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Definition: Gaborone from Philip's Encyclopedia

Capital of Botswana, S Africa. First settled in the 1890s, it served as the administrative headquarters of the former Bechuanaland Protectorate. In 1966 it became the capital of an independent Botswana. Pop. (2001) 186,007.

Summary Article: GABORONE
from Capital Cities around the World: An Encyclopedia of Geography, History, and Culture

Gaborone is the capital and most populous city of Botswana, a large, land-locked country in southern Africa. It is in far south of the country on the Ngotwane River only 9 miles (15 km) from Botswana's border with the Republic of South Africa. The population of Gaborone is conservatively estimated at about 192,000, and there are perhaps 50,000 or more additional inhabitants in the nearby towns of Mogaditshane, Tiokweng, and Gabane. This too is a conservative estimate, as the population of the metropolitan area has been increasing rapidly because of migration from the countryside. Gaborone has referred to itself as “Africa's fastest-growing city.”

Historical Overview

The name Gaborone comes from Kgosi Gaborone, the name of a popular Botswana chief who settled in the area in 1881. He called his settlement Moshaweng, but local European settlers referred to it as Gaborones, as in “Gaborone's Village.” In the 1880s, the British arrived in the area and created a Protectorate over Botswana that was called the Bechuanaland Protectorate. Its boundaries more or less corresponded to the boundaries of modern-day Botswana. They built a fort near Gaborones in order to protect railway and telegraph construction, and a local administrative headquarters that was called Government Camp. In 1965, the capital of the Bechuanaland Protectorate was transferred to Gaborones from Mafeking, a city that today is just inside the border of South Africa. Botswana gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1966 and Gaborones was confirmed as its capital. The city's name was changed to Gaborone in 1969.

Most of Gaborone's growth took place after national independence, so the city is quite new and modern. It was planned in line with “garden city” principles and includes wide streets, ample green space, and walkways for pedestrians. There is little of the historical settlement left, and the old fort is in disrepair. Rapid recent growth has produced automobile-scale development in much of the metropolitan area, including shopping centers with large parking lots, bust suburban commercial streets, and edge-of-the-city office parks.

Major Landmarks

The center of Gaborone is a commercial area and large public square called The Mall. Nearby is the National Museum and Art Gallery. Also in the center are modern office buildings, including headquarters for the Southern African Development Community and Debsawana, the huge company that operates Botswana's lucrative diamond mines. The Three Dikgosi Monument (Three Kings Monument) is also near the Central Business District. It was erected in 2005 and honors three African chiefs who negotiated with the British when the Bechuanaland Protectorate was established. At the edge of Gaborone, Kgale Hill, also known as the Sleeping Giant, offers a magnificent view of the entire city. Outside the city are the Gaborone Game Reserve and the Mokolodi Nature Reserve.

Culture and Society

The main languages of Botswana are English and Setswana (also called Tswana, after the main tribe of Botswana's citizens, for whom the country is named). Both are official languages of the country. Most citizens are Christians, especially Anglicans, Methodists, and members of the United Congregational Church of South Africa. In comparison to many other countries of Africa, the standard of living is quite high and there is political stability. Hence, the population of Botswana (and Gaborone in particular) includes many refugees and immigrants from abroad, especially from strife-torn neighboring Zimbabwe. The rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Botswana is high, estimated to be 24 percent for adults in 2006. The popular book series “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” written by Alexander McCall Smith is set in Gaborone.

Further Reading
  • Kent, Anthony; Horatius Ikgopoleng.Gaborone,” Cities: The International Journal of Urban Policy and Planning 28 (2011): 478-94.
  • Mosha, A. C.The City of Gaborone, Botswana,” Ambio 25, no. 2 (1996): 118-25.
  • Copyright 2013 by Roman Adrian Cybriwsky

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