Important Facts for the Foreign Visitor

Johannesburg

In 1886 one George Harrison stumbled upon an outcrop of Quartz.  He sampled a section which turned out was the only surface outcrop of one of the richest gold reefs in the world.  He pegged the first claim on the reef, later sold it for 10 pounds and vanished without a trace.  Today the site where Harrison made his discovery is known as George Harrison Park.  This, apart from Harrison Street in Central Johannesburg, is all that remains of his memory.

Prospectors and fortune seekers poured in and the shanty town that sprang up continued to keep on growing.  In less than 100 years, Johannesburg has become the powerhouse of Africa.

The Witwatersrand has some of the deepest gold mines in the world, going down as deep as 4000 meters, which is in turn, about 2000 meters below sea-level!  These mines employ around 500 000 people and it takes a ton of rock to yield about 15 grams of gold.

The City is well served with museums, theatres, sport venues and green belts.  Gold Reef City is a replica of the early days of Johannesburg with restaurants, shops, traditional dancing and underground trips.

The Witwatersrand, as the area is known, is situated on the high African plateau and at an altitude of almost 2000 meters above sea-level is blessed with a pleasant climate.

Pretoria

According to oral tradition the parent tribe of the Ndebele in the area where Pretoria was later established was that of a chief called Msi (or Musi), who lived three or four centuries ago.  The river which runs through the city was called after one of Msi’s sons, Tshawane, which means little monkey or little baboon.  When the first whites arrived they took over the name and called it the Apies (Monkey or Monkeys) River.  Another theory is that they called it the Apies after the blue vervet monkeys which inhabited its banks.

Around 1820 the Difaqane or Mfecane started, the black migration process which set into motion a period of unequalled disruption and dislocation among the black inhabitants of the highveld plateau of the interior.  It was the result of a chain reaction of attacks set into motion by several Nguni groups across the Drakensberg from the present KwaZulu-Natal in order to escape Zulu expansion.  The most important event during the Difaqane was the migration of Mzilikazi, a subservient chief of King Shaka of the Zulus, to the highveld.

The early development of Pretoria was closely associated with the political and constitutional development of the Voortrekker state north of the Vaal River.  After recognition by the British authorities of the independence of the Voortrekkers north of the Vaal River in 1852, the South African Republic remained deeply divided.  In 1853, M.W. Pretorius took over the leadership from his father, Andries Pretorius, and decided to do something about the divided state of affairs.  He bought property along the Apies River for the purpose of establishing a centrally situated capital.  The town was established on 16 November 1855, but only in 1860 was it recognized as capital.

It is a pleasant city with streets lined with beautiful Jacaranda trees.  The trees bloom in October and November and the estimated 70 000 trees in the city, descendants of two trees imported from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, drop millions of flowers to the ground forming pools of brilliant colour.  West of Pretoria lies the large man made Hartebeespoort Dam, a much loved destination for city dwellers and a weekend retreat for the lucky few who maintain houses on the slopes of the Magaliesberg Mountains, which surrounds the dam.  The Magaliesberg is one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, older than the Himalayas or the Alps.  Formed around 2300 million years ago, the mountains were at the edge of an ancient inland sea.

Climate

Position:  S 26° 08’ E 28° 14’

Height: 1694 meters (5500 feet) above sea level

Period: 1961 – 1990

Johannesburg has a delightfully mild climate, neither humid nor too cold for comfort. There are about six weeks of chill in mid-winter (July to August).  Summer, offering warm African sunshine followed by balmy nights, runs from October to March. The seasons are flexible, one running into the next, and summer habitually spills over into spring and autumn. The nights can be chilly, particularly in winter. Bring a jacket to wear in the evenings.  The rainy season is in summer rather than in winter. Rainstorms are often harsh accompanied by much thunder and lightning and occasional hail, but they are brief and followed by warm sunshine.