Gauteng, meaning Place of Gold, is the economic powerhouse of South Africa and the business centre of Africa’s largest economy. When the province first came into being, on the break-up of the old Transvaal, it was known as the PWV – Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging – or the V ...
Gauteng, meaning Place of Gold, is the economic powerhouse of South Africa and the business centre of Africa’s largest economy. When the province first came into being, on the break-up of the old Transvaal, it was known as the PWV – Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging – or the Vaal Triangle.
Pretoria, now the capital of South Africa and with 2.4 million inhabitants, was a long-established centre in a river valley originally settled by the Southern Transvaal Ndebele in about 1600. The formal settlement that was to become the city was founded by the Voortrekker leader Marthinus Pretorius and named after his father Andries, hero of the Battle of Blood River. It was declared capital of the Boer Republic on 1 May 1860, the date which marked the end of the trekking. The Transvaal Boers had at last put down some permanent roots in what would become the Transvaal.
Although a younger city, Johannesburg, 60km down the road, grew up from a mining camp on the banks of the White Waters stream - hence the name Witwatersrand. Until 1886 when gold was discovered, the only residents of the region were Sotho-Tswanas who had been living in these parts, unaware of what they were standing on, for a couple of hundred years. 120 years after discovery of gold, with all the drinking, brawling, fighting and shooting at an end, we are left with a city of 10 million people. It is the world’s largest city not situated on a lake, coast or river and the world’s biggest arboretum with over 10 million trees.
Vereeniging, with only 400 000 people, is a peaceful spot in the loop of the Vaal River in the South of Gauteng. The name means Union and it was here that the Treaty was signed which brought about the end of the Second Anglo-Boer War. It may be a small place compared with its neighbours but, without the signing of that treaty, Johannesburg and Pretoria probably still wouldn’t be talking to each other.
Maropeng - The Maropeng Visitor Centre is an exciting, world-class exhibition, focusing on the development of humans and our ancestors over the past few million years.
Sterkfontein Caves - Sterkfontein Caves, one of the 13 fossil sites in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, is less than an hour’s drive from the city and 10 minutes from Maropeng.
FNB DANCE UMBRELLA (Feb) Choreography
STANDARD BANK JOY OF JAZZ (Aug)
CELLAR RATS WINE FEST (Aug) Magaliesberg
RAND EASTER SHOW (Apr) Agricultural and everything
ARTS ALIVE (Sept) Arts, music, theatre and poetry
Features, creatures & Flower power
Botanical Gardens – Despite the essentially urban nature of the province, the Walter Sisulu, Pretoria and Johannesburg Botanical Gardens are all worth a visit. Pretoria is probably best, atop the hill behind UNISA, with stunning Highveld sunsets behind a palm-fringed lake. www.sanbi.org
Pretoria is known as the Jacaranda City and for good reason. In September and October the streets are covered with the purple-blue flowers from the avenues of trees. The jacaranda is native to South and Central America and debate has raged as to whether it should be permitted to grow in South Africa, where it is invasive. Although it has been forcibly removed from many farms, it still flourishes legally on the roadsides and puts on quite a show once a year.
Johannesburg genuinely is the largest man-made forest in the world. The best viewpoint is from the Westcliff Hotel, high on a ridge next to the zoo. 10 million trees and 2 000 animals – all from one spot.