History of Potchefstroom
The town, founded in 1838 by the Voortrekkers, is the second oldest settlement of people of European descent in the then Transvaal. The honour of oldest European settlement belongs to Klerksdorp, situated approximately 40 km (25 mi) to the West. This is sometimes challenged by historians because the first settlement was in the “upper regions of the Schoon Spruit”, which might be between Klerksdorp and Potchefstroom. Potchefstroom however was the first to develop into a functional town.
For a short time until 1840, the towns of Potchefstroom and Winburg as well as their surrounding territories were joined in a political entity known as the Republic of Winburg-Potchefstroom. Voortrekker leader Andries Hendrik Potgieter was elected as chief commandant.
In 1848 Potchefstroom became the capital of the ZAR, a status which was affirmed by Britain in 1852.
Over 16 and 17 January 1852, the Sand River Convention was signed between Andries Pretorius representing the Boers and Major W.S Hogge and Mr C.M. Owen representing Britain. According to this convention the British Government would allow the emigrant farmers north of the Vaal river to govern according to their own laws, with a policy of non-interference from both sides. This signalled the establishment of the Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek (ZAR) (South African Republic in English). In article 17 of the Constitution of the ZAR of 18 February 1858 (which was accepted in Rustenburg), it was stated that “Potchefstroom, located on the Mooi River, would be the capital of the Republic and that Pretoria would be the seat of government”. In May 1860 Potchefstroom became the “chief city” of the Republic, with the capital having moved to Pretoria.
On 16 December 1880, the first shots of the First Boer War were fired when the Boers laid siege to the old fort. The siege ended amicably on 23 March 1881. The British built a concentration camp here during the Second Boer War to imprison Boer women, children and elderly men.
At the opening of the City hall in 1909, General Jan Smuts, the then Colonial Secretary was asked about the possibility of Potchefstroom becoming the capital of the Union. He replied that the city stood no chance, but said that it should aim at being South Africa’s biggest educational centre. This has led to the strong educational inclination of this, the ‘city of expertise’.
Since 1997 the town has hosted to the annual Aardklop Arts Festival, an (mostly) Afrikaans arts festival held in late September each year.
This is the second post in our series promoting our service as Potchefstroom movers