The term “Magaliesberg” assumes different meanings depending upon whether one is talking about the village or the mountain range or the designated area so-called. The Magaliesberg range of low hills stretches due east-west 120kms from east of Pretoria, via the Hartebeespoortdam to Rustenburg. They have a particular characteristic: they are shear on the south side and gently sloping on the north side. Clearly, they must have been a level granitic plateau once upon a time, about 2.4 billion years ago, but the northern side of the plateau tilted downwards into the ground at an angle of approximately 35 degrees. One can assume that 2.4-million years ago the Magaliesberg hills would have been much, much higher than what one is looking at today. The immense process of erosion has lowered the summits on the southern side and the detritus (eroded rock) has filled up the valley on northern side. Thus reducing the Magaliesberg to a low range of hills rather than a massive Himalayas, Andes or Alps, which they must originally have been.
Every so often a gap appears in the ramparts of the Magaliesberg which is called a “poort” in Afrikaans. These poorts typically allowed a river to flow through them and also allowed thousands of game animals such as wildebeest, Zebra and antelope to migrate twice a year through the Magaliesberg in search of winter pastures (northern migration) or summer pastures (southern migration) up until mid-19th century. Such migrations attracted Mankind’s most ancient ancestors over the past millions of years. Homo erectus, Australopithecus robustus and a series of our hominid ancestors lay in wait at these poorts for the game to pass through the narrow enfilade where they were attacked with stones, arrows or flints. Rich pickings of flints and animal remains have been discovered by palaeontologists in the vicinity of Broederstroom (south bank) and the Hartebeespoort(north bank) where the poort has been dammed.
To the northwest of the Magaliesberg hills lies the Bushveld Igneous Complex, one of the most important geological phenomena in Africa… Platinum! This relatively small area stretching from the Hartebeespoortdam to Rustenburg, a distance of about 60km, holds about 70% of the world’s known platinum deposits. The platinum mines are owned by big-name mining companies such as Impala, Anglo, Rustenburg, Aquarius and Lonmin Platinum. There is not a new car leaving the automobile factories without a piece of platinum in the catalytic converter. And it’s all from here.
The picturesque little village of Magaliesberg, which has a railway passing through it, was established as a weekend retreat to enable the highly-stressed magnates of the gold-mining industry, in the years after 1886, to find relief in the countryside. During the Anglo Boer War, several engagements between the Boers and the British took place along the Magaliesberg hills. The best-known engagements were Olifantsnek, Nooitgedacht and Moedwil. In August 1900, 27 000 British troops did a sweep to the north determined to pin Gen De Wet’s 2 500 Boers against the Magaliesberg ramparts. Against all the odds, De Wet made yet another Houdini-type escape, and thus prolonged the war by two years.