Sammy Marks, a 19th-century agricultural, industrial and mining entrepreneur, foresaw the area’s potential and persuaded an early band of pioneers to come and develop the whole region. It’s largely due to Marks that the Vaal Triangle (now Sedibeng) went on to become South Africa’s premier industrial area. A visit to the Ditsong Sammy Marks Museum, Zwartkoppies Hall, a Victorian mansion about 23km outside Pretoria, is well worth a visit.
It was also Marks, a personal friend of then President Paul Kruger, who offered Vereeniging as a site for Boers and Brits to sign the historic peace treaty in 1902 that ended the South African War (also known as the Anglo-Boer War) between Britain and the Boer republics. A chapter in more recent history was written in the city when former President Nelson Mandela unveiled Constitution Square in 1996, just after he had signed South Africa’s new Constitution in Sharpeville.
But Vereeniging is much more than history. It’s also one of Gauteng’s favourite playgrounds. Situated on the banks of the Vaal Dam with its 800km of shoreline, it’s a favourite destination for water-sport enthusiasts where water activities rule, from jet-skiing, cruising and fishing, to just cruising in a boat. At weekends and on public holidays you’ll find people picnicking and braaiiing on its tree-lined banks.
If you’re a golfer, then play a round at the famous Maccauvlei Golf Club, home course of Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 US Masters Champion. Interestingly enough, in the 1930s Maccauvlei was listed in the Guinness World Records as having the largest membership of any golf club in the world.
For more extreme outdoor activities you can get your adrenalin racing by skydiving, scuba diving, bungee jumping or paragliding.
A more gentle pursuit would be to visit the Treehaven Waterfowl Trust, where 12ha of wetlands are home to a huge collection of waterbirds from all over the world. Take a short tour, go for the day or sleep over in one of its luxurious chalets. To watch more fragile wings, pop into the flight house at the Jabulani Butterfly Garden, where you can see local and exotic butterflies flying all year round.
And if you’re staying for a few days in Vereeniging, check the local papers for some of the city’s sporting and fun events, including the annual Spring Beer Festival, Vaal Whiskey Festival, Vaal Marathon, the Vaal River Carnival and Formula One powerboat racing.