Lobatse: Botswana's First Town
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Lobatse is proud of its history as Botswana's first Town, the services it provides to its residents, and its natural beauty. Its train moves at a pace contrasting that of the town. There are no crossing guards where impatience encourages travelers to cross while the locomotive proceeds in tepid motion. At night, the horn of the train is abusively loud but blends with the calls to prayer that wake the town and keep its residents in motion, and the music that emanates from the Town Centre. Truck drivers proceed along Lobatse's roads on their way to South Africa and Namibia, passing the mounted suggestion that reads “Thank You for Keeping Lobatse Clean”. This sign, along with others advertising Clay Works, Botswana Breweries, and the Botswana Meat Commission are modern decorations against the hollow solace of Lobatse's hills. Between those hills, a quiet valley, proud of its history and uncertain of its future, holds on to aspirations of conserving its importance. What was once Botswana's gateway to global connectedness now struggles to grow its population and industry. But the Town Council remains diligent in its attempt to attract investment. We remain confident in Lobatse's future and the progress it is making toward Botswana's development goals.


Before independence, Lobatse was one of the candidates for the site of the nation's new capital. The township of Lobatse was established in the 1890s by the colonialists during the construction of the railway line from Mafikeng to Bulawayo. The township was established next to Peleng village which was once occupied by the Bakgwatlheng tribe before they were defeated by the Bangwaketse.

Peleng is commonly known as 'Kasi'. Peleng was composed of a mixed population, the majority of which were Bahurutshe from the Marico district who fled into the Lobatse area after revolting against the South African government for example, the late Mozambique President Samora Machel and former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandel were residents of Peleng.

In the early 1960s, Lobatse had the first tarmac road in Botswana, though just a few short kilometers laid especially for the 1947 visit of King George and Queen Elizabeth, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Tarring of roads, electrification of certain areas, completion of a clinic, and the opening of further primary schools aided the town early on in its urbanization.

A further significant increase in the development of the town occurred during the period just before independence in 1966 as a result of the relocation of offices from the protectorate. With the establishment of industries such as B.M.C., Lobatse attracted other ethnic groups from within Botswana and the Shona religious group(Zezuru), who were expelled by the colonial regime in South Africa and the Bahurutshe-ba-ga-Moiloa. There is also a significant number of Asian and Middle Eastern residents who are entrepreneurs in the town. The ethnic diversity Lobatse has developed encourages a heterogeneous culture.


Lobatse is situated approximately 70 km south of Gaborone, the capital city of Botswana. Lobatse township is defined on the east by the international border with South Africa. Longitude 25 30‟E

approximates the western margin, while latitudes 24 30‟S and 25 30‟S roughly define the northern and southern margins respectively (refer to map 1.1). Lobatse is part of the South Eastern Region that is comprised of Kgatleng, Kweneng, Southern, and South East districts, and the urban centers of Jwaneng and the capital city, Gaborone.

Communication Infrastructure and Linkages

Lobatse has excellent linkages by both road and rail with other areas within the country and other neighboring countries such as Namibia and South Africa. The town is situated along the A1 national road. This is a north-south road running from the South Africa/Botswana border at Ramatlabama to the northern Zimbabwe/Botswana border at Ramokgwebana. This road provides an excellent route for transporting goods from Botswana to other countries and within Botswana.

The A1 road runs parallel to the north-south railway line which makes it easy to transport goods from or to the town from both within and outside the country. The Trans Kalahari highway also makes Lobatse an attractive place for investment. This is a road that runs from Maputo in Mozambique to Walvis Bay in Namibia through Lobatse. It is expected to attract a lot of investors to Lobatse.

Climatic conditions

Lobatse, like other parts of the country experiences hot, wet summers between September and May, and cold, dry winters from June up to August. Generally, the town is cool throughout the year due to its higher elevation. The mean annual rainfall is around 550mm while the annual mean temperature is 20.2 C. The prevailing winds are generally from the north to the east. Lobatse does not have a weather station and this makes it difficult to obtain specific climatological data for the town therefore the data for Gaborone is used as a proxy.


Lobatse is a good market center for goods and services from the surrounding towns and villages. Agro-based industries dominate the manufacturing sector of the town, with beef processing employing a fifth of the total labor force. Other major industries include milling, brewery, leather tannery, bricks, and tile manufacturing.

Lobatse is not only well known for the above-mentioned industries, but it also has some major administrative offices such as the High Court, headquarters of the Geological Surveys Department, and other major government departments 


In 1964, Lobatse had a de facto population of 7,613. By 1971, the population had increased to 11,936, representing an annual growth rate of 6 %. The 1981 and 1991 censuses recorded population figures of 19 034 and 26 050 respectively. The average annual growth rates were 4.8 % and 3.2 % between 1971-81 and between 1981-91 respectively.

The population of Lobatse in 2001 was 29 689. This represents a 1.32% growth rate since 1991. For the period 1991-2001, the average annual growth rate was 2.39% for the whole country. This shows that Lobatse is experiencing a decline in population growth rates, which are also below the national average annual growth rate. The population density has increased to 707 people per square kilometer from 704 in the last Census. Peleng remains the most populous residential area in the town. There is however a decline in the household size in Peleng from 3.9 to 3.4 persons per household. 


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