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History of Pretoria, Gauteng

pretoria history gautengBy around 1600 the Southern Transvaal Ndebele occupied the river valley, which was to become the location of the city of Pretoria. During the difaqane in Natal, another band of refugees arrived in this area under the leadership of Mzilikazi. However, they were forced to abandon their villages in their flight from a regiment of Zulu raiders in 1832.

Pretoria itself was founded in 1855 by Marthinus Pretorius, a leader of the Voortrekkers, who named it after his father Andries Pretorius. The elder Pretorius had become a national hero of the Voortrekkers after his victory over the Zulus in the Battle of Blood River. Andries Pretorius also negotiated the Sand River Convention (1852), in which Britain acknowledged the independence of the Transvaal. It became the capital of the South African Republic (ZAR) on 1 May 1860. The founding of Pretoria as the capital of the South African Republic can be seen as marking the end of the Boers' settlement movements of the Great Trek.

During the First Boer War, the city was besieged by Republican forces in December 1880 and March 1881. The peace treaty which ended the war was signed in Pretoria on 3 August 1881 at the Pretoria Convention. The Second Boer War (1899 to 1902) resulted in the end of the Transvaal Republic and start of British hegemony in South Africa. The city surrendered to British forces under Frederick Roberts on 5 June 1900 and the conflict was ended in Pretoria with the signing of the Peace of Vereeniging on 31 May 1902. A number of forts were built for the defence of the city just prior to the Second Boer War, though some are today in ruins, a number of them have been preserved as national monuments.

The Boer Republics of the ZAR and the Orange Free State were united with the Cape Colony and Natal Colony in 1910 to become the Union of South Africa. Pretoria then became the administrative capital of the whole of South Africa, with Cape Town the legislative capital. Between 1860 and 1994, the city was also the capital of the province of Transvaal, superseding Potchefstroom in that role. On 14 October 1931, Pretoria achieved official city status. When South Africa became a republic in 1961, Pretoria remained its administrative capital.

After the creation of new municipal structures across South Africa in 2000, the name Tshwane was adopted for the Metropolitan Municipality that includes Pretoria and surrounding towns. Pretoria previously had a rather sinister image as "the capital of Apartheid South Africa". However, Pretoria's political reputation was changed with the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as the country's first non-apartheid President at the Union Buildings close to Pretoria CBD. The Union Buildings are central to South African history now represent the change South Africa endured.

Beginning in 2005, portions of the African National Congress wished to change the name of the city to match the name of the Tshwane municipality, however this met with stiff opposition, particularly from Afrikaner civil rights groups and political parties since it denies the history of the city as founded by Pretorius.

In 1994 Peter Holmes Maluleka was elected as transitional mayor of Pretoria, until the first democratic election held later that year, making him the first black mayor of this capital of South Africa. Maluleka later became the chairman of the Greater Pretoria Metropolitan City Council (later City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality), then was elected Speaker of the Tshwane Metro Council and in 2004 was chosen to be a member of the South African Parliament for the Soshanguve constituency.

Within the heart of Pretoria stands Church Square, initially called Market Square. It was home to the first church built in Pretoria, which burnt down in 1882. The square marks what used to be the centre of Pretoria and is now home to many historically significant buildings, like the Ou Raadsaal (council chamber) and the Palace of Justice. The square is perhaps most famous for the large bronze statue of Paul Kruger, former State President, which stands in its centre. The rich history of the area is also captured within the many museums within Pretoria, such as the Transvaal Museum, National Cultural History Museum and many old buildings that have been preserved as gems of the past.

 


 

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