Gauteng, South Africa

Gauteng, 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.

Johannesburg, Gauteng

Johannesburg, Gauteng

Whilst the region around the city of Johannesburg
is incredibly ancient and includes the discovery of a 3½
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.

Pretoria, Gauteng

Union Buildings in Pretoria, Gauteng

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.