The city has many schools and tertiary education institutions, including a campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal. It had a population of 228,549 in 1991; the current population is estimated at over 600,000 residents (including neighbouring townships) and has one of the largest populations of Indian South Africans in South Africa.
Pietermaritzburg is an emerging metropolitan area.
The city was founded (April 1838) by the Voortrekkers, following the murder of Piet Retief and his seventy-strong party at the Zulu Capital, Mgungunhlovu (6 February 1838), when seeking land to settle around Port Natal (The Natal-Land Treaty), and from where the reprisal Wenkommando departed (November 1838) to defeat Dingane at the Battle of Blood River (16 December 1838). Pietermaritzburg is approximately 160 km (100 mi) direct from the Zulu capital, Mgungunhlovu. Prior to the battle (9 December 1838) a vow was taken that if the Boers were granted victory over the Zulus, then a sacred church would be built which still stands today, The Church of the Vow. It was Jan Gerritze Bantjes, Secretary General to Andries Pretorius, Commander of the campaign who arranged the financing of the church by the Boer towns folk which by then had taken a low priority after the war. The town grew rapidly to become the capital of the short-lived Boer Republic or 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 its own government, and an assembly building was built along with the city hall.
On 7 June 1893, while the young Mahatma Gandhi was on his way to Pretoria, a white man objected to Gandhi's presence in a first-class carriage. Despite Gandhi having a first-class ticket, he was ordered by the conductor to move to the van compartment at the end of the train: he refused, and he was removed from 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 center.
In 1910, when the Union of South Africa was formed, Natal became a province of the Union, and Pietermaritzburg became one of the capitals of the country. 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 and white inhabitants were moved out of those areas.
There exist two interpretations about the origin of the city's name. One is that it was named after Piet Retief (Pieter Mauritz Retief) and Gerrit Maritz (Gerhardus Marthinus Maritz), two Voortrekker leaders.: 43 The other is that it was originally named after Piet Retief's full name alone. In this interpretation the original name was "Pieter Mauritz' Burg", later transliterated to the current name.: 11 In 1938 the city announced officially that the second element Maritz should also honour Gert Maritz.
A view of Church Street in central Pietermaritzburg, c. 1900
In fact neither Retief nor Maritz ever reached Pietermaritzburg. Retief was killed by Dingane, successor to Shaka, king of the Zulus. Maritz died of illness on 23 September 1838 near the present-day town of Estcourt, some eighty kilometres northwest of Pietermaritzburg, after the battle with the Zulus at Bloukranz.
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 of which it is part bears the Zulu name.
Clock tower of the university's Collin Webb Hall
The "University of Natal" was founded in 1910. In 1922 the University extended to Durban. 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 African students. It became the University of KwaZulu-Natal on 1 January 2004.
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.
Mahatma Gandhi was thrown out of a train in The Pietermaritzburg Railway Station in 1893, which marked a turning point later on in Gandhi's life and of the course assist India's freedom-struggle in 1915.
The city hall, which is the largest red-brick building in the Southern Hemisphere, was destroyed by a fire in 1895, but was rebuilt in 1901. It houses the largest pipe organ built by the Sheffield organ building company, Brindley & Foster.
In 1919 communist activist David Ivon Jones was arrested for distributed an anti-segregation leaflet he co-authored in Pietermaritzburg. His trial became the first major court case against communism in South African history.
In 1962, Nelson Mandela was arrested in the nearby town of Howick to the north of Pietermaritzburg. The arrest marked the beginning of Mandela's 27 years of imprisonment. A small monument has been erected at the location of his arrest. Immediately after his arrest Mandela was taken to the Old Prison in Pietermaritzburg. After a night in the prison, he was taken to Magistrate J. Buys's office in the old Magistrates Court Building in Commercial Road (now Chief Albert Luthuli Road), and was remanded for trial in Johannesburg.
Pietermaritzburg was the capital of the Colony of Natal until 1910, when the Union of South Africa was formed, and Natal became a province of the Union. Prior to 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 bantustanKwaZulu, 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, an action that has generally been welcomed as a positive development for the region. Since 2004, progress such as the modernisation 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.
Until the late-1990s, the region was renowned for the production of high quality textile, clothing and footwear products. An example of the latter included the production of Doc Marten shoes. However, these industries have declined in the area due to lower production costs in Asia. Extensive timber plantations and numerous citrus farms surround the city, contributing a significant share of the city's output.
