Before European settlers arrived, the area had been settled by agrarian Setswana speaking tribes for several hundred years after colonising the native pastoralist Khoikhoi people.
Rustenburg's population is primarily Tswana people. Many belong to the Royal Bafokeng Nation, extensive landowners earning royalties from mining operations. The Royal Bafokeng are descendants of Sotho settlers who displaced the local tribes from the region, which they came to call 'place of dew' (Phokeng). In the early 1800s, the Bafokeng and other Tswana communities were conquered in a series of devastating wars launched by an offshoot of the Zulu kingdom, called the Matabele. The Boers had also fought the Zulu and Matabele, and so the Boers and Tswana found in the Matabele a common enemy. The Tswana and Boers planned together and worked toward defeating the Matabele from a Sotho-Tswana kingdom to the south, and together, they defeated the Matebele. As the Boers settled in the area, called their settlement Rustenburg because they had relatively friendly relations with their Bafokeng allies in the area, and after the many violent military conflicts with other African chiefdoms, such as the Matabele, they believed they could rest ("rusten" in Dutch) in this settlement, whose name literally means "Resting Town." Although had already long lived in the area when the Boers arrived, the Bafokeng bought land rights from the Boers, and they purchased their first tracts of land in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century from the colonial rulers, some in exchange for serving in the Boer Wars. Although these land purchases were technically illegal, Paul Kruger, who would become a president of the Transvaal Boer Republic, but was then a veld kornet, was friendly to the Bafokeng and helped arrange many of these purchases.
Rustenburg is prominent in Afrikaner history. The town was established in 1851 as an administrative centre for a fertile farming area producing citrus fruit, tobacco, peanuts, sunflower seeds, maize, wheat and cattle. On 10 February 1859, the Reformed Churches in South Africa was founded under a Syringa tree which is commemorated by the memorial. One of the oldest Boer settlements in the north, Rustenburg was the home of Paul Kruger, president of the South African Republic, who bought a 5 square kilometer farm to the north-west of the town in 1863. The homestead on his farm, Boekenhoutfontein, is now the Paul Kruger Country Museum. When the Boer and the British came to blows in the Second Boer War (1899), the territory around Rustenburg became a battlefield. The two sides clashed famously at nearby Mafikeng, where the British garrison found itself under siege for months. These battle sites can be explored from Rustenburg.
Among the first residents of Rustenburg were settlers of Indian origin. One of the first families of Indian origin was the Bhyat family, whose contribution to the city's history was marked by the renaming of a major streetname to Fatima Bhayat Street in honour of Fatima Bhyat who arrived in Rustenburg with her husband in 1877.
With the arrival and successful farming practices of the Afrikaners (Boers) in the nineteenth century, Rustenburg became a primary agricultural region with vast citrus estates due to the favourable climate and abundant water supply.
Platinum mining in Rustenburg began in 1929, shortly after the discovery of the Platinum Reef by Hans Merensky, later named the Merensky Reef.The biggest Platinum mine in the world is located about 3km from the town centre and owned and managed by the Anglo American corporation.According to legend, the farmer that owned the land sold the mineral rights to Anglo American for R10 000.
The town has been transformed from a region recognized around the world since the 19th century for its natural springs and healing environment, as eloquently described in the book 'Rustenburg Romance' by author and poet Eric Rosenthal into one of the most polluted environments in the late 20th and early 21st century South Africa. The wanton despoliation of the environment through mining has drawn comparisons to the Norilsk complex in Russia, one of the ten most polluted cities in the world.
With the implementation of apartheid after 1948 life became more severe for 'non-whites' with 9 pm curfews and the most stringent enforcement of pass laws in the country. This was welcomed by the mining industry as it gave them a tighter grip on the migrant labour which was the backbone of their operations. Ethnic groups were moved forcibly from the center of town to the Indian, Coloured or Black areas, Zinniaville, Karlien Park and Boitekong respectively. The pass laws were abolished with the fall of apartheid.
