The history of Gauteng can be traced back to the early 1800s, when settlers from the Cape defeated Chief Mzilikazi and established villages in what is today Gauteng, South Africa.
But it was really the 1886 discovery of gold in Johannesburg that sparked the developments that would shape the Gauteng province. For after those first gold nuggets were found, thousands of people streamed into the region hoping to find their fortunes.
The early, rural villages quickly exploded into shanty towns that spread out along the gold-bearing reef. These corrugated iron settlements were soon formalised, providing the infrastructure for modern-day Johannesburg.
Johannesburg’s older sister, Pretoria, wasn’t subjected to this same flurry of activity and exponential growth. Established in 1855 as the capital of the Boer (Dutch-speaking farmers) republic, it grew slowly and was highly regarded for its role in the South African War (1899 – 1902).
This juxtaposition still exits today; while Johannesburg is called the ‘city of gold’ and retains its frenetic pace, Pretoria is referred to as the ‘Jacaranda city’ and exudes a more laid back vibe.
One cannot talk of the history of Gauteng without mentioning is prehistoric past. Although its recent history was documented from the 1800s, archaeological evidence suggests Gauteng’s roots run much deeper.
West of Johannesburg, at the Sterkfontein Caves, some of the world’s oldest fossilised hominid remains have been discovered. ‘Mrs. Ples’ and ‘Little Foot’ as the 2-million and 3-million-year-old fossils are known, bear testament to the fact that prehistoric man roamed this area long before the arrival of the European settlers.
More recently, Gauteng spearheaded the country’s fight for freedom. It was here that the spirit of democracy took hold, fuelling protests, demonstrations and a struggle that would eventually change the course of history.
Gauteng’s role in building a new South Africa, filled with hope and promise, is one that is poignantly significant and will never be forgotten.
The History of Gauteng is rooted in its origins as a gold rush region. Today, it is the commercial and industrial centre of South Africa and one of the wealthiest provinces on the continent. Its historical past also includes a pivotal role in the country’s struggle for freedom.