Potchefstroom, town (1991 pop. 185,552), North West prov. (in what was formerly a part of Transvaal), NE South Africa. Located in a fertile farming region, Potchefstroom is the center of one of the world's richest gold-mining districts. Uranium is also mined. The town has malt factories and timber and metal industries. The oldest European town in what was the Transvaal, Potchefstroom was founded in 1838 and served as capital of the Transvaal until 1860. The fort where British forces were defeated during the Transvaal rebellion of 1880-81 is now a national monument. The British captured Potchefstroom during the South African War of 1899 to 1902. The town's main growth dates from 1933, when gold was discovered nearby. Potchefstroom Univ. for Christian Higher Education, an agricultural college, and a theological seminary are in the town.

Potchefstroom is an academic city hosting the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University (previously known as Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education), situated on the banks of the Mooirivier (Afrikaans for 'pretty (or beautiful) river') The town is roughly 120 km west-southwest of Johannesburg and 45 km east-northeast of Klerksdorp in the North West Province of South Africa. The town's municipality wants to rename Potchefstroom to Tlokwe, although many residents oppose the change.

Origins of the name Potchefstroom

There are various origins that are claimed for the origin of the name Potchefstroom. Firstly it is said to be: 'Potgieter' + 'Chef' + 'stroom'. Which attributes the name to the Voortrekker leader and town father Andries Potgieter, 'chef' an indication of leader of the emigrants and the 'stroom' referring to the Mooi River. Although Jenkins believes that this is the most widely recognized source of the name, it would be strange for the Voortrekker to refer to a leader as 'chef' or 'chief' as these are not words frequently used in Afrikaans at the day (Le Roux, 2008).

"Others however, attribute the name as having come from the word 'Potscherf', meaning broken pot, due to the cracks that appear in the soil of the Mooi River Valley during drought resembling a broken pot" (Jenkins, 1971:8).

M.L Fick thirdly suggests that Potchefstroom developed from the abbreviation of "Potgieterstroom" to "Potgerstroom" which in time became "Potchefstroom". However, this doesn't account for the use of "Potjestroom" which is found as inscription on many documents and photographs.

Name change

In 2006 the local municipality decided on a name change for the city, favouring 'Tlokwe' as the new name. The municipality changed its name to "Tlokwe City council", but the city's name remains "Potchefstroom". There is still a case hanging regarding the name change, which is primarily opposed by the local community organisation Aksie Potchefstroom / Action Potchefstroom.


The town, founded in 1838 by the Voortrekkers, is the either the oldest or second oldest settlement of people of European descent in the then Transvaal; the debate being whether the oldest is the neighbouring city of Klerksdorp or whether Potchefstroom is in fact older.

It served as the first capital of the Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek (ZAR) (South African Republic in English). Also, for a short time until 1840, the towns of Potchefstroom and Winburg as well as their surrounding territories were joined in a political entity known as the Republic of Winburg-Potchefstroom. Voortrekker leader Andries Hendrik Potgieter was elected as chief commandant.

Union with Maritzburg

In October 1940, after a meeting between Potgieter, Andries Pretorius and G.R. van Rooyen it was decided that Potchefstroom would unite with "Pieter Mouriets Burg" (Pietermaritzburg).

On the 16 December 1880, the first shots of the First Boer War were fired when the Boers laid siege to the old fort. The siege ended amicably on 23 March 1881. The British built a concentration camp here during the Second Boer War to house Boer women, children and elderly men.

At the opening of the City hall in 1909, General Jan Smuts, the then Colonial Secretary was asked about the possibility of Potchefstroom becoming the capital of the Union. He replied that the city stood no chance, but said that it should aim at being South Africa's biggest educational centre (Jenkins, 1971:104). This has lead to the strong educational inclination of this, the 'city of expertise'.

Since 1997 the town has hosted to the annual Aardklop Arts Festival, a (mostly) Afrikaans arts festival held in late September each year.


The Potchefstroom municipality, which encompasses several neighbouring settlements, has a population of 128,357, according to the 2001 Census. Of these, 70.5% were African, 22.7% White, 6.4% Coloured and 0.4% Asian. The white population is likely to have been undercounted, a general problem with the 2001 Census figures.


Today Potchefstroom is known as the City of Expertise and is home to, inter alia, five tertiary institutions and 30 schools, as well as numerous research bureaus and training centres.

The North-West University The North-West University is a merged tertiary educational institution that was created on 1 January 2004, with campuses at Potchefstroom, Mafikeng, Vanderbijlpark and Mankwe. The Potchefstroom Campus (formerly the Potchefstroomse Universiteit vir Christelike Hoër Onderwys, founded in 1869) is the largest and the head office of the University is situated there. With its merged status, the North-West University became one of the bigger universities in South Africa with approximately 32 000 students (full-time and distance education students).

