It is apt that, when the nine provinces of South Africa were renamed after the country’s first democratic elections in 1994, the former Transvaal Province (consisting of the PWV, an acronym for Pretoria, the Witwatersrand and Vereeniging) was called Gauteng, a Sesotho word meaning “place of gold”. The Witwatersrand (“ridge of white waters”), a ridge mostly formed from quartzite, conglomerates and shale that runs in an east-west direction through Gauteng, is famous for being the source of 40% of all the gold ever mined from the Earth.
With only 1.4% of South Africa’s land area, the tiny province of Gauteng punches way above its weight, contributing more than 33% to the national economy and a phenomenal 10% to the GDP of the entire African continent.
Gauteng’s southern border is the Vaal River, which separates it from the Free State. It also borders on North West[ to the west, Limpopo to the north, and Mpumalanga to the east. Gauteng is the only landlocked province of South Africa without a foreign border. Most of Gauteng is on the Highveld, a high-altitude grassland (circa 1,500 m or 4,921 ft above sea level). Between Johannesburg and Pretoria there are low parallel ridges and undulating hills, some part of the Magaliesberg Mountains and the Witwatersrand. The north of the province is more subtropical, due to its lower altitude and is mostly dry savanna habitat.
Johannesburg is the capital of Gauteng province (Pretoria, also in Gauteng, is the capital of the country). Also known as Joburg or Jozi, Johannesburg is the biggest city in South Africa, and is often compared to Los Angeles, with a similar urban sprawl linked by huge highway interchanges.
Johannesburg is a single municipality that covers over 1 645 square kilo metres. Sydney’s central municipality, by comparison, covers 1 500 square kilo metres. It’s been calculated that if a resident of the southern-most area of Joburg, Orange Farm, were to walk northwards to the inner city, the journey would take three days.
Mine-dumps and headgear remain symbols of Johannesburg’s rich past, while modern architecture abuts fine examples of 19th-century engineering. Gleaming skyscrapers contrast with Indian bazaars and African medicine shops, and the streets throng with fruit sellers and street vendors. An exciting blend of ethnic and western art and cultural activities is reflected in theatres and open-air arenas throughout the city.
South of Johannesburg is Soweto, developed as a “dormitory township” for black people under the apartheid system. Much of the struggle against apartheid was fought in and from Soweto, which is now home to more than 2-million people.