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Tour of Pietermaritzburg
04 Dec 2009

The city of Pietermaritzburg is the capital city of the KwaZulu-Natal province.

Pietermaritzburg has come a long way from the quiet, colonial outpost it once was. Today, it is a modern South African city that is home to over 600 000 people of diverse cultures.

Fast Facts on PMB:

• only 45 minutes by road from Durban, Africa’s Busiest port;

• one hour by air from Pietermaritzburg Airport to OR Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg) ;

• only 90 minutes from the central Drakensberg resorts ;

• the new capital of South Africa’s most popular province, KwaZulu-Natal;

• the city’s economy grew by an incredible 30% in 2003-2004 and continues to grow at an exceptional rate;

• is an educational centre of excellence;

• home to great international events, such as the Comrades Marathon, the Duzi Marathon, the Midmar Mile, the Royal & Garden Show, Art & Cars in the Park and International cycling events;

• a place which bears the traces of the footsteps of Gandhi, Mandela and Paton, and many other truly great South Africans


Pietermaritzburg (frequently referred to as Maritzburg or PMB by residents) is the provincial capital of KwaZulu-Natal. It was established in 1839 by Voortrekkers from the Cape. It came under British control when Natal was annexed in 1843.

The name is derived from the names of two Trekker leaders: Pieter Retief and Gerrit Maritz. However it has also been claimed the name derives solely from Pieter Retief whose second name was Mauritz and early records refer to the city (Afrikaans: burg) as Pieter Mauritzburg.

The Zulu name for Pietermaritzburg is uMgungundlovu, meaning "Place of the Elephant". This was originally the name of the royal homestead of King Dingane kaSenzangakhona. The name was given to the newly laid out city in 1838 following the defeat of Dingane’s army by the Voortrekkers at the battle of Blood/Ncome river.

The elephant is featured in the civic coat of arms and used in marketing initiatives by many city businesses as well as the Pietermaritzburg Publicity Association.

(For discussion of the Zulu name see Adrian Koopman, Zulu Names, pp.163-170.)

Population groups

The city’s main population groups comprise black, Indian, coloured and white.


The Natal Witness, South Africa’s oldest daily newspaper, founded by David Dale Buchanan in 1846.

• The University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg campus, in the suburb of Scottsville. Originally called Natal University College, the foundation stone was laid in 1910 and the main building with its distinctive clock tower was completed in 1912. The Durban campus opened in 1931. The two campuses formed the University of Natal in 1948. It was renamed the University of KwaZulu Natal in 2004 which also incorporates the campuses of Westville and Edgewood.


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