History of Pretoria

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Pretoria was first called Petoriusdorp ' a little later, someone with a knowledge of Latin suggested the name Pretorium. To the relief of many the name Pretoria was finally adopted.

Pretoria is the administrative capital of South Africa. The Volksraad agreed to the establishment of a town as well as to the name Pretoria. The actual date of this decision was the 16th December 1855 and this date is regarded as Pretorias birthday. 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.

The bid by Potchefstroom (a conservative medium-sized town about 300 kilometres to the west of Johannesburg) to secure the role as the capital of what used to be called the province of Transvaal failed, and the Volksraad (parliament) was established in Pretoria.

Relations between the gold mining industry and the leaders of the Transvaal Republic (ZAR) were often strained, but it is a credit to the Boer leaders who, not only maintained a semblance of control over the miens but also prospered from the growing revenues.

The Jameson Raid, an ill-conceived plant o take over the Transvaal failed, creating an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion that was to lead to eventual war with Britain in 1899.

While Johannesburg was the scene of many dramatic incidents, the focus now moves to Pretoria, where apartheid was actually administered (Pretoria is the administrative capital of the country).

Pretoria Central, where a number of people convicted of atrocities during the apartheid years are now imprisoned. This was also the location of Death Row in South Africa, and the place where one of the youngest black activists to be hung for political activity, Solomon Mahlangu, a resident of Mamelodi township outside Pretoria, died in 1976.

There is now a square in the township named after Mahlangu, with a dramatic statue commemorating his life. A number of white activists received very long sentences in Pretoria Central. The longest serving of these was activist Denis Goldberg, who served some 20 years.

Church Square (which includes the Palace of Justice and a statue of the legendary boer leader Paul Kruger) is a site full of associations with a number of struggles for freedom.

The turreted Palace of Justice was the scene of one of the most famous of South Africas major political trials, the Rivonia Trial, during which Nelson Mandela and a number of major heroes of the struggle for racial freedom was charged with treason and subsequently incarcerated.

The Union Buildings, were built in the early years of the 20th century ' during the period of political Union between the former British colonies of the Cape and Natal and the two Boer Republics. The Union Buildings embody much of the philosophy held by the British at the time over the way colonies should be run and governed.

The Union period of South Africas history (1902-10) was about building bridges between the Boers and Britain after the bitterness of the Boer War ' but no one gave thought or attention to the rights of black South Africans. It was soon after the Act of Union was passed in 1920 that the first broad-based African movement was formed specifically to lobby and work for black rights in South Africa.

This organisation, formed in 1912, was the forerunner of the African National Congress. The most famous occasions now held at the Union Buildings are the inauguration ceremonies of the countrys presidents.