History of Pretoria

Published on 13th June 2006

Pretoria is a city located in the northern part of Gauteng Province, South Africa. Although largely a government-based city, it is also a place of culture, with theatres, museums and monuments. It is one of the country's three capital cities, serving as the executive (administrative) capital; the other two being Cape Town (legislative capital) and Bloemfontein (judicial capital).

Pretoria is the administrative capital of South Africa. The Volksraad (English; "Peoples Council"-was the parliament of the former South African Republic also sometimes referred to as the Transvaal Republic), which existed from 1857 to 1902 in part of what is now the Republic of South Africa agreed to the establishment of a town as well as to the name Pretoria on 16th December 1855.

The first homestead in the Pretoria area was probably the home of J.G.S. Bronkhorst, who settled in the Fountains Valley in 1840. More Boer families put down roots around the nearby Elandspoort settlement. In 1854, two years after the Sand River Convention conferred formal independence on the territory north of the Vaal River, the residents of Elandspoort had the village proclaimed the ‘kerkplaas’ for central Transvaal. This made it the focal point for nagmaals, baptisms and weddings. The following year it became the township of Pretoria, which, at the time, consisted of about 80 houses and 300 residents. Commandant-General Marthinus Wessel Pretorius had bought a large amount of land in the area, which was taken over by the government as they foresaw the development of a large centre. The town began to take shape in 1856 as a result of Andries du Toit, a presidential advisor, exchanging one of his Basutho ponies for the entire area known, today, as Arcadia. He spent the next two years surveying his property with pegs and chains. Stephanus Meintjies developed the area and was honoured by having a nearby hillock named Meinjieskop. This resulted in Pretoria extending from Potgieter Street in the west to Prinsloo Street in the east and from Boom Street in the North to Scheiding Street in the South.

Prior to this decision there was some difficulty about the choice of a name. Pretoriusdorp, Pretorium, Pretoriusstad and Pretoria-Philadelphia were among the suggestions. But Pretoria was selected. It was the choice of the son, Marthinus Wessel Pretorius, who wished to honour the memory of his father, Commandant-General Andries Pretorius, the hero of Blood River and negotiator with Britain of the Sand River Convention, which acknowledged the independence of the Transvaal." Pretoria became the seat of government on 1 May 1860.

Not long after its establishment it became known as the ‘city of roses’ because its climate encouraged the growth of rambler roses, which covered gardens and hedges all around the city. In 1888 J.D. Cilliers, a resident and avid gardener, imported Jacaranda trees from Rio de Janeiro to plant in his Myrtle Grove garden. These trees flourished and as a result the city is now aptly known as the ‘Jacaranda City’, with about 50 000 Jacarandas lining its streets.

The British annexed the Transvaal in April 1877, which resulted in a steady flow of immigrants and migrants. During the Transvaal War of Independence, the British withdrew and Paul Kruger took over. After the Anglo-Boer War, Pretoria was named the capital of the new British colony and when the Union of South Africa was created in 1910 it became the administrative capital.

On 14 October 1931, Pretoria achieved official city status. When South Africa became a republic in 1961, Pretoria remained its administrative capital.

Previously, Pretoria had a negative image as "the capital of apartheid South Africa" - one of the most notable reasons for this was the so-called Treason Trial of 1956 to 1961, which was conducted in the city. However, Pretoria's political reputation was redeemed with the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as the country's first black President at the Union Buildings in the same city. However, the name Pretoria still has a negative connotation to many black South Africans, and therefore a change of name to Tshwane has been proposed. This change is controversial to the many inhabitants of the city, especially the Afrikaner community, to whom the name Pretoria has an important historical relevance.

Church Square has always been the hub of Pretoria, although it was initially called Market Square. This was where the first church was built. It burnt down in 1882 and was replaced by a much grander structure. Pretoria also has an abundance of museums including the Voortrekker Memorial Museum, Kruger House, the Transvaal Museum, Fort Klapperkop Military Museum, the National Cultural History and Open Air Museum among others. The city also has several beautiful parks like Burgers Park, Jan Cilliers Park and Springbok Park. Other points of interest include the city’s five nature reserves, the National Zoological Gardens, the Onderstepoort veterinary research institute and South Africa’s largest research organization, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). Pretoria also has an advanced industrial complex, originally based in Iscor, which includes engineering, food processing and diamond mining.

References

www.southafrica-travel.net/north/a1pret01.htm/ www.sahistory.org.za/pages/town&c/ villages/gauteng/pretoria/history.htmen.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pretoria http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volksraad


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