Rustenburg is a city in the North West Province of South Africa on the edge of the Magaliesburg Mountains. Most of the world has only recently learned about the town because of its role in hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but it has a position of special prominence in the region’s history. Unfortunately, this history has not always been good, but today Rustenburg has emerged as a model of urban development and a tourist center with world-class accommodation and attractions.
Historically this was an agricultural region growing a wide range of fruits, grains and cattle. Rustenburg was established in 1851 as an economic and governmental hub, but it quickly became embroiled in the turbulent politics of the time. Some of the earliest European settlers in the new town were members of the Dutch Reformed Church, one of many new churches that sprang up all across Europe during the Protestant Reformation. These groups were persecuted in their home countries, and went far afield in an effort to practice their faith in peace. The Dutch Reformed Church community in Rustenburg was established in 1859.
The winds of war were blowing across southern Africa in the 19th century. The descendants of Dutch settlers, who called themselves Boers (Farmers) were clashing with the British, who had controlled the Cape Colony since 1795. Fleeing this oppression, Boer refugees left the Cape Colony and settled in the Orange Free State, Transvaal and Natal. This movement involving several waves of refugees, and is known today as the Great Trek.
Rustenburg became involved in this conflict in 1863, when Paul Kruger came to live there. Kruger was a leader of the Boer independence movement and President of the South African Republic, an independent Boer state that existed sporadically during the last half of the 19th century, not to be confused with the present-day Republic of South Africa. Kruger owned a farm near Rustenburg, which is now a popular museum.
Unfortunately, this political activity was not good for Rustenburg. When the Second Boer War broke out in 1899, much of the violence centered around Rustenburg and other towns in the region. The Siege of Mafikeng and several other battles took place nearby. These battle sites are all easily accessible from Rustenburg, and are tourist attractions today. The town has prospered from its interesting and influential past, providing accommodation for tourists and a hub for tours throughout the region.
In modern Rustenburg things are completely different. The area possesses the world’s greatest deposits of platinum, and mining rights have brought a new wealth to Rustenburg. The Royal Bafokeng Stadium which figured so prominently in the 2010 World Cup games is only one example of the development in the area. The hotels offer world-class accommodation, and since Rustenburg is at the junction of several major highways, travelers come here in the thousands.
With all of the new development and luxurious accommodation, Rustenburg still has not forgotten its past. Visitors can see the Rustenburg Museum as well as many historic sites and buildings.
Rustenburg’s past was full of conflict, but it has survived and grown into one of the major economic and tourist centers of southern Africa. Travelers can enjoy luxurious accommodation, a fascinating history and plenty of modern fun in a city that is truly a blend of old and new.