Pietermaritzburg

Some disagreement still exists about where the capital of the newly constituted province should be. The current capital is considered to be Pietermaritzburg. The Provincial government is called Msundusi and is divided between Pietermaritzburg and Ulundi in Northern KwaZulu-Natal. ·

The Voortrekkers, who appreciated fertile and pleasant areas, chose this site to establish their capital after the defeat of the Zulu in 1838. The town was laid out on the banks of the Msunduze River and named in honour of the two Voortrekker leaders Gerrit Maritz and Piet Retief. During the winter of 1839 Pietermaritzburg was severely damaged by fire.

The British annexed Pietermaritzburg in 1843 and it became the seat of their administration for Natal. The first lieutenant governor, Martin West, made his home here and Fort Napier, named after the governor of the Cape, Sir George Napier, was built to house a garrison.

The first newspaper, The Natal Witness, was published in Pietermaritzburg in 1846. It was a lively sheet that, in some of its earlier issues, had the Pietermaritzburg goal as its editorial address, owing to the imprisonment of the editor for offending the governor.

Pietermaritzburg is today essentially British Colonial in character but still plays an important role in Afrikaner history because of its founders. It has a total of 39 national monuments.

On 16 June (Youth day) (previously on 31 May – Republic day) the annual Comrades’ Marathon takes place between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. It has been run since 1921. There also is an annual canoe race down the Msunduzi from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, known as the “Duzi” Marathon.

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