GPS: S 25 44.761 E 028 11.228
pop. 2,350,000 | elevation 1,336m/4,383 ft
Pretoria is commonly referred to as the Jacaranda City because of the purple-blossomed jacaranda trees lining many of the streets. As the nation’s administrative capital, its many tall sandstone buildings house government offices, a variety of museums and historical attractions. While a bit sterile in comparison to neighboring Joburg, its size, ease of navigation, relative safety and proximity to Joburg and nearby attractions make it a pleasant location to visit. Pretoria has a strong Afrikaner flavor where the English language takes a back seat to the much more prevalently spoken Afrikaans.
Pretoria has been considered a Boer stronghold and seat of governance since its founding by Voortrekkers in 1855. Prior to its administrative conception, Nguni-speaking settlers who became known as Ndebele (meaning “refugees” in Sotho) inhabited the area of present-day Pretoria, from as early as 1600. Another Ndebele group, the Khumalo clan led by Chief Mzilikazi, took over the area in the 1820s. Their reign was short-lived as attacks from encroaching Voortrekkers and far-reaching factions of the Zulu army pushed them north. The founding of Pretoria in 1855- named after Andries Pretorius, the famous Boer war hero of the Battle of Blood River - marked the end of the Boer Great Trek. It became the administrative capital of the newly established, independent Boer Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR) in 1860.
In 1877, the British annexed the ZAR, leading to the First Boer War of independence. Boer independence was restored in August 3, 1881 with the signing of the peace treaty at the Pretoria Convention. From their seat of government, the Boers in Pretoria watched as Johannesburg in the south exploded with gold prospectors following the discovery of gold in the Witwatersrand in the 1880s. In order to maintain control as uitlanders (foreigners) flooded their republic, the Boers passed a series of laws restricting the rights of all non-Boers. However, with rising fears that the mainly British mine barons had designs on taking over their republic, the Boers amassed weaponry at the end of the century and launched a preemptive attack against the British in 1899.
By June 5, 1900, Pretoria had surrendered to the British forces, and less than a year later they had lost their republic to the British Empire. When the Union of South Africa was declared in 1910, Pretoria became the administrative capital of the Union. In the following years, the British poured money into developing and beautifying the capital city, commissioning Sir Herbert Baker to design and construct the impressive Union Buildings that still stand today.
In 1948 the National Party assumed the government seat in Pretoria. Home to politicians, diplomats and civil servants, Pretoria grew as the symbol of white minority governance and the beacon of Apartheid. Pretoria’s reputation was further blemished as it housed the country’s central prison, where many anti-Apartheid activists were held.
The rise of political opposition to Apartheid and outbreaks of violent clashes between the police and black activists in other parts of the province and country led to the banning of the ANC and PAC, forcing their leaders to either work underground or in exile. Three years later, top leaders of the ANC were arrested at Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia. In 1964, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, and other ANC leaders were convicted of treason in Pretoria and sentenced to life imprisonment in what later became known as the famous Rivonia Trial.
Post-Apartheid, the city has been given a chance to renew itself and its image. The 1994 inauguration of the first democratically elected President, Nelson Mandela, in Pretoria’s Union Buildings was an important and symbolic step forward for the reunification of the country and the beginning of a new era.
In 2000, the metropolitan area, including Pretoria and the surrounding towns, was renamed Tshwane, as part of a countrywide effort to repeal the legacy of oppression and Apartheid. Controversy continues about the use of Pretoria, as the name is still widely used to reference the entire metropolitan area. Some wish to see Tshwane completely replace Pretoria, but for the time being, both names remain.