In my blog series, Exploring Gaborone On The Run, I share my favourite running routes with a small dose of history. As Botswana is celebrating Boipuso or Independence Day on the 30th September, I thought it quite fitting to design a running route to celebrate! I’m calling it ‘The Independence Route’ as the run takes you along the roads that were used on the day Bechuanaland Protectorate transitioned to the Republic of Botswana in 1966. Most of the information I’ve provided comes from my dad’s recollection of events. Dressed in blue, black and white, I ran the route over the weekend and was happy to find it’s exactly 10km!
The Three Dikgosi Monument: I start the route at The Three Dikgosi Monument in the Central Business District (CBD) which wasn’t there at the time of independence but is a great starting point as it provides some historical background of how Botswana became a British protectorate in 1895 and how it subsequently gained its independence in September 1966. There’s ample parking so it’s both a symbolic and practical place to start the run.
From The Three Dikgosi monument, exit the CBD via the small path alongside the SADC building and onto the Willie Seboni flyover. Turn right onto Nelson Mandela Drive and then left onto Khama Crescent. On this road, you’ll spot some of the Government Enclave on your right as well as the Bank of Botswana and the United Nations building.
Further down the road, you’ll pass the British High Commissioner’s residence (Westminster House) on your left which is very close to the Presidential residence, the State House. If you look closely, you’ll see the Union Jack flapping in the background.
Queens Road: This is where a bit of history kicks in! On the 29th September Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Kent Princess Marina, Queen Elizabeth’s representative alongside the British contingent exited Westminster House and turned left onto Queen’s Road.
HRH Princess Marina was followed by then Prime Minister Seretse Khama and they made their way down Queens Road and onto the Notwane Road to the National Stadium where crowds (including my dad) were anxiously waiting. Queens Road runs parallel to the Main Mall and as you run down you will pass several Government buildings including the Land Tribunal, some of the big banks but also some key embassies or high commissions such as the British High Commission and the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany.
The South African High Commission (shown below) is also on your left and you’ll spot the Zambian High Commission further down on your right.
Princess Marina Hospital: As you make your way to the Stadium, you’ll run past the Civic Centre and the National Museum and Art Gallery but for purposes of this route I’m only highlighting the Princess Marina Hospital which is at the corner of North Ring Road and Notwane. This hospital was built to mark the independence of Botswana and the buildings were officially commissioned by HRH Princess Marina (on this same tour) and the hospital was named after her. This is currently the largest referral hospital in the country. As I was doing research for this blog, I also discovered that Princess Marina was the first Chancellor of the University of Kent at Canterbury in the UK where I studied!
National Stadium: Once on Notwane Road, head straight to the National Stadium. On the 29th September 1966, my dad, then a young 21 year old man, left St. Joseph’s Secondary School in Kgale in the back of a Bedford truck and headed for the newly built National Stadium. It was very chilly and extremely windy but nothing could dampen the spirits of those gathered in the National Stadium to witness the historic occasion of the birth of Botswana. Even with the strong winds, the excitement intensified as the dream of independence edged towards reality. As the clock struck midnight and the 30th September finally arrived, the transfer of power was symbolised by the lowering of the Union Jack to “God Save the Queen” and the raising of the new Botswana Flag to our anthem “Fatshe Leno La Rona”. When Botswana celebrated 50 years of independence in 2016 we gathered in the Stadium and a huge highlight for me was the re-enactment of what happened that day. My husband captured some lovely photos.
Let’s bring you back to your run! Once you’ve reached the National Stadium, turn around and make your way back. You’ll pass the University of Botswana (popularly known as UB) which was established in 1982 as the first institution of higher education in Botswana.
Opposite the entrance of UB are a number of small kiosks (semausu) with some interesting artwork. This one is my favourite!
Go across the Princess Marina Circle. You’ll see the Anglican Church on your left. Pass the GSS Grounds and Civic Centre. This is where your route will change slightly.
Botswana Road: Remember what I said about HRH Princess Marina travelling down Queens Road from Westminster House? Well, once independence was declared and the dignitaries left the Stadium, this time the President of Botswana was in front and was followed by Princess Marina and instead of using Queens Road they now entered Botswana Road which runs parallel to Queens Road, with the Main Mall separating them. Don’t you just love the symbolism?
Botswana Road is lined with a number of small businesses, the Central Police Station, President Hotel, the National Blood Transfusion Centre and my kid’s favourite eatery, Size 10 which serves mostly traditional food at a very affordable rate.
Once you come to the end of Botswana Road, cross Khama Crescent into the Government Enclave and make your way onto the Bus Station Flyover. Then turn right into the CBD and head straight towards The Three Dikgosi monument. Your run is done!
Thank you so much to my dad for sharing all this information. He has been such a fountain of knowledge as I explore Gaborone on the run! I hope you enjoyed this Independence Route and if you run it, be sure to do it in blue, black and white!
I’m joining Kooky Runner and Zenaida on their link up, Tuesday Topics. I’m also joining the Runner’s Roundup with Mile By Mile, Coach Debbie Runs, Confessions of a Mother Runner, Runs with Pugs, and Laura Norris Running! Be sure to read their blogs and catch up with other runners from around the world.