Pretoria and surrounding

The, then president of the republic, Marthinus Pretorius, named Pretoria after his father, Andries Pretorius, who had become the national hero of the Voortrekkers after his victory over the Zulu kingdom in the famous battle at Blood River. The founding of Pretoria as the capital of the South African Republic marked the end of the Boers' settlement movements of the Groot Trek.

The City

The administrative capital of South Africa, Pretoria / Tshwane lies about 50 km north of Johannesburg. The population, just under a million, consists mainly of officials, and in Pretoria life goes at a much slower pace than in the hectic Johannesburg. It is quite easy for the visitor to find his or her way through the city, which is laid out like a chess board. Pretoria lies 1367 m above sea level, which makes it about 400 m lower than Johannesburg. It is surrounded by protecting mountains. The climate is subtropical with hot, wet summers and relatively mild, dry winters.

The nicest time for a visit is spring, when in October more than 70,000 Jacaranda trees are in full bloom. Then the whole town is one big purple-coloured and sweet-smelling sea of blossoms. The exotic trees were imported from South America some 100 years ago and gave the town its nickname: "Jacaranda City."

Voortrekker Monument

The Voortrekkers played an important part in Pretoria's past. The capital of the Boer republic in Transvaal was named after Andries Pretorius, the victorious leader of the Boers in the war against the Zulus. The founders of the former South African Republic were honoured by a colossal monument situated on Monument Hill, which is supposed to be a reminder of the courage, determination and persistence of the Voortrekkers.

The Voortrekker Monument, which does not appear very attractive to tourists, is a national icon for Afrikaans South Africans. Particularly on December 16, the anniversary of the battle at the Blood River, Afrikaners from all over the country stream to the Voortrekker Monument to commemorate the - in their view - most important event in the history of South Africa. The Building is constructed in such a way that just on that day at 12 noon a ray of sunlight falls onto the Shrine of Honour in the Heroes’ Hall. It bears the inscription: "Ons vir jou, Zuid Afrika!" (We for you, South Africa!).


Irene (Interesting facts) 

-         The original farm, which stretched from Olifantsfontein to Pretoria, was owned by Daniel Elardus Erasmus.

-         The town of Irene was founded by Alois Hugh Nellmapius, and named after his daughter Irene Violet.

-         The Boer War Cemetery “Kamp Kerk Hof” is found in Irene.  It is also the sight of the old concentration camp where 1149 people died, 800 of which in the first two months.

Paul Kruger House 

The house was Kruger’s private residence from his election as State President of the ZAR in 1883 until 1900 when he went into voluntary exile to Europe during the Anglo-Boer War.  Tom Claridge, one of Pretoria’s first architects, designed the Kruger house.  It was modest according to a president’s lifestyle but had Victorian features, as was the trend of the time. 

Church Square

 If one approaches church square from west to east on Church Street, the building clockwise are:  

-         The General Post Office.  It is the fourth post office erected on this site in 1887.  The building housed the Landrost, the Civil-Commissioners and the telegraph offices.  Near the entrance the mail coaches departed for the rest of Transvaal.

-         The old National Bank and Government Mint.  This was established in 1890, as Kruger was convinced that an own bank and currency was essential.  The coins of ZAR were first minted in Germany, but from 1893 onwards they were minted at this Mint.  The builder was John Kirkness.  The mint, was the first mint in the Southern Hemisphere. 

-         The Bank of Africa.  Erected in 1906 on the site of the Kimberley Hotel.  This bank was incorporated with the National Bank.  In 1996 it became the Post Office Museum.

-         The Place of Justice.  The foundation stone was laid by Kruger.  Sytze Wierda designed the building.  The British used the building as a hospital, when they entered Pretoria in 1900.  Previously the old Government School was located on this site.  In 1902 on completion of the building it became the home of the Transvaal Supreme Court.

-         The Reserve Bank and Old Mutual Building.  The Reserve Bank was built in 1934 and the Old Mutual building in 1929.  These buildings used to house the headquarters of Barclays Bank in 1925.

-         The Eerste Volksbank.  This bank was established in 1934 and was replaced by Volkskas Bank.  It was established in the late twenties to establish the Afrikaner Economy on a sounder basis.

-         First National Bank.  Previously known as Barclays Bank.  This building was completed in 1939. 

