Our past

The Bafokeng community numbers roughly 150 000 people who have retained their unique cultural identity and traditional leadership structures. They are led by a hereditary Kgosi (king), currently Kgosi Leruo Molotlegi.

Bafokeng people probably arrived in the Rustenburg valley between 1450 and 1550 AD. Fertile land, sophisticated settlement and social structures, and periods of rapid change and population movements characterized Bafokeng history from the 17th century until the arrival of whites in the early 19th century. Responding to pressure from Boers, hunters, and traders moving into the area, the Bafokeng King, Kgosi Mokgatle (1836-1891), embarked on a land acquisition program in the late 19th century, to secure the community’s rights to its land. The King sent regiments of Bafokeng men to the Kimberley diamond mines and neighboring farms to earn cash wages to help buy the land, which was then held in trust by Lutheran missionaries  in the days before Blacks could legally acquire land.

In 1924, platinum deposits were discovered on Bafokeng land, beginning the present chapter in Bafokeng history, where the community co-exists with some of the largest platinum mines in the world. Economic, environmental, and political struggles have been part and parcel of the relationship between the Bafokeng community and the mines. During the height of apartheid, strained relations between the Bafokeng and the President of Bophuthatswana, Lucas Mangope, resulted in underinvestment in the region, with Bafokeng leaders being imprisoned and sent into exile.

In 1994, South Africa achieved its independence, and the homeland regime fell alongside the apartheid laws. The Bafokeng resolved a longstanding dispute with Impala Platinum in 1999, enabling them to start investing their mineral royalties in badly needed infrastructure and facilities. The current Bafokeng King, Kgosi Leruo T. Molotlegi (2000-present), has embarked on an ambitious plan to lead his community into the future by targeting education reform, food security, and sustainable urban planning as his key strategic initiatives.


Pre-colonial history
  • Tlala e e boitshegang – period of excessive hunger (1500s)
  • Drought in 1500s force people to move – Bafokeng settle in Rustenburg area

Difaqane – time of troubles (1700s)

  • Movement of groups in the 1700s – series of conflicts in Pilanesberg area
  • Bafokeng battle the BaTlokwa, baKgatla-ba-Kgafela, baPedi, baKololo, Ndebele
  • Bafokeng under Mokgatle submit to Mzilikazi’s rule

Reign of Kgosi Mokgatle (1834 – 1891)

  • Reassembles and unifies the Bafokeng, architect of their present-day success
  • Consciously brings missionaries to Phokeng to further education among Bafokeng
  • Establishes cordial relations with Voortrekkers, Paul Kruger and other groups
  • Starts purchasing land in missionary Christoph Penzhorn’s name
  • Sends young men to diamond mines to earn money for land

Reign of Kgosi August Molotlegi (1896 – 1938)

  • Continues land purchases
  • Maintains position of neutrality in South African War
  • Discovery of platinum in 1921 – negotiates prospecting and mining rights
  • Involved in land ownership disputes with Bafokeng community

Reign of Kgosi James Manotshe Tumagole Molotlegi XII (1936 – 1956)

  • National Party comes to power
  • Apartheid legislation (Group Areas, Bantu Authorities, Bantu Education Acts)

Reign of Kgosi Edward Lebone Molotlegi (1956 – 1995)

  • Pursues major infrastructural developments in Bafokeng territory (R500m)
  • Bophuthatswana becomes self-governing state in 1972, ‘independent’ in 1977
  • Period of massive political repression under Lucas Mangope
  • Protracted legal battle with Impala and Mangope over land and mineral rights
  • Rocky Malebane-Metsing attempts coup
  • Lebone and MmeMogolo exiled, return after 1994 democratic elections

Birth of the Royal Bafokeng Nation (1995 - )

  • Mollwane Lebone Molotlegi II reigns from 1995 to his death in 2000
  • The Bafokeng win the case against Impala Platinum in 1999 and so ensure their future
  • ‘Tribe’ replaced with ‘Nation’ and ‘Chief’ replaced with ‘King’
  • Leruo Tshekedi Molotlegi takes the throne in 2000
© 2012 Royal Bafokeng Nation. Created by Thinkshoppe.