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umGungundlovu (in Zulu)

City of Choice
Pietermaritzburg City Hall
Pietermaritzburg City Hall
PMB, Maritzburg
Pietermaritzburg is located in KwaZulu-Natal
Pietermaritzburg is located in South Africa
Pietermaritzburg is located in Africa
Coordinates: 29°37′S 30°23′E / 29.617°S 30.383°E / -29.617; 30.383Coordinates: 29°37′S 30°23′E / 29.617°S 30.383°E / -29.617; 30.383
Country South Africa
 • TypeLocal Municipality
 • MayorThemba Njilo[2] (2011) (ANC)
 • Total126.15 km2 (48.71 sq mi)
596 m (1,955 ft)
 • Total223,448
 • Density1,800/km2 (4,600/sq mi)
Racial makeup (2011)
 • Black African70.0%
 • Coloured6.9%
 • Indian/Asian8.4%
 • White14.2%
 • Other0.5%
First languages (2011)
 • Zulu57.0%
 • English28.9%
 • Afrikaans4.2%
 • Xhosa3.5%
 • Other6.3%
Time zoneUTC+2 (SAST)
Postal code (street)
PO box
Area code033

Pietermaritzburg (/ˌptərˈmærɪtsbɜːrɡ/;[4] Zulu: umGungundlovu) is the capital and second-largest city in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It was founded in 1838 and is currently governed by the Msunduzi Local Municipality. Its Zulu name umGungundlovu is the name used for the district municipality. Pietermaritzburg is popularly called Maritzburg in Afrikaans, English and Zulu alike, and often informally abbreviated to PMB. It is a regionally important industrial hub, producing aluminium, timber and dairy products, as well as the main economic hub of Umgungundlovu District Municipality. The public sector is a major employer in the city due to the local, district and provincial governments being located here.

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;[5] 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.


The city was 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.

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 centre.

In 1910, when the Union of South Africa was formed, Natal became a province of the Union, and Pietermaritzburg remained the capital. 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 and Gert (Gerrit) Maritz, two Voortrekker leaders.[6]:43 The other is that it was originally named after Piet Retief alone, since his full name was Pieter Maurits Retief. In this interpretation the original name was "Pieter Maurits Burg", later transliterated to the current name.[7]:11

A view of Church Street in central Pietermaritzburg, c. 1900

Retief in fact never reached Pietermaritzburg and 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 hundreds of kilometres northwest of Pietermaritzburg. This was after the battle with the Zulus at Bloukranz, and Maritz 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 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[8] 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. It became the University of KwaZulu-Natal on 1 January 2004.

Other historical events

Capital status

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 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 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.

Coat of arms

The Pietermaritzburg borough council assumed a coat of arms in 1861.[11] 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.[12] By 1931, the council had approved new artwork in which the stars were placed on a radiant sun.[13] The arms were registered with the Natal Provincial Administration in November 1950.[14] 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.[15] 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.



Pietermaritzburg is on the N3 highway, the primary route between the harbour city of Durban, some 90 kilometres (56 mi) away, and the Pretoria-Johannesburg-Witwatersrand conurbation.

The R33 connects Pietermaritzburg with Lephalale via Greytown, Paulpietersburg, Carolina, Belfast and Vaalwater to the northeast, while the R56 connects Pietermaritzburg with Cape Town via Ixopo, Kokstad, Mthatha, East London, Port Elizabeth, George and Mossel Bay to the southwest. The R56 road becomes co-signed with the N2 highway at Stafford's Post.


The city is served by Pietermaritzburg Airport, which has regular scheduled services to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and Cape Town International Airport in Cape Town.


Pietermaritzburg Railway Station is served by trains on the Johannesburg-Durban and Cape Town-Durban routes of Shosholoza Meyl.

It has been mooted 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 is the most reliable and it operates 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.


An overview of the city bowl as seen from the hills of Blackridge (suburb)

Upland savanna near Pietermaritzburg


Pietermaritzburg has a dry-winter humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification: Cwa). Summers are warm and occasionally hot, with frequent rainfall. Winters are dry with high diurnal temperature variation, with light air frosts being possible.

