South Africa is divided into nine provinces: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, Northern Cape and Western Cape.
Prior to 1994, the country was divided into four provinces: Cape, Orange Free State, Transvaal and Natal.
There are three capitals: Cape Town (legislative), Pretoria (administrative), and Bloemfontein (judicial).
Vrede lies southeast of Johannesburg, in the Free State (formerly the Orange Free State). The name means “peace” in Afrikaans. The town is surrounded by rolling hills covered in a tall, wispy grass known as “Highveld” grass. The area is an agricultural centre with a huge production of maize, wheat, meat, dairy products and wool. Fewer than 2,000 people live in Vrede today.
Originally a mission station, Douglas was founded in 1867 and was named for General Sir Robert Percy Douglas (1804-1891), the then Lieutenant Governor of the Cape Colony. The proximity of South Africa’s largest rivers, Vaal and Orange, makes the land around Douglas fertile.
Potchefstroom lies 119 kms from Pretoria. It was the capital of the rebellious “Boer” republic of the Transvaal which at the end of the 19th century went to war against the British Empire.
The town is home to Potchefstroom University.
Grahamstown (Pop. 2003 census / 124,758) was founded in 1812. It was originally a military outpost under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel John Graham. The town's development began 8 years later with the arrival of the "1820" British settlers. The town has always been English-speaking, making it unpopular with Afrikaners. It is home to Grahamstown University. Like many places in South Africa, the town's name is due to be changed in order to honor all of the country's citizens.
Jagersfontein lies 576 kms south of Pretoria. It was founded in 1871 after a diamond was found on a farm in the area. It quickly became a booming mining town; at one stage there were 34 bars and 5 hotels.
In 1579 the British navigator Sir Francis Drake, sailing around the tip of Africa, described the peninsula he saw as, “... the fairest cape and the most stately thing we saw in the whole circumference of the globe”. Ever since, Capetonians – residents of Cape Town – speak of their city affectionately as “the fairest Cape in all the world”.
This fair Cape was first mentioned in writing in 1486 when the Portuguese explorer Bartholomew Diaz sailed past. But it was not until 1652 that the indigenous people of what is today South Africa had contact with Europeans. That year Dutchman Jan van Riebeeck, an employee of the Dutch East India Company, landed at the Cape and founded a settlement where the company’s sailing vessels could take on fresh provisions. Jan van Riebeeck’s settlement led to the colonisation of the region, first by the Dutch and then by the British.
Today, over 3.5 million people live in Cape Town and its suburbs. 42% of them speak Afrikaans and 77% are Protestant Christian. The next largest religious group is Muslim (9.7 percent).