in flower and nothing more. Looked at from the air its size in relation to that of the rest of Lobatse would probably make everything immediately clear. But that is the point about Lobatse. It hides so much of itself behind every available corner.

If the imprint of European Lobatse is still plainly visible in the green, spacious area stretching more or less from the plantation to the railway station, Indian Lobatse immediately makes itself known, as one enters from the south, with its mosque and school. The school, originally known as the Indian School was opened in 1961 and matched the Europeans-only school on the other side of town. For many years, Crescent School has enjoyed a reputation as one of the best of the country’s private schools. Pressing onwards into the old centre of town is to note that many of the shops are Indian owned and run, the obvious exceptions being the inevitable South African chain stores.

Botswana Meat Commission and its well watered lawns and executive housing

Entering Lobatse from the east, from the Pioneer Border Gate, is to sample African Lobatse and what is undoubtedly the town’s most remarkable feature, Peleng. To make this suggestion may seem strange because there will be many who believe that the principal features of the town are the High Court, the Mosque or Geological Department, the Lobatse Brick and Tile Company or even the Cumberland Hotel. They would be wrong. Absolutely nothing in Lobatse, or indeed in the entire country, compares with Peleng. As a self-help low cost housing area climbing way up into the side of a giant hill, it is unique. This country is a mass of paradoxes and Peleng presents one of the greatest. In a country of enormous spaces and few people, the physical characteristics of Lobatse meant that if the area to the west of the railway line was reserved for the Europeans, and the flatter areas to the east were taken up by their freehold farms, the only area left for everybody else was up the side of the hill. So that is where they went.

The point must be made that with the terminology of the time, Peleng was an African, as opposed to a Tswana, location. Its name indicated that, unlike the old Tswana tribal capitals, it was a cosmopolitan area which provided a home for people from just about everywhere. A visit to Peleng today will give an immediate idea of the sort of nightmare the place must have posed for British security. Once in, how could they find what they sought and how then were they to get out? So better not to go in! Can it be a surprise therefore that this country’s modern politics began in African Lobatse and that Mandela, Machel and Tambo should have stayed in Peleng, with people such as Fish Keitseng. Or that the country’s first bookshop should have been started there, this being an initiative of the then London Missionary Society of Livingstone and Moffat. The old shop, now gone, was the progenitor of today’s Botswana Book Centre in Gaborone.

But even in Peleng there are more paradoxes. Fairly grim houses are located next door to ones of respectability and comfort; great poverty and some degree of wealth exist side by side. Yet, a huge effort has been made by the municipal authorities to uplift the whole of Peleng, both the better off and those who struggle on the margins of life. Many of the steep hillside roads are tarred, incredibly there is street lighting which apparently works, and there is a systematised scheme of rubbish collection from each house. There is an enormous amount to be learnt from this place about just about everything.

Absolutely nothing in Lobatse, or indeed in the entire country, compares with Peleng

Lobatse’s curious, uncomfortable history, has left it with deep divisions and many scars. The old tribal capitals which were situated away from the railway line were, to a degree insulated from the kinds of racism which were the norm in the new, settler towns such as Lobatse and Francistown, and inevitably along the railway line. Perhaps the nature of racism in the south was somewhat tempered by the fact that Lobatse had a larger British administrative presence than Francistown. That said, Africans and Indians were not allowed to enter the old Lobatse Hotel, and when visiting the Athlone Hospital were required to go around at the back. Even at the ‘liberal’ Cumberland Hotel, before Independence, non-whites, African and Indian, were admitted but were requested to seat themselves at remote tables and make themselves as far as possible, both inaudible and invisible. And even in death, there was division with historically, separate graveyards or reserved burial areas, for whites, for Africans, for Indian Muslims and for coloureds.

At the railway station, there were white and non-white entrances for those wanting to buy tickets and at nine o’clock every evening the police station on the African side of town blew a siren to advise non-whites that they should return quickly to their correct part of town. But there must have been exceptions because the existence of at least one area of low cost housing in white Lobatse suggests that, for obvious reasons, domestic servants were allowed to stay.

