Provinces of South Africa

Buy data    Donate


I updated the populations to the 2011 census results as given in source [2]. Source [3] explained why the areas of the provinces have changed; I used the new areas in the main table below.

ISO 3166-2 Newsletter Number I-9 was published on 2007-11-28. It adds the names of the country, and of its divisions, in nine other South African languages.

We have another complicated situation in Pretoria. The City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality was created on 2000-12-05, by merging a number of smaller entities, including the Greater Pretoria Metropolitan Council. The new metropolitan municipality covers an area of about 3,200 km.², including all of the city of Pretoria (and several others). The Pretoria City Council was downgraded to a local municipal council. Then on 2005-03-07 the municipal council voted to rename the capital to Tshwane. The South Africa Geographical Names Council approved this change of name on 2005-05-26. It will become official when approved by the Minister for Arts and Culture. (A partisan pro-Pretoria summary of the name change issues may be found in source [5], a legal brief.)

The City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality is divided into 76 municipal wards, plus a few slivers of land not in any ward. It is also divided into a large number of townships, overlapping with the wards, with a lot of territory not in any township. I believe one of the wards, Pretoria Central, is the nucleus of the old Pretoria city, and will retain that name. Tshwane, originally after a native chief's name, has been the name used for Pretoria by some native groups for years. Local authorities also gloss it as Zulu for "we are the same". The name Pretoria was chosen to commemorate Andries Pretorius, reminding many citizens of the despised colonial past.

FIPS Publication Change Notice No. 9, affecting FIPS PUB 10-4, was issued on 2004-10-01. It shows the change of the name of Northern Province to Limpopo.

ISO 3166-2 Newsletter Number I-6 was published on 2004-03-08. It shows the change of the name of Northern Province to Limpopo. ISO was notified of this change by the South African Department of Arts and Culture (the department in charge of geographic names) on 2003-11-05. ISO has changed the code for this province to ZA-LP.

Northern Province had already begun using its new name, Limpopo, by January, 2002. However, the province's Web site stated that "The new name of the Province will become official after the amendment of section 103(1)(g) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. A request by the legislature has been submitted to Parliament for the necessary amendment to be submitted." The Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology must accept the name change for it to become official. That happened on 2003-06-11.

International standard ISO 3166-2 was published on 1998-12-15. It superseded ISO/DIS 3166-2 (draft international standard). The draft standard showed a division of South Africa into nine provinces, with a two-letter code for each. The final standard shows the same nine provinces, but four of their codes have been changed. The new set of codes is shown in the table below.

The book "Administrative Subdivisions of Countries" listed preliminary figures from the 1996 census, with a warning about the large margins of error. Statistics South Africa has released final data, corrected for undercount (source [6]).

Country overview: 

ISO codeZA
LanguageAfrikaans (af), English (en)
Time zone+2
CapitalPretoria, Cape Town, Bloemfontein


In 1900, the Boer republics of Orange Free State and Transvaal were fighting Great Britain and the British colonies of Cape of Good Hope and Natal in the Boer War. The British won, and the peace treaty signed on 1902-05-31 made British colonies of all four lands. On 1910-05-31, they united to form the Union of South Africa (Afrikaans: Unie van Zuid-Afrika, but the Afrikaans spelling was changed from Zuid to Suid a few years later). The country voted on independence in 1960, and on 1961-05-31 it became independent under the name Republic of South Africa. Even before independence, the South African government was planning to address its racial problems by creating homelands, or Bantustans: black-majority enclaves within its territory. The first of the Bantustans was Transkei, delimited in 1963 and granted nominal independence in 1976. There were eventually ten homelands, of which four became nominally independent. None of them ever received international recognition. In 1994, the segregationist apartheid policy came to an end, and the homelands were re-incorporated into the country. South Africa held a mandate over South-West Africa for many years (see Namibia).

Other names of country: 

  1. Afrikaans: Republiek van Suid-Afrika (formal)
  2. Danish: Sydafrika
  3. Dutch: Zuid-Afrika, Republiek Zuid-Afrika (formal)
  4. English: Republic of South Africa (formal)
  5. Finnish: Etelä-Afrikka
  6. French: Afrique f du Sud
  7. German: Südafrika n
  8. Icelandic: Suður-Afríka
  9. Italian: Sudafrica, Repubblica f Sudafricana (formal)
  10. Norwegian: Sør-Afrika, Republikken Sør-Afrika (formal)
  11. Portuguese: África do Sul, República f da África f do Sul (formal)
  12. Russian: ЮАР (abbr), Южно-Африканская Республика (formal), Южно-Африканский Союз (obsolete)
  13. Spanish: Sudáfrica, República f de Sudáfrica f (formal)
  14. Swedish: Sydafrika
  15. Turkish: Güney Afrika, Güney Afrika Cumhuriyeti (formal)

Origin of name: 

descriptive: Southern part of African continent

Primary subdivisions: 

South Africa is divided into nine provinces (Afrikaans: provinsies).

