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Pietermaritzburg is a large city located in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa.
It is not only the second-largest city in the province, but also the provincial capital, and as such serves as an important administrative hub as well as a major population center for the country as a whole. The city’s name is often abbreviated to Maritzburg or simply PMB, and also goes by its Zulu name of umGungundlovu. Pietermaritzburg is a notable industrial center for the region, producing a variety of goods, as well as an educationally important city with many schools as well as a campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Pietermaritzburg was originally founded in 1838 by the Voortrekkers, shortly after their victory against the Zulu chief Dingane at the Battle of Blood River. For a short time, the city was the capital of the newly founded Boer republic in the region, known as Natalia. By 1843, however, Britain had taken control of Pietermaritzburg and the surrounding region, and the city became the administrative seat of the Natal Colony. A fort and garrison were built shortly thereafter, followed by a city hall and other administrative buildings in 1893.
Pietermaritzburg’s name is derived from that of Piet Retief and Gert Maritz, both Voortrekker leaders (despite the fact that neither man ever actually reached the area in which the city is located). Prior to the arrival of Europeans in the area, the Zulu Empire knew it as Umgungundlovu (roughly translating to ‘place of the elephant’), and was reputedly an elephant hunting ground that supplied the Zulus with a great deal of ivory, which they traded with the British at the nearby port of Durban. Today, the city retains its Voortrekker name, while the district of which it forms a part goes by the original Zulu.
Before the end of apartheid in 1994, Pietermaritzburg had been the capital of the Natal Province. Following the subsequent restructuring of government, the city went on to share this status with nearby Ulundi for around a decade, before this decision was officially reversed in 2004, leaving Pietermaritzburg as the sole provincial capital.
Pietermaritzburg is located near the East Coast of South Africa, some ninety kilometers from the coastal city of Durban. The city is located within the Umgungundlovu district, and is governed by the Msunduzi Local Municipality.
Pietermaritzburg is home to a number of notable landmarks of both historical and cultural value. The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) Botanical Gardens offer a look at the local flora, while the city hall is a striking example of colonial architecture that remains today. A statue of Mahatma Gandhi also stands in the city to commemorate the formative time he spent there as a young lawyer.
Pietermaritzburg is home to approximately 223,448 people, at a density of around 1800 per square kilometer.
The majority of the population is Black African, with Zulu being the most commonly spoken first language.
The city covers a total area of around 126km2.