I’ve lived in South Africa’s Gauteng province since the mid to late 1990s. The province was created after 1994 democractic elections. The region has been buzzing with economic activity for longer than that though. There’s probably a lot of things that you don’t know about this province, but today my aim is to change that.
Here are 20 Interesting Gauteng Facts You Might Not Know
1. Even though Gauteng takes up only 1.5% of the land area, it’s South Africa’s most populous province
Gauteng has a land area of roughly 18,000 square kilometres (7,000 square miles), but it contains two of South Africa’s biggest cities: Johannesburg and Pretoria. As of 2019 the province’s population is estimated at 15 millon. 25.8% of the country’s population live in Gauteng. It’s also the only landlocked province in the country without a foreign border. The province is bordered by Limpopo, North West, Mpumalanga and the Free State provinces.
2. The region was known as the PWV region pre-1994
Before Gauteng province was created, it was referred to as the PWV (Pretoria, Witwatersrand, Vereeniging) region and was part of South Africa’s Transvaal province. Before 1994, South Africa only had 4 provinces, but that amount increased to 9 after the first democratic elections were held.
3. Gauteng is the province with the second highest life expectancy in South Africa
Females have a life expectancy of 69 years and males have a life expectancy of 64 years.
4. The province is considered to be the economic hub of South Africa
The province is responsible for one third of South Africa’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product). It’s also the home of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (the largest stock exchange in Africa). Gauteng generates about 10% of the total GDP of sub-Saharan Africa and about 7% of the African continent’s GDP.
5. It’s the home of the Gautrain
The Gautrain started servicing commuters in 2010. This 80 km commuter rail system was constructed between 2006 and 2011 to help reduce congestion between Johannesburg and Pretoria. By 2013 an average of 40,000 commuters per day were using the rail system and an average of 12,000 commuters were making use of the Gautrain buses daily.
6. Three of the Nine South African Botanical Gardens are in Gauteng
The Pretoria National Botanical Garden is located in Cussonia Avenue in South Africa’s capital city and takes up 76 hectares. The Johannesburg Botanical Garden is located in Emmerentia and takes up 125 hectares. The Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden is located in Roodepoort and takes up 300 hectares.
7. Some famous people were once residents of Gauteng
The Oscar-Winning actress Charlize Theron was born and grew up in Benoni (on Gauteng’s East Rand), American singer, songwriter, musician, actor and record label owner, Dave Matthews was born in Johannesburg and the world famous business magnate, industrial designer and engineer, Elon Musk was born and raised in Pretoria.
8. The Ben Schoeman highway is the busiest road in South Africa
The Ben Schoeman highway is made up of sections of the M1, N1 and N14 highways and carries an estimated 300,000 a vehicles a day between Johannesburg and Pretoria. Gauteng is the province with the most highways in South Africa.
9. Despite being heavily urbanised, the province has more than 30 game reserves
This is quite impressive, especially for an urbanised region. The list of notable game reserves include Dinokeng Game Reserve, Rietvlei Nature Reserve and Wonderboom Nature Reserve (all within driving distance from Pretoria / Johannesburg). Green space actually accounts for 75% of the province’s total area.
10. Pretoria has been around for 30 years longer than Johannesburg
Pretoria was founded in 1855. Johannesburg has only been around since 1886. The area around Johannesburg rapidly developed when gold was discovered in the region in the late 19th century. This caused a huge influx of people.
11. The Cradle of Humankind is home to 40% of the planet’s human fossils
This UNESCO World Heritage site is located 50 km (31 miles) North West of Johannesburg. A cave in this area was the site of the discovery of a 2.3-million-year-old fossil Australopithecus africanus (nicknamed “Mrs. Ples”) in 1947.
12. Gallagher Convention Centre is the largest conference centre in South Africa
The convention centre was previous known as Gallagher Estate and is located in Midrand (a suburb located halfway between Pretoria and Johannesburg). The 32-hectare property offers 27 multi-purpose venues which cater to a variety of events such as conferences, dinners, luncheons, cocktails, exhibitions and private events. The centre hosts +/- 30 exhibitions and 350 events annually.
13. Fourways Mall is the biggest shopping mall in South Africa
This Johannesburg mall has been around since 1994 and its retail space was rapidly expanded to 178,000 square metres in 2019. The mall now has more than 400 stores. Menlyn Park Shopping Centre (located in the Eastern suburbs of Pretoria) is the second biggest mall in the country. There are 500+ stores in Menlyn Park, but the retail space is less than Fourways Mall (177,000 square metres). These two malls are the 3rd and 4th biggest malls in Africa.
14. The Cullinan Diamond was found in this province
The diamond was the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found. It weighed 3,106.75 carats (621.35 g) and was discovered at the Premier No.2 mine in Cullinan (a town located 30 km from Pretoria).
15. Four of the world’s deepest active gold mines are located in the province
At 4 km deep, the Mponeng gold mine (formerly known as Western Deeps Level #1 Shaft) is the deepest active gold mine in the world. It’s located near the town of Fochville. 3 other gold mines in Gauteng are on the top 10 list (the TauTona Mine, the Driefontein Mine and Kusasalethu mine).
16. The province has hosted three different World Cup Finals
Emirates Airline Park (also known as Ellis Park) hosted the 1995 IRB Rugby World Cup final, The Wanderers Stadium hosted the 2003 Cricket World Cup final and FNB Stadium hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup final. All three stadiums are located in Johannesburg.
17. Johannesburg is the home of the tallest building in Africa
The Leonardo (a hotel building located in Sandton, Johannesburg) has been the continent’s tallest building since 2019. It’s 234 metres (767 feet) tall and has 55 storeys. Before 2019 the 50 storey Carlton Centre (located in Johannesburg CBD) was the highest building on the continent. The 38 storey South African Reserve Bank building is the highest building in Pretoria.
18. South Africans born outside of Gauteng make up 37% of the provinces population
This is proof that urbanisation is definitely happening in the country. According to 2019 estimates, Johannesburg has a population of 5.6 million and Pretoria has a population of 2.5 million. It’s also interesting to note that 10% of people living in Gauteng were born outside of South Africa.
19. Lots of Hollywood Films have been shot in Gauteng
Scenes for the 2015 film, Avengers: The Age of Ultron, the 2012 film Dredd, the 2009 film District 9, the 2015 film Chappie were shot in Johannesburg. Scenes for the 1977 film Pumping Iron, the 2003 film Stander and the 1996 film The Ghost And The Darkness were shot in Pretoria.
20. Gauteng has had 6 premiers to date
Tokyo Sexwhale was the first Gauteng premier (May 1994 to January 1998). He was succeeded by Mathole Motshekga (January 1998 to June 1999), Mbhazima Shilowa (June 1999 to September 2008), Paul Mashatile (October 2008 to May 2009) and Nomvula Mokonyane (May 2009 to May 2014). David Makhura has been the premier of Gauteng since May 2014. All Premiers are members of the African National Congress (South Africa’s ruling party).
Well, there you have it, 20 interesting facts that you might not have known about Gauteng. If I left out something important, feel free to comment below.
Watch this space for updates in the Facts category on Running Wolf’s Rant.