Local History

Example of a local history: Pretoria

Postcard of the Union Buildings, Pretoria, 1920s. Source: Van Zeyl Collection

The local area examined as part of this section of the curriculum will differ from area to area and even from school to school. Of importance is that learners cultivate the skill of finding information using various sources. SAHO has used Pretoria as an example local history. SAHO’s head offices are in Pretoria.

The places we come from are a part of our heritage. Where we grew up and where we live are important because we learn from the people who live there with us, and the place itself. In the next 3 units we are going to talk about Pretoria, the administrative capital city of South Africa.

Firstly it is important to know where Pretoria is in the world. Then we will talk about natural features like rivers and mountains in and around the city and what monuments and museums the people who have lived in Pretoria have built in the city

Pretoria is one of the capital cities of South Africa and is situated in the Gauteng Province. In 1853 a Voortrekker called M. W. Pretorius, the son of Andries Pretorius, bought two farms along the Apies River to establish the capital of all the Afrikaner communities in South Africa. He called the new town Pretoria, in honour of his father.

The city of Pretoria is 60 km from Johannesburg, 478 km from Bloemfontein and 1 500 km from Cape Town. It spreads out in the valleys that are made by the eastern part of the Magaliesberg Mountain range, where the Apies River flows and the climate is perfect for flowers and trees. In the 1870s Pretoria was known as the “City of Roses”, but after Mr. J. D. Cilliers bought some Jacaranda trees from Rio de Janeiro for his garden in 1888, the city decided to plant 50 000 of these trees and Pretoria became the “Jacaranda City”.

Rivers and mountains in and around Pretoria

Pretoria is situated in the Eastern Magaliesberg Mountains. Here are some of the mountains and hills in the area:

  • Bronberg
  • Cable Hill
  • Daspoortrand
  • Diamond Hill
  • Klapperkop
  • Kwaggasrand
  • Langeberge
  • Meintjieskop
  • Pyramid Koppies
  • Skanskop
  • Skurweberg
  • Thaba Tshwane/Voortrekkerhoogte
  • Waterberg

Because the area is fairly mountainous there are also several “poorts” or “neks” through the hills and mountains to make it possible for people to drive through tunnels and gaps in the mountains. Some of these gaps were made by the Voortrekkers to make it easier for their ox wagons to travel in the area, but some were made later as the city expanded and traffic became busier:

  • Baviaanspoort
  • Derdepoort
  • Hornsnek
  • Onderstepoort
  • Pienaarspoort
  • Saartjiesnek
  • Silkaatsnek
  • Swawelpoort
  • T.F. Martinspoort
  • Wapadsnek

There are 4 major dams close to Pretoria. The Roodeplaat Dam, the Bon Accord Dam, the Rietvlei Dam and the Hartebeespoort Dam are all within 60 km from the city. Pretoria also has rivers that flow through and around it like the Apies River, the Pienaars River and the Moretele River.

Museums and monuments in and around Pretoria

What is a museum?

A museum is a place where objects, or things, are kept that are important because they are valuable to people. These objects can show us what the past was like, like old aeroplanes, guns used in wars that ended long ago or clothes that people wore in the past. Some objects have scientific value because they can teach us about science and the world around us. Paintings and sculptures are also kept in museums because they show us what art looks like and what types of different art artists can create.

Pretoria has many different museums where you can go to learn about the city and other general topics. Here is a list of all the Museums in Pretoria:

  • Air Force Museum
  • Association of Arts
  • Austen Roberts Bird Sanctuary
  • Claude Malan Museum
  • Coert Steynberg Museum
  • Correctional Services Museum
  • Education Museum
  • Fort Klapperkop
  • Fort Schanskop
  • Jan Smuts House
  • Kruger Museum
  • Melrose House
  • Museum of Geological Survey
  • Museum of Natural History
  • Museum of Science and Technology
  • National Botanical Gardens
  • National Cultural and Historical Museum
  • National Zoological Gardens, Aquarium and Reptile Park
  • Pierneef Museum
  • Pioneer Museum
  • Police Museum
  • Pretoria Art Museum
  • Sammy Marks Museum
  • Transport Museum
  • Transvaal Museum
  • Voortrekker Monument Museum
  • Willem Prinsloo Agricultural Museum

What is a monument?

A monument can be a building or sculpture. A really old building that can show us how South Africans lived in the past can also become a monument, like Melrose House in Pretoria. People build monuments to mark a certain important event in the past, or to honour a person who made an important difference in the world. Monuments don’t always celebrate happy events, but can be built so that we remember a bad event so that it won’t happen again. A good example of this is a war monument that shows all the names of soldiers.

Further reading www.4pretoria.co.za www.places.co.za

There are also many monuments in and around Pretoria:

  • Café Riche
  • Church Square
  • Fort Klapperkop
  • Fort Schanskop
  • Freedom Park
  • Groottekerk
  • Melrose House
  • Paul Kruger Church
  • Place of the Birds
  • President Kruger House
  • Pretoria Station
  • Sammy Marks Building
  • Staats Model School
  • Union Buildings
  • Voortrekker Monument

Homework Activity
a) Name 4 museums you can find in and around your city/town.
b) Name 4 monuments you can find in and around city/town.
c) Visit 1 museum and write a paragraph about what you learned at the museum.
d) Visit 1 monument and write a paragraph about what you learned at the monument.

The name “Pretoria” and rewriting South African history

After the 1994 elections South Africa’s new government decided that some city, area and street names had to change because they represented a bad part of our past. At the time there were no streets, cities or areas named after black people and heroes. Since 2003 there have been discussions about changing the name Pretoria to Tshwane. The city of Pretoria was named after Andries Pretorius, the Voortrekker leader, and falls inside the Tshwane Metropolitan area.

The reason the name could change to Tshwane is because, according to legend, the area used to be called that when Chief Tshwane ruled his people in the area.

Who was Chief Tshwane?

According to oral tradition or stories Chief Tshwane was one of the sons of Chief Mushi or Musi from KwaZulu Natal. Chief Mushi moved to the region in about 1652 and gave an area near the Apies River to his son. The name of the area possibly comes from the word “tshwana”, which means “we are the same”. There is hardly any information available about Chief Tshwane.

It could also be that the word Tshwane hints at a river that flows under black forests of hills and thick forests used to cover the whole area where Pretoria stands today. Some people also think that Tshwane refers to the colour black in Sotho, as in black cow or “kgomo e tshwene” while others say it means “little monkey”.

Voortrekkerhoogte or Thaba-Tshwane?

Voortrekkerhoogte is a hill just outside Pretoria where the Voortrekker Monument stands. Before it was named Voortrekkerhoogte it was called Roberts Heights, and in 1998 it was changed again to Thaba Tshwane. The word Thaba means “mountain” or “hill”.

Many residents of Pretoria feel that it would be wrong to change the city’s name because it is known all over the world and is also our capital city. It will also cost a lot of money because all the businesses in the city would have to change the addresses on their stationery. Other people feel it’s important that the name changes because it is a reminder of the days of apartheid, and like some of our provinces, should get a new name that shows the new South Africa so that we can rewrite the history of South Africa and include the events and people that were left out before.