Mafikeng, 25km south of the Ramatlabama border post with Botswana, offers a unique portrait of the vision of apartheid and its deep contradictions. Acting as a shopping and transport hub for the wide area of farmland that surrounds it, it is most famous for Baden-Powell and the Boer siege of 1899–1900 (see The siege of Mafikeng).
The town’s main attraction is the Mafikeng Museum, housed in the impressive former town hall, which was built in 1902, two years after the siege ended. There’s a restored steam locomotive outside, in use from 1901 until 1971 when it pulled the Kimberley–Bulawayo Express. Inside, you’ll find San hunting weapons and poisons, and a life-size re-creation of a traditional Tswana hut, complete with its trademark enclosed porch. The siege of Mafikeng is given a room of its own, filled with classic British imperial memorabilia, from weaponry to a wonderful collection of photos. Keep an eye out too for the fascinating exhibit on Mafikeng and the railways, which provides evidence of the connection between their spread from Cape Town and Rhodes’ mission to colonize Africa.
The 46-square-kilometre Mafikeng Game Reserve is worth a quick drive around for its acacia-strewn bushveld landscape and herbivorous plains game, including white rhino and buffalo. Cooke’s Lake, in the reserve’s western corner next to town, is reasonably good for waterfowl and mongooses (and the snakes they prey on).