Reading Comprehension Text and Exercises


The City of Gold

Johannesburg is the largest city in the Republic of South Africa. It is the capital of the province of Gauteng, which is the wealthiest part of the country. The city is located in the Witwatersrand Hills. This area is famous throughout the world for its rich deposits of gold and diamonds. This has helped make Johannesburg a world center for the trade of precious metals and jewels.     

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The name Johannesburg means "Johannes Fort" in Dutch, the language of many of the first white settlers in the region. It is not clear exactly which Johannes the name of the city refers to. Some think that the city was named after Christian Johannes Joubert. He was the government official in charge of mining in the South African Republic in the late 19th century.

Reading Comprehension Text and Exercises, Johannesburg

A Brief History of 

  • The region around the modern city of Johannesburg was originally the home of a native people called the San. By the 13th century CE, the area was home to people who spoke the Bantu language. They had gradually moved southwards from central Africa.

    There is evidence that the Sotho-Tswana peoples who lived in these lands well before the arrival of Europeans were already using the minerals in the earth to make metal tools and jewelry. 

  • Many European settlers who had been living in the Cape Colony part of Southern Africa began to settle in the region for the first time from 1836. This movement of people was called the Great Trek. The region became known as the Transvaal or the South African Republic. It was dominated by people of Dutch origin.

    The land was mostly used for farming until the mid-1880s. In 1884, the farmer Jan Gerrit Bantjes discovered gold on his farm in the Witwatersrand Hills. The discovery of a major deposit of gold called the Main Reef in 1886 led to huge changes for the region.

  • The city of Johannesburg had grown up as a home to miners working on the Main Reef by the 1890s. A railway was built to connect Johannesburg to the coast by 1892.

    This encouraged more and more people to settle there. By 1893, so much gold was being produced in Johannesburg that a special stock exchange was built in Johannesburg to organize trading gold around the world.

    By 1898, over one quarter of the entire world's gold was being produced and sold in Johannesburg.

  • Johannesburg had grown into a city of over 100,000 people within ten years of the discovery of gold. It became a multicultural city inhabited by white Europeans, black Africans, South Asians, and Chinese. War broke out between the Dutch Boers who ruled the Republic of South Africa and the British Empire in 1899.

    This conflict, known as the Second Boer War, raged until 1902. By 1910, Johannesburg was part of the Union of South Africa under British rule. Around this time the famous Indian lawyer and statesman Mohandas K. Gandhi lived and worked in the city. He would later go on to help India become independent from the British Empire in the 1940s.

  • By 1948 South Africa had become independent. The ruling National Party followed a racist policy called apartheid. This separated the white and non-white population and treated non-white people as inferior.

    Johannesburg was divided into white and non-white neighborhoods. The city remained one of the wealthiest in Africa thanks to its mining industry. However, most of its residents were not able to enjoy these riches and lived in extremely difficult conditions.

  • Apartheid came to an end in the early 1990s as the new Republic of South Africa was declared. Nelson Mandela became the first black president of the country in 1994. Johannesburg is one of modern South Africa's most prosperous cities.

Apartheid Museum

This moving museum is the best place to learn about the history of South Africa before the end of apartheid. It allows visitors to get a sense of what it was like to live in a country where almost every part of life was divided according to skin color. The museum has collected together photographs, films, and artifacts from the history of 20th century South Africa. It tells the story of this incredibly difficult part of South Africa's past.

Gold Reef City

Gold Reef City is the largest amusement park in Johannesburg. It is built on the site of an old gold mine, which closed in 1971. The park is themed around the "gold rush" which brought hundreds of thousands of people to live and work in the city in the late 19th century.

The park contains a museum about the history of gold mining. It is also home to a number of different roller coasters and water rides. Visitors can also learn all about how gold is produced.

Exhibits show how gold ore that is found in the ground is turned into the precious yellow metal which is bought and sold across the world.

Manoel Theatre

The Manoel Theatre is thought to be the third-oldest working theatre in Europe. It was built in 1731 under the orders of the then Grand Master of the Order of St John, Fra Antonio Manoel de Vilhena. The Theatre was named in his honor.

It is the home of the national theatre company as well as the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra. The venue is fairly small and can only seat 623 guests. However it is famous for its beautiful interior with its three tiers of box seats and it pale blue ceiling decorated with gold leaf.

Cradle of Humankind

This amazing site northwest of the city covers an area of around 180 square miles (466 square kilometers). The site is home to a series of caves where some of the oldest known remains of prehistoric beings closely related to modern humans have been discovered. These include the bones of the ancient species Australopithecus.

These bones were discovered in 1947 and are over 2.3 million years old! They are the oldest examples of the bones of a hominid. This is the branch of the animal kingdom that humans belong to, along with gorillas, orangutans, bonobos, and chimpanzees. The Maropeng Visitor Center allows visitors to see some of the many bones that have been found in this area.