The railwayline which creates the divide between the two sides of Lobatse

Lobatse is a town of oddities and contrasts. At one end it has the abandoned offices of the old Commonwealth Development Corporation and at the other, a virtually abandoned luxury Golf Club. It was chosen as the home for the country’s major abattoir probably because it had a reasonably secure source of water but it also hosted the country’s only mental hospital. Unlike both Gaborone and Francistown, it has had an elected ‘Indian’ (Motswana) Mayor. It has as one of its ‘sons’ a figure of legendary proportions, Sir Russell England, now wholly forgotten, who played a major role in ushering the country towards Independence. It was in Lobatse that Seretse and Ruth were accommodated by the British Administration in a house which has recently been demolished. It also has the grave of a not much loved British District Commissioner whose burial in 1958 was loyally attended by the local community – the non-whites being held back at a discreet distance by a fence – whilst those in the nearby jail shouted insults throughout the entire proceedings. It was in Lobatse too, in the then High Court, that the Tshekedi-Bathoen case against the British Government was heard ‘with a 1,000 men from the Bamangwato and other tribes camped in a field nearby’. In 1947 Lobatse was again in the news with the visit of King George and Queen Elizabeth which was fortunately described by R.A.R. Bent. Quote. ‘At Lobatsi a great clearing had been made in the bush, near the depot where the Bechuanaland troops had trained. From the early hours the whole of the Southern Protectorate was gathering there and all from the North that had managed to cram themselves onto the seven special trains which had come down the day before. They gathered by ox-waggon, lorry, horse and foot and train, twenty-five thousand people, the biggest assembly that had ever come together, in Bechuanaland.’

In 1949 Lobatse again provided the setting for yet another of the country’s great historical sagas – the Harrigan enquiry into the marriage of Seretse and Ruth. Lobatse today says that it wants a museum. Indeed it should have one because it has a heritage which is remarkable and different, if sometimes painful. Were the government to make available Germond’s abandoned home behind the High Court there would be every chance of Lobatse having a fascinating museum of which it could be very proud.

© 2010, Boidus. All rights reserved.

Discussion

43 Responses to “Lobatse – A Town of Oddities and Contrasts”

  1. Dumela, I can hardly believe the change in the old Lobatse. My son was born in the Athlone Hospital in 1962 and I wonder if the old hospital is still there, maybe left as a monument. I had to travel about 45 miles from Gaberones (Gaborone) on dirt roads to have my baby but was so greatful to the Dr’s & Nursing Nuns for their care at the Athlone Hospital. Tsamaya Sentle, Avis.

    Posted by Avis | 10. Jan, 2011, 7:35 pm
    • yeah still there, operating, those buildings are tough, they took a test of time

      Posted by Modise | 11. Feb, 2014, 2:53 pm
    • just two years ago BMC demolished all the houses that accommodated staff near Ipeleng Primary school, its now a bare ground with only BMC (Lobatse)football ground and a lone house rotting in a corner and few houses left. The halls we use to gymn boxing and attend night school all gone. the playgrounds, open cinema hall near the football pitch gone, what a waste

      Posted by Modise | 11. Feb, 2014, 4:04 pm
  2. Fascinating to read all this. I arrived in Lobatsi by train in May 1955 from Cape Town, stayed in the Lobatsi Hotel owned by Sid & Doris Milner. My father Taliesin Richards came to take over from a Mrs Gunter as headmaster of the the Lobatsi Government European School. He did a wonderful job and was loved and respected by Europeans and Bechuanas. He served with Bechuanas during the war and was very fond of them and their country.He became Secretary of the Teaching Service in 1965 in Gaberones. Some of his teachers: Miss Chepe and Quet Masire went on to hold high office. I knew Russell and Sheila England very well and the Germonds and most of the other characters in the Lobatsi of the 50’s and 60’s, Dusty Rhodes, Izzy Hill,Gavin Lamont(Geological Survey) Dennis Sturgeon (Director of CDC), Doctors Van Rooien, Gemmell and Oliver & Vin Malan BP Police. My mother taught in both the European and Indian Schools. I played my first round of golf on the golf course/runway behind the school hostel which I think is now the Mental Hospital. Tonsuls taken out in the Athlone Hospital in 1956.(some of the spelling may be incorrect) I have very much enjoyed McCall Smith’s books as they evoke many wonderful memories of the people of Bechuanaland/Botswana