-         The Tudor Chambers.  George Heys built this in 1904.  This building replaced the ‘Corner’, which had a Church Street frontage and verandah.  George Heys had is office in this building, from where he saw to his business. (Coach Company)

-         The Standard Bank.  It replaced the Grand Hotel between 1931 and 1934.  Banks from Pretoria’s earliest days occupied this site.  It is alleged that the Grand Hotel caused the Raadsaal to increase the height by one floor.

-         The Old Raadsaal.  This was built in 1888.This building was also designed by Sytze Wierda.  The coat of arms on the tympanum were sculpted by Anton van Wouw in 1891.  The first Raadsaal on this site served as the inauguration place for President Kruger in 1883.  It also served for the opening of the Delagoabaai Railway in 1895, and Lord Roberts took the salute here in 1900 when British troops took over Pretoria.   Only at a later stage was the third floor added.

-         The Capitol Theatre. It was the last of the theaters in the southwestern corner of the square.  This corner of the square was a social meeting place.  The interior depicts the Roman Capitol.  Since 1974 it has not been used, except as a parking garage.

-         The Old Netherlands Bank.  This was the building of the ‘Nederlandsche Bank en Crediet Vereniging’.  It was built in 1896/7 on the spot where Pretoria Hotel was situated.  The main purpose was to look after the needs of the Dutch speaking community.  Nedbank did business here until 1953.

-         The Law Chambers.  The oldest building on the western façade.  Commandant-General Piet Joubert laid the cornerstone.  Because of his rank he was on the executive council and was Kruger’s opponent in the presidential elections.

-         Café Riché.  This was built in 1905, on the spot where the Post Office Bar stood.  It also had a corner entrance, as it was thought that his way you do more business.  

The square still has the Paul Kruger statue in the center. 

Melrose House 

On the 5th of June 1900, during the Anglo-Boer War, British troops under the command of Lord Roberts, invaded Pretoria.  Lord Roberts then requisitioned Melrose House and for the remainder of the war the strategy was determined there.  The Peace Treaty of Vereeniging, which ended the war, was signed in the dining room of Melrose House by Lord Kitchener and Lord Milner for the British government, and 10 representatives of the two Boer Republics.  The reason for signing the treaty here, is that it was the headquarters of the British forces in South Africa at the time.   

The Union Buildings 

This magnificent building was designed by Herbert Baker, and was build of the mountain and not on the mountain.  This site, originally known as Meintjieskop, was chosen due to its endless view.   The building was constructed of Sandstone from Wolwehoek and Warmbaths, and at the time of its completion was the largest building in South Africa.  The idea of the building was that as the Union of South Africa was taking place that two identical sides were built and joined in the middle, symbolising the union.  Also the inner court is in the shape of a U.  The two sides each have a foundation stone laid one in English and the other side in Dutch.  The twin-domed towers also represent the English and the Afrikaans people.  

The building is sited on a disused quarry, which now makes up the amphitheater.  The statue on top of the building is Mercury, messenger of God’s.  The suburb closest to the Union Buildings is Arkadia, which means ‘playground of God’s’.  Mercury is holding up the world.   

The design of each storey differs, and therefore each stone had to be individually cut.  The architecture of the building ranges from the lower stories Edwardian style to the top stories Cape Dutch design with shutters on the windows.  The windows from bottom to top are elongated and become shorter and shorter to the top floor.  This is supposed to give an illusion of height.   

The Union Buildings were the site of the historical inauguration of President Mandela and that of President Mbeki.  The official offices of the president are on the left-hand side of the Union Buildings, where a flag would fly if he were in office. 

The gardens designed by Herbert Baker incorporate three statues.  The first is the statue of the first Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, Louis Botha, seated on a horse.  The next statue is of the third Prime Minister of the Union, J.M.B.Hertzog.  The last statue on the western side of the gardens is of Jan Smuts.  There is also a Delville Wood Memorial, which is a replica of the one at Delville Woods in France.

The building's name comes from the time of the South African Union, which was only changed in 1961 to the current name, the Republic of South Africa.

Since the first free and common elections in South Africa in 1994 the Union Building has been the residence of the presidency - today Thabo Mbeki - and his government. Parliament spends the winter months in Pretoria, during the summer months it changes to Cape Town.