During apartheid, with its infamous ”independent homelands” policy, a piece of the fractured Bophuthatswana fell into the Free State. Non-Tswana speaking residents of the homeland living in a settlement called Kromdraai in the town of Thaba ‘Nchu were forced to flee the new ”state”. They congregated on a farm, 45 kilometres from Bloemfontein, called Onverwacht. This spot grew and developed into Botshabelo, meaning “place of refuge”.
Now inhabited by predominantly Sotho-speaking people, Botshabelo is located on the N8, which heads off in the direction of Lesotho. The sprawling township, which falls into the Motheo region of the Free State, is said to be South Africa’s second-largest township after Soweto.
A large proportion of residents work in nearby Bloemfontein, travelling in and out of the city daily. In addition, Botshabelo has attracted a number of textile factories.
Look out for
The original Onverwacht farmhouse can still be seen.
The Rustfontein Dam and Nature Reserve is 10 kilometres from the township. Here, one can picnic, engage in water sports such as fishing and boating, and go game-viewing.
Meeting the locals for a first-hand account of life in this colourful township is a great way to understand the lives of the majority of people in South Africa.
The story behind the Petro Sanchez Clinic is interesting – it was named after a Cuban doctor, who was abducted while doing a tour of duty in the town.