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History of Polokwane

Polokwane, the Limpopo Province capital was in the past known by the name Pietersburg. At the present, it is a cultural hub of the region that lies in the midst of Zimbabwean border and Pretoria. It is a city that is graced with green spaces, wide streets and stunning mix of coral trees and jacaranda which are especially very beautiful in spring. The name Polokwane in the local language means place of safety.

Brief history of Polokwane

Polokwane has a long history. Sometime in 1840s, the Voortrekkers led by Andries Potgieter established a town which came to be known as Zoutpansbergdorp. This settlement was later abandoned because of the conflicts of the Voortrekkers and the natives of the region. In 1886, they founded new town which they named Pietersburg as a way of honouring Petrus Jacobus Joubert, the Voortrekker leader. That town is the modern day Polokwane

During Boer War, a concentration camp was built by the British at Pietersburg so as to provide shelter to the about 4,000 children and women from the Boer community that had been displaced by the war.

The English church was established in Pietersburg before 1894.  Activities at the church were interfered with during Boer War. In 1901, normal services resumed.  The two prominent churches in the city at the present are the Roman Catholic and the Anglican.


The population of Polokwane has over the years been on increase trend.  In 1904 when it was by then referred to as Pietersburg, its population stood at 3, 276. About 49.5 % of that population was whites.  The remaining 50% by then population is believed to be mixed ethnic tribes of black people.

As at 18 January 2012, the population of this city stood at 123,749 according to report by GeoNames geographical database.

The official change of name from Pietersburg to Polokwane

In April 1992, Pietersburg town was elevated to a city. In February 2005, the name of Pietersburg city was officially changed and declared by the name to be Polokwane. Even before official declaration of change by the government, the Northern Solo speakers already referred it to as such.

Some historical events that have taken place in Polokwane

Historic events have taken place in Polokwane. One of them is the world Cup games in 2010. The city hosted one of the matches and served as training ground for some team that participated in the event. It was also the ANC national conference site that saw the current president of South Africa Mr. Jacob Zuma take over as party head.

Polokwane was a white-designated area during apartheid

During the apartheid regime, Pietersburg was designated as white area. Before 1900, the majority of the population was thus white. Even when the apartheid came to an end, large white population was retained at the city.  The towns that are near to the present Polokwane   have majority if not exclusive of the population being black people.

Certain areas were reserved for members of ONLY some certain ethnic groups

Also, during the apartheid government, certain areas in present day Polokwane were only allocated people from certain racial groups. Some of these areas still have majority of their inhabitants as members of the racial groups that were allocated to them during Apartheid.  Examples include Nirvana which was an Indian township, Westernburg which as reserved for the whites and Seshego, a settlement outside Polokwane which was allocated to the blacks.

Some of the suburbs in Polokwane that were formerly reserved only for the whites  include Ster park, Penia park, Flora-Park, Hospital Park, Fauna-Park and Bendor.  At the present, these suburbs are no longer reserved for any people from particular race.  The local government has even undertaken measures to force the residents to integrate and co-exist without any form of discrimination.

The present day Polokwane

The present day Polokwane is one of the rapidly growing urban areas in South Africa. Notable companies that have set up industries in the city include South African Breweries and Coca Cola.

It is also a very popular tourist destination.  It is one of those places in which there is a lot to see, discover, wonder and experience.

Some of the popular tourist attractions include:

  • Magoebaskloof,
  • Ebenezer Dam,
  • Hugh Exton Photographic Museum,
  • Debegeni Falls,
  • Magoebaskloof Rainforest,
  • The Irish House
  • Bakone Malapa Northern Sotho Open-Air Museum,
  • Savannah Centre,
  • Library Gardens building, and
  • Kruger National Park.

The Polokwane Game Reserve which is situated 5 kilometres to the city’s south is an exciting place to visit.  It is the home to over 21 animal species. It also offers exciting scenic walks.  Other attractions that receive many local visitors as well as from all over South Africa and even abroad include Polokwane Bird and Reptile Park, Moletzie Bird Sanctuary, Cheune Crocodile Farm and Modjadji Rainforest.

Transport to and from the city is available by Air, road and rail. The city is served by Polokwane International Airport, N1 highway and R71 roads.  Major improvements of the transport systems and beautification took place in 2010 during the preparations for the hosting of world cup.