Provinces of South Africa

South African Provinces
Category Unitary state
Location Republic of South Africa
Number 9 Provinces
Populations 1,145,861 (Northern Cape) – 12,272,263 (Gauteng)
Areas 47,080 km2 (18,178 sq mi) (Gauteng) – 372,890 km2 (143,973 sq mi) (Northern Cape)
Government Provincial government, National government
Subdivisions Districts
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
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South Africa is divided into nine provinces (Tswana: diporofense; Sotho: diprovense; Northern Sotho: diprofense; Afrikaans: provinsies; Zulu: izifundazwe; Southern Ndebele: iimfunda; Xhosa: amaphondo; Swazi: tifundza; Venda: mavunḓu; Tsonga: swifundzankulu). 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 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", also called "bantustans". Four of these homelands were established as quasi-independent nation 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.

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.[1]

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.[1] 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.[2]

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

Current provinces

Province Capital Largest city Area[3] Population (2011)[4] Population density (2011) Human Devel. Index (2003) [5]
Eastern Cape Bhisho (Bisho) Port Elizabeth 168,966 km2 (65,238 sq mi) 6,562,053 38.8/km2 (100/sq mi) 0.62
Free State Bloemfontein Bloemfontein 129,825 km2 (50,126 sq mi) 2,745,590 21.1/km2 (55/sq mi) 0.67
Gauteng Johannesburg Johannesburg 18,178 km2 (7,019 sq mi) 12,272,263 675.1/km2 (1,749/sq mi) 0.74
KwaZulu-Natal PietermaritzburgDurban 94,361 km2 (36,433 sq mi) 10,267,300 108.8/km2 (282/sq mi) 0.63
Limpopo Polokwane (Pietersburg) Polokwane 125,754 km2 (48,554 sq mi) 5,404,868 43.0/km2 (111/sq mi) 0.59
Mpumalanga Nelspruit Nelspruit 76,495 km2 (29,535 sq mi) 4,039,939 52.8/km2 (137/sq mi) 0.65
North West Mahikeng (Mafikeng) Rustenburg 104,882 km2 (40,495 sq mi) 3,509,953 33.5/km2 (87/sq mi) 0.61
Northern Cape Kimberley Kimberley 372,889 km2 (143,973 sq mi) 1,145,861 3.1/km2 (8.0/sq mi) 0.69
Western CapeCape Town Cape Town 129,462 km2 (49,986 sq mi) 5,822,734 45.0/km2 (117/sq mi) 0.77
Republic of South Africa Pretoria, Cape Town, Bloemfontein Johannesburg 1,220,813 km2 (471,359 sq mi)51,770,56042.4/km2 (110/sq mi) 0.67


† These statistics do not include the Prince Edward Islands (335 km2 (129 sq mi), 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.

Former administrative divisions

Province Capital Peak population
Cape of Good Hope (1910–1994) Cape Town 6,125,335
Natal (1910–1994) Pietermaritzburg 2,430,753
Orange Free State (1910–1994) Bloemfontein 2,193,062
Transvaal (1910–1994) Pretoria 9,491,265
Homelands Capital Peak population
Bophuthatswana (1977–1994) † Mmabatho 1,478,950
Ciskei (1972–1994) † Bisho 677,920
Gazankulu (1971–1994) Giyani 954,771
KaNgwane (1981–1994) Louieville
Schoemansdal (de facto)
KwaNdebele (1981–1994) KwaMhlanga 404,246
KwaZulu (1981–1994) Nongoma (till 1980)
Ulundi (1980–1994)
Lebowa (1972–1994) Lebowakgomo 2,740,587
QwaQwa (1974–1994) Phuthaditjhaba 342,886
Transkei (1976–1994) † Untata 2,323,650
Venda (1979–1994) † Thohoyandou 558,797
Mandates Capital Peak population
South-West Africa Windhoek -


† States that the Homeland was independent.

See also


  1. 1 2 "Provincial government". Retrieved 1 April 2011.
  2. 'Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, "Chapter 6: Provinces". Sections 104 and 146.
  3. Census 2011: Census in brief (PDF). Pretoria: Statistics South Africa. 2012. p. 9. ISBN 9780621413885.
  4. Census 2011: Census in brief (PDF). Pretoria: Statistics South Africa. 2012. p. 18. ISBN 9780621413885.
  5. Adelzadeh, Asghar; et al. South Africa Human Development Report 2003 (PDF). Cape Town: Oxford University Press. p. 282. ISBN 978-0-19-578418-3.
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