Pretoria, South Africa
Pretoria is situated in the central northern part of the country, 60 km north of Johannesburg in Gauteng province. Known as Tshwane by the Sotho population, the city is South Africa’s administrative capital. Its inhabitants refer to it as the Jacaranda City because it has such a large number of the celebrated trees. Pretoria holds a festival in Oct. each year when the Jacarandas blossom.
The city’s history begins with the occupation of the surrounding fertile valley by Nguni-speaking black South African farmers. In the mid nineteenth century Andries Pretorius, a leader of the Voortrekkers, established a farm, Grootplaas, at the junction of the Apies and Crocodile rivers. In 1853 the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR) which, under the leadership of Paul Kruger, had just secured its independence from Britain, needed a site for its new capital. Marthinus Pretorius established Pretoria on 16 Nov. 1855 and named it in honour of his father Andries Pretorius. At this time Pretoria was nothing more than a small rural backwater. Nonetheless the town remained the capital of the Transvaal until it became the administrative capital of the Union of South Africa in 1910. It was declared a city on 14 Oct. 1931 and in 1961 it became the administrative capital of the Republic of South Africa.
One of the world’s biggest and most productive diamond mines was discovered 40 km east of Pretoria. This mine yielded the world’s largest diamond, originally named the Cullinan but now known as the Star of Africa. The mining of diamonds brought much-needed revenue for the coffers of the ZAR in the wake of the costly Anglo-Boer Wars, and the city’s economy is still heavily reliant on diamonds. Modern Pretoria is also home to Iscor (the South African iron and steel industry) as well as notable food-processing and engineering plants.
Johannesburg International Airport serves Pretoria. There is an airport shuttle that runs between JIA and the city. The main bus station is on Church Square. From here large numbers of buses service most parts of Pretoria, and local transport is also provided by numerous and inexpensive taxis. The main railway station is south of the city centre near the greyhound bus terminus. From here buses and trains connect to Johannesburg, Kimberley, Bloemfontein, Komatipoort, Nelspruit as well as Limpopo and Bulawayo.
Places of Interest
The Union Buildings to the northeast of the city centre are the home of the South African Government. Designed by Sir Herbert Baker, they were opened in 1913. The National Zoo, in an area of almost 70 ha, houses 140 mammal and 320 bird species; in the biggest inland sea-water aquarium there are over 300 fish species and in the reptile park there are over 90 reptile species as well as several amphibian and invertebrate species. The Voortrekker Monument is a massive granite monument set on Monument Hill and designed by Gerhard Moerdyk. Inside the monument is the Hall of Heroes, the four walls of which depict the history of the Great Trek in 1838. The State Theatre is a modern theatre with six auditoriums for opera, ballet and drama, as well as choral and symphony concerts. The Transvaal Museum of Natural History exhibits an enormous whale skeleton, as well as more traditional wildlife displays. The Austin Roberts Bird Hall, the most comprehensive in South Africa, contains a skeleton of the extinct Mauritian dodo. The Kruger House Museum celebrates the life of President Paul Kruger.