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Pietermaritzburg is the capital of KwaZulu-Natal Province in South Africa. Popularly called Maritzburg, it is home to a campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Aluminium is produced here as well as timber and dairy products. Estimated population: 228,549 (1991).
Founding and Origins
Pietermaritzburg was founded in 1838, and was named after Piet Retief and Gert Maritz , two famous Voortrekker leaders, one of whom was murdered by Dingane, successor to Shaka, king of the Zulus. At the time of the rise of the Zulu Empire, the site that was to become Pietermaritzburg was called Umgungundlovu, Zulu for "Place of the Elephant". Legend has it that Shaka had his warriors hunt elephant there, to sell the ivory to English traders at Durban, then called Port Natal. Today, the town is still called by its Voortrekker name, although the municipality it is part of bears the Zulu name.
Under British Rule
Britain took over Pietermaritzburg in 1843 and it became the seat of Natal's administration with the first lieutenant-governor, Martin West , making it his home. Fort Napier, named after the governor of the Cape Colony, Sir George Napier , was built to house a garrison. The first newspaper in Natal, the Natal Witness (now known as The Witness), was published in 1846. The 46 hectare Botanic Gardens were created in 1872 by the Botanic Society of Natal. In 1893 Natal received responsibility for their own government and a assembly building was build along with the city hall. The city hall is the largest red-brick building in the Southern Hemisphere. It was destroyed by fire in 1895, but was rebuilt in 1901. The British built a concentration camp here during the Boer War to house Boer women and children.
The University of Natal started in 1909 as the Natal University College and extended to Durban in 1922 when it absorbed the Durban Technical Institute. The two campuses were incorporated into the University of Natal in March 1949. It became a major voice in the struggle against Apartheid, and was one of the first universities in the country to provide education to black students. In 2004, the University of Natal joined the University of Durban-Westville to become the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Pietermaritzburg is also famous for an incident early in the life of Mahatma Gandhi, wherein he was thrown off a train for riding in the first class carriage (and being Indian). This incident inspired Gandhi to begin his career protesting against laws discriminating against Indians in South Africa. Today, a bronze statue of Gandhi stands in Church Street, in the city centre.
Prior to the end of apartheid in 1994, Pietermaritzburg was the capital of the South African province of Natal. Following the first post-apartheid elections in South Africa, as a result of which the Inkatha Freedom Party won a majority in the KwaZulu Natal provincial government, Pietermaritzburg shared its status as capital of the (then newly-created) province of KwaZulu Natal with Ulundi. Pietermaritzburg became the legislative capital of the new province, while Ulundi became the administrative capital. The IFP, being strongly Zulu nationalist, desired that Ulundi, the capital of the Zulu Kingdom at the time of its fall to the British in the Anglo-Zulu War, be the post-apartheid capital of the province. Ulundi had also been the capital of the bantustan KwaZulu, which makes up a portion of modern KwaZulu Natal. However, Ulundi severely lacked the infrastructure to be an effective seat of government, and the ANC and the DP, the two other strong political parties in the province, among others, called for Pietermaritzburg alone to be the capital. This was in the face of substantial spending on the IFP's part on moving the past infrastructure of the Natal Provincial Administration to Ulundi, which included the purchasing of a learjet, for the purposes of ferrying government employees to Ulundi and back for meetings. The debate came to an end when the ANC came to power in the province in 2004, and named Pietermaritzburg the sole capital of KwaZulu Natal.  The city has experienced rapid economic growth since this occurred, and land prices have risen sharply.
In January there is an annual canoe race, Duzi Canoe Marathon , from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. The route follows the Msunduzi River into the Mgeni River, through the Valley of a Thousand Hills into the Inanda Dam and from here to the mouth of the Mgeni River.
The Comrades Marathon takes place annually in June between Pietermaritzburg and Durban. It has been run since 1921 and attracts thousands of entrants. The start of the race alternates between the two cities.
Pietermaritzburg is home to the largest statue of a horse in the world, which stands outside the recently constructed Golden Horse Casino.
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