Situated on the northern bank of the Vaal River, Vereeniging forms part of South Africa’s largest industrial complex. The town owes its existence to the rich coal deposits occurring in the area and was founded on the farms Leeuwkuil and Klipplaatsdrift in 1882. It owes its Dutch name, translated as ‘association’, to the first coal mining company in the area, the Zuid-Afrikaansche en Oranje Vrijstaatsche Kolen-en-Mineralen-Mijn Vereeniging. The town made world headlines in May 1902 when the terms to end the South African War were negotiated here. The treaty was, however, signed at Melrose House in Pretoria. The Vaal River and its willow-lined banks are popular recreational areas, drawing many people on weekends and holidays. The town’s museum displays a valuable collection of photographs of the peace negotiations, and also has interesting archaeological and palaeontological exhibits, among them Glossopteris fossil plants occurring in the coal seams. The Vaal Technorama Industrial Museum is the only one of its kind in the country.
Three archaeological sites of interest lie in and around the town: the Duncanville Archaeological Reserve and the Klip River Quarry, 6 km out of town, have both yielded a large number of Earlier Stone Age tools, while on an outcrop at Redan, a few kilometres to the north of the town, Stone Age shamans (medicine men) carved over 240 engravings, mainly geometrical, into the rock. Prior arrangements to visit Redan must be made with the Vaal Technorama Museum.
Sharpeville, a black township outside Vereeniging, has become a symbol of the struggle against apartheid. On 21 March 1960 police opened fire on a large crowd of Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) supporters demonstrating against the pass laws, killing 69 and wounding 180. A week later, a state of emergency was declared and the ANC and the PAC were banned. Today, the massacre is commemorated as Human Rights Day, set aside as a public holiday by South Africa’s first democratically elected government.
This sturdy stone bastion was built during the South African War as part of a line of fortifications to defend the railway line against guerrilla attacks by the Boer forces. By early 1902 an extensive system of some 8 000 blockhouses had been built across the country. One of the principal lines of blockhouses stretched from Colesberg to Kroonstad and Vereeniging along the railway line, which was patrolled by armoured trains.
GOLD REEF CITY
...is a re-creation of Johannesburg in its heyday, centred around No. 14 shaft of the Crown Mine and is an exciting and fun choice for guests on South African holidays. The atmosphere of the mining town as it looked between 1900 and 1920 has been captured, complete with horse-drawn carts, can-can girls and minstrels. Lining the streets are replicas of Johannesburg’s first stock exchange (built in 1887), Victorian houses, saloons and corrugated-iron stores. Among Gold Reef City’s numerous attractions are a casino, gold-pouring demonstrations, gumboot dancing performances, a tour of the mine’s 5th level – 220 m below the surface – and an adventure park with 26 rides, ranging from a fun train to the Anaconda, and Africa’s longest river ride, the Raging River Rapids.