Pietermaritzburg is the capital of the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. It was founded in 1838 and is popularly called Maritzburg in English and Zulu alike. Pietermaritzburg is also often referred to in its informal abbreviated form as PMB. The city is an important industrial hub in the region, producing aluminium, timber and dairy products. It’s also seen as the main economic hub of the Umgungundlovu District Municipality. The public sector is a major employer in Pietermaritzburg due to the local, district and provincial governments being located here.
There are two interpretations regarding the origin of the city’s name. Some believe it was named after Piet Retief and Gert Maritz, while others believe that was originally named after Piet Retief alone. Piet Retief’s full name was Pieter Maurits Retief. The area where Pietermaritzburg is situated was known as Umgungundlovu at the time of the rise of the Zulu Empire. Umgungundlovu can be translated from Zulu as “Place of the Elephant” or “The Elephant Wins”. Although the town is still called by its Voortrekker name, the municipality in which it is located bears the Zulu name.
Situated in the heart of the Natal Midlands, Pietermaritzburg is at its most beautiful in spring when masses of Azaleas burst into bloom. Numerous Victorian and Edwardian buildings and other landmarks reflect the British contribution to the development of Pietermaritzburg.
Pietermaritzburg is home to home many schools and tertiary education institutions, including a campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The University of KwaZulu-Natal was founded in 1910 as the Natal University College. It was one of the first universities in South Africa to provide education to black students. It became the University of KwaZulu-Natal on 1 January 2004.
Until the late – 1990s, the region where Pietermaritzburg is situated, was renowned for the production of high quality textile, clothing and footwear products. These industries have declined in the area due to lower production costs in Asia. Extensive timber plantations and numerous citrus farms contribute a significant share of Pietermaritzburg’s output. The Liberty Groups have made major investments in the area with the development of the Liberty Midlands Mall and Stay Easy hotel. Hulett’s Aluminium and Willowton cooking oil also contribute a substantial part of the region’s industrial output.
Pietermaritzburg is situated on the N3 highway, which is the primary route between the harbor city of Durban and Johannesburg. The city is served by the Pietermaritzburg Airport with regular scheduled services to Johannesburg and Cape Town. The Pieternaritzburg Railway Station is served by trains on the Johannesburg-Durban and Cape Town-Durban routes of Shosholoza Meyl. The city is also connected to other major cities in South Africa through daily bus services.
Some of the many tourist attractions of Pietermaritzburg include; The KwaZulu-Natal Museum, Imperial Hotel, Comrades House and SANBI Botanical Gardens. While the Albert Falls Nature Reserve, Howick Falls, Midmar Public Nature Reserve, Queen Elizabeth Park and World’s View are some of its natural attractions. Pietermaritzburg has a wide range of shops, accommodation and restaurants providing the ideal gateway to the Midlands and Drakensberg areas.