    Posted by Michael Richards | 07. Feb, 2011, 7:04 pm
    • Sandy Grant (with whom I lived and worked in Mochudi from 1965 to 67) has drawn my attention to your comments on his piece about Lobatse, as he remembered that I also knew your father.
      A very kind man, very good company, we were together for 2 or 3 months in ’65/6 commuting weekly between the BP and the old colonial government enclave in Mafeking. We had rooms there in Crewes Hotel. I was a very green 20 year old, and Tal counselled me, encouraged me, and generally helped me to find my way.
      I am grateful to you for reminding me of him.
      Johnny Gumb,
      London.

      Posted by Johnny Gumb | 10. Feb, 2011, 6:28 pm
  3. Hallo Michael – most grateful that you took the trouble to react to my little article on Lobatse. Yes, it has changed very much – although perhaps less than nearly everywhere else in this country. My own view is that Lobatse and Kanye are the two most interesting places in the country – and the two that rarely get a mention! I pitched up in Mochudi in December ’63 – and did know your father, commonly called Tal. Unfortunately, however, I came too late to know many of the people you name. I think that you should write a note for Botswana Notes and Records about the Lobatse that you remember – it’s an annual which encourages memoir type comment. I am deliberately avoiding the word ‘article’ which can be off putting. A note is just that, no one queries the facts and so on – it is a recollection – which could be very important. And it can be as long or short as you wish it to be. Let me have something I will pass it on to the relevant people.
    Have you come across Hilda Bernstein’s biography – and her tale of her escape to Lobatse and her description of it – very grim.
    Re Russell and Sheila England – I envy you. I certainly remember that bluff old gent with a pipe – but I could never have met her. A pity. It bothers me that this country now has no historical memory – so that Russell E is totally forgotten. I have been unable to track down even a single photo of him. When he was murdered, the best coverage I found was in the Mafikeng Mail – which included the one photos I have of him. If you have photos of Lobatse, or of the great man himself or indeed of anywhere else in this country, I do hope that you will think of giving me copies. But I am not at all interested in photos of wildlife.
    Thank you again for responding – and if you have questions or need to know something, I will do my best to answer – but bear in mind that I have never lived in the place so that I know much less than I should do.
    Best wishes,
    Sandy grant

    Posted by Sandy Grant | 08. Feb, 2011, 6:55 pm
    • Hi , I am trying to find out more about my dad and is parents, all I know is my Granparents had a trading store in Lobatse Mr Palphramand, my dad Maurice Palphramand was born in Serowe.

      Posted by Teresa | 05. Jul, 2012, 11:09 am
  4. Yes the hospital is still there but I am dead scared that those planning its development will destroy the most remarkable frontispiece in the entire country. Even the Lobatse Council (let alone those in government – oh dear!) seem to be totally unaware of its quality.

    Posted by Sandy Grant | 11. Feb, 2011, 7:07 pm
  5. Wow,what a history that is!!!Its amazing how much our towns have quite an amazing and unique history that we dont know about.These are things that are worth preserving and its very important for town planners like me to know this.With this kind of history,we can sell our cities as tourists destinations,Im sure everyone would want to know and see how our towns began.Lobatse really deserve a museum to showcase such a rich past and Sandy Grant is really a great writer.

