TRANSVAAL, an inland province of the Union of South Africa between the Vaal and Limpopo rivers. It lies, roughly, between 222 ° and 271° S. and 25° and 32° E., and is bounded on the south by the Orange Free State and Natal, on the west by the Cape Province and the Bechuanaland Protectorate, on the north by Rhodesia, and on the east by Portuguese East Africa and Swaziland. Save on the south-west the frontiers, for the main part, are well defined natural features. From the south-west to the north-east corners the colony is 57o m. ; east to west its greatest extent is 397 m. The total area is 110,450 sq.m., a little less than the area of Great Britain and Ireland.
About five-sixths of the country lies west of the Drakenberg (q.v.). The boundary of the Transvaal over against Portuguese East Africa runs along the Lebombo Range, between which and the Drakenberg is a belt of low country. The Lebombo Hills ap proach within 35 m. of the sea at Delagoa Bay. The part of the plateau, east of Johannesburg, is from 5,000 to 6,40o ft. high; the western and somewhat larger half is generally below 5,000 ft. and sinks to about 4,000 ft. on the Bechuanaland bor der. This plateau land is called the high veld, and covers about 34,000 sq.m. The northern edge of the plateau follows an irregular line from somewhat north of Mafeking on the west to the Mauch berg on the east. This edge is marked by ranges of hills such as the Witwatersrand, Witwatersberg and Magaliesberg ; the Witwaters rand, which extends eastward to Johannesburg, forms the water shed between the rivers flowing to the Atlantic and Indian Ocean. Farther north, beyond the intervening slopes and low bush, are two elevated regions covering together over 4,000 sq.m. They are the Waterberg, and, more to the east, separated from the Waterberg by the valley of the Magalakwane tributary of the Limpopo, the Zoutpansberg. An eastern offshoot of the Zout pansberg is known as the Murchison Range. The low land be tween the high veld and the Waterberg and Zoutpansberg is traversed by the Olifants River, an east flowing tributary of the Limpopo.
The true high veld, extending east to west 120 m., and north to south ioo m., consists of rolling grass covered downs, abso lutely treeless, save where, as at Johannesburg, plantations have been made by man, the crest of the rolls being known as builts and the hollows as laagtes. The surface is occasionally broken by
kopjes—either table-shaped or pointed—rising sometimes ioo ft. above the general level. Small springs of fresh water are frequent and there are several shallow lakes or pans—flat bottomed de pressions with no outlet. The largest of these pans, Lake Chrissie, some 5 m. long by 1 m. broad, is in the south-eastern part of the high veld. The water in the pans is usually brackish. The middle veld is marked by long low stony ridges, known as rands, and these rands and the kopjes are often covered with scrub.
The banken veld, formed by the denudation of the plateau, is much broken up and is rich in romantic scenery. It covers about 27,000 sq.m., and has an average breadth of 4o m. In places, as between Mafeking and Johannesburg, the descent is in terrace like steps, each step marked by a line of hills; in other places there is a gradual slope and elsewhere the descent is abrupt, with out lying hills and deep well-wooded valleys. The rocks at the base of the slopes are granite, the upper escarpments are of sedimentary rocks. Thence issue many streams which in their course to the ocean have cut their way across the ranges of hills which mark the steps in the plateau, forming the narrow passes or poorts characteristic of South African scenery.
As in the middle veld, rands and kopjes occur in the low or bush veld, but the general characteristic of this part of the coun try, which covers over 5o,000 sq.m., is its uniformity. The low veld east of the Drakenberg begins at about 3,00o ft. above the sea and slopes to i,000 ft. or less until it meets the ridge of the Lebombo hills. The lowest point is at Komati Poort, a gorge through the Lebombo hills only 476 ft. above the sea. West and north of the Drakenberg the general level of the low veld is not much below that of the lowest altitudes of the middle veld, though the climatic conditions greatly differ. North of the Zoutpansberg the ground falls rapidly, however, to the Limpopo flats which are little over 1,200 ft. above the sea. Near the northwest foot of the Zoutpansberg is the large saltpan from which the mountains get their name. The low veld is everywhere covered with scrub, and water is scarce, the rivers being often dry in winter.