Located in central Gauteng, Pretoria is one of South Africa’s largest and most populous cities. The city serves as the executive/administrative capital of South Africa, (with Cape Town as the legislative capital and Bloemfontein as the judicial capital), and is generally seen as the de facto capital of the nation.
Named after the Voortrekker leader Andries Pretorius, the city forms the central part of the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality. Although there have been proposals to change the name of the city itself to Tshwane, these have not yet followed through due to controversial reactions.
Pretoria was originally founded in 1855 by Marthinus Pretorius, who named it after his father, Andries Pretorius (famous for his victory as leader of the Voortrekkers against the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River, as well as his hand in negotiating independence for the Transvaal at the Sand River Convention of 1852). The city became the capital of the South African Republic in 1860, marking the end of the Great Trek.
Pretoria was besieged by Republican forces during the First Boer War, and was also the site of the signing of the peace treaty that ended this war. The Second Boer war saw further conflict in and around the city, as well as the Boer surrender to the British and the signing of the Peace of Vereeniging that ended the war and ushered in British hegemony in South Africa. During the early years of this war, Winston Churchill was imprisoned in the city, but later escaped to Mozambique.
Upon the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910 (which united the former Boer Republics with the Cape Colony and Natal Colony), Pretoria was officially established as the country’s administrative capital, and retained that position when South Africa became a republic in 1961.
Pretoria is located in northeast Gauteng, approximately 55km northeast of Johannesburg, on a transitional belt between the Highveld plateau to the south and the Bushveld that lies to the north at a lower altitude. The city is situated in a warm, fertile valley that is both geographically and strategically sheltered. The Magaliesberg hills surround Pretoria in most directions. Some of Pretoria’s key suburbs include Arcadia, Capital Park, Doornpoort, Heatherview, Muckleneuk, Rietfontein, Sunnyside, Waterkloof, and Wonderboom, among others.
Pretoria is home to a substantial number of notable landmarks. Chief among these are arguable the Pretoria Forts, which were built in and around the city just prior to the onset of the Second Boer War for protection from outside forces. While many of the old forts lie in ruins today, a few have been preserved as national monuments. Other major landmarks include the Union Buildings, the Palace of Justice, and the Voortrekker Monument.
- Pretoria is home to 741,651 people, at a population density of around 1100 square kilometers.
- The majority of the population is white, with Afrikaans being the most widely spoken first language.
- The city’s annual GDP amounts to US$ 49.9 billion