The Gaborone to Kanye road crosses the Kolobeng River 40km from Gaborone. Right away after the bridge, on the left, is a short dirt road to the Livingstone Memorial and the ruins of David Livingstone’s house and mission, built in 1840s. Botswana safari
The -famous British explorer and missionary married Mary Moffat, daughter of Robert Moffat who set up the IMS mission at Kuruman. All through his 40 years of travel throughout Africa, Livingstone covered over 50,000km, charted over a million miles of African territory, traced the course of the Zambezi River, mapped the Central African river system, and mounted expeditions which led to him becoming the first white man to see Victoria Falls, Lake Ngami, Lake Nyasa and the Shire Highlands.
In the period of Livingstone’s early years in southern Africa (1840-1852), he gave himself the duty of setting up a mission station in Bechuanaland. In 1843 he camped at the village of the Bakwena Paramount Chief Sechele’s and befriended him. Sechele told Livingstone of the “great thirst land” away from – the Kalahari – and a lake in the northern reaches of Tswana territories – Lake Ngami.
In the era of their years in Bechuanaland, Livingstone plus his wife Mary set up houses at Mabotsa, Chonuane and afterwards at Kolobeng. They stayed at Kolobeng between 1847 and 1852. One motive for choosing to reside at Kolobeng was because of an idea that the Kolobeng River would not at all dry up, Botswana flights, and the missionaries required a steady supply of water to permit them to grow crops.
It was at Kolobeng in 1848 that Livingstone transformed into the first Botswana to Christianity – Kgosi Sechele I, the great Chief of the Bakwena tribe. Part of the rules put down for Sechele’s baptism was that he no longer took part in any “heathen” ceremonies like the rain-making and that he leaves all his wives but one. These rules yielded a great deal of trouble with the tribes people, a good number of whom blamed Livingstone’s pressure for the dreadful drought which came as a result of the Kolobeng River drying up later in 1848 and led to the death of several animals and people. Livingstone was also blamed for the very hard circumstances that Sechele’s cast off his wives found themselves in through no responsibility of their own.
Livingstone’s daughter Elizabeth is buried at Kolobeng but the home and temporary mission church that at one time stood there was put down by a Boer raiding party. The Boers blamed Livingstone for their troubles with the Bakwena due to the fact that Livingstone permitted the Bakwena to have guns.
The leftovers of the house where Livingstone stayed with his family are now protected and are better preserved than the Church. The Church was a temporary building and has very little remains left. Apparently Dr. Shepherd, who worked as a missionary doctor at the Scottish Livingstone Hospital in Molepolole, put a fence around the remains of Livingstone’s house in 1935 and this protected it from further destruction.
At that time the significance of the church was not realized but has now been fenced to prevent further deterioration. The church was also the first school and the site of the first irrigation project. The foundations of these buildings can still be seen, as can the graves of Livingstone’s daughter Elizabeth and the artist Thomas Dolman, both buried on the banks of the Kolobeng River.
When Livingstone and his family left Kolobeng they never again lived united as a family. Mary and her children returned to England and Livingstone gradually became more of an explorer than a missionary and lived his life as such.