Pre-European history included conflicts between the local Tswana people and the migrating Ndebele people who left Zululand under their leader Mzilikasi to get away from the tyrany of Shaka.
It was in the North West Province, in 1838, where General Potgieter settled after he defeated the armies of Mzilikazi at Kapain and Mosega. He was assisted in this effort by the Griqua and the Barolong, a terrorised tribe.
Some of ancestors of these people still live in North West. Potgieter later left the area but not before founding the oldest town, north of the Vaal River, in South Africa, namely Potchefstroom.
In 1895 the Jameson raid was launched from Mahikeng, another historic town in the North West. The aim of the raid was to topple the government of President Kruger, in the then South African Republic. The raid failed miserably.
Mahikeng was in the main stream of South African history again during the early years of the Anglo-Boer War when the Boer forces besieged the town for 217 days, from 1899 until May 1900; during which time Sol Plaatje wrote his literary masterpiece “The Boer War Diary of Sol T Plaatje: an African at Mafikeng”.
Plaatje was later to become one of the founding fathers of the South African Native National Congress, the forerunner of the African National Congress, in 1912.
The first phase of the Anglo-Boer War lasted less than a year and was followed by two years of guerilla warfare. During that phase more engagements took place in the then Western Transvaal than in any other part of the country.
Apart from the famous siege of Mafikeng, no less than 20 significant engagements took place during the 20 months between 7 August 1900 and 11 April 1902. These battles were spread evenly across the old Western Transvaal, now the Eastern half of the North West Province.
After the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910 most of the area now known as the North West formed part of the “old Transvaal”, throughout the period of Afrikaner nationalism and the founding of the Republic of South Africa in 1961.
During the leadership of BJ Vorster the implementation of the Homeland Policy lead to the incorporation of a large part of modern day North West into a homeland called Bophuthatswana, over which Lucas Mangope presided.
The three oldest towns in the old Transvaal are all located in the North West Province, being Potchefstroom,Klerksdorp and Rustenburg. The white settlement of the interior was aided by a process called the Difaqane, meaning “human scattering” and amounted to the almost frenzied movement of large communities away from the impi’s (armies) of Mzilikazi, with the result that the Boers found the interior largely unpopulated.
The country was finally reincorporated into the North West Province under the new dispensation of the new Republic of South Africa in 1994.