Johannesburg (also known as Jozi, Jo'burg, eGoli, and Joeys, and abbreviated as JHB) is the largest city in South Africa. It is the provincial capital of Gauteng, which is the wealthiest province in South Africa, having the largest economy of any metropolitan region in Sub-Saharan Africa. The city is one of the 50 largest urban agglomerations in the world, and is also the world's largest city not situated on a river, lake, or coastline.
While Johannesburg is not one of South Africa's three capital cities, it is the seat of the Constitutional Court, which has the final word on interpretation of South Africa's constitution. The city is the source of a large-scale gold and diamond trade, due to its location on the mineral-rich Witwatersrand range of hills.
According to the 2007 Community Survey, the population of the city of Johannesburg was 4,434,827 and the population of the Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Area was 7,151,447. A broader definition of the Johannesburg metropolitan area includes Ekurhuleni, the West Rand, Soweto, and Lenasia, bringing the population to 10,267,700. The municipal city's land area is very large in comparison with those of other major cities, resulting in a moderate population density of .
A separate city from the late 1970s until the 1990s, Soweto is now part of Johannesburg. Originally an acronym for "South-Western Townships", Soweto originated as a collection of settlements on the outskirts of Johannesburg, populated mostly by native African workers from the gold mining industry. In 1985, Nigel Mandy (BA Law - CA), the first General Manager of the Carlton Centre, authored a book entitled A City Divided, which intimated that Soweto and Johannesburg were divided from a fiscal point of view, as well as by law and by people. He assisted the government, both of the now-defunct Transvaal province, as well as of Gauteng, post-1994, in developing a process whereby black, coloured, Indian, and white people who had been deprived of home ownership during apartheid, could own homes. Soweto, although eventually incorporated into Johannesburg, had been separated as a residential area for blacks, who were not permitted to live in Johannesburg proper. Lenasia is predominantly populated by English-speaking South Africans of Indian descent.
The region surrounding Johannesburg was originally inhabited by San people. By the 13th century, groups of Bantu-speaking people started moving southwards from central Africa and encroached on the indigenous San population. By the mid 18th century, the broader region was largely settled by various Sotho–Tswana communities (one linguistic branch of Bantu-speakers), whose villages, towns, chiefdoms and kingdoms stretched from what is now Botswana in the west, to present day Lesotho in the south, to the present day Pedi areas of the northern Transvaal.
More specifically, the stone-walled ruins of Sotho–Tswana towns and villages are scattered around the parts of the former Transvaal in which Johannesburg is situated. The Sotho–Tswana practised farming, raised cattle, sheep and goats, and extensively mined and smelted copper, iron and tin. Moreover, from the early 1960s until his retirement, Professor Revil Mason, of the University of the Witwatersrand, explored and documented many Late Iron Age archaeological sites throughout the Johannesburg area, dating from between the 12th century and 18th century, and many of these sites contained the ruins of Sotho–Tswana mines and iron smelting furnaces, suggesting that the area was being exploited for its mineral wealth before the arrival of Europeans or the discovery of gold. The most prominent site within Johannesburg is Melville Koppies, which contains an iron smelting furnace.
Many Sotho–Tswana towns and villages in the areas around Johannesburg were destroyed and their people driven away during the wars emanating from Zululand during the late 18th and early 19th centuries (the mfecane or difaqane wars), and as a result, an offshoot of the Zulu kingdom, the Ndebele (often referred to by the name the local Sotho–Tswana gave them, the Matebele), set up a kingdom to the northwest of Johannesburg around modern day Rustenburg.
The Dutch speaking Voortrekkers arrived in the early 19th century, driving away the Matebele with the help of Sotho–Tswana allies, establishing settlements around Rustenburg and Pretoria in the early 1830s, and claiming sovereignty over what would become Johannesburg as part of the South African Republic (known informally as the Transvaal Republic).
