It was a small rocky outcrop discovered by an Australian miner George Harrison on a Sunday in March 1886 that lead to the formation of what is now the largest and busiest economic centre in Southern Africa. Johannesburg known as the City of Gold was quite literally built on gold. When George discovered what he believed to be gold bearing ore in the Witwatersrand he made his claim with the government of the Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek, which then gave him the mining rights. Strangely he sold his claim for ten pounds shortly afterwards and disappeared, no one ever heard from him again.
News spread fast and soon there was a dusty mining settlement known as Ferreira’s Camp filled with prospectors. It didn’t take long before the government realised that this settlement was going to need to be formalised and proper services installed. The government at the time was not convinced of the sustainability of the gold reef and so did not initially invest too much time or money into city planning, this is the reason for the narrow streets in the old city centre of Johannesburg. The two city planners involved with the development of an official settlement were both named Johannes they combined their common first name with the archaic Afrikaans word for fortified city, Burg.
Previous to this prospectors had been mining alluvial gold in and around Pilgrims rest, the most famous of these was a man named Alec “Wheelbarrow” Patterson after he turned up at the settlement pushing all his belongings in a wheelbarrow which he had done, legend has it, from Cape Town. The story goes that he got rid of his donkey after it kickedhim and decided that the wheelbarrow was safer and more technologically advanced. This alluvial gold was not however sustainable and within a few decades most of the prospectors moved to the gold reef that was discovered on the Witwatersrand.
Gold was the primary reason for the failed Jameson raid and resultant Anglo Boer war. Inhabitants of the then Transvaal Province and Johannesburg wanted complete autonomy from the British colonialists in the Cape; this was for both economic and cultural reasons. The residents of this area were largely descendants of the original Dutch settlers and the Huguenots; they spoke their own language and had their own church. The economic reasons were fairly obvious, they were sitting on one of the largest gold deposits in the world and the British wanted a piece of it. Lord Jameson launched his raid on the Transvaal in 1895 and interestingly it was a misplaced apostrophe on a telegram that was partly responsible for the failure of the raid, but that’s a different story.
Johannesburg’s most famous landmarks are probably the mine dumps that now make up a permanent part of the geography, after over a hundred years of mining and dumping in the area. It is believed that Johannesburg has more trees than any other city in the world, a claimed 6 million, nearly twice the human population. When South Africa went off the gold standard in the 30’s the city underwent a massive flurry of development, building American style high rise office blocks and sky scrapers.
Capital Car Hire offers a wide variety of Johannesburg Airport Car Hire.