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Lichtenburg


Lichtenburg. (Ditsobotla in Setswana.)
 
Situated about 60 kilometres east of Mafikeng. Originally the land where Lichtenburg now stands was owned by a Voortrekker, Hendrick Greef. In 1873 a town was proclaimed on part of one of his farms. It was named by the President of the South African Republic, Lichtenburg, meaning "town of light", hoping it would bring peace and prosperity to the far western Transvaal. This was not to be however, as much of its history in the mid-to late nineteenth century was bedeviled with conflict on the Transvaal's western border, where certain white mercenaries or freebooters attempted to gain a hold over land occupied by the baRolong under their leader Montshiwa. Several military engagements took place in the vicinity.  Lichtenburg grew fairly slowly and only attained the status of a municipality in 1904. 








Map showing Mafikeng, Lichtenburg & Zeerust Districts . 
 
A transformation in the fortunes of Lichtenburg occured in 1926, when a large diamond was discovered on the farm Elandsputte. There followed one of the most frenzied diamond rushes in South African history. Over a hundred thousand people of all races attempted to stake claims to the diamond fields. The fortunate owner of the farm Elandsputte, Jacobus Voorendyk, became a very wealthy man. Lichtenburg, it is reported, was shrouded with a permanent cloud of dust. However, the town grew enormously under the impact of the diamond rush-though it was not to last long, primarily due to a fall in prices and the onset of the Great Depression. In 1935 mining more or less ended, but 7 million carats of diamonds were discovered around Lichtenburg, the most famous being the largest pure red 33 carat diamond ever found.  Remnants of some of these mining outposts close to Lichtenburg are well preserved such as the "Diggers Town" at Bakerville.  
 
The town is also well known for being the home of General Jacobus (Koos) de la Rey, the Assistant Commandant General of the Boer forces who also represented Lichtenburg in parliament.  De la Rey attempted to drive the British out of Lichtenburg during the South African War and attacked the British garrison of 600 soldiers under Colonel Money in March 1901. The attack did not go according to plan, and he was forced to withdraw. Sympathetic to the idea of a Boer rebellion in 1914, he was killed in a road block, the victim (according to most sources) of mistaken identity. (See also De la Rey).
 
An interesting feature of the town is the fact that it has within the town's limits a vlei, whose layers of peat occasionally caught fire. This last happened in 1984 as two dams have been constructed at the vlei in recent times, so that combustion is highly unkilely.   
 
Most of the African inhabitants of Lichtenburg have historically lived in the nearby township of Boikhutso or at Itsoseng, some 30 kilometres distant. (See also Itsoseng).   
      


South Africa's North-West province: A Guide to its History and Heritage. © 2017

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