3 Capital Cities? | What is the Capital of South Africa?

(Last Updated On: November 29, 2018)

What is the Capital of South Africa?
What is the Capital of South Africa? It turns out, the answer is not as easy as one might think.

South Africa is amongst a minority of countries that does not have a single capital city. Instead, South Africa boasts three capital cities, one for each branch of government. Pretoria is the administrative capital of South Africa. Cape Town is the legislative capital. And Bloemfontein is the judicial capital.

When the Union of South Africa was created, different parties had different views on the appropriate city for the capital. Some expressed concern that allowing a single city to hold all branches of government could lead to too much power for one place. Thus, the developing nation placed the three branches of government in three different capital cities.

The Capital of South Africa

Facts about Pretoria

Pretoria, the administrative capital, houses the executive branch of government. It is also frequently considered the de facto national capital. Pretoria was the capital of Apartheid South Africa. The name Pretoria is somewhat controversial, however, and there is a push to change the name back to the city’s indigenous name, “Tshwane.” Pretoria is home to the world’s biggest soccer ball, the longest urban street in South Africa, and one of the oldest intact skulls of a distant ancestor of humans.

Facts about Cape Town

As the legislative capital, the parliament of South Africa is located in Cape Town. But Cape Town has other unusual features. Cape Town is home to the only tobogganing track on the African continent. It is called “Cool Runnings”, after the film of the same name. Cape Town also houses the Cape Floral Kingdom, which is a floral area which contains almost 7,000 plants found nowhere else on the planet.

Facts about Bloemfontein

Bloemfontein, referred to as the judicial capital, is the home of the Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa. It also doubles as the capital of its province, the Free State. Bloemfontein was the birthplace of author J. R. R. Tolkien and athlete Zola Budd. Bloemfontein also houses the largest fire service museum in South Africa.

What is the Capital of South Africa? It Could Change…

In 2016, President Jacob Zuma called on Parliament to consider consolidating the capitals, stating it was not practical to maintain capitals in both Cape Town and Pretoria, as these two capitals are located on opposite sides of the country. President Zuma has noted that maintaining two houses, two cars, and two households in order to properly execute the duties of government officials, is an “unnecessary cost.”

The idea of consolidating capitals was first proposed by the late former president Nelson Mandela, who commissioned a study in 1997. The study found that if the capital was consolidated in Pretoria, over 1,400 parliamentary staff and their families would have to be relocated.  

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille responded by proposing the country consolidate the capital in Cape Town. Zille noted the country could save money by housing government employees in apartments in government buildings.

So what is the capital of South Africa? For now, it remains a question with three answers. But that could change.

Think you know a lot about South Africa? How about trying to earn this nifty badge: Badge of Good Hope. Or, test your luck in the quiz below!

Also, South Africa isn’t the only country with more than one capital. Want proof? Just check out this article on the Capital of Bolivia.

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