Gauteng (Sotho for “place of gold”), which stretches from Pretoria in the north to Vereeniging in the south, was formed by the African National Congress (ANC) in 1994 after the country’s first all-race elections, by uniting six regions, including part of the old Transvaal province, into what may be the smallest South African province, but serves as the country’s gateway into Africa.
Gauteng is reputed to have one of the nicest climates in the world, with warm, wind-free summer days and crisp, clear winter days. The temperature difference between Johannesburg and Pretoria is roughly 2%. (Pretoria being the warmer of the two).
While Gauteng’s history is rooted in the discovery of gold, the province now has one of the best infrastructures in Africa, and its population of over 9 million people is part of a vibrant mix of energy and diversity that has helped it become one of Africa’s wealthiest provinces and South Africa’s entertainment epicentre. The Highveld’s vitality is echoed in the sheer hum of the place, with its fierce summers broken only by sporadic electric storms. Johannesburg residents not only walk and talk quickly, but also drive quickly, and the city’s ever-expanding skyline symbolises the city’s rapid expansion in the previous ten years, as glass and chrome structures rise like mushrooms apparently overnight.
Gauteng is more than just a place to do business and make money. The Johannesburg Metro and the City of Pretoria, Gauteng’s two major cities, are diametrically opposed, with Pretoria providing a more laid-back, gentrified alternative, with its jacaranda-lined, wide streets and lovely old buildings a more sedate choice for many who readily commute to Johannesburg on a daily basis. The Vaal River, which divides Gauteng and the Free State, offers a number of escape options; the Magaliesberg Mountains, which are practically on Johannesburg’s doorstep, offer another easy flight into days of heady blue quiet spaces; and Limpopo, just north of Gauteng, with its allure of game reserves, waterfalls, forests, and streams, offers yet another notable escape.
While the terrain surrounding Johannesburg is extremely old, with the finding of a 312 million-year-old Australopithecus africanus in a cave near Sterkfontein, just outside of Johannesburg, the city’s exciting history began only in 1886 with the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand reef. It didn’t take long for the city’s population to grow from a few shanties to the country’s largest city, which it is still today. Johannesburg is now one of the world’s newest major cities and Africa’s economic powerhouse.
The finding of gold in the Johannesburg area prompted a large movement of people eager to try their luck. The resulting hamlet, which grew rapidly over the course of three years, was named by two men who shared the first name ‘Johannes.’ The origin of the city’s name, then, leaves little to the imagination. The second syllable, ‘burg,’ is an Afrikaans word derived from the Dutch word ‘village,’ which is related to the English word ‘burgh,’ which means ‘town.’
Between the two world wars, racial segregation had become entrenched in the country, with blacks and Indians being heavily taxed, barred from holding skilled jobs, and forced to work as migrant labour, resulting in the emergence of squatter camps around Johannesburg as blacks flocked to the city in the wake of industrialisation. These camps grew into well-organized cities, and were subsequently razed, forcing residents to relocate to other suburbs known as the South-Western townships, resulting in the birth of Soweto.
Discriminatory laws no longer exist in Jozi. The central city, which is entirely multiracial and undergoing comprehensive redevelopment, is inundated with hawkers and street booths. Most whites have relocated to the verdant northern suburbs, where visitors and residents alike enjoy the enormous malls and restaurant-lined avenues.
Pretoria has an almost ominous reputation as apartheid’s former capital, and it is currently embroiled in a legal struggle to change its name to Tshwane, which is divisive among the city’s residents and is ‘under review.’ Residents still refer to it as Pretoria, even though the municipality refers to it as the City of Tshwane. It appears that naming the city has always been a challenge throughout history. Early ideas were Pretoriusdorp, Pretorium, Pretoriusstad, and Pretoria-Philadelphia, but Marthinus Wessel Pretorius chose Pretoria in honour of his father, Andries Pretorius.
Pretoria, on the other hand, isn’t simply about government. Church Square, Union Buildings, Melrose House, and the Voortrekker Monument are just a few of the many theatres, museums, and monuments in the city. Roses thrive in the city’s climate, and it was dubbed the “city of roses” early on. When you consider the 50 000 Jacaranda trees that line the streets, it’s easy to see why it’s known as the ‘jacaranda city’ or ‘jakarandastad’ in Afrikaans.
Which Cities Fall Under Gauteng Province
The City of Ekurhuleni, City of Johannesburg, and City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipalities, as well as two district municipalities, are subdivided into six local municipalities in Gauteng.
Cities and Town In Gauteng
- Kempton Park
Top Tourist Attractions In Gauteng
Cradle of Humankind
About 44 kilometres from Johannesburg is the Cradle of Humankind, a UNESCO World Heritage Site containing one of the world’s biggest concentrations of early human remains.
The stunning Sterkfontein Caves are also on the property, with six connected underground tunnels where many of the fossils were unearthed. Among the finds are the skull of Australopithecus africanus, a humanoid creature thought to be two million years old, and a skeleton estimated to be 3.5 million years old.
Learn more about the site and its unique fossil stories at the Maropeng Visitor Center. This fascinating journey through time is another popular day trip from Johannesburg.
Constitution Hill tells the fascinating, and at times tragic, story of real-life South African history, a period marked by social, cultural, and political injustices. This is also a triumphant one, since South Africa reclaimed its freedom and today protects all citizens’ rights and dignity. The journey to this state of liberty is chronicled and brought to life at Constitution Hill through a variety of tours and exhibitions.
Johannesburg is Gauteng’s metropolitan hub and has a major historical and cultural significance. It was erected on the location of the Old Fort Prison Complex, Number Four, and now houses the Constitutional Court. The courthouse is still an important historical site in the city. It also has a distinctive architectural style that makes it a perfect symbol of democracy.
Number Four was once the detention centre for political and other detainees, and it was known for its macabre ambiance, owing to the frequently unfair verdicts and sentences of these persons. The stately Constitutional Court now stands majestically on these grounds, symbolising South Africa’s final emancipation, which was gained after much bloodshed, anguish, and the creative initiative of committed freedom fighters.
Nelson Mandela Bridge
The Nelson Mandela Bridge, South Africa’s longest cable-stayed bridge, begins at the end of Jan Smuts Avenue and connects the Constitutional Hill precinct in Braamfontein to the Cultural precinct in Newtown, at the heart of the city’s inner city renewal effort.
The Nelson Mandela Bridge, which was officially opened by Nelson Mandela himself, cost R38 million to build and took two years to complete. It spans 40 railway lines.
The bridge includes two lanes of traffic, two pedestrian pathways, and a bicycle lane, and it’s a ride worth taking because of the remarkable diversity of artworks that adorn the buildings that the bridge passes across (the city has some 65 artworks in total decorating its buildings).
Checkout more tourist attractions in Gauteng