Capital city: Johannesburg
Population: 9,5 million
Surface area: 16500 square km
The name “Gauteng” means “Place of Gold” in the SeSotho language, and this is a very appropriate name, given the fact that the South African economy is based largely on the gold that is mined in this province. Gauteng is a very urbanised province, and includes the cities of Pretoria and Johannesburg and other smaller industrial settlements.
Johannesburg began to develop as an urban city after the discovery of gold there in 1886. Currently, South Africa is one of the largest gold producers in the world, and Johannesburg lies at the centre of that production. Many of the larger companies in South Africa also have their headquarters in Johannesburg, making it the economic hub of the country.
The city itself did not escape the bizarre town planning that characterised the apartheid regime, and the challenge facing the current administration is to make one city out the affluent northern suburbs, the deteriorating city centre, and the poorer southern areas. It should perhaps be mentioned that moving about in the city centre on your own is not advisable. It is best to travel with a professional guide or as a member of a tour group. The city centre is studded with high-rise buildings, with street markets crowded at their feet. If you are in the city centre, it may be worth your while to pay a visit to the Carlton Centre, and enjoy the amazing view from the 50th storey. Other attractions include the South African Breweries Centenary Centre, the Museum Africa, and the Civic Theatre in Braamfontein.
Adjacent to the city centre is the area named Hillbrow, home to large numbers of immigrants from other African countries. Standing tall in Hillbrow is the Ponti building, nicknames “Petit Kinshasa” (“Little Kinshasa”) by residents. North of the city centre one finds the suburb of Yeoville, with Rockey Street at its centre being its main attraction.
As stated previously, to the north of the city centre one finds more affluent suburbs, such as Parktown and Sandton. Many years ago, in the early days of the gold mines, Parktown was the preserve of the so-called “Randlords”, mining magnates of considerable wealth. Their large houses can still be seen in this suburb. Then there is Sandton, home to many businesses. Further north is the suburb of Rosebank, which has many upmarket restaurants and bars, as well as good shopping, and even further north are a snake park, a lion park, and a nature reserve.
South of the city lies the Gold Reef City, an amusement park constructed on an old gold mine. It is possible to take an underground tour there. Also in the south is the area named Soweto, which is short for South Western Townships (although locals only ever use the abbreviation). This area is home to roughly 4,5 million people. It can be a very interesting place to visit, but you are strongly advised to do so in the company of a local guide or as part of an organised tour. It was in Soweto that important uprisings against the apartheid regime took place. There is a memorial dedicated to the first child casualty in the uprisings, namely the Hector Petersen Memorial. Another attraction is the former home of Nelson Mandela, which he shared with his former wife Winnie, and which is now a museum.
Situated in the Magalies mountains, the Sterkfontein caves were the site of the first recorded discovery of Australopithecus africanus, a fossil dated at 2,5 million years in age, taking science a step closer to the so-called “missing link” in human development.
Situated in the same province as the massive city of Johannesburg is the administrative capital of South Africa, Pretoria. This city was named after the leader of the trekboere (“migrating farmers”) mentioned in the history page, Andries Pretorius, although for some time now there has been talk of changing the city’s name to Tshwane. The city has been nicknamed “Jacaranda City” due to the many trees of that species that line the streets.
At the centre of the city is Church Square, as well as some interesting architecture dating back to the 19th century. Other city attractions are the State Theatre and the Museum of Science and Technology. The Union Buildings are a striking example of British imperial architecture, and they are the creation of Sir Herbert Baker. Currently they house the administrative departments of national government. They are also the site of Nelson Mandela’s historic inauguration in 1994. A visit to Pretoria Zoo would not be complete with a ride on the cable car that provides an interesting perspective on the big cats there.