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Potchefstroom is a large city in the North West Province of South Africa, and is one of the country’s major academic centers as well as being of historical and cultural importance to much of the country’s population.
The city falls under the Tlokwe Municipality within the Dr Kenneth Kaunda District. Potchefstroom’s name is said to have been derived from a number of different sources, including the name of the Voortrekker leader and founder of the town, Andries Potgieter, and the ‘potscherf’, or ‘pot cracks’ to which the appearance of the local soil is likened.
Potchefstroom was founded in 1838 by the Voortrekkers, and is the second-oldest European settlement in what was formerly known as the Transvaal region after nearby Klerksdorp (although there is some debate regarding which town did in fact come first). Potchefstroom’s growth far exceeded that of Klerksdorp, however, and it was the first to become a fully functional town in its day. For a brief period lasting until 1840, these two towns, along with several others in the vicinity, were considered part of the Republic of Winburg-Potchefstroom, led by Andries Potgieter. Around the same time, an alliance was made with the town of Pietermaritzburg (then known as Pieter Mouriets Burg).
In 1848, Potchefstroom became the capital of the South African Republic, a status that it held until 1860. During this period, the town was the focus of several key negotiations between the Boers and the British government, particularly the Sand River Convention of 1852. This convention guaranteed the right of emigrant farmers north of the Transvaal to govern themselves, leading to the official establishment of the South African Republic itself and its recognition by the British. The constitution of this new republic stated that Potchefstroom would become its capital city, with the seat of government in nearby Pretoria. Potchefstroom was also the site of some of the first conflicts of the First Boer War, while a concentration camp was built near the city to house Boer captives during the Second Boer War.
Potchefstroom is situated near the eastern border of the North West Province, on the banks of the Mooi River. The city can be found approximately 120 kilometers southwest of Johannesburg, and 45 kilometers northeast of neighbouring Klerksdorp.
As an educational center, Potchefstroom is home to a number of educational institutions that serve as many of its most prominent landmarks. Foremost among these is the central campus of the North West University, a renowned institution throughout the nation. The Old Fort and Cemetery is one of the most important historical landmarks in the region, and, along with the South African National Artillery Memorial, is an official National Heritage Site.
Potchefstroom is home to approximately 149,230 people, at a population density of about 800 per square kilometer.
The majority of the population is Black African, with Tswana being the most commonly spoken first language.
The city of Potchefstroom covers a total area of around 185 square kilometers.