Johannesburg

Population nearly 4,500,000 People
Elevation 1,753 m
Area 1,645 km2
Makeup Black 64.2%
Coloured 13.9%
Indian/Asian 6.7%
White 13.9%
Other 1.3%

The region surrounding Johannesburg was originally inhabited by San people. By the 13th century, groups of Bantu-speaking people started moving southwards from central Africa and encroached on the indigenous San population. By the mid 18th century, the broader region was largely settled by various Sotho–Tswana communities (one linguistic branch of Bantu-speakers), whose villages, towns, chiefdoms and kingdoms stretched from what is now Botswana in the west, to present day Lesotho in the south, to the present day Pedi areas of the northern Transvaal.

More specifically, the stone-walled ruins of Sotho–Tswana towns and villages are scattered around the parts of the former Transvaal in which Johannesburg is situated. The Sotho–Tswana practised farming, raised cattle, sheep and goats, and extensively mined and smelted copper, iron and tin. Moreover, from the early 1960s until his retirement, Professor Revil Mason, of the University of the Witwatersrand, explored and documented many Late Iron Age archaeological sites throughout the Johannesburg area, dating from between the 12th century and 18th century, and many of these sites contained the ruins of Sotho–Tswana mines and iron smelting furnaces, suggesting that the area was being exploited for its mineral wealth before the arrival of Europeans or the discovery of gold. The most prominent site within Johannesburg is Melville Koppies, which contains an iron smelting furnace.

Many Sotho–Tswana towns and villages in the areas around Johannesburg were destroyed and their people driven away during the wars emanating from Zululand during the late 18th and early 19th centuries (the mfecane or difaqane wars), and as a result, an offshoot of the Zulu kingdom, the Ndebele (often referred to by the name the local Sotho–Tswana gave them, the Matebele), set up a kingdom to the northwest of Johannesburg around modern day Rustenburg.

The Dutch speaking Voortrekkers arrived in the early 19th century, driving away the Matebele with the help of Sotho–Tswana allies, establishing settlements around Rustenburg and Pretoria in the early 1830s, and claiming sovereignty over what would become Johannesburg as part of the South African Republic (known informally as the Transvaal Republic).

Gold rush

The main Witwatersrand gold reef was discovered in June 1884 on the farm Vogelstruisfontein by Jan Gerritse Bantjes that triggered the gold rush and the start of Johannesburg in 1886. In Sept. 1884 the Struben brothers discovered the Confidence Reef on the farm Wilgespruit near present-day Roodepoort. which further boosted excitement over gold prospects. The very first gold to be crushed on the Witwatersrand was the gold bearing rock from the Bantjes mine crushed using the Struben brothers stamp machine. Also, News of the discovery soon reached Kimberley and Rhodes with Robinson rode up from Kimberley to investigate rumors for themselves. They were guided to the Bantjes camp and stayed with Bantjes for two nights. In 1884 they purchased the first pure refined gold from Bantjes for £3000. Bantjes had also since 1881 been operating the Kromdraai Gold Mine in the Cradle of Humankind together with Johannes Stephanus Minnaar where they both as partners first discovered gold there in 1881 and which soon offered another kind of discovery – the early ancestors of all humankind. Incidentally, George Harrison, whose findings on the farm Langlaagte made in July 1886, cannot be considered as part of the initial discovery. He was a roaming carpenter and not a serious prospector who accidentally kicked a lump of rock that contained gold flecks in the Witwatersrand area. This led to new discoveries.

The original miners’ camp, under the informal leadership of Col Ignatius Ferreira, had been located in the Fordsburg dip, possibly because water was available there, and because of the site’s close proximity to the diggings. Following upon the declaration of Johannesburg, this area was taken over by the Government who had it surveyed and named it Ferreira’s Town.

Gold was initially discovered some 400 kilometres (249 miles) to the east of present-day Johannesburg, in Barberton. Gold prospectors soon discovered that there were even richer gold reefs in the Witwatersrand.