Potchefstroom College of Education The Potchefstoom College of Education, originally the Normal College, was founded in 1919. Initially the College was housed in galvanised iron buildings on the same premises as the Potchefstroom High School for Boys, and it moved to its present location in 1923. The College of Education was incorporated with the University on 1 January 2004.

Technical College Potchefstroom The Technical College Potchefstroom came into existence in 1939 when the Union Education Department started "continuation classes". The annual increase in student numbers bears testimony to the important role played by this tertiary body.

Agricultural Centre The Agricultural Centre, previously known as the Experimental Farm (1902) and Agricultural College (1939), is currently the largest single agricultural service point on one terrain in Southern Africa. The centre houses the headquarters of the Highveld Region of the Department Agriculture, the Grain Crops Institute as well as the Agricultural College with its modern training facilities.

Potchefstroom Akademie Potchefstroom Akademie was founded in 1981 by managing director Tina Schöltz - internationally known for her expertise in the field of health and skincare therapy. The Academy has grown to become one of the largest private institutions of its kind in the country and offers tertiary education Somatology, Health and Skincare Therapy, Holistic Health Therapies as well as Interior Design and Decorating.

Potchefstroom High School for Girls

Already more than a century old, this historical landmark serves as a highly academic school in the town. The school is also very involved with charity, as their "Interact Club" do charity around Potch, on a regular basis. Who could ever forget the squares the girls knit every year in order to donate blankets for the homeless. It is very involved in academic, sport and culture - a wonderful place for your daughters to spend their high school days

Potchefstroom Boys High School One of the landmarks of Potchefstroom is the High School for boys that was established in 1874 although it has been on its current site since 1905. The school is steeped in tradition and excellence and has produced over 60 international sportsmen, including the likes of Heziekel Sepeng. Potchefstroom would not be Potchefstroom without "College" boys in town with their full school uniform and bashers.

Potchefstroom Gimnasium One of the leading high schools in the country. The school was founded in January 1907 as "Die Voorbereidende Skool" with HJJ van der Walt as its first principal. The preparation work which the schools did was in getting young men ready for theological studies as part of the Potchestroom University, the school later moved to its current location. On 25 January 1915, the school changed its name to Goeverement Skool. A year later it became the first school to start using Afrikaans as well as Dutch and English, making it the first Afrikaans High school north of the Vaal river.

In 1918 it became solely a high school and changed its name to Potchefstroom Gimnasium.

Hoër Volkskool

On July 10, 1927, the foundation stone of the Volks High School was laid (Jenkins, 1971:114).



Potchefstroom is known as the North-West Province's "Home of Sport". The provincial headquarters of 17 of the most important sports are situated in the city. The City Council places a high priority on the establishment, maintenance and upgrading of the sport facilities under its control, especially to meet the variety of sporting and recreational needs of its youthful community. The Mooi River trails as well as other trails add extra colour and variety to these facilities available to resident and tourist alike. Cricket is the most popular sport and Potchefstroom hosted a match from the 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup including Australia.

Places of interest

MooiRivier Mall presents complete shopping and entertainment satisfaction, the first of it’s kind, right in the heart of Potchefstroom. Whether you bring the whole family, your neighbours or your friends, there’s something for everyone with over 100 incredible stores for you shopping pleasure!

With an unbelievable variety – entertainment & movies, delectable eateries & fast food stores, trendy fashion & accessory stores and stylish home & decor – you’ll revel in retail heaven at MooiRivier Mall!

The centre is the answer to shopping and entertainment par excellence for the Northwest region, with support expected from as far a field as Orkney, Ventersdorp and Carletonville.

A first of its kind for the region, in the true sense, comparable to those centres akin to the major cities around SA, MooiRivier sets the benchmark for centres to follow within the region.

This offering of bricks and mortar now becomes a tangible – a personality, a promise to all those in Potch and surrounds. With this comes a huge responsibility and an expectation that MooiRivier needs deliver on, so as to earn its rightful place in the community and in the region – the icon of Potchefstroom.

Lakeside Holiday Resort Situated on the banks of the Potchefstroom Dam in the Mooi River, offers chalets, a caravan park, a variety of facilities and entertainment such as water sports, angling, a swimming pool and a supertube.

Dome Bergland Nature Park The site of a meteorite impact some 2 000 million years ago. A fascinating geographic phenomenon in that it is different in shape and vegetation from its surrounding areas. Creating the richest gold reef in the world, many trails take visitors to this remarkable natural feature and many activities are on offer, including hiking, riverrafting, canoeing, mountain climbing, abseiling, mountain biking and fly fishing.

Boskop Dam Nature Reserve Yachting takes place on the waters of this dam.