    Posted by Thato | 16. Feb, 2011, 12:57 pm
    • Hallo Thato, I have been slow to respond to your comment because it has taken me time to recover. I have been banging on this particular drum for about forty years and you must be the first person to get the point – and you are absolutely correct. I only wish that there are others such as yourself – but maybe, just maybe, we are beginning to win – but sadly, it will take time. I am unable to understand or explain why there is this strange, lamentable lack of interest in the history of all settlements but in particular, the major ones. What we have are tribal histories – initiated principally by Schapera. But we have not moved on since then. Right now, I think that I am correct in saying that there is not a single, available history of any major settlement in this country, from Gaborone to Francistown, Molepolole to Serowe and so on. Of course, none of these places are built into current tourism programmes – because, having no interest in their histories ourselves, we are unable to conceive that tourists might have very different views – if they were given the chance to know what is so historically interesting about them. It may be that we are so afraid of pre-1966 history – because of pre-conceived ideas – that we dare not open the dreaded box – because what might pop out? Sadly, tragically, this widely held attitude/fear is denying the young the right to know about their own history, their past, the way that their town or village developed, went through tough times, survived and flourished. Possibly it is because we still hang on to tribalist notions that, even now, we are unwilling to move on from tribal histories. But that fascination, that particular interest area is today a cul de sac, as is cultural tourism. In terms of tourism, the future can only be heritage tourism – but of course we are ill-equipped to provide the kind of information that will be needed. It will be a huge challenge – but much could be achieved with a different mind set and a willingness to cooperate with every one willing to become a working partner – from UB to Dikgosi to District Councils and most obviously to partner universities abroad. It’s a big subject. I must again express my appreciation of your comment. But I certainly do wish to be in direct contact with you. Perhaps your small ripple can be made to become a really big one – would that not be wonderful?
      sandy grant

      Posted by Sandy Grant | 21. Feb, 2011, 6:18 pm
      • It would be an honour to meet with you Sir.I have so much interest in our settlements history especially urban settlements.Its an obvious case that our towns especially Gaborone lacks so much when it come to tourism,they lack a brand through which they can be noticed around the world.That is why tourists prefer places like Maun which has lots of wildlife and they never make a stop in Gabs because there is nothing to see here.Or maybe there is something to see,but its not in a proper or attractive state to draw interest.I would very much like to take part in improving the image of our city,because it is my duty as an upcoming urban planner.

        I shall be away from the 24th feb to the 6th of march on a school trip to Namibia.So would really like to be in contact with you then.
        Thato Motlhaping

        Posted by Thato | 23. Feb, 2011, 9:01 pm
      • Hi, Sandy! I must say this is the most exciting article i ever came across..a student of history and now a young enterprenuer in Lobatse, i take so much pride in this town-the rich history it carries and would like to contribute to making Lobatse the country’s heritage destination…hopefully you met with Thato, kindly take me on board.

        Many thanks
        Kadesh Koama

        Posted by Kadesh Koama | 08. Dec, 2012, 10:39 am
  6. Sorry for not responding earlier. I will dig out some photos I have of the BP and try and compile a note of my time there. I left in 1965, so it will be a fair test for my memory and bear in mind that I was a youngster at the time. It was great to hear from Johnny Gumb who knew my father. I can confirm that he was known as Tal by everyone. Mike Richards

    Posted by Mike Richards | 04. Apr, 2011, 9:35 pm
  7. Sandy, I have dug out some of the photos of the BP (as’twas) and will scan them and send them to you. There are only a few of merit;a garden party for Sir John Maude at the Germond’s residence with Sheila England, Doris & Fred Lapham (manager of the BSA Ranch), Brenda Murch, (matron of the Athlone) Hospital and my mother, Mary Richards. My father is obscured by Armand Germond, the Divisional Commissioner. The others are of a guard of honour for the High Commissioner at the new High Court and of the school where my father was headmaster and my mother taught and of the boarding hostel which was built some time after we arrived. The last two buildings are still standing as I found them on Google Earth. As promised I will endeavour to put something down on paper about my time in the then BP.

