Lehurutshe lies in the north-eastern area of the North West Province. Mahikeng is the capital of the province, but the important regional towns of Zeerust, Dinokana & Lehurutshe also serve the District.
The border between South Africa and Botswana divides the traditional Batswana land. Between 1977 and 1994, the area was part of former Bophuthatswana, independent of South Africa.
The ancestors of the Tswana-speaking people started moving into the Lehurutshe area many centuries ago. The majority of the inhabitants of Lehurutshe belong to the BaHurutshe group, one of the main branches of the Sotho-Tswana people.
The South African central highveld was destabilised, both politically and economically, from the mid-eighteenth century, in an event known as the Difaqane.
This period of uncertainty reached a climax in the 1820’s and 1830’s with the invasion of Nguni speaking people onto the highveld, and the physical displacement of thousands of Sotho-Tswana speaking communities.
These people were totally unprepared for the arrival of the Voortrekkers (Boers participating in the Great Trek). Both were pastoral and agricultural societies. Both needed to recover after the equally disturbing periods of the Difaqane and the Great Trek respectively.
The frontier of the Voortrekker expansion was a volatile region as both the Boers and the local African people wanted to gain control over important resources, particularly land and workers. White farmers occupied most of what was then the Marico district during and after the Great Trek period.
This situation made for a competitive and potentially hostile relationship between the two groups. Yet as a number of works on the history of the former Transvaal have shown, there were also times when Boers and Africans co-operated and worked together.
After 1910 parts of the area became a “native reserve” and later, during the apartheid era, it became one of the blocks of the former Tswana homeland.
During the 1950’s the Lehurutshe district was at the forefront of the resistance to the apartheid laws, especially the hated passbook system.
Lehurutshe falls in an area previously known as the Dinokana Reserve. It was created in 1970 for black people who were removed from white areas. The town fell under the jurisdiction of the independent territory of the former Bophuthatswana. Attempts were made to develop this new town, but most inhabitants still had to travel to nearby Zeerust (South Africa) in search for work.
Until 1994 Lehurutshe was part of the former Bophuthatswana which means ‘the place where the Tswana meet’. Bophuthatswana gained self-governing status in 1971 and independence in 1977, although a debate concerning the definite borderlines (the so-called consolidation) continued throughout the 1970s and 1980s. The Braklaagte community, for instance, struggled against becoming part of the then Bophuthatswana in the late 1980s.
Mainly Tswana people from the Bahurutshe family live in the district itself (hence the name ‘Lehurutshe’). The people orient themselves after villages, for instance the Bahurutshe ba ga Suping.
Dry climate (500-600mm/year), with regular droughts.
The majority of the people in the district belong to the Bahurutshe group, one of the main branches of the Sotho-Tswana people.Traditional authorities still play an important role in rural villages.
Centred on livestock breeding, with rainfed crop farming and small gardens. Maize is the staple crop grown. Migrant work, remittances and petty trade form a significant part of livelihood activity.
The area has rolling hills that are a mosaic of sourish mixed bushveld and farmland, and dry tuft thornveld on the slopes. Some rural areas suffer water shortages and land degradation.
Lehurutshe Tribal Area Project by Andrew Murray
In line with its primary objective, (viz. “To preserve the African landscape through the sustainable utilisation of resources and to the benefit of rural communities”), AGRED decided to explore the feasibility of establishing game bird shooting industries in remote areas which are under the control of indigenous tribal communities. To this end, AGRED commissioned Dr. Slang Viljoen to undertake a survey, the results of which would identify areas with such potential. In the survey, the following were some of the factors that had to be considered:
Availability of water
Enthusiasm of the local community
Large areas met the first four criteria, but floundered on the last two. After meeting with local communities and Conservation departments, one area that was finally identified as appropriate was the Lehurutshe Tribal area in the North West Province. The area is an attractive bushveld area (Herman Charles Bosman country) with a varied and interesting topography. There are several well situated dams and springs in the area, and a patchwork of small agricultural holdings bodes well for the support of a healthy game bird population.Most importantly the local communities are run on strong traditional values with well respected Headmen. Through the office of the local Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Tourism, we set up a meeting with representatives of the chiefs in the area and a representative from the Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Tourism. Andrew Murray and Dr. Slang Viljoen attended this meeting to present the concept and its potential benefits, should a successful gamebird industry be established in the area. This is an extract from Dr. Viljoen’s report:
“The area under consideration desperately requires economic upliftment, and the people we met showed a keen interest in forming a partnership with AGRED, whereby we would identify areas of potential and train the community in the management of game birds and to host a shoot. The full financial benefit will go to the local community. They would provide the manpower to manage and develop the game birds, as well as assist in the organisation of shoots. It is envisaged that the gamebird industry will be a catalyst for associated economic development in the area. There will be a need to provide accommodation (it is hoped that we can use traditional African villages), transport (hopefully donkey carts!), catering, curios and other tourist related services. We believe that it will not be long before the area can offer bird shooters a uniquely AFRICAN bird shooting experience.”
To fully develop the potential of this and other areas, AGRED will need to raise capital, and has already embarked on a fund raising drive. We will shortly commence the second phase of the project, which is the identification of discreet areas within the tribal lands that offer the best prospects for the development of bird shooting.
We firmly believe that if we want to create broad support in the country for habitat management through wild bird shooting, more projects such as these, will have to be cultivated. It is essential that the hunter, the local community and the habitat all benefit.