Ghanzi

Ghanzi

Ghanzi - also known as "The capital of the Kalahari" must be one of Botswana's most intriguing towns - situated in the middle of nowhere and separated from the rest of the world by hundreds of kilometres of road. The first and probably major impression you will have of the interminable journey from Gaborone to Ghanzi is the sheer monotony of the landscape. For the most part the terrain is flat and featureless, with some scrub bushes, thorn trees and grasslands. In the summer the heat is sweltering, in winter the drive is made more tolerable by cooler temperatures. The road is excellent tarmac. There is a strange fascination to it all - and subtle, unexpected variations in terrain. There is also beauty to be found in the eerie sunsets and in the desert night's overwhelming canopy of stars.Once, parts of this vast region were populated only by Bushmen (Basarwa) who had perfected survival strategies for living in this inhospitable land. Later the Bakgalagadi arrived and today live in Kalahari villages such as Ncojane, Matsheng and Kang.After the Bushmen, the Ghanzi area was settled by Hottentots, who it is believed, tended large herds of cattle.The first white settlers arrived in 1874, led by Hendrik van Zyl, a flamboyant character whose legend still persists in Ghanzi, as does the remains of his once palatial house.


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Ghanzi

More white settlers followed in the late 1890s. These were trekkers - Boers who sought to escape the authorities in South Africa, some believing they could establish an independent republic deep in the interior of the Kalahari. They were lured by extravagant offers of 5,000 morgen (about 12.76 square kilometres) of land in the Ghanzi district for a £1 application fee, plus free drilling equipment. Much of the land on offer in the Ghanzi area had, in fact, been fraudulently acquired from Tawana Chief Moremi in Maun by men working for Cecil Rhodes; he had earmarked the area as yet another desirable acquisition for his ever-expanding holdings in Southern Africa.

The first group of trekkers, travelling thousands of kilometres by oxcart and facing considerable hazards, merely exploited game and other resources in the area and then moved on. But newcomers in the early 1900s were committed to cattle ranching and stayed. By 1936 there were over 40 farms and in the 1950s more farms were allocated.Today there are over 200 cattle farms, holding approximately 6 per cent of the national herd. Most are prospering, owing to the fine grazing, abundant supply of groundwater and improved ranching techniques. Some experts call this the best cattle country in the world.Ghanzi community is a conglomeration of ethnic groups - Bushmen, Bakgalagadi, Baherero, Batawana, and Afrikaaners who own many of the farms. Afrikaans is widely spoken - you might feel as if you are in a tiny South African place in the northern Cape.The main employment is on the cattle farms, and farm squatters have become a problem in recent years. There are also several RAD (Remote Area Development) settlements in the area. These are part of a national programme, which aims to provide basic social services like schools, health facilities and training (in handicrafts, textiles, carpentry, dressmaking, livestock rearing and arable agriculture). They also aim to create awareness amongst RADs of their political rights as citizens of Botswana. Settlements providing land and water were often first established by the Government to encourage RADs to settle near water sources. Several RAD projects exist in the Ghanzi area; if you want to visit them you should contact the RAD officer and/or the VDC (Village Development Committee). One development project in Ghanzi is Ghanzicraft, located on the main street in town, near the post office.