    Mike Richards

    Posted by Michael Richards | 19. Apr, 2011, 9:56 am
    • Mike – wonderful news about your photos, I am most intrigued. Lobatse has a street named after Germond but I, for one, have never seen a photo of him. Your photos are likely to help fill a very large gap.
      sandy

      Posted by Sandy Grant | 23. Apr, 2011, 9:32 am
  8. Mike – I should have mentioned that Germond’s Residence is still there – allowed, scandalously, to run down by the government primarily and secondly by the Town Council. It is an incredible waste of a major public asset. I will be intersted to see what a part of it (I assume) looked like in its hey-day.
    sandy

    Posted by Sandy Grant | 23. Apr, 2011, 9:43 am
  9. Hi folks, Just a brief note advising that my father (Anthony Charles Selvum NAIDOO) and my mother (Rosemarie) were the inaugural Headmaster & Headmistress/teachers of what was then the Indian School in Lobatse. They came to the newly built basic two room school and boarding facilities in January 1961. When they left to take up teaching positions in Zambia in 1964, they had built up the school and installed a generator for provision of power. I believe the current Headmaster/mistress still has access to the old student reports written by my father from that time. Until their deaths in 2009 and 2011, they always remembered this school fondly. Earlier this year my father sent a 50th Year greetings to school, but I do not think that this greeting was received. Best Wishes.

    Posted by Keran Naidoo | 19. Aug, 2011, 10:53 pm
    • Hi Keran – thank you for taking the trouble to drop that note. Although I have long been interested in Lobatse, I have never lived there. With comments such as yours, I see that it really is high time that someone produces a decent history of the place – I know that there is one dissertation on it – which would provide a start. Sorry to be so ignorant – but was the old Indian School the forerunner of the Crescent School – surely there couldn’t have been two Indian Schools! If so, it makes it dead easy for me to pass on your note to those now running it – or at least to get it into the hands of those with whom you can communicate. There will be people, I am sure, who will be very pleased to have heard from you.
      best wishes,
      sandy grant

      Posted by Sandy Grant | 25. Aug, 2011, 5:32 pm
      • Hi Sandy, Thanks for your response. I totally agree. I think those who can should contribute to building up a more complete picture of this remarkable place. I believe you are correct when you say that the “Lobatse Indian School” eventually became the “Crescent School”. A couple of years ago at the suggestion of my late Dad I made contact with the “Crescent Schools” principal and the Lady acknowledged this as she said she had gone to the archives and had come across school reports written by my father circa 1961-1963. My father was aware that the School was about to commemorate its 50th Year this year (2011) and I sent a message of congratulation from him in January, but received no response. After my parents passing I have come into possession of photographs from the time and hopefully I can share this with anyone who is interested. Regards Keran Brisbane Australia.

        Posted by Keran Naidoo | 27. Aug, 2011, 5:02 am
        • Keran – wow. If you have photos and are willing to copy and send, let me please snap them up. But information about them would help i.e. who is who? And when and where? Currently there is no active institutional attempt here of which I know, to obtain copies of historic photos – so this is a gap I am trying to fill. Mike Richards, as you will have seen, also promised photos and I am still anxiously waitng to see them. Meanwhile I must try and work out how to achieve direct contact with you.
          regards,.
          sandy grant

          Posted by Sandy Grant | 27. Aug, 2011, 7:06 pm
          • Hi Sandy. It is pity that I was not aware of your website prior to the death of Dad. He died only 12 days ago. He had a fantastic memory even as he approached his 84th birthday. I will definitely provide photographs as soon as I am able to collate them. At my fathers Wake it was discovered that both my parents did more than run a School in Lobatse, but also assisted South Africans fleeing the South African authorities. Even though I was ony about four I remember Mom and Dad bundling us into the car late at night, driving to the grassy airstrip to await small airplanes that when my Dad heard them he would turn on the car lights. They would land and people would get out. The small plane would then fly off. My Mom would then spring into action serving coffee and light meals whilst they awaited the arrival of another small plane that would board these people (some of them children), and fly off North. So it appears the little Lobatse grassy airstrip was performing quite different role during the night! regards Keran

            Posted by Keran Naidoo | 27. Aug, 2011, 11:30 pm
  10. Hi Sandy, Sorry for the delay in sending my notes & photos. I have drafted something, but it needs tidying up. I am also unsure how to attach photos.