Climate data for Pietermaritzburg
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 41
Average high °C (°F) 28
Average low °C (°F) 18
Record low °C (°F) 9
Average precipitation mm (inches) 155
Average precipitation days 22 16 15 6 5 3 1 2 10 12 15 16 123
Source: South African Weather Service[16]



Some of the area's tourist attractions include; the KwaZulu-Natal Museum, City Hall, Colonial Buildings, Imperial Hotel, Comrades House and SANBI Botanical Gardens.

Attractions in the surrounding areas include; Albert Falls Nature Reserve, Howick Falls, Midmar Public Nature Reserve, Queens Elizabeth Park and World's View.



Tertiary institutions

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.

Civil society

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.[22][23][24][25][26]

Notable residents


Twin towns and sister cities

City Country Year
Taichung Taiwan 1983
Hampton United States 1998[33][34]

See also


  1. ^ "Chronological order of town establishment in South Africa based on Floyd (1960:20–26)" (PDF). pp. xlv–lii.
  2. ^ "Msunduzi - Mayors Column". msunduzi.gov.za.
  3. ^ a b c d "Main Place Pietermaritzburg". Census 2011.
  4. ^ Wells, John C. (2008), Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd ed.), Longman, ISBN 9781405881180
  5. ^ 1991 Census
  6. ^ Rhoodie, E. M.; Beavon, Keith S. O. (1976). "Pietermaritzburg". In William D. Halsey (ed.). Collier's Encyclopedia. 19. New York: Macmillan Educational Corporation.
  7. ^ Jenkins, G (1971). A Century of History: the story of Potchefstroom (2nd ed.). Cape Town: AA Balkema. p. 120.
  8. ^ "History of the University of KwaZulu-Natal".
  9. ^ "The Old Prison". projectgateway.co.za. Archived from the original on 11 January 2011.
  10. ^ "Mandela and Pietermaritzburg - Maritzburg Sun". Maritzburg Sun.
  11. ^ Anon.; 'Maritzburg's Municipal Insignia' in Archives News (Jan 1975).
  12. ^ The arms were depicted on a colour poster issued by the Cape Times in 1910.
  13. ^ The arms were depicted on a cigarette card issued in 1931.
  14. ^ Natal Official Gazette 2317 (9 November 1950).
  15. ^ http://www.national.archsrch.gov.za[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ "Climate data for Pietermaritzburg". South African Weather Service. Archived from the original on 8 March 2010. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  17. ^ "Roy Hesketh the Racing Drivers Story". Roy Hesketh Circuit. Archived from the original on 1 September 2018. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
  18. ^ 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
  19. ^ 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 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.cz Archived 2 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ "IMCA-slotracing.com". IMCA-slotracing.com. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  21. ^ "Alexandra Park Street Circuit". Guido de Carli.
  22. ^ "World Habitat Day". Rajpatel.org. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  23. ^ "Cindi - Children in Distress Network". cindi.org.za.
  24. ^ "GroundWork". GroundWork. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  25. ^ "KZNCC »". kzncc.org.za.
  26. ^ "South Africa: Post Abahlali baseMjondolo AGM speech by S'bu Zikode". Africafiles.org. 14 December 2008. Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  27. ^ Carlton, Melissa. "Biography". Archived from the original on 2 October 2012. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  28. ^ https://www.scotsman.com/news/obituaries/obituary-hayden-griffin-theatre-designer-1-2893160
  29. ^ "Pietermaritzburg – Home of Gandhi and The Comrades Marathon". Encounter South Africa. Archived from the original on 17 January 2007. Retrieved 1 January 2007.
  30. ^ "Pietermaritzburg Tourism". Archived from the original on 24 September 2006. Retrieved 1 January 2007.
  31. ^ "Golden Horse Casino Hotel". CyberCapeTown Greater Durban Area Accommodation Portal. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2007.
  32. ^ http://www.witness.co.za/index.php?showcontent&global%5B_id%5D=43921
  33. ^ "Sister Cities of Hampton, Virginia". Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  34. ^ "Sister Cities International". Retrieved 7 November 2011.