Pietermaritzburg: Wikis


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Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal
Nickname(s): The City of Choice
Map of KwaZulu-Natal showing Pietermaritzburg's location.
Coordinates: 29°37′01″S 30°22′59″E / 29.617°S 30.383°E / -29.617; 30.383
Country South Africa
Province KwaZulu-Natal
District Municipality Umgungundlovu
Established 1838
 - Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo
 - Total 649 km2 (250.6 sq mi)
Elevation 596 m (1,955 ft)
Population (2001)
 - Total 521,805
 - Density 804/km2 (2,082.4/sq mi)
Time zone South Africa Standard Time (UTC+2)
Area code(s) 033

Pietermaritzburg is the capital and second largest city of the province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. It was founded in 1838. Its "purist" Zulu name is umGungundlovu, and this is the name used for the district authority. Pietermaritzburg is popularly called Maritzburg in English and Zulu alike, and often informally abbreviated to PMB. It is a regionally important industrial hub, producing aluminium, timber and dairy products. It is home to many schools and tertiary education institutions, including a campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal. It had a population of 228,549 in 1991;[1] the estimated current population in Msunduzi Municipality is between 500,000 and 600,000 (of which 25% to 30% are identified as Indians or Whites).



City Hall, constructed in 1893, destroyed by fire in 1895, rebuilt in 1901. This magnificent example of Victorian architecture is the largest red-brick building in the Southern Hemisphere.

The city was originally founded by the Voortrekkers, following the defeat of Dingane at the Battle of Blood River, and was the capital of the short-lived Boer republic, Natalia. Britain took over Pietermaritzburg in 1843 and it became the seat of the Natal Colony's administration with the first lieutenant-governor, Martin West, making it his home. Fort Napier, named after the governor of the Cape Colony, Sir George Thomas Napier, was built to house a garrison. In 1893 Natal received responsibility for their own government and an assembly building was built along with the city hall. In 1910, when the Union of South Africa was formed, Natal became a province of the union, and Pietermaritzburg remained the capital.



There exist two interpretations about the origin of the city's name. One is that it was named after Piet Retief and Gert (Gerrit) Maritz, two famous Voortrekker leaders.[2] The other is that it was originally named after Piet Retief alone, since his full name was Pieter Mouriets Retief. In this interpretation the original name was "Pieter Mouriets Burg", later transliterated to the current name (Jenkins, 1971:11).

Retief was killed by Dingane, successor to Shaka, king of the Zulus. Maritz died in battle with the Zulus at Bloukranz, some hundreds of kilometres further North and so did not ever reach the Pietermaritzburg area. In 1938, however, the city announced officially that the second element Maritz should also honour Gert Maritz.

At the time of the rise of the Zulu Empire, the site that was to become Pietermaritzburg was called Umgungundlovu. This is popularly translated from the Zulu as "Place of the Elephant", although it could also be translated to mean "The elephant wins". Umgungundlovu is thus thought to be the site of some Zulu king's victory, since "Elephant" (Indlovu) is a name traditionally taken by the Zulu monarch. Legend has it that Shaka had his warriors hunt elephant there to sell the ivory to English traders at Durban (then called Port Natal). Today, the town is still called by its Voortrekker name, although the municipality it is part of bears the Zulu name.


During apartheid, the city was segregated into various sections. 90% of the Indian population was moved to the suburb of Northdale while most of its Zulu inhabitants were moved to the neighbouring township of Edendale.

Clock tower of the university's Collin Webb Hall

The University

The University of Natal was founded in 1910[3] as the Natal University College and extended to Durban in 1922. The two campuses were incorporated into the University of Natal in March 1949. It became a major voice in the struggle against Apartheid, and was one of the first universities in the country to provide education to black students. This campus boasts association with a remarkable array of world-class academics and has famous alumni distributed throughout the world. It became the University of KwaZulu-Natal on 1 January 2004.

Mahatma Gandhi

Pietermaritzburg is also famous for an incident early in the life of Mahatma Gandhi. In May 1893, while Gandhi was on his way to Pretoria, a white man objected to Gandhi's presence in a first-class carriage, and he was ordered to move to the van compartment at the end of the train. Gandhi, who had a first-class ticket, refused, and was thrown off the train at Pietermaritzburg. Shivering through the winter night in the waiting room of the station, Gandhi made the momentous decision to stay on in South Africa and fight the racial discrimination against Indians there. Out of that struggle emerged his unique version of nonviolent resistance, Satyagraha. Today, a bronze statue of Gandhi stands in Church Street, in the city centre.

