There was a time in the mid-1920s when the town of Lichtenburg was the site of a promising alluvial-diamond rush. More than 100 000 fortune-seekers descended on the town in a short space of time but within a decade they had all moved on.
Perhaps the highlight of the period was the discovery of one of the world’s few red diamonds. This one was flawless and weighed 33 carats – its current value would be about $6m.
Some of the diggings were located 18 kilometres from Lichtenburg at Bakerville, which exploded with shanties, Wild West style. Its short-lived history is told at the Lichtenburg Diggings Museum.
Lichtenburg (“town of light”) was in fact established about 50 years earlier, in 1873, on two farms owned by Commandant Hendrik Greef.
A colourful figure in the town’s past was General Koos de la Rey, who is commemorated by a larger-than-life equestrian statue in the town.
Located in the North West province’s Molema district, between Mafikeng and Coligny on the R503, the town’s streets are lined with willow trees. Their shady presence has earned Lichtenburg the Afrikaans moniker of Wilgedorp (”willow town”). Good water resources give it an oasis feel in this dry corner of the country.
Lichtenburg is in the heart of a maize triangle. Another major industry in its vicinity is cement production, with three major factories located here.
Look out for
An impressive collection of South African art can be seen at the Willem Annandale Art Gallery in the Public Library. Names such as Boonzaaier, Stern, Battiss and Claerhout make a visit memorable.
Watersports take place on the Dauth-Roode and Centenary Dams. These dams are the fascinating result of the subterraneous burning of thick layers of peat on a vlei. With the stemming of the flow of water into the vlei, the burning ceased and the dams were created.
Wondergat, 40 kilometres from Lichtenburg on the Mafikeng Rd, is a very deep sinkhole in which the freshwater diving is reputed to be excellent.
The Lichtenburg Game Breeding Centre is run by the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa for the breeding of endangered animals, such as mohrr gazelle and species of oryx. It offers great animal- and bird-viewing, particularly at its vulture restaurant.
There are some nine monuments and five historical buildings in Lichtenburg related to Voortrekker and Anglo-Boer War history.
The Ampie Bosman Cultural History Museum and the North West Agricultural Museum offer interesting glimpses into Lichtenburg’s past.