    Mike

    Posted by Michael Richards | 01. Sep, 2011, 11:06 am
  11. Great article! I worked as a Planning and Development Officer for the Lobatse Town Council from 1974 to 1976 through the Peace Corps at the old offices. Many of your comments about the personality of the town were true then. It would be great to see more photos.

    Posted by Tom Koon | 06. Oct, 2011, 7:45 pm
    • Hi Tom – it always baffles me to understand how you fellows manage to pick up on this web site. But it is very encouraging that you do. Thanks, therefore, for your comment – but if you are interested in getting a really interesting angle on Lobatse in the past, try Hilda Bernstein’s amazing The World That Was Ours. – available via Amazon.
      best, sandy

      Posted by Sandy Grant | 08. Oct, 2011, 9:55 pm
  12. Superb piece on Lobatse! I was trying to Google Crescent School when I came across this wonderful article. As a child I lived at Lobatse TTC (1974-76 and 1978-80), where my parents were teachers. I attended Crescent School, which was a very multi-racial and multi-cultural school. I remember sometimes walking down to Peleng to visit friends. Those years in Lobatse were, without any doubt, the best years of my childhood.

    Posted by Britt Westerberg Mattu | 07. Mar, 2012, 9:06 pm
    • Hi Britt, what a lovely response – so glad that the article brought back for you something of your youthful days in Lobatse. I have included this piece in a book on the country’s heritage which is to be published in the UK sometime in May. If you are interested, you could follow the lead via Amazon,
      all the best,
      sandy

      Posted by Sandy Grant | 18. Mar, 2012, 6:56 pm
  13. Hi all; Intersting to read about Lobatse and memories. My late father (Ray Bodenstein), was born in Barkley East area, while growng up always talking about Lobatse, Mafikeng and area. I have family links to Crewes, (owners of the Mafikeng Hotels). Would be great is someone have meories and photographs of the Crewes Hotel, or where to find it. Ray

    Posted by Ray | 11. May, 2012, 11:50 am
    • Hi Ray, I remember Crewes’ Hotel, owned and run by Percy Crewe, if my memory hasn’t failed me. I am sure that one of the long term residents was Digger MacNickle who ran a ‘cool drink’ bottling plant in Mafeking. I think we used to go back to the hotel after the cricket matches between Lobatsi and the Imperial Reserve and the Mafeking Railway. This would be in the mid 50’s to early 60’s when my father, Tal Richards opened the batting even though was in his late 40’s by then. Mind you he was still playing hockey in his early 50’s! Unfortunately, I don’t have any photographs of the hotel. I think the other well known Mafeking hotel was Dixon’s?

      Posted by Mike Richards | 12. May, 2012, 5:53 pm
  14. for Ray and Mike – the connection between Lobatse and Mafikeng is an interesting one which has not previously been mentioned. Maybe it’s something which needs somehow to be further explored. Regarding Crewes Hotel – I certainly stayed there at least once – it being a place which was much used by those involved with or just visiting the Imp. Reserve. In fact, I have a strong memory of having had breakfast there with Tal Richards. Sadly (?), the hotel is no more. I get to Mafikeng erratically so was startled to find on one visit that it had comprehensively gone – having been replaced by a shopping mall. But then Mafikeng as a whole has dramatically changed – those who knew it in the old days would be positively startled. For instance there was once a central square with a regulation statue of someone on a horse – but the square and the horseman have both gone – I wonder what happened to the latter!

    Posted by Sandy Grant | 31. May, 2012, 7:42 am
    • to add to the above – reference Digger Macnicol (how should that be spelt?) – I had not known him in Mafikeng, in fact had not known that this was his background – but I did very much know that he emerged in the earliest days of Phikwe running what was inevitably a very famous bar. It’s interesting how Lobatse is taking us into all sorts of other directions. I hope that the comments continue!