The Liberty Group has made major investments in several phases in the region since 2002 with the development of the Liberty Midlands Mall (the area's largest shopping centre by gross lettable area and its most prestigious) and Stay Easy hotel. Hulett's Aluminium and Willowton cooking oil contributes a substantial part of the region's industrial output.
Pietermaritzburg is also the city where major South African pizza franchise Debonairs Pizza was founded. The city is the location of the first Debonairs Pizza take away restaurant, opened in 1991.
Coat of arms
The Pietermaritzburg borough council assumed a coat of arms in 1861. The shield depicted an elephant standing on grass, and a cross of five stars was placed above the shield. The motto was Umgungunhlovu. It is unclear what the original colours were, but by 1910 the shield had been coloured blue. By 1931, the council had approved new artwork in which the stars were placed on a radiant sun. The arms were registered with the Natal Provincial Administration in November 1950. Many early renditions of the coat of arms, visible on older public building and wrought iron lampposts, features an elephant which is clearly an Asian Elephant rather than an African elephant. More recent versions reflect an African elephant.
The final version of the arms was granted by the College of Arms in May 1961. It was registered at the Bureau of Heraldry in May 1973. The blazon was: Per fess Azure and Vert, over all an elephant statant Or, tusked Argent (i.e. the shield was divided horizontally into blue over green, and displayed a gold elephant with silver tusks). The crest was changed to a blue sun displaying gold and silver stars, and two black wildebeest were added as supporters. Each had a shield on its shoulder, the dexter supporter's shield displaying the Union Jack and the sinister supporter's the flag of the Natalia republic.
It has been proposed that the Metrorail commuter rail system be expanded from Cato Ridge to Pietermaritzburg.
The Pietermaritzburg Municipality historically operated a tram service, which was closed down in the 1940s, and a bus service, which was closed down in the 1980s.
Nowadays regular daily bus services connect Pietermaritzburg to other major cities in South Africa. The bus station is located on Burger Street, opposite the McDonalds Centre, and it serves major bus companies. Greyhound and Intercape are the most reliable and they operate several round-trips from Durban to Johannesburg daily, where Pietermaritzburg is the second to last stop before Durban.
Pietermaritzburg has two types of taxi services: metered taxis and minibus taxis. Unlike in many cities, metered taxis are not allowed to drive around the city to solicit fares and instead must be called and ordered to a specific location. A number of companies service Pietermaritzburg and surrounding areas. These taxis can also be called upon for airport transfers, point to point pickups and shuttles.
Minibus taxis are the standard mode of transport for the majority of the population who cannot afford private vehicles.
Integrated Rapid Public Transport (IRPT)
A bus rapid transit system is currently being developed in Pietermaritzburg.
The initial phase would see the development of a west to east corridor from Edendale to Northdale. The BRT route will traverse the CBD along Church Street.
Pietermaritzburg is home to the oldest football (soccer) club of South Africa and the African continent: Savages FC PMB, founded in 1882.
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.
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 2.902 kilometres (1.803 mi). 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 and national Formula Atlantic races. The circuit was also like a second home to Mike Hailwood. The track was known 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. From 1948 until 1953 races were held at the 5.5-kilometre (3.4 mi) Alexandra Park Street Circuit on streets within the town of Pietermaritzburg.
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.
Pietermaritzburg has a well-developed higher system of public universities. Pietermaritzburg is served by two public universities, University of KwaZulu-Natal and Durban University of Technology. There are also many private and public colleges operating in the city, some of the larger colleges are: Umgungundlovu TVET College, Varsity College, and Rosebank College.
Pietermaritzburg is home to a number of prominent civil society organisations including the Abahlali baseMjondolo (shackdwellers) movement, GroundWork, CINDI, PACSA, and the KwaZulu Natal Christian Council.
Zweli Mkhize, politician, former Kwazulu-Natal premier, national minister and South African current minister of health (born 2 February 1956). Born and raised in Willowfountain. Lived in Ashburton, Pietermaritzburg
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.
At 14 metres high, the statue Pegasus adorning the entrance of the Golden Horse Casino was the largest statue of a horse in the world. However, as of July 2010, the statue has been demolished due to internal structural damage.
^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... WSPR-racing.com
^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 ere 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 1,000 km (621 mi) distance, nor as part of the WSPC. Just a few shorter races were held for a few more years to come but 1985. WSRP.ic.czArchived 2 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine