It is by far the smallest of South Africa’s nine provinces – its 17 010 square kilometers take up a mere 1.4% of the country’s land area – but Gauteng packs a mighty punch. It has the largest population of all the provinces, with 11.2-million people making up 22.4% of South Africa’s total, and with its small size has by far the highest population density: 658 people per square kilometer.
Gauteng dominates the South African economy, particularly in the secondary and tertiary industries. The province’s capital city, Johannesburg, is the largest in the country and indeed in Africa as a whole. It is often compared to Los Angeles, with its similar urban sprawl linked by huge highway interchanges.
Johannesburg is a single municipality that covers over 1 645 square kilometres. Sydney’s central municipality, by comparison, covers 1 500 square kilometres. It’s been calculated that if a resident of the southern-most area, Orange Farm, were to walk northwards to the inner city, the journey would take three days.
In Johannesburg southwest is Soweto, developed as a dormitory township for black people under the apartheid system. Much of the struggle against apartheid was fought in and from Soweto, which has a population of over 2-million people.
The urban area extends virtually uninterrupted east and west of Johannesburg through a number of towns: Roodepoort and Krugersdorp on the west and Germiston, Springs, Boksburg and Benoni on the east.
To the north is Pretoria, the capital of South Africa, whose southern suburbs are slowly merging with the Johannesburg sprawl. The city is dominated by government services and the foreign diplomatic corps. The important industrial and coal-mining towns of Vereeniging and Vanderbiljpark lie in southern Gauteng, on the Vaal River.
The province blends cultures, colours and first and third-world traditions in a spirited mix, flavoured by a number of foreign influences. The world’s languages can be heard on the streets and in offices, from English to Mandarin, Swahili, French, German and more.
The history of Gauteng is rooted in its origins as a gold rush region. The Gauteng province’s fossil-rich Cradle of Humankind is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The history of Gauteng can be traced back to the early 1800‘s, when settlers from the Cape defeated Chief Mzilikazi and established villages in what is today Gauteng, South Africa.
Situated in the Highveld, Gauteng is the smallest province in South Africa. It was first known as the PWV, which stands for Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging. These are the three urban centers that make up the province.
Many crucial events happened in present day Gauteng with regards to the anti-apartheid struggle, such as the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, the Rivonia Trial in 1963 and 1964 and the Soweto Uprising of 1976. Today, the Apartheid Museum stands testament to these struggles in Johannesburg.
Sophiatown was a township in Johannesburg where Black and White people lived together. It had a very exciting culture, and a famous music style called township-jazz, developed there in the 1940‘s and 50‘s. But in the 1950‘s people were forced to move away. This was because the apartheid government did not want Black and White people to live together, and therefore forced Black people to live in townships outside the city. Sophiatown became a suburb where only White people could live, called Triomf (which means triumph or victory in Afrikaans). After apartheid was ended, the name was changed back to Sophiatown. Today, the tourists visit the township to find out more about the place.
West of Johannesburg, at the Sterkfontein Caves, some of the world’s oldest fossilised hominid remains has been discovered. “Mrs. Ples” and “Little Foot” as the 2-million and 3-million-year-old fossils are known, bear testament to the fact that prehistoric man roamed this area long before the arrival of the European settlers.
In 1905 at Cullinan, a town just outside Pretoria, the huge Cullinan Diamond was found. It is by far the biggest diamond ever discovered.
The Union Buildings in Pretoria is the building overlooking Pretoria where the government has some of its administrative offices. The President of South Africa has an office in the Union Buildings.
Gauteng means “Place of Gold” in the Sotho languages. This juxtaposition still exists today while Johannesburg is called “city of gold” and retains its frantic pace, Pretoria is referred to as the “Jacaranda city” and exudes a more laid back vibe.