The area around Ga-Rankuwa had been settled by Tswana people since at least the 17th century. Many of these communities were conquered by the invading Ndebele (or Matabele) under Mzilikazi in the early 19th century. When the Boers defeated and drove away the Matebele and claimed ownership of the land of that kingdom, they divided the area into farms and distributed the land among themselves, including the land of many Bakwena-Tswana villages that still existed there. In oral histories gathered among the Bakwena in the early 20th century, elderly Bakwena claimed that the Boers virtually enslaved them. In 1860 thirty families who were an extension of the Bakwena people of Betanie got together and through a combination of selling some of their cattle and from savings from wages accrues from labouring put together one hundred and fifty Pounds towards three hundred Pounds that was used to purchase the Farm Hebron from the Traansvaal Republic Government. This farm at the time extended to an area that consist half of the present Ga-Rankuwa. The balance one Hundred and Fifty Pounds was forwarded by the Berlin Mission Lutheran Church. The other half of Ga Rankuwa consist of land that was similarly purchased by The Bakgatla Ba Mmakau. The Bakwena people through the Bakwena chief, Mamogale, and several German Lutheran missionaries and other missionaries such as those of the Methodist church, began collecting cattle and money from Tswana in the area who were indentured to Boers in order to buy back land that had been taken away from them. Despite many obstacles, Chief Mamogale and the missionaries bought back several farms, and Ga-Rankuwa was one of these farms, and with these lands, Chief Mamogale was able to establish a chiefdom that came to be called the Bakwena Ba Magopa. Oral testimony and written records suggest that the local Veldkornet, Paul Kruger, who would become president of the Transvaal Republic or South African Republic, helped chief Mamogale and the missionaries acquire these lands. They also purchased land near Brits, where Chief Mamogale established his "capital" in the village of Bethanie. Chief Mamogale's descendants continued to be recognized as the chiefs of the Bakwena Ba Magopa and having jurisdiction over Ga-Rankuwa. Chief Mamogale's lands were included in the "Scheduled Native Areas", or "Reserves" under the 1913 Natives Land Act that divided South Africa into white areas and "Native" areas. For several decades of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, these villages engaged in farming and raising livestock, and compared to Africans on white farms they were relatively affluent. In the 1960s, under apartheid, the "Reserves" or "Native Areas" came to be called "homelands," and Ga-Rankuwa was included into the homeland of Bophutatswana.
The area was proclaimed a township by Proclamation 448 of 1965 and was initially established to accommodate people who were displaced mainly from Lady Selborne. In other words, although Ga-Rankuwa had been purchased and the community established by the Bakwena Ba Magopa, because it was part of a "Reserve," the apartheid government proposed to use it to accommodate Black people removed from other areas. Ga-Rankuwa was developed in accordance with the Physical Planning Act of 1967 which hoped to divert industrial development away from the city centres to the border areas of the homelands. This would not only serve the purpose of attracting workers directly from the homelands and providing cheap labour to the factories but would also divert the labour flow away from the city, thereby reducing labour migrancy. Situated 34 km north-west of Pretoria, Ga-rankuwa formed part of the Tswana homeland, Bophutatswana. The area provided housing for the Black labourers and their families and was meant to service the industrial area of Rosslyn, 10 km away. Apart from the state-built houses, Black people were permitted to buy plots and build their own houses. It was estimated that the township would eventually accommodate a population of 120,000 people.
The early residents of Ga-Rankuwa were forcibly removed from fertile land in neighboring Lady Selborne, Bantule, Marabastad, Rama, Newclare, Eastwood and Sophiatown to mention but a few. The area was named after a Bakgatla headman, Rankuwa Boikhutso. Rankuwa means "we are taken". When they arrived in the area, which was infertile and unsuited for farming, they named it Ga-Rankuwa which means "We are not taken".