      Posted by Sandy Grant | 31. May, 2012, 8:18 am
  15. Hi Mike / Sandy,

    Amazing how people respond. I have been travelling, so only responding now. Mike, cool that you remember the name Percy. Indeed correct, i believe he then had a son (maybe Richard??), whom owned 2 Hotels later in Mafikeng. Pity further, that both of them died in vehicle accidents (Percy 1976?).
    Is there no archive for records or newspapers of then? great so that you all lobby to “restore” the grand place. Big things start small i say?……

    Posted by Ray | 31. May, 2012, 7:17 pm
    • Hi Ray & Sandy,

      On reflection I suspect it was Digger MacNichol. My family had a soft spot for Mafeking as it was the nearest large town;Zeerust didn’t really offer much. We used to go there for what was then called a fruit lunch at a cafe, the name of which escapes me.In an earlier note you mentioned Kanye.We were friends with Dennis Atkins, the District Commissioner and his family, in particular his daughter Cilla! Moshaneg asbestos mine was nearby and we knew Jumbo Corser the mine captain and his wife Win who taught with my father & mother in Lobatse.
      Mike

      Posted by Mike Richards | 06. Jun, 2012, 9:38 pm
  16. What a fascinating set of posts and comments on Lobatse’s history!
    I wonder if anyone has any photos of the ‘safe house/houses’ that aNC refugees used to use in the 1960s?
    I’m working on an exhibition that the Apartheid Museum (Johannesburg) is putting together on the life of OR Tambo.
    Thank you.

    Posted by RUTH MULLER | 09. Aug, 2012, 6:20 pm
    • Hallo Ruth,wonderful that you ask! I wish that you would more directly challenge the authorities, local and central, to come up with an answer to your question. Neither, to date, have shown interest in such matters. Strange isn’t it! But I do wish for direct contact with you – so many remarkable stories and achievements in Lobatse, often painful, are today left unexplored and unrelated. But why?
      sandy

      Posted by Sandy Grant | 12. Aug, 2012, 7:55 pm
      • Wow!Nostalgic feeling i got when i read your article about Lobatse Sandy. I grew up in Peleng. Both my parents are originally South Africans. This was in the early seventies, i remember the Lobatse Hotel and the Cumberland Hotel vey well, the grannaries, the high court. At so painful now when you see how Lobatse has deteriorated and yet and it has so much to offer. I have just embarked on project to regenerate Lobatse through Greening by Tree planting in Conjuction with the Town Council and am hoping that through that we would be able to breath some life into the place.

        Posted by Loatile Seleka - Seboni | 13. Feb, 2013, 8:44 am
        • This is very good news and such a welcome new initiative. If you could give me more information about this programme I would certainly try and give it publicity. Is there any chance that you can tie in or relate this programme with the town’s wonderful new park – interests obviously overlap and anything that is mutually sustaining can only be a very big plus. I wish you luck – but we do need to know how you et on.

          Posted by Sandy Grant | 12. Mar, 2013, 6:55 pm
  17. i am so shellshocked with the discussions on the history of Lobatse.currently working on MA in Arch..particular attention on built heritage in Botswana.it would be an honour to meet with you S.Grant to discuss this issues further,esp that i am planning to use Phuthadikobo as a case study on the developemtn of cost effective intervention methods,@Thato my thesis also looks at policies and built heritage which i think you will become handy..will be happy to meet and discuss while back in the country.@Ruth Muller..there are a few discussion on the Machel house which he used while in exile together with Mandela House..it will be interesting to be involved in your project as there are ideas to develop the Machel house into a museum,i would like to meet more so that i am studying in pretoria.please lets discuss more..regards

    Posted by Ronald | 05. Sep, 2012, 2:57 pm
  18. This is a very interesting piece to come across on the net. I am always interested in hearing the history of my town and other people’s opinions about it. Especially since we consider Lobatse a ghost town. Its one of the slowest changing place in all of Botswana, most of my childhood structures are still standing and in use. I find it sad that most of us locals do not take that much interest in the rich history that Lobatse has to offer.

