Province: Gauteng Province
Map: Google Map
Population: 2,2 million
Geography: Situated between rocky ridges in the north eastern part of the country. The city is in the transitional area between tropical savannah (Bushveld) and the Highveld plateau.
Climate: Dry winters with temperatures averaging 20 °C during the day, dropping to about 5 °C at night. Hot summers with occasional thunderstorms, daytime average temperatures 25 to 30 °C.
Key Economic Sectors: Services, Commerce, Industry
Professional Football Clubs: Mamelodi Sundowns, Supersport United (Premier) Pretoria University (1st Division)
Stadium: Loftus Versfeld Stadium
Place to See
African Window – Concentrating on the archaeological and anthropological records of Southern Africa, African Window focuses on the tribes of Gauteng, incorporating some San engravings, a traditional restaurant and regular dance and art exhibitions.
Church Square – It lies in the heart of Pretoria and is surrounded by many imposing public buildings including the Palace of Justice on the northern side, where the Rivonia Trial that sentenced Nelson Mandela to life imprisonment was held. In the centre of the square the ‘Old Lion’, Paul Kruger, looks disapprovingly at office workers lounging on the grass. The bronze figures of Kruger and the sentries, also by Van Wouw, were cast in Italy at the turn of the century, but lay in storage until 1954.
Freedom Park – One of the most exciting undertakings in Gauteng is Freedom Park. The site chosen for this massive project, on a kopje (hill) facing the Vootrekker Monument, provoked an outcry from those who saw this as politically motivated. This is hardly a self-important ode to nationalism however, rather, it’s a sombre memorial to those people, local and international, who have sacrificed their lives in the name of freedom.
Heroes’ Acre Cemetery – Around 1.5km west of Church Square you’ll find Heroes’ Acre Cemetery, the burial place of a number of historical figures including Andries Pretorius, Paul Kruger and Hendrik Verwoerd. Henry H ‘Breaker’ Morant, the Australian Boer War antihero executed by the British for war crimes, is also buried here – look for the low sign pointing to the gravestone from one of the north-south avenues. If you miss this, you’ll never find it.
Melrose House – This neobaroque mansion, a national monument, was built in 1886 for George Heys, and it’s a somewhat fanciful cross between English Victorian and Cape Dutch styles. During the 1899-1902 Anglo-Boer War, Lords Roberts and Kitchener (both British commanders) lived here. On 31 May 1902 the Treaty of Vereeniging, which marked the end of the war, was signed in the dining room.
Pretoria National Zoological Gardens – About 1km north of the city centre are the Pretoria National Zoological Gardens. The national zoo is an impressive and pleasant enough spot to while away an afternoon. There is an aquarium here, as well as a decent cafeteria and some areas of lawn. The highlight is probably the cable car that runs up to the top of a hill that overlooks the city. There are regular guided evening trips (around R30 per person).
Union Buildings -They are the headquarters of government. The impressive red sandstone structures – with a self-conscious imperial grandeur – are surrounded by expansive gardens and are home to the presidential offices. There are no tours here, but access to the expansive grounds and public areas of the building is free and self-guided seven days per week.
Voortrekker Monument & Museum – The looming Voortrekker Monument & Museum is hallowed turf for many Afrikaners. Built between 1938 and 1949 to commemorate the achievements of the Voortrekkers, who trekked north over the Cape’s coastal mountains into the heart of the African veld. The structure remains a testament to the Boers’ pioneering and independent spirit, and commemorates the Battle of Blood River on 16 December 1838 during which 470 Boers, under the command of Andries Pretorius, defeated approximately 12,000 Zulus.