Eastern CapeZA.ECECSF0502EC6,562,053168,96665,238BhishoCape of Good Hope
Free StateZA.FSFSSF0304FS2,745,590129,82550,126BloemfonteinOrange Free State
KwaZulu-NatalZA.NLNLSF0205KZN10,267,30094,36136,433PietermaritzburgNatal, Cape of Good Hope
Northern CapeZA.NCNCSF0803NC1,145,861372,889143,973KimberleyCape of Good Hope
North-WestZA.NWNWSF1006NW3,509,953104,88240,495MmabathoTransvaal, Cape of Good Hope
Western CapeZA.WCWCSF1101WC5,822,734129,46249,986Cape TownCape of Good Hope
9 provinces51,770,5601,220,813471,359
  • HASC: Hierarchical administrative subdivision codes.
  • ISO: Province codes from ISO 3166-2. For full identification in a global context, prefix "ZA-" to the code
    (ex: ZA-GT represents Gauteng).
  • FIPS: Codes from FIPS PUB 10-4, a U.S. government standard.
  • CSS: Province codes used by the Central Statistical Service of South Africa.
  • Conv: Conventional abbreviations used popularly (sometimes L for Limpopo).
  • Population: 2011-10-10 census.
  • Former: Former provinces from which these provinces were formed (a few small slivers of land are not mentioned).

Postal codes: 

South Africa uses four-digit postal codes. The numbers are not aligned with province boundaries.

Further subdivisions:

See the Municipalities of South Africa page.

The provinces were formerly subdivided into magisterial districts and administrative districts. Some of these districts straddled the border between two provinces. The 1996 constitution established a division into 46 district municipalities and 6 metropolitan municipalities. Again, three of the district municipalities lie partly in two provinces each.

Territorial extent: 

Eastern Cape had an exclave within KwaZulu-Natal, around the town of Umzimkulu. It coincides with the part of Transkei that used to lie within Natal. This exclave was apparently eliminated under the 12th and 13th amendments to the Constitution of South Africa.

Western Cape includes the Prince Edward Islands.

The Bantustans were generally composed of many scattered enclaves. The four Bantustans that were granted independence by South Africa, called the TBVC countries for short, were Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda, and Ciskei. Here are the capitals and approximate locations, relative to the old provinces, of all ten Bantustans. (The actual number of enclaves changed as boundaries were redrawn.)

  1. Bophuthatswana (capital Mmabatho) was seven enclaves in northern Cape of Good Hope, western Transvaal, and Orange Free State.
  2. Ciskei (Bisho, which since then has been renamed Bhisho) was one enclave in eastern Cape of Good Hope.
  3. Gazankulu (Giyani) was four enclaves (two of them quite small) in northeastern Transvaal.
  4. KaNgwane (Louieville) was two enclaves in eastern Transvaal.
  5. KwaNdebele (Siyabuswa) was one enclave in central Transvaal.
  6. KwaZulu (Ulundi) was eight enclaves (one quite small) in Natal.
  7. Lebowa (Lebowakgomo) was eight enclaves (two or three very small) in northern Transvaal.
  8. Qwaqwa (Phuthaditjhaba) was a small area in Orange Free State, in its corner with Natal and Lesotho.
  9. Transkei (Umtata, now Mthatha) was two enclaves in Cape of Good Hope and one in Natal.
  10. Venda (Thohoyandou) was two enclaves in northern Transvaal.

The UN LOCODE page  for South Africa lists locations in the country, some of them with their latitudes and longitudes, some with their ISO 3166-2 codes for their subdivisions. This information can be put together to approximate the territorial extent of subdivisions.

Origins of names: 

  1. Gauteng: Sotho for place of gold
  2. Mpumalanga: = where the sun rises
  3. Natal: Portuguese for Christmas, named by Captain Manuel Mascaranhas when he established it on 1597-12-25
  4. Orange Free State: after the Orange River, which was named for the ruling Dutch family of Orange-Nassau
  5. Transvaal: Latin trans: beyond + Vaal River (from Afrikaans vaal: yellowish), land beyond the Vaal from viewpoint of Capetown

Change history: 

  1. 1902-05-31: Orange Free State became the British colony of Orange River Colony.
  2. 1903-01-27: Northern Districts (Babanango, Paulpietersburg, Utrecht, Vryheid) transferred from Transvaal to Natal.
  3. 1910-05-31: Union of South Africa formed. Name of Orange River Colony restored to Orange Free State.
  4. 1922: Walvis Bay (then called Walfisch Bay) transferred from Cape Province of the Union of South Africa to Namibia (then called South West Africa).
  5. 1947-12-25: Prince Edward Islands annexed to Cape Province, followed by Marion Island on 1947-12-30.
  6. 1948: South Africa reclaimed sovereignty over Walvis Bay, making it again part of Cape Province.
  7. 1976-10-25: Transkei called independent.
  8. 1977-12-06: Bophuthatswana called independent.
  9. 1979-09-13: Venda called independent.
  10. 1981-12-04: Ciskei called independent.
  11. 1992-08: Walvis Bay placed under joint Namibian and South African administration.
  12. 1994-03-01: Walvis Bay fully transferred to Namibia.
  13. 1994-04-27: South Africa reorganized into nine provinces. Before the reorganization, it was divided into the following four provinces, which had endured since 1910 with only minor changes. On this date, the Bantustans ceased to exist, even as a legal fiction. Ulundi, the capital of KwaZulu, became a co-capital of the new KwaZulu-Natal province.

