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
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South Africa is divided into nine provinces.[1] 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 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.

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. The boundaries of these provinces were established in 1993 by a Commission on the Demarcation/Delimitation of Regions created by CODESA, and were broadly based on planning regions demarcated by the Development Bank of Southern Africa in the 1980s,[2][3] and amalgamated from existing magisterial districts, with some concessions to political parties that wished to consolidate their power bases, by transferring districts between the proposed provinces.[4][5]


South Africa’s provinces are governed, in different ways, on a national, provincial and local level.[6]

Nationally, there is the National Council of Provinces, one of the houses of Parliament. Then there is the provincial government and, below that, the administration of district and metropolitan municipalities.

National Council of Provinces

South Africa has two houses of parliament: the National Assembly, and the National Council of Provinces.[7] The second exists to ensure that the interests of each province are protected in the laws passed by the National Assembly.

Each one of South Africa’s nine provinces sends 10 representatives to the National Council of Provinces. Six of these are permanent members of the council, and four are special delegates.

Provincial government

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.[8]

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.[8] 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.[9]

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

The provinces of South Africa

Province Name in the most spoken native language[10] Capital Largest city Area[11]:9 Population
Population density
Human Devel.
(2003) [12]
Eastern CapeiMpuma-Koloni (Xhosa)Bhisho (Bisho)Port Elizabeth168,966 km2 (65,238 sq mi)6,562,05338.8/km2 (100/sq mi)0.62
Free StateFreistata (Sotho)BloemfonteinBloemfontein129,825 km2 (50,126 sq mi)2,745,59021.1/km2 (55/sq mi)0.67
GautengiGauteng (Zulu)JohannesburgJohannesburg18,178 km2 (7,019 sq mi)12,272,263675.1/km2 (1,749/sq mi)0.74
KwaZulu-NataliKwaZulu-Natali (Zulu)PietermaritzburgDurban94,361 km2 (36,433 sq mi)10,267,300108.8/km2 (282/sq mi)0.63
LimpopoLimpopo (Northern Sotho)Polokwane (Pietersburg)Polokwane125,754 km2 (48,554 sq mi)5,404,86843.0/km2 (111/sq mi)0.59
MpumalangaiMpumalanga (Swazi)Mbombela (Nelspruit)Mbombela76,495 km2 (29,535 sq mi)4,039,93952.8/km2 (137/sq mi)0.65
North WestBokone Bophirima (Tswana)Mahikeng (Mafikeng)Klerksdorp104,882 km2 (40,495 sq mi)3,509,95333.5/km2 (87/sq mi)0.61
Northern CapeNoord-Kaap (Afrikaans)KimberleyKimberley372,889 km2 (143,973 sq mi)1,145,8613.1/km2 (8.0/sq mi)0.69
Western CapeWes-Kaap (Afrikaans)Cape TownCape Town129,462 km2 (49,986 sq mi)5,822,73445.0/km2 (117/sq mi)0.77
Republic of South AfricaiRiphabhuliki yaseNingizimu Afrika (Zulu)Pretoria, Cape Town, BloemfonteinJohannesburg1,220,813 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 Town6,125,335
Natal (1910–1994)Pietermaritzburg2,430,753
Orange Free State (1910–1994)Bloemfontein2,193,062
Transvaal (1910–1994)Pretoria9,491,265
Homelands Capital Peak population
Bophuthatswana (1977–1994) †Mmabatho1,478,950
Ciskei (1972–1994) †Bisho677,920
Gazankulu (1971–1994)Giyani954,771
KaNgwane (1981–1994)Louieville
Schoemansdal (de facto)
KwaNdebele (1981–1994)KwaMhlanga404,246
KwaZulu (1981–1994)Nongoma (until 1980)
Ulundi (1980–1994)
Lebowa (1972–1994)Lebowakgomo2,740,587
QwaQwa (1974–1994)Phuthaditjhaba342,886
Transkei (1976–1994) †Umtata2,323,650
Venda (1979–1994) †Thohoyandou558,797
Mandates Capital Peak population
South-West AfricaWindhoek1,415,000


† States for which the homeland was quasi-independent.

See also


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