South Africa TravelThe Gauteng Province, South Africa
Stretching all the way from Pretoria in the north to Vereeniging in the south, Gauteng (Sotho for place of gold, although the ‘gaut’ is also thought to originate from the Dutch ‘goud’ for gold) was created by the ANC in 1994 after the country’s first all-race elections, uniting six regions, including part of the old Transvaal province, into what might be the smallest South African province, but serves as the gateway into Africa.
Whilst Gautengs history lies embedded in the discovery of gold, today Gauteng not only has one of the best infrastructures, but its population of over 9 million people form part of a vibrant mix of energy and diversity that make it one of the wealthiest provinces in Africa, and the entertainment epicentre of South Africa. The energy of the Highveld, with its intense summers broken only by intermittent electric storms, is echoed in the sheer buzz of the place. In Johannesburg people walk and talk fast, they drive at high speed too, and the ever increasing skyline - as glass and chrome structures rise like mushrooms seemingly overnight - reflects the rapid development that has taken place in the city in the last 10 years.
There is more to Gauteng than the art of business and money-making. The Johannesburg Metro and the City of Pretoria - the two major cities in Gauteng - are diametrically opposed, and Pretoria provides a more laid-back, gentrified alternative - its jacaranda lined, wide streets and lovely old buildings a more sedate choice for many who readily make the daily commute to Johannesburg. The Vaal River, which separates Gauteng from the Free State, provides a number of avenues of escape; the Magaliesberg Mountains, virtually on Johannesburg’s doorstep, another effortless flight into days of heady blue quiet spaces; and Limpopo - just to the north of Gauteng, with its allure of game reserves, waterfalls, forests and streams - one more escape of note.
Whilst the region around the city of Johannesburg is incredibly ancient and includes the discovery of a 3˝ million-year-old Australopithecus africanus in a cave near Sterkfontein, just outside Jozi, the city’s exciting history began only in 1886 with the discovery of gold and the Witwatersrand reef. It didn’t take long for the population of the city to explode from a few shanties into what became, and has remained, the largest city in South Africa. Today Johannesburg is one of the world’s youngest major cities and the powerhouse of the African continent.
The discovery of gold in the region of Johannesburg spurred a mass migration to the area of people wanting to try their luck. The resultant settlement that mushroomed within the space of three years was named by two men, with the first name ‘Johannes’ in common. It leaves little to the imagination then, as to the origin of the city’s name. ‘Burg’, the second syllable, is the Afrikaans word derived from the Dutch ‘village’, similar in some ways to the English word ‘burgh’ meaning ‘town’.
Racial segregation had already become firmly entrenched in the country between the world wars – blacks and Indians were heavily taxed, barred from holding skilled jobs and forced to work as migrant labour – hence the emergence of squatter camps that sprung up around Johannesburg as blacks headed to the city in the wake of industrialisation. These camps developed by all accounts into well-organised cities, and perhaps due to this, were destroyed, forcing people to move to new suburbs known as the South-Western townships, leading to the emergence of Soweto.
Today Jozi is free of discriminatory laws. The inner city is awash with hawkers and street stalls, completely multiracial, and undergoing a total regeneration. Most whites have escaped to the leafy northern suburbs, the sprawling malls and restaurant-lined avenues attractive to visitors and residents alike.
The leafy city of Pretoria in Gauteng serves as one of the country’s three capital cities, officially the executive or administrative capital - the other two are Cape Town, the legislative capital, and Bloemfontein, the judicial capital.
The pretty city suffers from an almost menacing image as the former capital of apartheid, and is involved in an ongoing battle over changing its name to Tshwane - controversial to most inhabitants of the city, and, for the moment, left to lie ‘under consideration’. The municipality refers to it as the City of Tshwane, whilst residents still largely refer to it as Pretoria. It appears that in history there has always been some difficulty over naming the city. Pretoriusdorp, Pretorium, Pretoriusstad and Pretoria-Philadelphia were among early suggestions, from which Pretoria was finally selected by Marthinus Wessel Pretorius in memory of his father, Andries Pretorius.
But Pretoria is not just about government. It is also a place of culture with a series of theatres, museums and monuments – Church Square, Union Buildings, Melrose House and the Voortrekker Monument to name but a few. Roses grow beautifully in the city’s climate and it was known early on as the ‘city of roses’. Add to this some 50 000 Jacarandas that line the streets and one can understand how it became known as the ‘jacaranda city’ or ‘jakarandastad’ in Afrikaans. The city has access to a number of Nature Reserves that include Groenkloof, Rietfontein, Faerie Glen and Wonderboom nature reserves, as well as the Pretoria National Botanical Gardens.
For more information you might find the following article useful: Discovering Gauteng.
Read our Blog articles under Gauteng at Gauteng Blog.
Find accommodation for your holiday: Gauteng Accommodation (by Town).
Find accommodation by Map: Gauteng search by map (search by Map).
Find hotels for your holiday: Gauteng Hotels (find hotels by Town).