Other historical events

  • The first newspaper in Natal, the Natal Witness (now known as The Witness), was published in 1846.
  • The 46 hectare Botanic Gardens were created in 1872 by the Botanic Society of Natal.
  • The city hall, which is the largest red-brick building in the Southern Hemisphere, was destroyed by fire in 1895, but was rebuilt in 1901.
  • The British built an internment camp here during the Second Boer War to house Boer women and children.
  • In 1962, Nelson Mandela was arrested in the nearby town of Howick to the north of Pietermaritzburg. The arrest marked the beginning of Nelson Mandela's 27 years of imprisonment. A small monument has been erected at the location of his arrest.

Capital status

Prior to the end of apartheid in 1994, Pietermaritzburg was the capital of Natal Province. Following the first post-apartheid elections in South Africa, as a result of which the Inkatha Freedom Party won a majority in the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government, Pietermaritzburg shared its status as capital of the (then newly-created) province of KwaZulu-Natal with Ulundi. Pietermaritzburg became the legislative capital of the new province, while Ulundi became the administrative capital. The IFP, being strongly Zulu nationalist, desired that Ulundi, the capital of the Zulu Kingdom at the time of its fall to the British in the Anglo-Zulu War, be the post-apartheid capital of the province. Ulundi had also been the capital of the bantustan KwaZulu, which makes up a portion of modern KwaZulu-Natal. However, Ulundi severely lacked the infrastructure to be an effective seat of government, and the African National Congress (ANC) and the Democratic Party, the two other strong political parties in the province, among others, called for Pietermaritzburg alone to be the capital. The debate came to an end when the ANC came to power in the province in 2004, and named Pietermaritzburg the sole capital of KwaZulu-Natal. This has resulted in the relocation of several government offices to Pietermaritzburg. This has generally been welcomed as a positive development for the region. Since 2004, progress such as the modernization of several buildings in the city centre and a proliferation of retail and housing developments in the suburbs are results of recent investment in the city by both the public and private sectors.


Pietermaritzburg is on the major road arterial between the Pretoria-Johannesburg-Witwatersrand conurbation and the harbour city of Durban, some 90 kilometres (55 miles) from Pietermaritzburg. The city is served by Pietermaritzburg-Oribi Airport. The airport provides domestic air services to Johannesburg and Cape Town. There is also a railway station in the city centre that connects directly to Durban and Johannesburg and indirectly to other major cities in South Africa.

Geography and climate

Climate Table
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Highest recorded temperature (°C) 41 39 38 37 37 31 32 35 39 40 41 42 42
Average daily maximum temperature (°C) 28 28 28 26 24 22 23 24 25 25 26 28 26
Average daily minimum temperature (°C) 18 17 16 12 7 3 3 6 10 13 15 16 11
Lowest recorded temperature (°C) 9 10 5 1 -1 -4 -4 -3 -1 2 5 6 -4
Average monthly precipitation (mm) 141 117 113 48 24 13 11 31 60 74 104 108 844
Average number of rain days (>= 1 mm) 18 16 15 10 5 3 3 5 10 15 19 19 138
Source: South African Weather Service


The Comrades Marathon takes place annually in June between Pietermaritzburg and Durban. It has been run since 1921 and attracts thousands of entrants. The start of the race alternates between the two cities.

The yearly Amashova is a 106km road cycling classic race held since 1986 which starts in Pietermartizburg and finishes in Durban. It is normally held in October.

In January there is an annual canoe race, Dusi Canoe Marathon, from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. The route follows the Msunduzi River into the Mgeni River, through the Valley of a Thousand Hills into the Inanda Dam and from here to the mouth of the Mgeni River.

The Midmar Mile is one of the largest open-water swimming events in the world; taking place at Midmar Dam, north of Pietermaritzburg in February every year, it attracts over 16,000 swimmers from around the world.

The most prominent soccer club is Maritzburg United, which plays in the Premier Soccer League.

The Pietermaritzburg Oval is considered one of the most picturesque cricket grounds in South Africa, and it hosted two matches during the 2003 Cricket World Cup.

Pietermaritzburg cricket ground is notable as one of the two grounds used regularly for first-class cricket that have a tree within the boundary (the other is St Lawrence Ground in Canterbury, Kent).