Cape of Good HopeSF01C.P.5,514,413721,001Cape Town
Orange Free StateSF03O.F.S.1,929,369129,152Bloemfontein
4 provinces18,148,3111,221,037
  • FIPS: Codes from FIPS PUB 10-4.
  • Conv: Conventional abbreviation in use among English speakers
    in South Africa
  • Population: 1991 census
  1. 1994-05-07: South Africa reorganized from four provinces into nine.
  2. ~1995: Name of Northern Transvaal changed to Northern Province.
  3. 1995-06-29: Name of Orange Free State province changed to Free State.
  4. 1995-08-24: Name of Eastern Transvaal province changed to Mpumalanga.
  5. 1995-12-08: Name of Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging province changed to Gauteng. (Another source says 1995-03.)
  6. 2003-07-11: Name of Northern Province changed to Limpopo, and the name of its capital from Pietersburg to Polokwane. Its old ISO code was ZA-NP.
  7. 2004: Ulundi ceased to be co-capital of KwaZulu-Natal.
  8. ~2004: Name of capital of Eastern Cape changed from Bisho to Bhisho.
  9. 2005-05-26: Name of administrative capital of South Africa changed from Pretoria to Tshwane.
  10. ~2005: Umzimkulu municipality moved from Eastern Cape to KwaZulu-Natal.
  11. 2007-12-14: Matatiele municipality moved from KwaZulu-Natal to Eastern Cape under the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of South Africa.

Other names of subdivisions: 

  1. Eastern Cape: Oos-Kaap (Afrikaans)
  2. Free State: Orange Free State (obsolete); Vrystaat (Afrikaans)
  3. Gauteng: Pretoria/Witwatersrand/Vaal (obsolete); PWV (informal)
  4. Mpumalanga: Eastern Transvaal (obsolete)
  5. North-West: Noordwes (Afrikaans)
  6. Northern Cape: Noord-Kaap (Afrikaans)
  7. Limpopo: Noordelike Provinsie (Afrikaans); Northern Province, Northern Transvaal (obsolete)
  8. Western Cape: Wes-Kaap (Afrikaans)
  9. old provinces:
  10. Cape of Good Hope: Cape Colony (obsolete); Cape Province (variant); Kaapland (Dutch); Kaapprovinsie, Provinsie die Kaap die Goeie Hoop (Afrikaans); Kapland (German); Kapplande (Norwegian); Province du Cap (French); Provincia del Capo (Italian); Província do Cabo (Portuguese)
  11. Natal: Natal and Zululand (obsolete)
  12. Orange Free State: Estado Livre de Orange (Portuguese); État libre d'Orange (French); Orange (Italian); Orange River Colony (obsolete); Oranje-Fristaten (Norwegian); Oranje-Vrijstaat (Dutch); Oranje-Vrystaat (Afrikaans); Oranjefreistaat (German)

Population history:



Note: figures for 1980 and 1991 exclude population of Bantustans.

Eastern Cape6,302,5256,436,7616,562,053
Free State2,633,5042,706,7762,745,590
Northern Cape840,321822,7261,145,861
Western Cape3,956,8754,524,3355,822,734


  1. [1] Suid-Afrikaanse Statistiske / South African Statistics 1995. Central Statistical Service. Pretoria, 1995.
  2. [2] Census 2011 Fact Sheet . Statistics South Africa, Pretoria, N/D (retrieved 2014-02-15).
  3. [3] Census 2011: Methodology and highlights of key results . Statistics South Africa, Pretoria, 2013 (retrieved 2014-02-15).
  4. [4] The Municipal Demarcation Board  website gives areas accurate to .00001 km.², or ten square meters (!) (retrieved 2008-11-17).
  5. [5] PtaTshwane Complainants Plea (, dead link, retrieved 2006-01-05).
  6. [6] Census 1996 . Statistics South Africa (originally found at, dead link, retrieved 2000-03-09).
  7. [7] "Inside the new South Africa," sidebar, U.S. News and World Report, 1994-04-25, pp. 60-61.
  8. [8] Fifth United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names. Vol. II. New York: United Nations, 1991.
Back to main statoids page Last updated: 2015-06-30
Copyright © 1999-2009, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015 by Gwillim Law.