and Special Sites
without reason that
the province in which Johannesburg
sits is called Gauteng
- Sotho for 'Place of Gold'. The history of this region has
been molded for centuries, by the very location of the province on the
highland plateau of South Africa.
situated just 30km northwest of the ci tyhas yielded some of the most
startling archaeological treasures of our
time. Scientists working the limestone caves in 1998 discovered a
lime-encrusted skeleton, which dates the presence of early human-kind
in the valley to 3.5 million years. This discovery places Gauteng
at the forefront of international, paleontological research.
of iron age smelters on the mid-Johannesburg
Melville Koppies and at Lone Hill just north of Sandton, point to more
recent occupation, while San rock engravings in the Magaliesberg mark
the passage of these hunter gatherers 25,000 years ago.
city was named after Johan Rissik, who was the
Surveyor General sent to select a site for the village, and Johannes
Joubert, the mining commissioner sent to investigate the claims.
With the discovery of
gold in 1886--an event which led
to the discovery of the planet's most significant source of this
precious mineral--gold diggers, speculators and fortune hunters from
around the world arrived in droves, and soon a tented town sprawled
across the dusty reef. The conglomerate of disparate people and motives
was to become what is today South
At the beginning of the
19th century the Witwatersrand
gold mines attracted large numbers of black laborers who were housed in
compounds on the mines. Company, and municipal hostels, housed migrant
workers for other industries while some, such as domestic workers,
resided at their places of work.
But there were
also many people who were uitlanders
foreigners. Their limited voting rights, was one of the reasons for the
outbreak of the Anglo Boer War (an earth-shattering clash between
British imperialism and Afrikaner nationalism).
was not just the war of white persons; many black
people were employed by the British. The Boers, too, employed blacks.
The Johannesburg Fort, a
prison for a good part of the
late 1900s, was surrendered to the English during the Anglo Boer War.
The Fort was the only major, military structure built in Johannesburg
by the Transvaal
It was designed to control, not protect, the rebellious mining town,
and was surrendered without a shot being fired. The battlements offer
commanding views of the city and its gold mines, which caused the War.
As social and political
tensions increased in the 1950s,
60s, 70s and 80s, a new breed of leader emerged, and it was at this
time that people like Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela equipped
themselves with academic qualifications.
at a conference in Kliptown near Johannesburg,
the ANC's Freedom Charter was signed and ratified by the Congress of
Milestones during this
numerous. The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Albert
Luthuli brought international recognition and sympathy for the struggle
The Rivonia Trial, the
imprisonment of Nelson Mandela
and finally, the student uprising in Soweto
in 1976, marked the beginning of the end of apartheid. After all, Gauteng--both
at the very cutting edge of the revolution against apartheid.
which comprises a number of townships (its name was an acronym for the South Western Townships
adjacent to Johannesburg),
developed into a city as a result of a policy of territorial and
political segregation. It has now developed from a mere geographical
concept into an equally vibrant city and an experiential feast for the
today reflects the new South African order, and a society of which the
people are justly proud.
Sites In And Around
just south of central Johannesburg,
which was, until the 1970s, one of the hundreds of working mine shafts
along the massive east-west arc of gold-bearing rock. In the seventies
this part of the mine was closed as most of the accessible gold had
been mined out. The site then became a museum focusing on both the
history of gold and the extraordinary geology of the area.
A key part
complex is the mine shaft which has been kept in working order so that
visitors may descend to the rock face deep underground, just as the
miners once did. Gold
is a safe, yet authentic place, where you can learn about the Witwatersrand
gold deposits. Underground tours run several times each day and are
to the south-west of the city, is South
township, and highly recommended. Visit historic sites such as the
Regina Mundi Catholic Church, the Oppenheimer Tower and the Hector
Peterson Memorial, dedicated to the young boy who was the first
fatality of the June 1976 uprising. Drop in at Nelson Mandela's former
Orlando West home, where the President lived while practicing as a
lawyer in Johannesburg.
Visit a shebeen for lunch for that memorable cultural experience. Try
Wandi's Place in Dube, or the Cappuccino Shop in Orlando
Freedom Square in Kliptown near Soweto
is an historical monument to the struggle where the Congress of the
People signed the Freedom Charter in 1955.
the city of Johannesburg
explore Museum Africa, Johannesburg's
major history and cultural history museum, where fascinating exhibits
take you on a journey through our turbulent and eventful history.
just to the west of the CBD, houses the Newtown Cultural Precinct and
the Workers' Library: many of Gandhi's cases, another great 20th
century freedom fighter, are kept here. He lived in South
for many years,
and, in fact, during his time in South
philosophy of 'passive resistance' or satyagraha. There was a large
Asian community in this part of Johannesburg.
The famous Market Theatre complex which dominates the precinct was
actually termed the 'Indian market', being the main fresh produce
market for the burgeoning city. Later, the municipality constructed a
number of buildings near the market to house workers who were retained
as part of South
notorious migrant labor system.
Look out for the
magnificent Victorian Market Theatre
building, which also houses the city's principal socio-historic museum,
Museum Africa; the latter has a good display on Gandhi; the Workers'
Library, set up to give mineworkers, in particular, access to research
The Precinct includes the
French Institute, the
Foundation for Creative Arts, the Newtown
and the Gramadoelas restaurant which offers genuine South African
has renovated a number of warehouses and buildings to house museum
displays such as the Workers' Museum, as well as the Artists' Studios.
As you drives north on Jan
business district of Braamfontein towards the northern suburbs of Johannesburg,
Wits campus may be seen on the left hand side. Founded in the 1920s,
Wits earned a reputation of resisting the worst efforts of the
government to enforce segregation in universities. The university also
had at least two famous African leaders as alumni: Nelson Mandela and
The Johannesburg Fort has
Robben Island, so famous and numerous were the people (like Gandhi,
Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Ruth First, Jo Slovo and Ahmed Kathrada)
who passed through its gates as prisoners. Originally built by Paul
Kruger late in the 19th century to protect Johannesburg
if Kruger's Boer
went to war with Britain,
the Fort later became a convenient prison for the whole gamut of
This was the place, in
actually met one another for the first time, when the 156 Treason
Trialists were brought together. Many people only knew one another by
code names, and this presented people with a golden opportunity to talk
with one another, strategize and generally network.
just north of Braamfontein and Wits (the
University of the Witwatersrand),
is laid out on the southern slope of the Witwatersrand
ridge, which is the watershed between the Indian and Atlantic
oceans. It was the pioneer garden suburb in South
Baker's home (renowned architect) and the mining magnate, Lord Alfred
Milner's 'kindergarten Moot Cottage, are to be found in this
interesting suburb. The Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust organize
walking tours through this, and many other interesting areas in Johannesburg.
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