Johannesburg, South Africa’s biggest city and capital of Gauteng province, began as a 19th-century gold-mining settlement. Its sprawling Soweto township was once home to Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.
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Commonly known as Jo’burg or Jozi, this rapidly changing city is the vibrant heart of South Africa. After almost 20 years of decline and decay, Johannesburg is now looking optimistically towards the future. Its centre is smartening up and new loft apartments and office developments are being constructed at a rapid pace. The hipster-friendly neighbourhood of Maboneng is considered one of the most successful urban-renewal projects in the world. However, the wealth divide remains stark, and crime and poverty haven’t been eliminated.
The city was established in 1886 following the discovery of gold on what had been a farm. The city is commonly interpreted as the modern day El Dorado due to the extremely large gold deposit found along the Witwatersrand. The name is attributed to one or all of three men involved in the establishment of the city. In ten years, the population grew to 100,000 inhabitants.
The region surrounding Johannesburg was originally inhabited by San people. By the 13th century, groups of Bantu-speaking people started moving southwards from central Africa and encroached on the indigenous San population. By the mid-18th century, the broader region was largely settled by various Sotho–Tswana communities (one linguistic branch of Bantu-speakers), whose villages, towns, chiefdoms and kingdoms stretched from what is now Botswana in the west, to present day Lesotho in the south, to the present day Pedi areas of the Northern Province.