Provinces of South Africa

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South African Provinces
CategoryUnitary state
LocationRepublic of South Africa
Number9 Provinces
Populations1,145,861 (Northern Cape) – 12,272,263 (Gauteng)
Areas47,080 km2 (18,178 sq mi) (Gauteng) – 372,890 km2 (143,973 sq mi) (Northern Cape)
GovernmentProvincial government, National government
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South Africa is divided into nine provinces.[1] On the eve of the 1994 general election, South Africa's former homelands, also known as Bantustans, were reintegrated and the four existing provinces were divided into nine. The twelfth, thirteenth and sixteenth amendments to the constitution changed the borders of seven of the provinces.


The provinces at the creation of the Union in 1910

The Union of South Africa was established in 1910 by combining four British colonies: the Cape Colony, the Natal Colony, the Transvaal Colony and the Orange River Colony. (The latter two were, before the Second Boer War, independent republics known as the South African Republic and the Orange Free State.) These colonies became the four original provinces of the Union: Cape Province, Transvaal Province, Natal Province and Orange Free State Province.

Provinces and homelands, as they were at the end of apartheid

Segregation of the black population started as early as 1913, with ownership of land by the black majority being restricted to certain areas totalling about 13% of the country. From the late 1950s, these areas were gradually consolidated into "homelands", also called "bantustans". Four of these homelands were established as quasi-independent nation states of the black population during the apartheid era. In 1976, the homeland of Transkei was the first to accept independence from South Africa, and although this independence was never acknowledged by any other country, three other homelands – Bophuthatswana (1977), Venda (1979) and Ciskei (1981) – followed suit.

On 27 April 1994, the date of the first non-racial elections and of the adoption of the Interim Constitution, all of these provinces and homelands were dissolved, and nine new provinces were established. The boundaries of these provinces were established in 1993 by a Commission on the Demarcation/Delimitation of Regions created by CODESA, and were broadly based on planning regions demarcated by the Development Bank of Southern Africa in the 1980s,[2][3] and amalgamated from existing magisterial districts, with some concessions to political parties that wished to consolidate their power bases, by transferring districts between the proposed provinces.[4][5]


Johannesburg City Hall, now the seat of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature

South Africa’s provinces are governed, in different ways, on a national, provincial and local level.[6]

Nationally, there is the National Council of Provinces, one of the houses of Parliament. Then there is the provincial government and, below that, the administration of district and metropolitan municipalities.

National Council of Provinces[edit]

South Africa has two houses of parliament: the National Assembly, and the National Council of Provinces.[7] The second exists to ensure that the interests of each province are protected in the laws passed by the National Assembly.

Each one of South Africa’s nine provinces sends 10 representatives to the National Council of Provinces. Six of these are permanent members of the council, and four are special delegates.

Provincial government[edit]

Each province is governed by a unicameral legislature. The size of the legislature is proportional to population, ranging from 30 members in the Northern Cape to 80 in KwaZulu-Natal. The legislatures are elected every five years by a system of party-list proportional representation; by convention, they are all elected on the same day, at the same time as the National Assembly election.[8]

The provincial legislature elects, from amongst its members, a Premier, who is the head of the executive. The Premier chooses an Executive Council consisting of between five and ten members of the legislature, which is the cabinet of the provincial government.[8] The Members of the Executive Council (MECs) are the provincial equivalent of ministers.

The powers of the provincial government are limited to specific topics listed in the national constitution. On some of these topics – for example, agriculture, education, health and public housing – the province's powers are shared with the national government, which can establish uniform standards and frameworks for the provincial governments to follow; on other topics the provincial government has exclusive power.[9]

The provinces do not have their own court systems, as the administration of justice is the responsibility of the national government.

The provinces of South Africa[edit]

Province Name in the most spoken native language[10] Capital Largest city Area[11]:9 Population
Population density
Human Devel.
(2003) [12]
Eastern Cape iMpuma-Koloni (Xhosa) Bhisho (Bisho) Port Elizabeth 168,966 km2 (65,238 sq mi) 6,562,053 38.8/km2 (100/sq mi) 0.62
Free State Freistata (Sotho) Bloemfontein Bloemfontein 129,825 km2 (50,126 sq mi) 2,745,590 21.1/km2 (55/sq mi) 0.67
Gauteng eGoli (Zulu) Johannesburg Johannesburg 18,178 km2 (7,019 sq mi) 12,272,263 675.1/km2 (1,749/sq mi) 0.74
KwaZulu-Natal iKwaZulu-Natali (Zulu) Pietermaritzburg Durban 94,361 km2 (36,433 sq mi) 10,267,300 108.8/km2 (282/sq mi) 0.63
Limpopo Limpopo (Northern Sotho) Polokwane (Pietersburg) Polokwane 125,754 km2 (48,554 sq mi) 5,404,868 43.0/km2 (111/sq mi) 0.59
Mpumalanga iMpumalanga (Swazi) Mbombela (Nelspruit) Mbombela 76,495 km2 (29,535 sq mi) 4,039,939 52.8/km2 (137/sq mi) 0.65
North West Bokone Bophirima (Tswana) Mahikeng (Mafikeng) Klerksdorp 104,882 km2 (40,495 sq mi) 3,509,953 33.5/km2 (87/sq mi) 0.61
Northern Cape Noord-Kaap (Afrikaans) Kimberley Kimberley 372,889 km2 (143,973 sq mi) 1,145,861 3.1/km2 (8.0/sq mi) 0.69
Western Cape Wes-Kaap (Afrikaans) Cape Town Cape Town 129,462 km2 (49,986 sq mi) 5,822,734 45.0/km2 (117/sq mi) 0.77
Republic of South Africa iRiphabhuliki yaseNingizimu Afrika (Zulu) Pretoria, Cape Town, Bloemfontein[citation needed] Johannesburg 1,220,813 km2 (471,359 sq mi) 51,770,560 42.4/km2 (110/sq mi) 0.67


