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The Zeederberg Coach

Publishing Date : 13 August, 2019

JEFF RAMSAY
BUILDERS OF BOTSWANA



Previously, we noted that for much of the 19th and 20th centuries ox wagons remained the primary means for carrying goods across the region. During the 1890s a few luxury wagons appeared to transport dignitaries up to Zimbabwe, which was then being colonised by Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa (BSA) Company. This development also coincided with the establishment of the first regular stage coach service through Botswana by the Transvaal based Zeederberg Coach Company.
 

Having previously been involved in the ox wagon trade, the Zeederberg brothers launched their coach service in 1887. The company was subsequently commissioned by the BSA Company to open up routes into Zimbabwe from Mahikeng and Pretoria, via Botswana, which became operational in 1891. As a subsidy the Company paid the Zeederbergs £4,500 annually to serve as official mail carriers replacing mounted police.


Much like today’s AI the Mahikeng to Bulawayo route ran through eastern Botswana via such centres as Fort Gaberones, Mochudi, Old Palapye and Francistown. As their business grew the Zeederbergs expanded their fleet of smaller locally procured coaches with the purchase of six top of the range American built “Concords”. Manufactured by the Abbot Downing Company, the interior of each of these deluxe coaches could accommodate up to twelve passengers in relative comfort barring extreme circumstance (two were destroyed by Amandebele impi.)


The company also operated a pontoon across the Limpopo as well as coach houses along their routes. The latter were necessary as teams of ten mules had to be regularly changed (mules came to be favoured as being cheaper and more reliable than horses). These coach houses had to have enough animals to supply fresh teams for up to 5 coaches each day.


Zeederbergs also employed spans of oxen and are said to have unsuccessfully tried to train zebra. The rate of travelling, including stoppages to change the teams, was about 10 kilometres per hour. At about a £1 per a day’s travel, fares were high for the time, while luggage allowed per passenger ranged from 11 – 18 kgs. Surviving “Concord” Coach on display in Bulawayo.

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