Johannesburg also known as Joburg, is the largest city in South Africa. Johannesburg is the provincial capital of Gauteng, the wealthiest province in South Africa, having the largest economy of any metropolitan region in Sub-Saharan Africa. The city is one of the 40 largest metropolitan areas in the world and it is one of Africa’s only two global cities. While Johannesburg does not form one of South Africa’s three capital cities, it does house the Constitutional Court – South Africa’s highest court.
Johannesburg is the source of a large-scale gold and diamond trade, due to its location on the mineral-rich Witwatersrand range of hills. Johannesburg is served by O.R. Tambo International Airport, the largest and busiest airport in Africa and a gateway for international air travel to and from the rest of southern Africa.
According to the 2007 Community Survey, The population of the Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Area is almost eight million. The population of the municipal city is almost 4 million. Johannesburg’s land area of 635 sq miles is very large when compared to other cities, resulting in a population density of 6,123 inhabitants per square mile. Johannesburg also encompasses Soweto to the south west, a township that the apartheid government established to accommodate the large number of migrant workers. It should be noted that Johannesburg and Pretoria are beginning to act as one functional entity, connecting the province of Gauteng together and forming one Megacity of roughly 10 million people.
Gauteng (as a city) is growing rapidly, due to mass urbanization that is a feature of many developing countries. According to the State of the Cities Report, the urban portion of Gauteng – comprised primarily of the cities of Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni (the East Rand) and Tshwane (greater Pretoria) – will be a polycentric urban region with a projected population of some 14.6 million people by 2015, making it one of the largest cities in the world.
The region surrounding Johannesburg was originally inhabited by San tribes Rock paintings. By the 1200s, groups of Nthu people started moving southwards from central Africa and encroached on the indigenous San population. White trekboers started entering the area from the Cape Colony after 1860.
Gold was initially discovered some 400 km to the east of present-day Johannesburg, in Barberton. Gold prospectors soon discovered that there were even richer gold reefs in the Witwatersrand. Gold was discovered at Langlaagte, Johannesburg in 1886.
Johannesburg was a dusty settlement some 90km from the Transvaal Republic capital which was Pretoria. The town was much the same as any small prospecting settlement, but, as word spread, people flocked to the area from all other regions of the country, as well as from North America, the United Kingdom and Europe. As the value of control of the land increased, tensions developed between the Boer government in Pretoria and the British, culminating in the Boer Wars. The Boers lost the wars and control of the area was ceded to the British. Controversy surrounds the origin of the name, as there were any number of people with the name “Johannes” who were involved in the early history of the city. The principal clerk attached to the office of the surveyor-general, Johannes Rissik, Christiaan Johannes Joubert, member of the Volksraad and the Republic’s chief of mining, Paul Kruger, President of the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek (Transvaal). Rissik and Joubert were members of a delegation sent to England to attain mining rights for the area. Joubert had a park in the city named after him and Rissik street is today a main street where the (now dilapidated) Post Office and City Hall are located.
Currently the Johannesburg Metropolitan Council is implementing a large scale Inner City Revival project, leading to some business moving back to the inner city.