From the seaports of Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban, Lourenco Marques and Beira railway lines run to Kimberley, Bloemfontein, Johannesburg and Pretoria, while a trunk line extends north from Kimberley through Rhodesia (in which gold mining began on an extensive scale in 1898) and across the Zambezi below the Victoria Falls into the Congo basin, where it serves the Katanga mineral area.
The chief cities are Cape Town (pop. 1904, 77, 66 8), Port Elizabeth (32,959), East London (25,220) and Kimberley (34331) in the Cape province; Durban (67,847) in Natal; Johannesburg (155,642) and Pretoria (36,839) in the Transvaal; and Bloemfontein (33,883) in the Orange Free State.
Pending the arrival of Lord Roberts and reinforcements, the situation in South Africa remained at a deadlock: the three besieged towns - Mafeking, Kimberley and Ladysmith - still held their own, but no headway was made by the relief columns; all they could do was to stand on the defensive.
A narrow Cambrian sea must have extended across central Australia from the Kimberley Goldfield in the north-west, through Tempe Downs and the Macdonnell chain in central Australia, to the South Australian highlands, central Victoria at Mansfield, and northern Tasmania.
The relief of Kimberley was indeed urgent, for dissensions between Rhodes and the military authorities had become acute.
The opening up of the diamond mines at Kimberley (1870) followed (1886) by the discovery of the Witwatersrand goldfields completely revolutionized the economic situation and profoundly modified the history of the country.
In place of all this, the visitor to Kimberley encounters at the edge of the town only a huge crater, silent and apparently deserted, with no visible sign of the great mining operations which are conducted nearly half a mile below the surface.
The Kimberley shales, which are penetrated by the De Beers group of pipes, were, however, certainly not the source of the carbon at the Premier (Transvaal) mine, for at this locality the shales do not exist.
Large forces had been left behind during the advance on Johannesburg for the protection of the railway and the conquered terri tory, and these were now reinforced from Kimberley and elsewhere as well as from detachments of the main army.
But just at that time differences arose between Great Britain and the republics as to the ownership of the Kimberley diamond fields which estranged the Boers (see Griqualand and Transvaal).