Potchefstroom Museum The complete history of human experience and interaction in the area is covered by this museum.

National Monuments The city has many buildings and other structures that have been declared national monuments, such as: The Old Gunpowder House, Old Police Station Building, Kruger Kraal Opstal, Heimat Building, Magistrate's Office.

Oak Avenue The city boasts what is hailed to be the longest oak lane in the Southern Hemisphere, which stems 6.84km, cover an area from the Agricultural College to the Lakeside Holiday Resort. The oak lane was planted in 1910, and was declared a national heritage site in 1976.

Despite Stellenbosch being known as the "City of Oaks", Potchefstroom actually has more of these trees.

Mosque Newly reformed mosque (2007) in the heart of the town added more value for Muslim people living in the town and its surroundings. New reformed two storied mosque is air-conditioned and nicely covered the floors with beautiful and expensive carpets. It is a nice meeting place for Muslim people, who are living in this area, especially on Friday during weekly prayer.

Churches The country's oldest Reformed Churches and its oldest stone-built Hervormde Church are found in the town. St Mary's Anglican Church, built in 1891, is notable for its magnificent stained glass windows. The NG Moedergemeente building burnt down in July 2007 and is currently being restored.

The Green Belt 10 km running along side the Mooi River in the centre of the city, hosts the 18-hole country club, twice the venue for South African Open tournaments.nb,nb,m

OPM Prozesky Bird Sanctuary Which attracts bird lovers from far and wide to its +- 200 bird species.

Buffelsvlei Wild Animal Park Buffelsvlei has the following activities available: Game drives with or without guide, hiking, bicycle riding, horse riding, swimming, clay-pigeon shooting, biltong and trophy hunting. There is a volleyball court, a bar with DSTV and a pool table, picnic and braai facilities.

City Hall The stately City Hall in Edwardian Classicist design was inaugurated on 10 March 1909 by the then Colonial Secretary, General Jan Smuts (Jenkins, 1971:104). Together with the City Hall of Krugersdorp it is the oldest existing City Hall north of the Vaal River in South Africa. The western façade is strictly symmetrical with the 26 m-high ornamental, domed tower as a central axis. The clockwork and bell with its Westminster chimes were manufactured in the Netherlands. The building cost 12,000 pounds at the time.

Trim Park The Trim Park is situated in the Green Belt area adjacent to the Mooi River. This natural paradise through which the Mooi River trail meanders, is a delightful recreational area and has lately also developed as an ideal venue for shows and other festivities.


Potchefstroom is an important industrial growth point of North West Province. Potchindustria houses, inter alia, steel, food and chemical industries which concentrate on delivering locally, nationally an internationally. Increasing interest and investment, even by foreign industrialists, reflect the vitality and potential of this sector. The City Council's marketing program is geared towards paying special attention to each new investor and presenting the best package to suit his needs.


Apart from sports and recreational activities , the city offers a rich variety of entertainment. The Sanlam Auditorium of the North-West University serves as theatre for the city and neighboring towns. Performances to a large extent meet the cultural needs of the community. Local and other artists of high caliber perform regularly in the well-equipped venues. Student life contributes greatly to the entertainment program of the community.

Despite the town's conservative image and ultra conservative history, a surprisingly large community exists in town, mostly among the students.

Art Market A monthly activity which has become a familiar sight in the City Council gardens. A colourful and gay atmosphere is created by the exhibitions of a wide variety of home industries. The market gives residents and tourists the opportunity to make interesting purchases.

Business Centre The city's business centre comprises a variety of commercial firms, including shopping centres of large chain store groups, as well as office space for the numerous professional services. The Kerk Street semi-pedestrian mall adds a colourful character to the business centre which makes every visit a highly enjoyable experience.

The Bult The Bult is synomymous with the student community of Potchefstroom and offers a wide variety of restaurants and pubs as part of its business centre.

These include Beef Boys (a popular steak house) and Fishmonger (a fish restaurant). Then there is 82b Tom, a restaurant with elaborate decor and as elaborate food. In terms of a bar-like club there is Bourbon Street (infamous for their local drink 'Gummiberry') as well as Picasso's which is a cigar lounge.

Other popular restaurants and pubs within close proximity of The Bult include Music Cafe and River Cafe (a popular place for sundowners).

North Western Command

The headquarters of the NWC is situated in Potchefstroom and also accentuates the important role which the city plays with regard to the activities of the South African National Defence Force in North West Province.

Witrand Mental Institute

The Witrand Mental Institute in Potchefstroom was the second Government institution for psychiatric patients and was opened in 1923. The first one, Valkenberg was opened at Maitland in the Cape.


  • The Strory of Potchefstroom. Geoffrey Jenkins, AA Balkema, Cape Town. 2nd ed. 1971. 120 pages.

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