There are various theories about how Potchefstroom in the Kenneth Kaunda district of the North West province got its name. The town, however, seems shortly destined for a new name. Tlokwe is the suggestion of the authorities, who are motivating the change but, for the moment, the town remains good old “Potch”.
The site of one of three campuses of the North West University, Potchefstroom has developed as an academic centre, playing home to a number of tertiary education institutions and highly regarded schools.
Established on the banks of the Mooi River in 1838 as a Voortrekker settlement, Potchefstroom was once the capital of the Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek, and once briefly joined with Winburg in the Free State to form the Republic of Winburg-Potchefstroom.
The town is monument-rich, with enough memorials, museums and heritage sites to keep the history fan well occupied for days. Prime among them is the 6,84-kilometre- long Oak Avenue, lined with oak trees planted in 1910 and declared a national monument in 1975.
Accessing the town’s past can be done at four museums that comprise the Potchefstroom Museum. They are Main Museum, the Totius House Museum, the President Pretorius House and the Goetz/Fleishack Museum.
Beyond Potchefstroom’s borders lie rich agricultural lands, and also some enticing natural pursuits. Birding in the OPM Prozesky Bird Sanctuary is a rewarding experience, while one can camp and fish at the Lakeside Resort or go yachting in the Boskop Dam Nature Reserve. The town is also within easy distance of the Vredefort Dome, caused by a huge meteorite impact 2 000-million years ago. In the neighbourhood are operators of all types of adventure activities – abseiling and rock climbing, to name just two – making use of geological features resulting from the impact.
Look out for
Among the wealth of national monuments in Potchefstroom are the Old Fort and Cemetery, the Old Gunpowder House, the Town Hall, the Carnegie Library, the Old Police Station and the Old Magistrate’s Office. The university also has its fair share of heritage buildings.
Churches and religious sites abound in Potchefstroom. The Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk is the oldest church north of the Vaal River.
The North West University Botanical Garden adjacent to the campus packs an impressive array of mostly indigenous plant life into three hectares.
The Aardklop National Arts Festival annually showcases Afrikaans theatre, dance, music and visual arts each September/October and attracts about 150 000 festival-goers.
Game drives and hiking are among the many recreational activities on offer at the Buffelsvlei Game Park 20 kilometres from Potchefstroom on the Carletonville Road.