Gold was discovered on the Langlaagte farm in 1886. Within months from the discovery, the first settlement at Ferreira’s Camp (today the suburb of Ferreirasdorp) was established as a tent camp, which already reached a population of 3,000 by 1887. By 1896 Johannesburg had become a city of over 100,000 inhabitants. When, in November 1886, a portion of the farm Randjeslaagte had been laid out as a village and named Johannesburg, the government took over Ferreira’s camp and had it properly surveyed and named Ferreira’s Township.

Like many late 19th century mining towns, Johannesburg was a rough and disorganised place, populated by white miners from other continents, African tribesmen recruited to perform unskilled mine work, African women beer brewers who cooked for and sold beer to the black migrant workers, a very large number of European prostitutes, gangsters, impoverished Afrikaners, tradesmen, and Zulu “AmaWasha”, Zulu men who surprisingly dominated laundry work. As the value of control of the land increased, tensions developed between the Boer government in Pretoria and the British, culminating in the Jameson Raid that ended in fiasco at Doornkop in January 1896 and the Second Boer War(1899–1902) that saw British forces under Lord Roberts occupy the city on 30 May 1900 after a series of battles to the south of its then-limits.

Fighting took place at the Gatsrand Pass (near Zakariyya Park) on 27 May, north of Vanwyksrust – today’s Nancefield, Eldorado Park and Naturena – the next day, culminating in a mass infantry attack on what is now the waterworks ridge in Chiawelo and Senaoane on 29 May.

During the war, many African mineworkers left Johannesburg creating a labour shortage, which the mines ameliorated by bringing in labourers from China, especially southern China. After the war, they were replaced by black workers, but many Chinese stayed on, creating Johannesburg’s Chinese community, which during the apartheid era, was not legally classified as “Asian,” but as “Coloured.”

The population in 1904 was 155,642, of whom 83,363 were Whites.

Post-Union history

Major building developments took place in the 1930s, after South Africa went off the gold standard. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Hillbrow went high-rise. In the 1950s and early 1960s, the apartheid government constructed the massive agglomeration of townships that became known as Soweto. New freeways encouraged massive suburban sprawl to the north of the city. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, tower blocks (including the Carlton Centre and the Southern Life Centre) filled the skyline of the central business district. The central area of the city underwent something of a decline in the 1980s and 1990s, due to the high crime rate and when property speculators directed large amounts of capital into suburban shopping malls, decentralised office parks, and entertainment centres. Sandton City was opened in 1973, followed by Rosebank Mall in 1976, and Eastgate in 1979.

On 12 May 2008 a series of riots started in the township of Alexandra, in the north-eastern part of Johannesburg, when locals attacked migrants from Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, killing two people and injuring 40 others. These riots sparked the xenophobic attacks of 2008.

A completely refurbished Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup final.

Alberton

Alberton

Population nearly 122,000 People Elevation 1,570 m Area 77.16 km2 Makeup Black 26.5% Coloured...

Benoni

Benoni

Population nearly 159,000 People Elevation 1,645 m Area 175.55 km2 Makeup Black 45.2% Coloured...

Boksburg

Boksburg

Population nearly 261,000 People Elevation 1,694 m Area 162.35 km2 Makeup Black 56.7% Coloured...

Brakpan

Brakpan

Population nearly 74,000 People Elevation 1,644 m Area 182.81 km2 Makeup Black 39.7% Coloured 2.5%...

Bronkhorstspruit

Bronkhorstspruit

Population nearly 3,800 People Elevation 1,644 m Area 3.11 km2 Bronkhorstspruit is a small...

Carletonville

Carletonville

Population nearly 24,000 People Elevation 1,541 m Area 35.14 km2 Makeup Black 70.1% Coloured 0.9%...

To Our Newsletter

To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

SAcoronavirus.co.za