Archaeological evidence suggests that the banks of the nearby Notwane River have been continuously occupied since at least the middle Stone Age. However, the first modern settlement, Moshaweng, was established in the late 1880s by Chief Gaborone of the Tlokwa clan. Early European explorers and missionaries named the settlement Gaborone’s Village, which was then inevitably shortened to ‘Gaborones’ (the ‘s’ was dropped in 1968).
In 1895 the South African diamond magnate Cecil Rhodes used Gaborone to launch the Jameson Raid, an unsuccessful rebellion against the Boers who controlled the gold mines near Johannesburg. Rhodes was forced to resign his post as prime minister of Cape Colony, and the raid served as the catalyst for the second Boer War (1899–1902).
In 1897 the railway between South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) passed 4km to the west of the village, and a tiny settlement known as Gaborone’s Station soon appeared alongside the railway line. As late as 1966 the greater Gaborone area was still home to fewer than 4000 inhabitants, but it was selected as the capital of independent Botswana due to its proximity to the railway line and its large water supply.
Although urban migration from elsewhere in Botswana has characterised much of Gabs’ recent history, economic turmoil in Zimbabwe has sparked a wave of illegal immigration to Botswana’s capital, further increasing the city’s growth.