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Towns & Cities in and around the Vaal

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This model industrial town on the Vaal River, a few kilometers southwest of Vereeniging, was named after Dr H.J. van der Bijl. He had overseen the inauguration of the Iron and Steel Corporation’s (Iscor) first plant in Pretoria in 1934 and when that reached the limits of its growth in 1941, he, as the Director of Iscor, decided that a new steelworks should be built in the Vereeniging area, as he had always been of the opinion that ‘the future of the industrial development of the Transvaal must, of necessity, lie along the banks of the Vaal River’.


Van der Bijl was negotiating for the purchase of the farm Kookfontein, near Meyerton, for Iscor’s second steel works when Louis Marks (son of Sammy Marks) drew his attention to the problems he may expect if, as was proposed, the effluents from the works were to be disposed of in the Klip River. Marks anticipated that the Rand Water Board would object because of contamination of the Klip River water which would enter the Vaal River above its intake station at Vereeniging. Marks provided an alternate site, owned by Vereeniging Estates, which was downstream from the Board’s intake station. Agreement was reached whereby the site was purchased at £100 an acre, and in 1941, construction of the plate mill began.


While the erection of a new plate mill progressed, the site for the new steelworks and town was acquired (an eventual total of 95 square kilometers), much of it from the Vereeniging Estates company which had been established by Sammy Marks. The planning for the town of Vanderbijlpark then commenced. On 28 November 1944 the Vanderbijlpark Estate Company (Vesco) was registered as a non-profit-making company with its income and assets applied solely towards the objectives of the company and the constant improvement of the town for the benefit of its citizens. Land for the town was transferred to this company by Iscor at cost and it had the task of creating the town, with rights to resell land for residential, business or other purposes.

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Dr van der Bijl wanted to establish a town of pleasant surroundings where residents could lead a full and satisfactory life. He intended to live in the town himself and was planning his home when he died on 2 December 1948 at the very height of his career. His town was proclaimed in 1949 and became a municipality on 29 October 1952.


Today, Vanderbijlpark has a population of over 80,000. It is a classic example of an industrial township of the 20th century, with over half a million trees planted and many delightful gardens and recreational areas developed. The area has already become one of the most sought after residential or weekend get-away areas in Gauteng, with a succession of dream homes along the waterfront. Vanderbijlpark boasts the Vaal University of Technology (previously the Vaal Triangle Technikon) as well as the Vaal Triangle campus of the North West University. Iscor is now called Mittal Steel South Africa Limited and is a division of the world’s biggest steel producer, Mittal Steel Company N.V.