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Provinces of South Africa

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
South Africa
Foreign relations

South Africa is divided into nine provinces. On the eve of the 1994 general election, South Africa's former homelands, also known as Bantustans, were reintegrated and the four existing provinces were divided into nine. The twelfth, thirteenth and sixteenth amendments to the constitution changed the borders of seven of the provinces. The provinces are as follows:

Province Capital Largest city Area [1] Population (2011) [2] Population density (2011) Human Devel. Index (2003) [3]
Eastern Cape Bhisho (Bisho) Port Elizabeth 7005168966000000000168,966 km2 (65,238 sq mi) 6,562,053 700138800000000000038.8/km2 (100/sq mi) 0.62
Free State Bloemfontein Bloemfontein 7005129825000000000129,825 km2 (50,126 sq mi) 2,745,590 700121100000000000021.1/km2 (55/sq mi) 0.67
Gauteng Johannesburg Johannesburg 700418178000000000018,178 km2 (7,019 sq mi) 12,272,263 7002675100000000000675.1/km2 (1,749/sq mi) 0.74
KwaZulu-Natal Pietermaritzburg Durban 700494361000000000094,361 km2 (36,433 sq mi) 10,267,300 7002108800000000000108.8/km2 (282/sq mi) 0.63
Limpopo Polokwane (Pietersburg) Polokwane 7005125754000000000125,754 km2 (48,554 sq mi) 5,404,868 700143000000000000043.0/km2 (111/sq mi) 0.59
Mpumalanga Mbombela (Nelspruit) Mbombela 700476495000000000076,495 km2 (29,535 sq mi) 4,039,939 700152800000000000052.8/km2 (137/sq mi) 0.65
North West Mahikeng (Mafikeng) Rustenburg 7005104882000000000104,882 km2 (40,495 sq mi) 3,509,953 700133500000000000033.5/km2 (87/sq mi) 0.61
Northern Cape Kimberley Kimberley 7005372889000000000372,889 km2 (143,973 sq mi) 1,145,861 70003100000000000003.1/km2 (8.0/sq mi) 0.69
Western Cape Cape Town Cape Town 7005129462000000000129,462 km2 (49,986 sq mi) 5,822,734 700145000000000000045.0/km2 (117/sq mi) 0.77
Republic of South Africa Pretoria, Cape Town, Bloemfontein Johannesburg 1,220,813 km2 (471,359 sq mi) 51,770,560 42.4/km2 (110/sq mi) 0.67


† These statistics do not include the Prince Edward Islands (335 km2 or 129 sq. miles, with no permanent residents), which are South African territories in the sub-Antarctic Indian Ocean but part of the Western Cape for legal and electoral purposes.
‡ Pietermaritzburg and Ulundi were joint capitals of KwaZulu-Natal from 1994 to 2004.


  • History 1
  • Government 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4


The provinces at the creation of the Union in 1910

The Union of South Africa was established in 1910 by combining four British colonies: the Cape Colony, the Natal Colony, the Transvaal Colony and the Orange River Colony. (The latter two were, before the Second Boer War, independent republics known as the South African Republic and the Orange Free State.) These colonies became the four original provinces of the Union: Cape Province, Transvaal Province, Natal Province and Orange Free State Province.

Provinces and homelands, as they were at the end of apartheid

Segregation of the black population started as early as 1913, with ownership of land by the black majority being restricted to certain areas totalling about 13% of the country. From the late 1950s, these areas were gradually consolidated into "homelands" or "bantustans," which served as the de jure national states of the black population during the apartheid era. In 1976, the homeland of Transkei was the first to accept independence from South Africa, and although this independence was never acknowledged by any other country, three other homelands – Bophuthatswana (1977), Venda (1979) and Ciskei (1981) – followed suit.

At the height of apartheid, the various divisions of South Africa were:
Name Capital
Former provinces
Cape of Good Hope (1910-1994) Cape Town
Natal (1910-1994) Pietermaritzburg
Orange Free State (1910-1994) Bloemfontein
Transvaal (1910-1994) Pretoria
Former 'independent' homelands
Bophuthatswana (1977-1994) Mmabatho
Ciskei (1972-1994) Bhisho (Bisho)
Transkei (1976-1994) Mthatha (Umtata)
Venda (1979-1994) Thohoyandou
Former non-independent homelands
Gazankulu (1971-1994) Giyani
KaNgwane (1981-1994) Kanyamasane (Louieville)
Kamatsamo (Schoemansdal) (de facto)
KwaNdebele (1981-1994) Siyabuswa
KwaZulu (1981-1994) Nongoma (to 1980) Ulundi
Lebowa (1972-1994) Lebowakgomo
Qwaqwa (1974-1994) Phuthaditjhaba (Witsieshoek)
Former mandates
South-West Africa (1915-1990) Windhoek

On 27 April 1994, the date of the first non-racial elections and of the adoption of the Interim Constitution, all of these provinces and homelands were dissolved, and nine new provinces were established.


Johannesburg City Hall, now the seat of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature

Each province is governed by a unicameral legislature; the size of the legislature is proportional to population, ranging from 30 members in the Northern Cape to 80 in KwaZulu-Natal. The legislatures are elected every five years by a system of party-list proportional representation; by convention, they are all elected on the same day, at the same time as the National Assembly election.[4]

The provincial legislature elects, from amongst its members, a Premier, who is the head of the executive. The Premier chooses an Executive Council consisting of between five and ten members of the legislature, which is the cabinet of the provincial government.[4] The Members of the Executive Council (MECs) are the provincial equivalent of ministers.

The powers of the provincial government are limited to specific topics listed in the national constitution. On some of these topics – for example, agriculture, education, health and public housing – the province's powers are shared with the national government, which can establish uniform standards and frameworks for the provincial governments to follow; on other topics the provincial government has exclusive power.[5]

The provinces do not have their own court systems, as the administration of justice is a responsibility purely of the national government.

See also


  1. ^ Census 2011: Census in brief. Pretoria: Statistics South Africa. 2012. p. 9.  
  2. ^ Census 2011: Census in brief. Pretoria: Statistics South Africa. 2012. p. 18.  
  3. ^ Adelzadeh, Asghar, et al. South Africa Human Development Report 2003. Cape Town: Oxford University Press. p. 282.  
  4. ^ a b "Provincial government". Retrieved 1 April 2011. 
  5. ^ 'Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, "Chapter 6: Provinces". Sections 104 and 146.
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