Mafikeng was originally the headquarters of the Barolong tribe of Bechuana. The town was founded in the 1880s by British mercenaries who were granted land by a Barolong chief. The settlement was named Mafikeng, a local Tswana word meaning "place of stones". Later British settlers spelt the name as Mafeking. It was from Pitsani Pothlugo (or Potlogo), 24 miles north of Mafeking, that the Jameson Raid started, on December 29, 1895.
On the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War in 1899 Mafeking was invested by a Boer force and was under siege for 217 days. The commander of the garrison was Colonel, later Lord Baden-Powell who managed to defeat an attack by the Boers just before the arrival of British reinforcements. The siege and relief of the town had excited the liveliest sympathy in England, and there were exuberant rejoicings, called mafficking, in London on the news of its relief. In September 1904 Lord Roberts unveiled at Mafeking an obelisk bearing the names of those who fell in defence of the town. In all, 212 people were killed or wounded during the siege.
One of the spin-offs from the siege was the Boy Scout movement. This sprung from Baden-Powell's use of a corps of boys who acted as messengers and orderlies, releasing men to fight on the front line - the original boy scouts.
In 1980 the spelling Mafikeng was restored and the town became part of the homeland of Bophuthatswana.
(includes material from 1911 encyclopedia)