Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Gaurding the city

This gun looms over the gardens of the union buildings. It probably originates from the 1 st world war. It is similar in appearance to the Long Tom guns used by the Boers in defending their positions against the advancing British during the Anglo Boer war. The tall building, dominating the city skyline, just beneath the barrel is the Reserve (Central) bank.

Pretoria was founded in 1855 by Marthinus Pretorius, who named it after his father Andries Pretorius. The founding of the city marked the end of the boer settlement movements known as the 'Great Trek' which began in 1838. It was an initiative to escape from British influence in the Cape and gain independance. This in turn lead to the formation of the Zuid Afrikaansche Reupubliek or ZAR and informally known as the Transvaal Republic. Marthinus Pretorius was the first president of this new republic.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Gautrain progress

The construction site for the Gautrain flyover located at the Lyttleton offramp on the M1 highway between Johanneburg and Pretoria. The Gautrain is the rapid rail link currently under construction, an innovative and necessary development in our transport infrastructure. Prior to the start of the project much unfounded controversy raged as many parties objected to the concept. The trade unions argued that it will not benefit the poor. Opposition parties and other organisations argued that the cost was exhorbitant. Nevetheless the government went ahead and launched the project.

In my opinion it is a positive development with some vision and insight into the future. Public transport needs to be progessive and is urgently needed in this region. This is the intention of the rapid rail network that is being developed around the Tshwane and Johannesburg metropolitan centers.

This section of the rail network will be part of the link that will run South from Pretoria, through Centurion, Midrand, Sandton and on to the centre of Johannesburg. The line will service the commuter traffic to the rapidly developing industries that straddle the M1 highway between the two cities. The project may just be completed before the start of the Soccer world cup in 2010.

Embracing the past

Oom Paul's house. Situated in Church street about 1 kilometer from the Church square. This is the original house where Paul Kruger lived as the president of the Transvaal Republic. He enjoyed spending his spare time on his 'stoep' and greeting the passers by. Of course security was not an issue in the 1890's. The house is now a museum that covers the life and times of the charismatic leader.

Tall buildings dominate the skyline and loom over the little house. A vastly different world from the days of ox wagons and gravel roads when Kruger governed the fiercely independant republic. All that changed with the march of progress and the discovery of gold in the Witwatersrand just 50 kilometers to the south. This brought a flood of prospectors and the development of new industries to the new city of Johannesburg after 1886.

The growth of the gold mining industry brought on the demise and eventual colapse of the boer republics with the outbreak of the anglo boer war as the British empire spread their imperial tentacles to take the spoils of the richest gold fields in the world. Paul Kruger went into exile as the advancing British armies overran the peaceful city of Pretoria. Thereafter the Union of South Africa was established with the incorporation of the Boer republics into the geographical region of South Africa today.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Servamus et Servimus

A monument dedicated to the South African police officers who have died in the line of duty. The names appear on the tablets on the inner semi circular panels. I was shocked to see the number of names appearing on these panels.

The monument was unveiled by the late PW Botha in 1987 and is situated in the gardens of the union buildings. A sombre relic to the complex problems and challenges facing our society in combating crime in the country. The newspaper headline on Sam's site, pretoriadailyphoto, sums up the magnitude of the problems confronting us. Nevertheless, we have a great country, a developing nation and a growing economy that will improve the lives of all our citizens.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Smuts House

Jan Smuts relaxes in his garden in Irene during the late afternoon winter sun. This house is the Smuts museum where he lived whilst being the Prime minister of the Union of South Africa and into retirement. There are interesting artifacts relating to his life and times. Smuts was mainly responsible for drafting the 'Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations'. He was born in 1870 and died in 1960. When war broke out with Great Britain in 1899, Smuts received a command in the Boer army. As a skilful military leader he rose to the rank of General.

Today the grounds serve as a recreation center. One can enjoy a picnic, tea and scones in the well known tea garden or enjoy a leisurely walk in the grounds and onto the top of the Koppie (hill) to view the surrounding country side. On the first and last Saturday of the month the popular Irene Village market is held in the grounds and many visitors flock to the stalls. It makes an interesting outing to visit the flea market where the merchants sell anything from beads to furniture.

The town of Irene has transformed from a quiet tranquil village to a busy residential suburb with many shopping malls and business complexes emerging. Traffic jams are now becoming the norm as construction expands in the City of Tshwane.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Obviously this fellow has decided to resist change. It is usually quite amazing to see an original, old building sandwiched amongst the new modern and tall buildings. Personally I find old buildings fascinating Particularly when an owner has said "I do not want to sell" and sustained their trade. I am not sure what trade the owners of this building are indulging in. But the wording on the right side of the building suggests that the are manufacturing cigarettes. How big is their market? Well that can be anybody's guess. I don't think they can compete against Phillip Morris by being this small.

And.. with the South African government prohibiting any form of advertising of tobacco products, their market influence must be extremely limited. So, I can only surmise that they must be merchandising something else. unfortunately they were closed when this shot was taken. Next time I am in town, I will pay them a visit and investigate.

On the subject of old buildings. I visited Europe recently and one of the highlights was seeing all the old buildings in Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels and many other cities dating back to the 1600's and older. Modern cities tend to tear down old building to make way for big concrete structures. Well.. I suppose there is a price to pay for progress.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Union Buildings

The Union buildings, one of the famous buildings in South Africa and a landmark in Pretoria. Designed by the famous architect, Sir Herbert Baker, it was completed in 1913. It houses the offices of the State President, currently Thabo Mbeki. This view shows the large lawns that lead up to terraced gardens and onto the buildings. A statue of General Louis Botha, the first prime minister of the Union of South Africa graces the foreground. South Africa became a republic in 1961.

The buildings are about 275 meters long, are made of sandstone and comprise of two symetrical wings that were intended to represent the bilingualism and unity of the two cultures after the Anglo Boer war.

Unfortunately the buildings are not open to the public. I have been fortunate to roam around the outer buildings when they were open to the general public in the 1980's. The lawns are often used for functions ranging from presidential inaugurations to concerts and even protests.