† These statistics do not include the Prince Edward Islands (335 km2, 129 sq mi, with no permanent residents), which are South African territories in the sub-Antarctic Indian Ocean but part of the Western Cape for legal and electoral purposes.
‡ Pietermaritzburg and Ulundi were joint capitals of KwaZulu-Natal from 1994 to 2004.

Provincial acronyms[edit]

Province HASC ISO FIPS CSS Conventional
Eastern Cape ZA.EC EC SF05 02 EC
Free State ZA.FS FS SF03 04 FS
Gauteng ZA.GT GT SF06 07 GP
KwaZulu-Natal ZA.NL NL SF02 05 KZN
Limpopo ZA.NP LP SF09 09 LP
Mpumalanga ZA.MP MP SF07 08 MP
Northern Cape ZA.NC NC SF08 03 NC
North-West ZA.NW NW SF10 06 NW
Western Cape ZA.WC WC SF11 01 WC

HASC: Hierarchical administrative subdivision codes
ISO: Province codes from ISO 3166-2. For full identification in a global context, prefix "ZA-" to the code
FIPS: Codes from FIPS PUB 10-4, a U.S. government standard.
CSS: Province codes used by the Central Statistical Service of South Africa.

Former administrative divisions[edit]

Province Capital Peak population
Cape of Good Hope (1910–1994) Cape Town 6,125,335
Natal (1910–1994) Pietermaritzburg 2,430,753
Orange Free State (1910–1994) Bloemfontein 2,193,062
Transvaal (1910–1994) Pretoria 9,491,265
Homelands Capital Peak population
Bophuthatswana (1977–1994) † Mmabatho 1,478,950
Ciskei (1972–1994) † Bisho 677,920
Gazankulu (1971–1994) Giyani 954,771
KaNgwane (1981–1994) Louieville
Schoemansdal (de facto)
KwaNdebele (1981–1994) KwaMhlanga 404,246
KwaZulu (1981–1994) Nongoma (until 1980)
Ulundi (1980–1994)
Lebowa (1972–1994) Lebowakgomo 2,740,587
QwaQwa (1974–1994) Phuthaditjhaba 342,886
Transkei (1976–1994) † Umtata 2,323,650
Venda (1979–1994) † Thohoyandou 558,797
Mandates Capital Peak population
South-West Africa Windhoek 1,415,000


† States for which the homeland was quasi-independent.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The nine provinces of South Africa - South Africa Gateway". South Africa Gateway. 6 April 2018. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Phillips, Laura (27 July 2017). "History of South Africa's Bantustans". Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History. doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780190277734.001.0001 (inactive 20 August 2019).
  4. ^
  5. ^ Muthien, Yvonne G.; Khosa, Meshack M. (1995). "'The kingdom, the Volkstaat and the New South Africa': Drawing South Africa's new regional boundaries". Journal of Southern African Studies. 21 (2): 303–322. doi:10.1080/03057079508708448.
  6. ^ "The nine provinces of South Africa - South Africa Gateway". South Africa Gateway. 6 April 2018. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  7. ^ "The nine provinces of South Africa - South Africa Gateway". South Africa Gateway. 6 April 2018. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  8. ^ a b "Provincial Government of South Africa". Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  9. ^ 'Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, "Chapter 6: Provinces". Sections 104 and 146.
  10. ^, p. 25.
  11. ^ a b Census 2011: Census in brief (PDF). Pretoria: Statistics South Africa. 2012. p. 30. ISBN 9780621413885. Archived (PDF) from the original on 13 May 2015.
  12. ^ Adelzadeh, Asghar; et al. (2003). South Africa Human Development Report 2003 (PDF). Cape Town: Oxford University Press. p. 282. ISBN 978-0-19-578418-3.
  13. ^ "South African Provinces".