Between December 1953 and November 1981 Pietermaritzburg had an international standard motor racing circuit located on the outskirts of the city. The Roy Hesketh circuit measured 1.803 miles (2.902 km). The circuit was named after South African driver Roy Hesketh. During its period of operation it hosted rounds of the South African National Drivers Championship, the Springbok Series[4][5][6] and national Formula Atlantic races. The circuit was also like a second home to Mike Hailwood. The track was famous for hosting the Easter races as well - a festival of racing over three days. The expansion of the town of Pietermaritzburg eventually led to the redevelopment of the site as a residential and business zone after racing ceased at the end of 1981. The section from Henry's Knee to the top of Beacon still exists, and is undergoing protection from further development as an important piece of Pietermaritzburg's history.

Educational institutions

Pietermaritzburg is served by a number of schools and tertiary institutions. The University of KwaZulu-Natal is the largest educational institution in the city.

Educational Institutions of Pietermaritzburg

Famous residents


  • Built in 1900, the City Hall was then the largest all-brick building in the southern hemisphere. It was declared a national monument in 1969.[7]
  • At 14 metres high, the statue Pegasus adorning the entrance of the Golden Horse Casino is the largest statue of a horse in the world.[8][9]



  1. ^ 1991 Census
  2. ^ Rhoodie, E. M.; Keith S. O. Beavon (1976). "Pietermaritzburg". in William D. Halsey. Collier's Encyclopedia. 19. New York: Macmillan Educational Corporation. p. 43.  
  3. ^ "History of the University of KwaZulu-Natal". http://www.ukzn.ac.za/aboutus/history.asp.  
  4. ^ Springbok Series - Sportscar championship in South Africa, that was run usually during winter. Until 1963 was Springbok series for F1 cars. Championship ended in 1973 after two races due to the Middle East oil crisis and never was restarted again... http://www.wspr-racing.com/wspr/results/spring/nf_spring_home.html
  5. ^ South African Springbok Trophy Series - South African endurance sports car championship. It was usually held during the winter when the main season had been finished. Until 1963 the Springbok series was destined for F1 cars before it switched to mixed sports car and touring car field. The main race of the series was well known Kyalami 9 Hours, which enjoyed good international competition. Also many of the other races were well supported. Sports cars were limited to two litres in 1970 but three litre cars were still allowed in the main 9 hour event, so even factory Ferrari took the challenge and won in Kyalami three consecutive times during 1970-72 period facing opposition of Porsche 917 and other great machinery of the time. The championship ended up in 1973 after only two races due to the Middle East oil crisis and was never restarted again. The Kyalami event was then shortened to 6 hours and became part of the World Manufacturers Championship, but only for a single season. It then continued under various rules sets and distances over the next decade appearing two more times in the World Sports Car Championship calendar (1983 and 1984 - but the latter was a complete fiasco and it never returned in its full 1000 km distance, nor as part of the WSPC. Just a few shorter races were held for a few more years to come but 1985. http://wsrp.ic.cz/spring.html
  6. ^ http://www.imca-slotracing.com/1965-1966-HISTORY%20OF%20THE%20SPRINGBOK%20SERIES.htm
  7. ^ "Pietermaritzburg - Home Of Gandhi and The Comrades Marathon". Encounter South Africa. http://www.encounter.co.za/article/60.html. Retrieved 2007-01-01.  
  8. ^ "Pietermaritzburg Tourism". http://www.pmbtourism.co.za/aff/pmbtourism/about_us/default.htm. Retrieved 2007-01-01.  
  9. ^ "Golden Horse Casino Hotel". CyberCapeTown Greater Durban Area Accommodation Portal.. http://cybercapetown.com/GoldenHorse/. Retrieved 2007-01-01.  


  • Jenkins, G. 1971. A Century of History: the story of Potchefstroom. 2nd ed. AA Balkema. Cape Town. 120 p.

External links

Coordinates: 29°35′S 30°25′E / 29.583°S 30.417°E / -29.583; 30.417

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Pietermaritzburg is a city in the center of South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province. The capital of Kwazulu-Natal, it is famous for its history and architecture.

Get in

By car

Access to Pietermaritzburg by road is easy, lying as it does on the major N3 freeway from Durban to Johannesburg. The R56 connects Pietermaritzburg with Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and East London to the south-west.

By train

Spoornet[1] operates regular inter-city trains to Durban, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein, Kimberley and Cape Town.

