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North West

The North West Province of South Africa is bounded on the north by Botswana, on the south by the provinces of Free State and the Northern Cape, and on the northeast and east by the Limpopo Province and Gauteng. Covering 118,797 sq km (45,869 sq miles), the North West Province was created in 1994 by the merger of Bophuthatswana, one of the former Bantustans (or black homelands), and the western part of Transvaal, one of the four former South African provinces. Much of the province consists of flat areas of scattered trees and grassland. The Magaliesberg mountain range in the northeast extends about 130 km (about 80 miles) from Pretoria to Rustenburg.

The Vaal River flows along the southern border of the province. Temperatures range from 17° to 31° C (62° to 88° F) in the summer and from 3° to 21° C (37° to 70° F) in the winter. Annual rainfall totals about 360 mm (about 14 in), with almost all of it falling during the summer months, between October and April.   In 1994 the population of the North West Province was estimated to be 3 669 349 (out of a total of an estimated 44 819 778 people living in South Africa); 65% of the people in the North West Province live in the rural areas. The majority of the province's residents are the Tswana people who speak Setswana. Smaller groups include Afrikaans, Sotho, and Xhosa speaking people. English is spoken primarily as a second language. Most of the population belongs to Christian denominations.  

Other significant towns include Brits, Klerksdorp, Rustenburg and Sun City. The province has two universities: the University of North West, which was formerly called the University of Bophuthatswana (founded in 1979), in Mmabatho; and Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education (founded in 1869; became a constituent college of the University of South Africa in 1921 and an independent university in 1951).  

Important historical sites in the province include Mafikeng, the traditional capital of the Barolong people, where a British garrison was placed under siege by Afrikaners during the Boer War (1899-1902); Lotlamoreng Cultural Village near Mafikeng, which re-creates a traditional African village; and Boekenhoutfontein, the farm of Paul Kruger, who was the last president of the South African Republic (a state created by Afrikaners in what is now north-eastern South Africa), from 1883 to 1902. The province has several national parks. The largest, Pilanesberg Game Reserve, is located in the crater of an extinct volcano.  

The mainstay of the economy of North West Province is mining, which generates more than half of the province's gross domestic product and provides jobs for a quarter of its workforce. The chief minerals are gold, mined at Orkney and Klerksdorp; uranium, mined at Klerksdorp; platinum, mined at Rustenburg and Brits; and diamonds, mined at Lichtenburg, Christiana, and Bloemhof. The northern and western parts of the province have many sheep farms and cattle and game ranches. The eastern and southern parts are crop-growing regions that produce maize (corn), sunflowers, tobacco, cotton, and citrus fruits. The entertainment and casino complex at Sun City and Lost City also contributes to the provincial economy.

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