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Johannesburg, South Africa

Updated on January 16, 2012
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Johannesburg is the capital city of the Republic of South Africa.

Called the "Golden City", it is the largest city of South Africa in population and is second only to Cairo on the African continent.

It is situated 5,740 feet above sea level, near the center of the chain of goldbearing mountains known as the Witwatersrand, in southwestern Transvaal, about 300 miles northeast of Durban and the Indian Ocean. It was founded as a mining camp in September 1886, following the discovery of the "Main Reef." It became a municipality in 1896, was occupied by British forces in 1900 and .administered by the military until an elected council assumed local government in 1903; it received a city charter in 1928. Due to its altitude, it enjoys a comfortable climate, with mean shade temperatures ranging from 71° to 49°F, a preponderance of sunny days, and an annual rainfall of about 30 inches.

As the mines were developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Johannesburg found itself virtually on top of the richest gold deposits in the world. In spite of the city's geographic isolation in the African interior, it soon began to reflect both this subterranean wealth and the European background of the men who came to exploit it. Today, central Johannesburg has a distinctly Western aspect, with blocks of modern buildings adhering strictly to a rather severe gridiron ground plan. The entire city covers an area of 94.5 square miles, within which are over 1,500 miles of streets and roads. More than 250,000 motor cars were registered. in 1968. The city has become an air and rail hub on which much of South Africa is economically dependent.

The nearby Jan Smuts international airport is the country's main port of entry.

Johannesburg is the country's center of mining, manufacturing, finance, and commerce. The Transvaal and Orange Free State Chamber of Mines represents the country's gold mines which, in 1967, produced ore of a value of 700 million rands, or 70 per cent of the free world's gold.

Industry in Johannesburg contributes one fifth of the country's total annual manufacturing output.

One of the city's most important institutions is the University of Witwatersrand, established here in 1903 and now spreading over a 96-acre campus and attended by 4,500 students. The university is associated with the Bernard Price Institute of Geophysical Research, the Mines Department 1vfinerals Research Laboratory, the world-renowned Institute for Medical Research, and other research institutions. The government's Department of Health staffs the W1iversity's faculty of public health and forensic medicine.

The school operates an oral and dental hospital which treats about 150,000 patients a year. A university library of 300,000 volumes is supplemented by a city library containing a 634,000-volume collection.

The Witwatersrand Technical Institute, with an enrollment of about 25,000 students, provides technical, art, and commercial education. The Union Observatory, established in 1903, is one of the major astronomical stations in the Southern Hemisphere. Johannesburg can also boast over 100 nursery, private, and high schools; an art gallery; a civic orchestra; numerous cultural technical and engineering societies; clubs; theaters; a skating rink; race tracks and sports arenas; and a 144-acre zoo, built at a cost of £135,000. Radio broadcasting is conducted in English and Afrikaans on several wave lengths and reaches some 760,000 licensed listeners. There are about 200 places of worship.

City hospitals care for some 80,000 bed patients and over a million out-patients a year. The city operates its own gas and power facilities, the latter generating about 390 million watts, with an additional 150-million-watt station under construction in 1956. Water (about 110 million gallons a day) is pumped 36 miles from the Vaal River.

Adjacent to Johannesburg is Soweto, one of the largest housing projects in the world. 1,300,000 with a population density of 22,446.6/sq mi. The city council built tens of thousands of houses for most of its African population, together with schools, clinics, churches, and numerous recreational facilities.

The 2007 population of the city of Johannesburg was 3,888,180, the metropolitan area was 6,267,700. 73% of the population being blacks, followed by 16% of whites, coloureds at 6% and Asiatics at 4%.

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