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NORTH WEST REGION

The province, which lies to the west of the Johannesburg-Pretoria axis, is one of Africa's great food-growing regions.

In its natural state it is largely bushveld and thornveld, but most of the land is under cultivation - the warmth, the good summer rains and rich soils combine to create ideal farming conditions, and the land yields splendid crops of sunflowers and groundnuts, citrus, tobacco and, most especially, of maize. The maize fields are enormous, stretching away like great golden lakes across the hot, flat countryside as far as the eye can see. 

North-West has no cities and few towns. The largest is Potchestroom, founded in 1838, one-time capital of the old South African Republic (or Transvaal) and now a dignified seat of learning.

Close by is the gold-mining centre of Klerksdorp; far to the west, in remote ranchland country, is Vryburg. None of these fairly substantial places, however, serves as the provincial capital: that status belongs to Mmabatho, a modest little centre that started life as an appendage of Mafikeng. The latter enjoys a prominent place in the annals: it hit the headlines in 1900 (it was then known as Mafeking) when Boer forces laid siege to its British garrison. 

Two other centres of note are Lichtenburg, scene of South Africa's (and perhaps the world's) last great diamond rush, and Rustenburg, a largish country town overlooked by the red-tinged heights of the lovely Magaliesberg range of hills. Rustenburg lies about halfway along the route from Johannesburg-Pretoria to North-West's main tourist area: the glittering pleasure-palaces of Sun City and its adjacent Pilanesberg national park.

The latter is the product of 'Operation Genesis', launched in the 1970s and rated among Africa's most successful game-stocking ventures. 

Most of the people of North-West (around two-thirds) are of Tswana stock, a rather loosely defined linguistic and cultural grouping that extends across neighbouring Botswana and has close historical affiliations to the Sotho of the regions to the east and south.

 

Klerksdorp
Lichtenburg
Mafeking
Potchefstroom
Rustenburg
Ventersdorp
Vryburg

         
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