The train station is on the corner of Church and Railway streets, on the south-west edge of the city centre. Exercise caution when traveling on foot in this part of town, due to muggings and bag snatching.

By plane

Pietermaritzburg airport services flights from Johannesburg regularly.

By Bus

Regular daily bus services connect Pietermaritzburg to major cities in South Africa. The bus station is located in Burger Street, opposite the McDonalds and it serves major bus companies. Grey Hound is the most reliable and it operates several round-trips from Durban To Jo'burg daily, where Pietermaritzburg is the last stop before Durban.

Get around

Private transport is the best way of getting around. Car rental is strongly advised. It is recommended that you use a reputable brand, such as First Car Rental, who have a branch at the Pietermaritzburg Airport (Oribi Airport).

  • First Car Rental, In main building, Oribi Airport, +27 (0) 33 386 5252 (), [2]. Mon to Fri: 8 am to 5 pm, Sat and Sun: 8 am to 1pm.  edit

If this isn't possible, minibus-taxis are cheap, but uncomfortable and occasionally unsafe. Some of the sights of Pietermaritzburg are within walking distance, if you don't mind trudging along for a few kilometres. Private taxis (cabs) can also be hired, but they are substantially more expensive than the minibus-taxis.

  • Yellow Cab company, +27 (0)33 397-1910.  edit

The central minibus-taxi rank is in Market Square, which is in the Central Business District near the Natal Society Library and the City Hall. To get to the Central Business District from any of the suburbs by minibus-taxi, look for a taxi that is travelling to "eTuwen" or simply "Town". (There should be a guy leaning out the window announcing this loudly). Note: You don't want to go to eThekwini, which is Durban. You want to go to *town*. Ask the conductor if you're unsure.

Minibus-taxis have set routes, so there are a lot of places you can't get to using them.

The CBD isn't as safe as the suburbs. The area around the City Hall is pretty good, but I'd advise against long rambling walks into unfamiliar parts of it.


The City Hall, which is in the CBD, is the largest red brick building in the Southern Hemisphere. It contains a large organ, and occasionally hosts concerts.

The Tatham Art Gallery [3] across the road houses some fine artwork, including an impressive and ornate clock on the second floor. You'll find a coffee shop on the third floor. Entrance is free.

The Natal Society Library is behind the City Hall, and has recently undergone substantial revamping, with a large new children's wing being built. The fountain and the square that it stands in is scheduled for major renovation.

Down the road you can find the Voortrekker Museum, which celebrates the Great Trek by the Afrikaner people into the interior of South Africa.

Further afield, Queen Elizabeth Park up on the hills above the city contains zebra, buck and the like. No leopards or dangerous creatures, so you can walk around and enjoy the park on foot. Make sure you don't get your food stolen by monkeys, though.

The KwaZulu-Natal National Botanical Gardens in Mayor's Walk are spectacular and worth an extended visit. The gardens focus on indigenous flora and offer diverse walks through forests and open ground. A centrally situated restaurant offers one of the best food settings in Pietermaritzburg.


The nightlife in Pietermaritzburg is pretty limited. Two or three clubs dominate the scene. Crowded House (in the CBD, fairly near to the City Hall) is one of the most popular, playing pop and dance music. Exclusive Lounge nearby plays kwaito and house music. For a more alternative scene, The Red Door in Quarry Road (off Victoria Road) plays alternative rock/punk music on Friday nights.

Pietermaritzburg does offer quite a couple of pubs and sports clubs. The Stagecoach which is situated near the University has a lovely pub atmosphere. A little further down the road is The Lizard's Rock, which is more of a restaurant, but also has a deck and bar area. This restaurant / pub also has an outside garden area with a junglegym for the younger dinners. Lizard Rock has a fair following of regulars, who are both entertaining and welcoming.

Caffe Vacca Matta at the Golden Horse Casino (in Scottsville) has a more upmarket pitch. Serving as a restaurant in the afternoon and early evening, it becomes a nightclub later on. Dress tends to be slightly more formal, with collared shirts, no jeans or takkies, and the like. Also be aware that the minimum age at Vacca Matta varies, so phone in advance.

Every year in May the Comrades Marathon[4] is held (in 2010 on the 30th). The course alternates between the "up" run (Durban to Pietermaritzburg) and the "down" run (Pietermaritzburg to Durban). The distance you have to cover varies slightly from year to year, but is approximately 89 km. Bruce Fordyce[5], one of the all-time legends of ultra-distance running, won the Comrades Marathon a record nine times.