The township of Boitekong on the northeast side of Rustenburg has one of the highest incidence of AIDS orphans in South Africa Boitekong was the venue for World AIDS Day commemoration in December 2010. The township is in a geographical area which bears the brunt of the catchment area of the toxic effects of the mining industry coupled with a very poor quality of water supply from the local Bospoort Dam, the water from which was for decades considered too toxic for human consumption until water shortages in the nineties compelled the purification and supply to Boitekong. Life for the majority under the rule of the 'Royal Bafokeng' has parallels to the apartheid era. In the Apartheid era, forced removals of old settlements were on the basis of racial divide whereas now it is done for installation of massive mining operations sometimes engulfing entire villages. (see 'Rasimone' on Google Earth)
The Royal Bafokeng own the stadium selected as a World Cup 2010 venue, the only 'private' stadium that hosted games in the 2010 World cup. The Royal Bafokeng regard themselves as a 'separate nation' which is in contradiction to the Rainbow nation espoused by Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. This 'nationhood' is regarded by many today as a divide and rule tactic orchestrated by the mining conglomerates which has subsequently led to the calls for nationalization of the mining industry by the ANC Youth League. The majority of people in the region 20 years after the fall of apartheid still live in abject poverty despite the massive profits yielded by the platinum royalties. This has led in recent years to claims of kleptocracy against the 'royal' family and land claim disputes.
Agriculture in the region has been in constant decline since the decimation of the vast citrus estates of Rustenburg in the 1970s and 1980s due to pollution from increased smelting and beneficiating processes by mines. There are only a fraction of the original citrus farms remaining.
Comparisons can be drawn between the Klondike gold rush and the events in Rustenburg in the late 20th and early 21st century which led to it becoming one of the fastest growing cities in South Africa.
In 1990, the first post-Apartheid conference between the Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk (the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa) and the South African churches was held in Rustenburg. During this conference, professor Willie Jonker of the University of Stellenbosch made this confession on behalf of the entire DRC:
"[I] confess before you and before the Lord, not only my own sin and guilt, and my personal responsibility for the political, social, economic and structural wrongs that have been done to many of you and the results [from] which you and our whole country are still suffering, but vicariously I dare also to do that in the name of the NGK [the white DRC], of which I am a member, and for the Afrikaans people as a whole."
The conference finally resulted in the signing of the Rustenburg Declaration, which moved strongly toward complete confession, forgiveness, and restitution.
In August 2012, South African police fatally shot 34 miners and wounded 78 more during an industrial dispute Marikana miners' strike near Rustenburg, it was the most lethal use of force by South African security forces since the end of the apartheid era.
Rustenburg has a temperate humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cwa), although it may be defined tropical by some sources. It has very warm summers (from December to February) and mild winters (from June to August). Due to the altitude, summers are not quite as hot as one might expect. Precipitation occurs mainly in summer.Area: 3,423.23 square kilometres (1,321.72 sq mi)
The city is located on major highway routes and close to 2 major centres, making it a hub for tourist activities. Within the city are some historic churches, including the Anglican Church (1871) and the Dutch Reformed Church (1898–1903), the historic statue of the Voortrekker girl and the Rustenburg Museum.
There are several sites of cultural and historical significance in and around Rustenburg. Some of these related to the indigenous Bafokeng, Bakgatla and Botswana tribes, whose totemic tribal traditions are of interest. There is also the German community of Kroondal that traces its origins back to 1857.
A number of Anglo-Boer and ethnic war battles took place in the area with the districts of Koster, Swartruggens and Rustenburg featuring battlefields, memorial graves and ruined forts. The area also has archaeological remains from the Iron Age and Stone Age.
Key attractions in this area include the nature reserves around Rustenburg. This includes:Kgaswane Mountain Reserve is situated above the town of Rustenburg across a varied habitat of quartzite mountain peaks, it is open to hikers as well as vehicle visitors. It is a 4 257 ha reserve.
Madikwe Game Reserve and Groot Marico Park are large reserves north of the Pilanesberg, almost half the size of Belgium. They are conservation and transition zone between the Kalahari sandveld and the thornveld. Madikwe hosts all the major plains species, including the Big Five and has the second largest concentration of elephants in South Africa.
