History of Francistown

Published on 17th July 2007

Francistown is the second largest city in Botswana, with a population of about 113,315 according to the 2001 census. It is often described as the "Capital of the North". Located in eastern Botswana, the city is about 400 Kilometres north-northeast from the capital, Gaborone.

The city is at the convergence of the Tati and Inchwe rivers, and near the Shashe River (tributary to the Limpopo) and 90 kilometres from the international border with Zimbabwe. Francistown was the center of southern Africa's first gold rush, and is still surrounded by old and abandoned mines. 

In the 1820s the Ndebele passed through the area on their way to Bulawayo, bringing their culture and influence to the Kalanga area of north-eastern Botswana. Nyangabgwe was visited by Robert Moffat hence being the nearest village to Francistown to have been visited by Europeans. Moffat was followed by a gold prospector, Karl Mauch who, in 1867, found gold along the Tati River. This was followed soon thereafter with more deposits in the Francistown area itself. Francistown was the site of southern Africa's first "gold-rush".

The city was founded in 1897, as a settlement near the Monarch mine. It is named after Daniel Francis, an English prospector who acquired prospecting licenses in the region in 1869. He was a director of the Tati Concessions Company who owned all the land in the settlement. The Monarch mine was not the only mine in operation at that time.

In the beginning, the town comprised one street that featured several companies running parallel to the "Cape to Cairo" railway line. Behind these were houses of the few white settlers. Segregated areas were made for coloreds and black people in the Satellite township and between the railway and the river respectively. However in 1966, after Botswana gained its independence, Francistown was no longer segregated.

The Bakalanga people, the second largest ethnic group in Botswana, are centered around the town and the surrounding area. Recently, the city has seen a large influx of immigrants from Zimbabwe. It is a major transportation hub. A railway line links the city with Harare in Zimbabwe via Bulawayo; and Francistown with Gaborone in the south. The city also has a domestic airport.



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