  • Enduro Motorcycle Tours, [6]. Motorcycle Tours – Guided enduro , off-road and dirt bike tours , day rides and trainings. Enduro bike rental or bring your own bike and experience some of the rural parts of the region. Man , machine and nature = adventure.  edit


Liberty Shopping Mall (which is far away from everything else) contains masses of shops, including specialist stores for a host of different goods. In town you can find plenty of shops that sell food, including fast food outlets. Their are also vendors on the pavements, although their goods aren't much to write home about. Downtown in the CBD you can find large clothing stores, as well as smaller Indian shops that sell anything you can think of. Fireworks are particularly popular around Diwali.

  • Bancroft B&B, 247, Old Howick rd, Hilton (Take the Cedera off-ramp from the N3 into th R103, travel over the freeway into Hilton, pass the traffic lights at Crossways, after 1.6km down the hill (towards town) on the right hand side.), +27 (0)33 343-1957 or 27 (0)33 343-3885 (), [7]. checkin: 2PM; checkout: 10AM. Bancroft B&B is in the beautiful forested evergreen hills above Pietermaritzburg, is a Georgian style house, with a beautiful facade, offering 2 comfortable suites, with DSTV, Wireless Internet, a hospitality fridge, tea and coffee facilities, fans, heaters and a nice view into the gardens. R320 sharing & R430 single.  edit

Get out

Pietermaritzburg Airport can connect you to all cities in South Africa via Johannesburg. Unfortunately, flights from the airport have recently been plagued by delays following a recent upgrade, so beware of scheduling anything mission critical out of here (such as connecting flights). Durban is only about 50 minutes drive away, and Durban International Airport can get you direct to Cape Town, East London, Bloemfontein, Mozambique, Swaziland and anywhere else you need to go (with a connecting flight through Johannesburg International.)

In the other direction the Drakensberg Mountains lie about two hours drive away, offering an array of outdoor activities, with plenty of resorts and the like dotted around.

20 Minutes out of Pietermaritzburg, the town of Howick offers a small touristic place with the Howick Falls[8] as the highlight.

Johannesburg is about 600 km away via the N3 highway. Cape Town is substantially further, about 2000 km.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PIETERMARITZBURG, the capital of Natal, situated in 29° 46' S., 30° 13' E., 45 m. in a direct line (71 by rail) W.N.W. of Durban. It lies, 2200 ft. above. the sea, north of the River Umsunduzi, and is surrounded by wooded hills. Of these the Town Hill, flat-topped, rises 1600 ft. above the town. Pop. (1904), 31,119, of whom 15,087 were whites, 10,752 Kaffirs, and 5280 Indians. The town is laid out on the usual Dutch South African plan - in rectangular blocks with a central market square. The public buildings include the legislative council chambers and the legislative assembly buildings, government house, the government offices, college, post office and market buildings. The town-hall, a fine building in a modified Renaissance style (characteristic of the majority of the other public buildings), has a lofty tower. It was completed in 1901, and replaces a building destroyed by fire in 1898. St Saviour's is the cathedral church of the Anglican community. The, headquarters of the Dutch Reformed Church are also in the town. There are monuments of Queen Victoria and Sir Theophilus Shepstone, and various war memorials - one commemorating those who fell in Zululand in 1879, and another those who lost their lives in the Boer War 1899-1902. A large park and botanical gardens add to the attractions of the town. A favourite mode of conveyance is by rickshaw. The climate is healthy and agreeable, the mean annual temperature being 65° F. (55° in June, 71° in February). The rainfall is about 38 in. a year, chiefly in the summer months (Oct. - Mar.), when the heat is tempered by violent thunderstorms.

Pietermaritzburg was founded early in 1839 by the newlyarrived Dutch settlers in Natal, and its name commemorates two of their leaders - Piet Retief and Gerrit Maritz. From the time of its establishment it was the seat of the Volksraad of the Natal Boers, and on the submission of the Boers to the British in 1842 Maritzburg (as it is usually called) became the capital of the country. It was given a municipal board in 1848, and in 1854 was incorporated as a borough. Railway connexion with Durban was made in 1880, and in 1895 the line was extended to Johannesburg. The borough covers 44 sq. m. and includes numerous attractive suburbs. The rateable value is about 4,000,000. Various industries are carried on, including brickmaking, tanning, brewing, and cart and wagon building.

See J. F. Ingram, The Story of an African City (Maritzburg, 1898).

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