Gauteng is the smallest province of South Africa. It barely covers an eighth of the country’s expanse, though it is the most developed urbanized area with the biggest population. It is a melting pot of indigenous groups and people from other parts of the world. Despite its small size, Gauteng has become the economic, financial, educational, business, and entertainment hub of the whole African continent.
Gauteng, meaning ‘The Place of Gold’, has roots in gold and diamond mining—a great source of the province’s wealth. It is the economic centre of South Africa, with its financial, manufacturing, business, tourism, transport, technology, and telecommunications sectors playing major roles. The province is serviced by a modern and efficient network of roads and railways, and highly developed infrastructure. Five airports are scattered within the province, one of them being Africa’s most modern international airport, underscoring the country’s prestige as the gateway to the African continent.
However, ubanization brings with it as much socio-economic problems as it does more business and investment opportunities. Heavy traffic and the rush of illegal immigrants and refugees seeking a better life in the cities have resulted in high unemployment and crime rates.
Most of the territory is spread on high altitude grasslands called highvelds, and its scenic landscape is nourished and sustained by the Vaal, Klip, and Suikerbos rivers. The province enjoys a generally cool climate, particularly in Johannesburg. Winters are cool and dry, with very rare occurrences of snow. Summers are dry and warm. Humidity isn’t much of a bother, though short afternoon thunderstorms aren’t unusual.
Gauteng has a myriad of natural attractions, including game reserves, nature parks, animal sanctuaries and botanical gardens that showcase Gauteng’s natural beauty and abundance of wildlife. Some places not to be missed in Gauteng are the Cradle of Humankind, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where prehistoric and hominid fossils have been found; the Magaliesberg Mountain Range, a perfect country holiday destination dotted with quaint B&Bs and charming boutique hotels; the Sedibeng region, which is great for a fishing, water-skiing, and sailing vacation; and the Premier Diamond Mine in Cullinan where the world’s largest diamond was found.
Pretoria is the executive and administrative capital of South Africa. Established in 1855 by the Voortrekker leader, Marthinus Pretorius, Pretoria marked the end of the Boers’ Great Trek. In 1910, the Union of South Africa was established and Pretoria became the country’s administrative capital, remaining so even after South Africa became a republic in 1961.
Pretoria gained the unfortunate reputation of being the capital of Apartheid—an image that only began to change when Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the country’s first black President in the city’s Union Buildings in 1994. Memories of the apartheid era are still fresh in the minds of some black South Africans, and there has been a controversial argument about whether or not the city should be renamed Tshwane, after the metropolitan municipality it belongs to.
The city lies on a fertile valley framed by the Magaliesburg mountain range and has a pleasant year-round climate—it’s reputedly the sunniest capital in the world, and snow is so rare that it occurs only once or twice in a century.
Pretoria is populated by over two million people speaking Tswana, Ndbele, Afrikaans, and English. It is a massive industrial centre whose major industries include copper and iron casting and the manufacture of cars, railcars, and machinery. The city’s central business district used to be the traditional centre of commerce and government, though today most shops, businesses, and government offices have moved to the suburbs away from the city centre.
Pretoria’s streets are full of historical buildings and important landmarks. The city’s interesting mix of architecture attests to its multicultural heritage, with many preserved Victorian, Edwardian, Art Deco and Cape Dutch-style buildings lining the streets.
The city has several notable houses and institutions.
The Kruger House was the home of the famous Boer leader and President of the South African Republic, Paul Kruger. The house was the first in Pretoria to be lit by electricity. Today it is a museum, full of memorabilia and furnishings from the Victorian era.
The Melrose House is another finely preserved home. Built in 1886, its façade is a charming mix of the Victorian style with some Cape Dutch influences, and its interiors are full of colourful stained glass windows, ornately decorated ceilings and fireplaces, and valuable porcelain objects. The house was the headquarters of the British forces in Pretoria during the Second Boer War. The Treaty of Vereenignig was signed here on May 31, 1902.
Situated on a hilltop overlooking the city, the Voortrekker Monument is a massive granite structure built to honour the Voortrekkers and their Great Trek from the Cape Colony. It has a frieze depicting the history of the Great Trek consisting of 27 bas-relief marble panels and a cenotaph, over which rays of sunlight illuminate the words ‘Ons vir Jou, Suid-Afrika’ (‘We For Thee, South Africa’).
Freedom Park is a monument built to honour those who were killed during the Boer Wars, the two World Wars, and the apartheid era.
The Transvaal Museum is a natural history museum situated along Paul Kruger Street, opposite Pretoria’s City Hall. It was established in 1892 as the State Museum of the South African Republic.
Apart from fascinating architecture and museums, Pretoria is also home to some great parks and green spaces. The National Zoological Gardens of South Africa and the Pretoria Botanical Gardens are both located within the city.
Pretorians are also big sport fans. Rugby, cricket, and football are popular, and the city’s Loftus Versfeld Stadium will host some matches in next year’s FIFA World Cup.