South Africa is fairly unique compared with other countries, as it boasts three capital cities instead of just one. The reason for the three cities is that there is one for each branch of the government in the country.
The government is divided into three different branches, the legislative, executive and judicial. Cape Town is the legislative centre of the country and also the seat of Parliament. Pretoria houses the executive branch and is the seat of the Cabinet and the President. Bloemfontein is the judicial branch and where the Supreme Court of Appeal is based.
Cape Town has always played an extremely important role in South Africa’s history. From the late 1500s, the Cape Town area was a crucial stop on the spice trade route. By the 1650s, the Dutch East India Company had used the area to establish a ship way-station, and from here Cape Town began to thrive and grow.
In 1814 Cape Town became a British colony following several attempts by the British to get control. The Cape Colony was formed in 1910, when two Boer republics and Natal, a British colony, joined together and founded the Union of South Africa. From then on, Cape Town was established as the legislative seat.
Located in Gauteng Province of South Africa, Pretoria’s vital role as a government centre began when it was declared the capital of the South Africa Republic in 1860. It was here that the peace treaty that ended the First Boer War was signed, but eventually, the capital surrendered to the British during the Second Boer War in 1900.
In 1910, when the Union of South Africa was created, Pretoria became the administrative capital. Today it is home to the majority of the foreign embassies in South Africa.
The city of Bloemfontein was officially started in 1846 as a fort for the British. Two years on, the city and the surrounding area became the Orange River Sovereignty. By 1854 it was the Orange Free State, and Bloemfontein became the capital and started to grow in size.
The city hosted the Bloemfontein Conference in 1899 which was an attempt to prevent the Second Boer War, but the attempts failed. Today it is the judicial capital of South Africa, even though the Constitutional Court was established in Johannesburg in 1994.