To enda ku toropo (“we are going to town”) is what many Kalanga people would say when heading to Francistown, the North East’s major urban centre and Botswana’s second largest city (100,079 in the 2011 census). The city, located on the A1 highway connecting Gaborone to Zimbabwe, has become the commercial capital of the north. The people who predominate in this area are the (Ba)Kalanga. Francistown hosts some important heritage sites and wildlife attractions worth seeing on your way to Kasane, Maun or Gaborone. The Tachila Nature Reserve has a variety of wild animals, and at the Supa Ngwao Museum the history of the city and surrounding area is preserved. Travelers needing a stopover can choose from several hotels and lodges including Cresta Thapama, Marang, Adansonia, and theTati River Lodge, which provide first class accommodation and dining facilities at reasonable prices. A number of chain restaurants are also available: Spur, KFC, Barceló’s, Debonairs Pizza, Milk Lane and Chicken Likin’. The city has four shopping centres and they are located within walking distance of one another: Galo Shopping Centre, Nzano Centre, Nswazwi Shopping Centre and Blue Jacket Street.
St. Patricks Church
The original structure of this Catholic church was built in 1899. After it burned down and its original roofing style was destroyed, a new structure was built in 1932, with some imitation of the original one. The original church bell dates to 1909. St Patrick’s church is located on the St Patrick Street near John Mackenzie School in Francistown.
Supa Ngwao Museum Centre
Supa Ngwao Museum is a good place for historians and explorers wanting to learn about the way of life and culture of the local communities. Supa Ngwao has an exhibition and offers insight into the early years of the people of Francistown particularly the Kalanga people, who occupy most of the area, the country at large and their heritage. Supa Ngwao Museum displays include wood carvings, musical instruments and basketry.
Domboshaba Ruins are located in the protected hills, about 10km outside Masunga in the north east part of the country. Dombo (‘hill’) Shaba (‘red’) allegedly was the site of the leader of the people who occupied the area as late as the 16th century CE, who are regarded as the ancestors of the BaKalanga people of northeastern Botswana. The Kalanga arts festival, famously known as the ‘Domboshaba festival’ is also held annually at Domboshaba at the end of September and is organized by the Domboshaba Cultural Trust. The festival has grown into a major event that attracts international tourists and locals in large numbers. They usually bring some traditional brewed beer in clay pots, as a way of honouring the ancestors.
Tachila Nature Reserve
Tachila Nature Reserve is 5 km from Francistown along the Maun road, and occupies about 8000 hectares of land. The reserve was started to preserve and conserve the natural resources and the historical heritage of Francistown and surrounding areas. The nature reserve is used to sustain the biodiversity of the area by re-introducing some of the species that have disappeared from the area. Most importantly, Tachila runs an education centre to promote long-term conservation of biodiversity and sustainable use of natural resources. In the nature reserve is a picnic site with a braai stand, a snake park, and the education centre all open to visitors. Overnight visitors can stay at a guest house and take game drives to see zebra and a variety of antelopes.
Visitors will have available a variety of places of worship, e.g., Christian churches, Muslim mosques, and African Traditional churches, such as the several branches of the Zionist Christian Church. Education around the city is also diverse. There are several private English-medium schools (Mophato School, KTM and John Mackenzie) and government schools such as Mater Spei (partly run by the Roman Catholic Church), Francistown Teacher Training College, University of Botswana Campus and several technical colleges. Transport is also reliable, with railway links to Harare and Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, road links with Ramokgwebana Border in the north, and Kazungula as well as Kasane, Maun via Nata. The airport has flights flying locally, to Gaborone, Maun, Kasane and other points around the country. Local transport (taxis) also operates through the night. The historical nature of the city and its accessibility one may say are the main drivers for one to visit this unique city.
Prior to independence Francistown was Botswana’s largest commercial centre. Francistown is named after Daniel Francis, a founding director of the Tati Concessions Limited Company, which owned much of the land around the area. In 1897, the company sold part of the land for residential and commercial purposes, and one may say that this marked the birth of Francistown. The city started as a gold mining town, and gold sustained the area’s economy from the late 1800s until the 1930s. When gold was discovered nearby in 1869 it sparked the first gold rush in Africa fifteen years before the gold boom at Witwatersrand in South Africa. The industry was hard hit by the global recession of the 1930s. Between 1936 and 1980s, the economy of Francistown was largely supported or dependent on the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association, a company that recruited labour for South African mines. The miners were recruited from many African countries, and transported to South Africa through Francistown by air or railway.
Haskins Street (named after a prominent family in the town prior to independence) was the first tarred road in Botswana. Since 1966, the city has grown significantly due mainly to active cross-border trading with Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. In 1997 Francistown became a city, Botswana’s 2nd after Gaborone. With the city located astride Botswana’s main road and rail transport routes, essential parts of its economy have been mining, commerce and agriculture. Tati Nickel, The Dumela Industrial Complex and Botswana Meat Commission are the main economic drivers in the city. Government departments and other private entities also boost the wellbeing of the area’s residents.