18 places around Botswana and their popular names

Batswana have a penchant for giving places and people names by which to affectionately refer to them. This habit extends to company names, which tend to be referred to simply by their acronyms as opposed to their full name.

For instance, Botswana is often referred to as simply Bots. In case you come across any of these and are left scratching your head, below are a few more examples.


1. Gaborone is widely referred to Gabs or ‘Mageba’.


2. Serowe is affectionately referred to as ‘Ga-MmaBesi-a-Kgama’. The name came about as a mark of respect and love for the wife of the Bangwato paramount chief, Kgosi Khama The Great.


3. Tonota is often referred to as simply ‘TNT’ for short. The other nickname, ‘Manyonyomane’ means fat cakes and came about because a long time ago a local general dealer sold the ‘most delicious’ fat cakes in the area. The local students loved the greasy doughnut-like treat so much they gave the town the moniker, Manyonyomane.


4. Palapye, nestled between Gaborone and Francistown, often goes by PY. Some people even refer to it as Pala-PIE.


5. Selebi Phikwe, many people refer to it as ‘Majombolo’, the origins of which remains a mystery. It does not have a meaning because it’s not a readily recognisable Setswana word; it sounds like a word someone coined. To some people, especially the younger generation, Selebi Phikwe is affectionately known as ‘Piczana’; a play on the word Phikwe.


6. Mmadinare is also known as ‘Mad-City’, an abbreviation of the name. It does not imply that the village has an unusual number of mentally ill people, as some people may erroneously believe.


7. Mahalapye’s nickname, ‘Mafia Town’ is enough to strike fear in many unsuspecting people’s hearts, who may be led to believe Botswana has its own brand of the mafia.

However, the reality of how the moniker came about is a lot more comedic than scary! Word has it it’s because Mahalapye used to be notorious for ‘tsotsis’; tricksters who’ve made a career of their criminal activities (usually low-level criminals like pickpockets, a far cry from organised crime gangsters).

Apparently, they drew inspiration from the Italian mafia. They took great pride in the way they looked and were famed for their sharp sense of dress and interesting gait, which resembled a cross between a limp and a bounce. It truly has to be seen to be fully appreciated.


8. Mochudi is simply ‘Moch’.


9. Molepolole has over the years collected more than one nickname, the most well known being ‘Maltlere’, ‘Moleps’, ‘Phuwas/Phua-lerole’.

Moleps is obviously short for Molepolole, but it’s not actually clear how Maltlere came about. The latter, Phua lerole was affectionately coined because Molepolole can get very, very dusty, especially in August when Botswana experiences strong gusts of wind nationwide, working up a great amount of dust.

Phua lerole is a very fitting name for the town because loosely translated; it means to ‘stoke up the dust’. In the strictest sense of the word, phua actually means to abandon or to carelessly dump something. In the case of Phua lerole, it inspires visions of whipping up a great amount of dust, which is an apt description of Molepole at the height of the windy season in Botswana. Molepole is also given to a lot of whirlwind the likes of which no self-respecting Motswana lady would like to ever be caught up in because no hairstyle is ever likely to survive it. –and Batswana women take great pride in their hair!


10. Ramotswa is often referred to as Ram City, short for Ramotswa.


11. Lobatse, another town that is famed for its abundance of ‘tsotsis’, is often referred to as Bandleng. Lobatse takes it one further because it may as well be the capital of Mapantsula, a 1980s cultural phenomenon that swept Botswana by storm in the 1980s. Characterised by a sharp sense of dress and a love for very afro-centric music and dance, the Pantsula trend spilt over from neighbouring South African townships such as Soweto, Gugulethu and Alexandra. Whether it’s true or not, the Mapantsula were viewed as ruthless tsotsis who were always up to no good.


12. Kanye if you ever hear of a town in Botswana called Kenya; it’s actually plain old Kanye!


13. Jwaneng the mining town is affectionately called ‘J-Town’ by some.


14. Maun is called ‘Ko Muchii’ or ‘Mauuu’, with the former making light fun of the Maun regional dialect. Ko Muchii basically means at home.


15. Shakawe becomes ‘Shake-Away’, a play on the name.


16. Mopipi has become known as ‘Pipe City’.


17. Makalamabedi, which actually translates to ‘two branches’, is sometimes called ‘Column Two’.


18. Francistown has become known as ‘ghetto’. Francistown provides a shortcut for people coming from low-income locations of Somerset-East Extension, Block-One and even further away like the light industrial site, which is probably how the name came about. The city itself is not a ghetto and the moniker has sparked fears that it may harm Francistown’s image.


Do you have any more examples that you know of that you’d like added to the list? Please feel free to share them with YourBotswana

9 months ago

8 Comments

  1. A thoughtful insight and great ideas you have on your website. You’ve got obviously spent lots of time on this. Great job!

  2. Maun is also known as Leuu laga mma moremi…..
    Gumare is also Goose, or gumare sekopelo sa banyana……

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