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Did you know? South Africa is the only country in the world with three capital cities

There are a small minority of countries in the world which have more than one capital. However, the only country in the world to have three capitals is South Africa.

South Africa, the southernmost country on the African continent is renowned for its varied topography, great natural beauty, and cultural diversity, all of which have made the country a favoured destination for travelers since the legal ending of racial separation in 1994. 

The nation had its political and cultural struggles of Apartheid since the 20th century as a result of the influence of Victorian-era colonialism.

Three different destinations make up South Africa’s capital cities. This is to represent the South African government being divided into three sections and therefore, based in three diverse capitals.

The notion behind this came from the Union of South Africa  when it was created and concern was raised over whether it would place too much power in one place to have a single capital of South Africa.

The three different capitals of South Africa are divided into administrative, legislative and judicial government bases. These governmental powers are divided among three of its major cities: Pretoria, Cape Town, and Bloemfontein.

Pretoria is the administrative capital, Cape Town is the judicial capital, and Bloemfontein is the legislative capital. Interestingly, Parliament meetings are hosted for six months in Cape Town and six months in Pretoria. 

Pretoria is the administrative capital. It is home to the executive branch of the South African government, including the President of the Cabinet. The city also hosts many departments of government and foreign embassies.

Located in the province of Gauteng, Pretoria is in the northeast part of South Africa and near the city of Johannesburg.

Cape Town is the legislative capital. It is home to the country’s legislative parliament, including the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces.

Located in the southwest corner of South Africa in the province of Western Cape, Cape Town is the second-largest city in population.

Bloemfontein is the judicial capital. It is home to the Supreme Court of Appeal, the second-highest court in South Africa. The Constitutional Court (the highest court) is located in Johannesburg.

Located in the province of Free State, Bloemfontein is in the center of South Africa. 

There are reasons behind the choice of these three cities for the state’s capitals;

Both Bloemfontein and Pretoria were capital cities of one of the traditional Boer provinces prior to the Union of South Africa. Bloemfontein was the capital of the Orange Free State (now Free State) and Pretoria was the capital of Transvaal. There were four traditional provinces in total; Natal and Cape of Good Hope were the other two.

Bloemfontein is located in the center of South Africa, so it is logical to place the judicial branch of government in this location.

Pretoria had long been the home to foreign embassies and governmental departments. Its location near the country’s largest city of Johannesburgalso makes it a convenient location. Cape Town had been host to a parliament since colonial days.


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