On the Ghaap Plateau 1 131m above sea level, Kuruman is the principal town on the Kalahari section of the Namakwari Route. The origin of the town’s name is uncertain but it is generally accepted as being a variation of the name of an 18th-century San leader, Kudumane. Known as the ‘Oasis of the Kalahari’, Kuruman is blessed with a permanent and abundant source of water.
More densely vegetated than most oases, its water flows from Gasegonyana, commonly called The Eye. A spring delivering 20 million litres of water daily to 71 000 inhabitants, the water flows from solution cavities in the dolomitic Ghaap Plateau and cracks in the mammoth doleritic dykes and sills that thrust their way into prominence from the earth’s core some 190 million years ago. The spring nurtures an endangered species of cichlid fish.
Flowing from the spring and the town’s missionary past is its other name, ‘the fountain of Christianity’ in Africa. Scottish missionary Robert Moffat, the first person to translate the Bible into seTswana, lived here for 50 years (1820-1870) and built the famous Moffat Church, completed in 1838. The Moffats baptised their first converts in 1829, taught them to read, and, using their own printing press, printed the first Bible in Africa. Regular services are still conducted in ‘their’ church.The town’s thriving economy owes its health to the community’s mining, stockfarming and agricultural activities. Manganese, iron ore, tiger’s eye and the richest blue asbestos deposits in the world are found and mined here.