Limpopo’s coat of arms

The Limpopo River forms the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe. The Limpopo Province covers the area that lies northernmost in South Africa, just South of Zimbabwe. It was first called the Northern Province, but this was changed in 2002. The Limpopo Province was part of the old Transvaal and includes many old homelands like Venda, Gazankulu and Lebowa.

Capital: Polokwane (before 2002, its name was Pietersburg)

Main languages: Sesotho sa Leboa, Shangaan

Premier: Cassel Mathle

First premier (1994): Ngoako Ramatlhodi

Limpopo's claim to fame:


The golden rhino from Mapungubwe.

Mapungubwe was a kingdom in northern South Africa a thousand years ago. The people of Mapungubwe mined gold and traded with other parts of the world, even China. They left many objects that show how they lived and how rich they were, like this golden rhino that was made from pure gold.

Mapungubwe is a World Heritage Site, which means that it is a very important place in the history of the world, not only South Africa, and it must be protected so that people can see it and know what it was for many years to come. Mapungubwe is also the name of one of South Africa’s highest orders of merit, a very special prize for people who served South Africa.


Another important archaeological site in Limpopo is Makapansgat near Mokopane (the old Potgietersrus). People lived there about 1,5 million to 100 000 years ago, and left objects and fossils. It was also the place where a battle between Boers and the Kgotla was fought in 1854. The Boers won, and they named a town nearby after their hero of the battle, Piet Potgieter. The town was Potgietersrus, but in 2002 the name was changed to Mokopane. Chief Mokopane was the chief of the Kgotla who lost against the Boers.

Baobab trees

A baobab tree in the Limpopo Province

Baobab trees are very large African trees. They are sometimes described as ‘upside-down’, because of the short branches that look like the roots of a tree. Baobabs grow very slowly, but they can live for thousands of years. Old and large Baobabs have hollow trunks, and animals and even people can stay in a Baobab trunk. Some of the Baobabs in the Limpopo Province are possibly even more than 3000 years old, and the biggest Baobab in the world can be found in Limpopo. One of the orders of merit of South Africa is called the Order of the Baobab.

Last updated : 24-Jan-2013

This article was produced for South African History Online on 31-Mar-2011