Given its proximity to Gaborone as well as its significant historical, cultural and religious relevance to Botswana, I’ve long wanted to run in Molepolole, an urban village about 50km from the city and the official gateway to the Kgalagadi Desert. Named after the Molepolole River, Molepolole is the capital of the Bakwena tribe who were forced by Kgosi (Chief) Kgari II to move here from Ntsweng in the 1930s with the help of colonial administrators. The totem of the Bakwena is the crocodile (kwena) and this symbol resonates throughout the village, depicted on various buildings, signs, shop names, and boundary walls as it is here outside the museum.
It took us about an hour to get from our house to the Scottish Livingstone Hospital where we had decided to park our car. Scottish Livingstone Hospital is a government-run district hospital built in 1933 by the United Free Church of Scotland with 20 beds. In 2007, the government opened a new 350-bed hospital to serve as the secondary referral centre for the surrounding Kweneng East district. However, from what I understand, limited doctors and medical equipment, has meant it is yet to reach its full and intended potential.
We set off from the hospital and headed back into the village centre which we had driven through moments earlier. We ran on the small shoulder of the main road but there were a few sections where it was easier and safer to run on the dirt alongside the road. We continued all the way to the main kgotla (a public meeting place or traditional law court). At this point we turned back and about half a kilometre from the hospital we took a right turn by Kgari Sechele II Senior Secondary School onto the road heading towards Khutse Game Reserve.
We ran for a couple of kilometres, turning back at the fire station, but not before spotting (and running to) a small hidden Lutheran Church behind the fire station.
It was also on this road that we saw this cute hair salon which seems to have been constructed with galvanised steel and painted bright red.
When we got to the end of the road, we turned right towards the hospital and came to a stop by our car for a total of 10km for the day. A relief, as I’d been surprised by the slightly hilly terrain!
Five Things That Stood Out On My Run
Molepolole Congressional Church UCSSA: A few months ago, an image circulated on social media with nine different historical churches from around Botswana. I recognised three of them but all my attempts to establish the names and places of the remaining six, were in vain. So imagine my surprise (about a kilometre into my run) to see one of the churches I’d been trying to identify! The signboard indicated it was the Molepolole Congressional Church UCSSA.
From this journal, I learnt that in 1907 Kgosi Sebele sent regiments of young men to the gold mines in South Africa to earn money for the church building and later in the year the church was opened. It was refurbished and enlarged fifty years later under Kgosi Kgari Sechele II in cooperation with the missionaries and church members. In 1931 after prolonged discussions between the London Missionary Society (LMS), the Bakwena Tribe, the British Government and the United Free Church of Scotland, the LMS work was handed over to the United Free Church of Scotland. The LMS Church remained under that name until 1967 when all LMS Churches in Botswana became part of the new United Congressional Church of Southern Africa.
Kgari Sechele II Secondary School. Close to the church on the other side of the road and a very short distance from the hospital, sits this senior secondary school. Established in 1958, this was one of the first secondary schools in the country. Although it was a Saturday, there were quite a few students in uniform with school bags when we ran past the entrance.
Street Markets. On both sides of the main street, there were several stores including a couple of big shopping centres. However, what really stood out were the street markets selling fruits, vegetables, peanuts and various grains on neat tables with clearly displayed prices.
There were also other things for sale such as metal buckets, cow bells, hatchets, wood heaters and various agricultural tools and implements.
Mopenwaeng Postal Tree. Probably my best find was this postal tree and box! The museum sign board, though extremely faded, gave this information: When the capital of the Bakwena was moved from Ntsweng in 1930, the kgotla was erected in front of this tree. This tree became an area for dispatching and receiving mail. All outgoing mail was deposited in the box placed near this tree. Mr Lesokolela Setlhako, a messenger of Kgosi Kgari II was appointed as the Molepolole postman. He was tasked to dispatch mail to all the people in the village. In some instances, he would read the letters on behalf of recipients who could not read and write. The most important letters that arrived at this postal tree were from World War II soldiers, Bakwena working at the South African mines and colonial administration mail.
Silos Behind The Kgotla. The last interesting find were these old silos and buildings behind the kgotla depicting several images of traditional life and historic figures.
I love running in new places and Molepolole didn’t disappoint. Although I’ve travelled through here a number of times, this was the first time I paid any real attention to what was around me. After we were done, we bought some perfectly salted mafresh and my favourite post-village run soft drink, Stoney by the side of the road. One of my goals this year is to run in 15 new places and Molepolole brings my total to eight. With half a year left, I think I’ve made great progress!
Have you run in Molepolole before? Did you learn anything new from this blog? What new place have you run in recently?
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 and Runs with Pugs! Be sure to read their blogs and catch up with other runners from around the world.