    Posted by colyn | 27. Nov, 2012, 3:07 am
  19. To me, working in Botswana in 1964 to 1967,the main feature of Lobatse was that it was a welcome (even charming, not to say essential) OASIS! The only place, north of Mafekeng and south of Francistown on that so long dirt road (except for Lobatse’s half mile of tar) with necessary amenities. Shops, at least one of which even sold books; a garage with fuel pumps; 2 hotels where you could get refreshment for the onward travel north or south. The only place with welcome, often essential, services on that so very long north/south dirt road; bereft of any other comfort, except for the half mile of tar and the gum trees north of Lobatse which were your welcome to its amenities. Many is the time I have driven down that dreadful road from Gaberone just to enjoy for an hour its facilities. Sandy Grant is an old-timer, a man of learning, of sensibility, and a great love for matters Botswana. I much enjoy his writings on the much neglected “building” heritage of Botswana. But, in describing the construction features and interest of bygone days, Mr Grant should not forget the practical features of everyday life as it once was. Yes, indeed, in its history Lobatse has much to commend it as a significant part of Botswana’s heritage But, apart from so much else, it might be worth remembering that it was also a quite vital “oasis” – a place of welcome and nourishment to the needy of both the local Tswana and foreigners like myself.

    Posted by Trevor Bottomley | 03. Jan, 2013, 9:24 pm
  20. Hi Sandy,
    Is the book on Botswana that you said would be printed in the UK already out. I’m interested in reading that one.

    Posted by Mtokozisi | 13. Feb, 2013, 1:29 pm
  21. we also lived in lobatse in 1960s my young sister was born in the athlone hospital.my dad worked in the local post office. i remember the standard bank across the road. the road in front of the railway station there was a paint shop which was run by the hepburns then there was a butcher run by the danni herbst. my younger siblings went to the local school and the headmaster at the time was a mr westuizen,we always went to the cumberland hotel to watch the movies. i can remember the lovely water fountain with a statue of a lady in the nude.as there was no high school there we used to get on the train and go to mafeking bording school. oh nearly forgot on the corner was the chemist which was run by a mr theron
    i loved reading about all comments on your sight thankyou for bringing back memories of happy childhood times

    Posted by christine elshaw(nee dalgliesh) | 09. Mar, 2013, 9:03 am
  22. Talk about coincidence! I was just having an interesting conversation with my grandfather about the history of Botswana, its “forgotten” leaders/pioneers and all the hidden treasures of this country especially in my home village Kanye which is not so far from Lobatse! I ran a google search on some of the names he mentioned and I came across this blog and Oh my goodness!! I am glued to all of your comments! I am an 17year old and I currently live in Gaborone. I have always believed that this country posses so much historical significance our cities and towns. I always envy cities like joburg and Capetown that are able to preserve their cites’ histories and I’ve often wondered why we cant have museums in our towns, It really saddens me because I am so interested in my country’s untold history, I’m not so interested in the stereotypical hunter gatherer history we are taught in our school here. I’m so keen on learning about the historical significance of buildings that are found in our towns/cities and the people who lived there, who they were etc that is why I absolutely love The Lobatse Article you wrote. It has taught me so much about the rich history that has been hidden from the majority of us young people and this really really saddens. Thank you so much for this article is an interesting read and if you do not mind I would like to share it on social media e.g facebook and please if you want to run a campaign or anything to let people know about the importance of preserving the little we have of old lobatse or creation of a museum please let me know.. I may not have links to the most important people in this country but as a young citizen of this country I feel its my duty to to aid in restoring this country’s history!

    I see that you have not posted in over a year I hope you are still pushing on with this project.. oh and another thought have you ever looked into maybe creating a documentary about lobatse?

    best wishes
    Mabedi Sennanyana

    Posted by Mabedi Sennanyana | 13. Aug, 2014, 4:26 pm

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