Pilanesberg Game Reserve is one of the most accessible South African game reserves. It is located a 1.5 hour drive from Johannesburg and Pretoria, outside Rustenburg. It is the fourth largest National Park in South Africa and is set in the Pilanesberg range, traversing the floor of a long-extinct volcano. Pilanesberg conserves all the major mammal species including lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo.
Sun City and Lost City are resorts located beyond the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. The complex is set on the slopes of a valley in the Pilanesberg Mountains. Tourist amenities include casinos, the 'Valley of the Waves' and two championship golf courses.Rustenburg was one of the host cities of the 2010 FIFA World Cup with the 42 000 seat Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
Professional Football Clubs: Platinum Stars
Rustenburg is home to another world-class stadium, Olympia Park. It hosted some of the 1995 Rugby World Cup games.
The city is a regular venue for numerous sport-clubs incl. Kaizer Chiefs, Platinum Leopards, Springboks, Platinum Stars and various high-profile athletics meets.
A local school, Die Hoërskool Rustenburg is also the school with the most provincial athletes of any school in South Africa
Rustenburg Judo Club is one of the strongest clubs in South Africa, dominating the provincial team of North West Province and winning the most medals of any single club in South Africa in SA National Championships over the last 15 years.
Rustenburg Skydiving Club – a popular skydiving facility for sports skydiving and parachuting, tandem skydiving, Accelerated Freefall (AFF) and static line courses.
Rustenburg is also reported to be the fastest growing city in South Africa.
Rustenburg is home to the two largest platinum mines in the world and the world's largest platinum refinery, PMR  (Precious Metal Refiners), which processes around 70% of the world's platinum.
As a result of the mining activity in the area, there is also an increased focus on social development. Rustenburg is one of only 5 South African cities to have a community foundation, called the Greater Rustenburg Community Foundation (GRCF), that seeks to ensure the regional development reaches all levels of society.
Rustenburg Airfield (FARG) is the Rustenburg Local Municipality Airfield, licensed according to Civil Aviation Authority standards. Rustenburg SkyDiving Club operates every weekend year round from the airfield.
Some of the schools in Rustenburg, include: Boikagong Secondary School, Abana primary schoolBergsig Akademie/Academy
Zinniaville Secondary School
Rustenburg Technical High School
Grenville High School
Selly Park Secondary School
Geelhout Park High School
H.F Tlou High School
President Mangope Technical and Commercial High School
Bafokeng High School
Lebone II College by
Rustenburg Educational College
Meridian Private School
J M Ntsime High School
Keledi High School
Deo Gloria Christian Academy
Karlienpark Primary School
Khayalethu Secondary School
Bothibello Primary School
Famous people with roots in Rustenburg include:Paccasso @pacrakoloti Rakoloti – Painter | Basketball NBA Coach
Thapelo @HugeDaOracle Khupari - Artist | Emcee | 2017 Vuzu Hustle Top Three Finalist |
Lore And Ofentic – Poets | Rap Duo
GobiBeast ZeProducer - Emcee | Executive Producer | Record Producer | 2016 Back To The City 10k Challenge Winner |
Rory Alec – Christian broadcaster
Johan Botha – Opera singer
Pik Botha – Politician and foreign minister (1977–1990)
Bettie Cilliers-Barnard – Painter
John Cranko – Ballet choreographer
Rocky Malebane-Metsing (1949–2016) – Politician Human Rights Activist
Koos du Plessis – Singer-songwriter
Frik du Preez – Rugby union player
John Smit – Springbok Rugby Captain
Andre Stander – Bank robber
Esta TerBlanche – Actress
Sunette Viljoen – Javelin Thrower
Tema Sebopedi - Actress (Famous for Lerato in Isidingo)
Denise Zimba - Presenter (V Entertainment) (Mary in Generations The Legacy)
Donald Denial Singer, Record Label owner
OTSHEPENG RUELE Focus puller,actor ,camera operator( CAMERA OP. IN iNUMBER NUMBER)
Rahima Essop - Acclaimed EWN Political Reporter