Old Palapye (Phalatswe)

Ruins in Tswapong Hills

About 20km southeast of Palapye, amid low-lying scrub, thinly scattered stone walls mark the site of the former Bangwato capital. Spread over a large area and signposted along the main track, stone walls denote the town’s former marketplace and other buildings. More intact is the impressive Old Palapye Church, a Gothic-style London Missionary Society church that was completed in 1894. Built from locally quarried red mudbrick, it’s one of Botswana’s most striking ruins.

Hard as it is to believe now, after the Christian Bangwato chief Khama III and his people arrived from Shoshong in 1889, Phalatswe was transformed from a stretch of desert to a settlement of 30,000 people. When the Bangwato capital was moved to Serowe in 1902, Chief Khama sent a regiment to torch Phalatswe, but the church remained standing.

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