The main Witwatersrand gold reef was discovered in June 1884 on the farm Vogelstruisfontein by Jan Gerritse Bantjes that triggered the gold rush and the start of Johannesburg in 1886. In Sept. 1884 the Struben brothers discovered the Confidence Reef on the farm Wilgespruit near present-day Roodepoort. which further boosted excitement over gold prospects. The very first gold to be crushed on the Witwatersrand was the gold bearing rock from the Bantjes mine crushed using the Struben brothers stamp machine. Also, news of the discovery soon reached Kimberley and directors Cecil Rhodes with Sir Joseph Robinson rode up to investigate rumors for themselves. They were guided to the Bantjes camp with its tents strung out over several kilometres and stayed with Bantjes for two nights. In 1884 they purchased the first pure refined gold from Bantjes for £3000. Incidentally, Bantjes had since 1881 been operating the Kromdraai Gold Mine in the Cradle of Humankind together with his partner Johannes Stephanus Minnaar where they first discovered gold in 1881, and which also offered another kind of discovery - the early ancestors of all mankind. Incidentally, George Harrison (Walker?), whose findings on the farm Langlaagte made in July 1886, cannot be considered as part of the initial discovery in 1884. He was a roaming carpenter, not a prospector, who accidentally kicked a lump of rock containing flecks of gold. This led to new discoveries in the Witwatersrand area.
The original miners' camp, under the informal leadership of Col Ignatius Ferreira, had been located in the Fordsburg dip, possibly because water was available there, and because of the site's close proximity to the diggings. Following upon this, area was taken over by the Government who had it surveyed and named it Ferreira’s Town.
The first settlement at Ferreira's Camp (today the suburb of Ferreirasdorp) was established as a tented camp and which soon reached a population of 3,000 by 1887. When in November 1886 a portion of the farm Randjeslaagte was laid out as a village and named Johannesburg, the government took over the Ferreira's camp and had it surveyed and named Ferreira's Township. By 1896 the name of Johannesburg was established as a city of over 100,000 inhabitants, one of the fastest growth cities ever.
Like many late 19th century mining towns, Johannesburg was a rough and disorganised place, populated by white miners from all continents, African tribesmen recruited to perform unskilled mine work, African women beer brewers who cooked for and sold beer to the black migrant workers, a very large number of European prostitutes, gangsters, impoverished Afrikaners, tradesmen, and Zulu "AmaWasha", Zulu men who surprisingly dominated laundry work. As the value of control of the land increased, tensions developed between the Boer government in Pretoria and the British, culminating in the Jameson Raid that ended in fiasco at Doornkop in January 1896 and the Second Boer War (1899–1902) that saw British forces under Lord Roberts occupy the city on 30 May 1900 after a series of battles to the south of its then-limits.
Fighting took place at the Gatsrand Pass (near Zakariyya Park) on 27 May, north of Vanwyksrust – today's Nancefield, Eldorado Park and Naturena – the next day, culminating in a mass infantry attack on what is now the waterworks ridge in Chiawelo and Senaoane on 29 May.
During the war, many African mineworkers left Johannesburg creating a labour shortage, which the mines ameliorated by bringing in labourers from China, especially southern China. After the war, they were replaced by black workers, but many Chinese stayed on, creating Johannesburg's Chinese community, which during the apartheid era, was not legally classified as "Asian," but as "Coloured."
Major building developments took place in the 1930s, after South Africa went off the gold standard. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Hillbrow went high-rise. In the 1950s and early 1960s, the apartheid government constructed the massive agglomeration of townships that became known as Soweto. New freeways encouraged massive suburban sprawl to the north of the city. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, tower blocks (including the Carlton Centre and the Southern Life Centre) filled the skyline of the central business district. The central area of the city underwent something of a decline in the 1980s and 1990s, due to the high crime rate and when property speculators directed large amounts of capital into suburban shopping malls, decentralised office parks, and entertainment centres. Sandton City was opened in 1973, followed by Rosebank Mall in 1976, and Eastgate in 1979.
On 12 May 2008 a series of riots started in the township of Alexandra, in the north-eastern part of Johannesburg, when locals attacked migrants from Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, killing two people and injuring 40 others. These riots sparked the xenophobic attacks of 2008.