Beginning with pre-historic times, The Vredefort Dome, just south of Potchefstroom, is a meteorite impact-site dating back about 2-billion years. What makes it compelling as a place to visit is the obvious difference in vegetation and shape from the areas that surround it. During the late-Stone period, the San people moved along the Vaal River close to the Dome. These hills were also the home of Sotho-Tswana settlements for almost 300 years before they were driven out by Mzilikazi, during the so-called Difaqane (or Mfecane). While the factual details of this Difaqane/Mfecane remain widely disputed, as there are very few written accounts, it is believed that the Mfecane was partly caused by population growth and severe drought in the late-eighteenth century causing societies to settle closer to each other.
In November 1830, Andries Potgieter and his followers established the first permanent European settlement north of the Vaal by the banks of the Mooi River, and the City of Potchefstroom was born. Potchefstroom was named, on one tradition, after its founder Andries Potgieter (Pot), who was the leader (Chef) and the Mooi Rivier (Stroom). The main languages spoken in the broader Potchefstroom area (now known as Tlowke) include Setswana, Afrikaans, English, Sesotho and isiXhosa. Other languages include Sepedi, Siswati, isiNdebele, Xitsonga, Sign Language and a number of immigrant languages.
Potchefstroom is known as a city of expertise and as an academic city and is home to 5 tertiary institutions (The North-West University, Potchefstroom College of Education, Technical College Potchefstroom, the Agricultural Centre and Potchefstroom Akademie) and 30 schools. In 2004, the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education and the historically black University of the North-West merged, creating the North-West University.