Another explanation for the name of the town is that it was named after a prominent follower of Chief Mamogale, when these lands were being purchased from the Boers. The man's name was RraNkuwa (Father Nkuwa or Mr. Nkuwa), and his lands were often referred to as Ga-Rankuwa, or "at Mr. Nkuwa's."
Another meaning of the name came from the fact that the previous owner of the land had many sheep, and was known as the father of sheep (Rra-nku) 'Ga-Ranku' refers to the place of the father of sheep. 'We are taken' is not a likely meaning of the word since it derives from a Sotho word, while most Ga-rankuwa residents are Tswana.Tswana.Garankuwa was also very active during 1976 student uprising which resulting in many government buildings being burnt and many student going into exile in neighboring countries. The township also played a large rule in overthrowing the formally Bophuthatswana homelands in early 90s resulting in scores of people being brutally killed by Bophuthatswana armed forces.
It is divided into 17 sections called zones, which are Zone 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,15,16,17,20,21,23,24 & 25.
Due to the fact that Ga-Rankuwa finds itself sandwiched between not only two areas of Pretoria (Pretoria North and Pretoria West) and also neighbouring province Limpopo, the climate is a mix of extremely hot and extreme rains in summer. Followed by warm winters and autumns.
Ga-Rankuwa is a diverse township whose residents speak many languages. Languages spoken in Ga-Rankuwa are:Setswana
A mixture of languages such as Afrikaans, Sesotho, English and isiZulu was fused together to form what is now a unique language-style of the township with a slight inclination to a slang known as Sepitori. That produces a unique language, also spoken in its neighbouring townships, Mabopane, Soshanguve, Mamelodi, Atteridgeville, Temba & Hammanskraal.
Residents from this area provide the bulk of labour for the Rosslyn industrial area, a hub of motor vehicle manufacturing, and also for the industrial park in Zone 15. Many of the residents of Ga-Rankuwa are middle class citizens working for the government. The dominant religion in Ga-Rankuwa is Christianity followed by other dominant African traditional religions and Islam. Ga-rankuwa has a promising future as most of its youth are currently attending institutions of higher learning.
Ga-Rankuwa falls under the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality (main area Pretoria and surrounds), which is in the Gauteng province. Its municipal offices are based in Zone 5.
A number of primary and secondary schools are spread throughout all the zones. List of Ga-Rankuwa schools
Two major University Campuses are located in Ga-Rankuwa. A University of Limpopo campus is located in Ga-Rankuwa, it was formerly known as the Medical University of South Africa. The Tshwane University of Technology has a campus located in Ga-Rankuwa. The campus was formerly known as Setlogelo and was renamed after merging with the former Pretoria Technikon and Technikon Northern Gauteng (TNG).
Ga-Rankuwa has the second largest hospital in Africa, Dr George Mukhari Hospital (formerly known as Ga-Rankuwa Hospital). The public hospital serves as a teaching hospital as it shares its facilities with the University of Limpopo Ga-Rankuwa campus (formerly known as the Medical University of South Africa), which produces the largest number of new medical doctors in South Africa.
Transnet operates the Metrorail train commuter service, that connects Ga-Rankuwa to the Pretoria railway station and on to Germiston and Johannesburg Park Station, as well as to the East Rand, Soweto and Vereeniging.
Ga-Rankuwa is home to Ga-Rankuwa United Football club which is part of the Vodacom League. Their home stadium, Odi Stadium is situated in the neighboring township of Mabopane.
There are a number of places of interest in and around the township. Here are some of the most notable ones.Ga-Rankuwa Workshop for the blind known as Itireleng.
Ga-Rankuwa Hospice at Ga-Rankuwa zone 4
Mr. SJJ Lesolang
Dr. C.D. Marivate
Mr. James K. Moate
J M Masilo
Dr. Gomolemo Mokae
Dr. Precious Moloi Motsepe
Dr Sam Motsuenyane
Prof. Mamokgethi Setati