Constitution Hill

Constitution Hill is most famous for being the home of South Africa's Constitutional Court. This is the place where all of the most important decisions about the laws of South Africa are made. It is also the location of the Johannesburg Fort.

This building was used as a prison in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Famous world leaders Mohandas K. Gandhi and Nelson Mandela were both imprisoned here. There was also a large separate prison for women on the hill, which was closed in 1983. It has now been turned into a museum.

An Authentic Johannesburg Dish

Johannesburg offers visitors many restaurants and cafes where they can try South Africa's national dish, Bobotie. This combination of meat, spices, and dried fruit is thought to have been brought to South Africa by its South Asian population in the 19th century. It is notable for combining minced meat with sweet fruit and baked custard made with eggs and milk.

Comprehension Exercises

Vocabulary Questions

  1. What does "trek" mean?
    1.  traveling by plane
    2. traveling by boat
    3. a long or difficult journey by foot

  2. What does "raged"  mean?
    1.  fought or struggled
    2. surrendered or gave up
    3.  promised or swore

  3. What does "miners" mean?
    1. people who climb mountains
    2. people who dig underground for precious metals
    3. people who work in factories

  4. What does "inferior" mean?
    1. dirty or unclean
    2. larger or bigger in size
    3. lesser or not as good

  5. What does "imprisoned" mean?
    1.  to stay in a hotel
    2. locked up, put in jail
    3. to walk freely

Collocation Questions

  1. Over 25 ___________ of the entire world's gold was produced and sold in Johannesburg in the 1890s.
    1.  percent
    2.  hundred
    3.  decimal

  2. The ___________ of the original Johannes which the city is named after is not known for sure. 
    1.  ego
    2.  alias
    3.  identity

  3. Mohandas K. Gandhi was one of the most ___________ prisoners held at the Johannesburg Fort. 
    1.  famous
    2.  infamous
    3.  notorious

  4. Johannesburg grew from ___________ nothing to become a city of over 100,000 people in just ten years. 
    1. close
    2.  almost
    3.  just

  1. The National Party ___________ the policy of apartheid across South Africa in 1948. 
    1. introduced
    2. familiarized
    3. presented

  1. Nelson Mandela was ___________ as the first black president of South Africa in 1994.
    1. adopted
    2.  designated
    3.  elected

  1. The Gold Reef City theme park is built on the ___________ site of a real gold mine.
    1. past
    2.  former
    3.  historicized

  2. The Cradle of Humankind is a fantastic place to learn about the ___________ of prehistoric species like the Australopithecus.
    1. remaining
    2.  remainder
    3.  remains

  3. Constitution Hill is the ___________ of South Africa's Constitutional Court.

    1. position
    2.  situation
    3.  location

  4. Bobotie is a ___________ of sweet and savory ingredients that is South Africa's national dish.
    1. admixture
    2.  fusion
    3.  emulsification

Wh Questions

  1. What has Johannesburg's main industry been throughout its history?
    1. coal mining
    2.  gold mining
    3.  producing model trains

  2. Why do you think Johannesburg's wealth declined between 1899 and 1902?
    1. because of the Second Boer War which took many of the men working in the mines away from the city to fight
    2.  because of a big fire that burned down the city's most wealthy neighborhood
    3.  because of an outbreak of a disease called the Black Death

  3. Where in Johannesburg was Nelson Mandela imprisoned?
    1. the Johannesburg Castle
    2.  the Johannesburg Palace
    3.  The Johannesburg Fort

  4. Roughly how many people lived in Johannesburg by 1900?
    1. over 150,000
    2.  over 1,000,000
    3.  over 100,000

  1. When did South Africa gain its independence from the British Empire?
    1. 1984
    2.  1899
    3.  1948

Evaluating Statements

  1. Based on the information in this lesson, which statement is true?
    1. Johannesburg was only inhabited by white Europeans before the Second Boer War.
    2. Johannesburg was a multicultural city inhabited by people of many different races and nationalities before the Second Boer War.

  2. Based on the information in this lesson, which statement is false?
    1. The largest deposit of gold in the Witwatersrand is called the Main Reef.
    2. The largest deposit of gold in the Witwatersrand is called the Great Barrier Reef.

True or False?

  1. Based on the information in this lesson, is the following statement true or false?

    "Johannesburg was first connected to the coast by rail in 1884."
    1. True
    2. False

  2. Based on the information in this lesson, is the following statement true or false?

    "Johannesburg is the capital of the Gauteng province."
    1. True
    2. False

Answer Key

1. C | 2. A | 3. B | 4. C | 5. B | 6. A | 7. C | 8. A | 9. B | 10. A | 11.C | 12. B | 13. C | 14. C | 15. B | 16. B | 17. A | 18. C | 19. C | 20. C | 21. B | 22. B | 23. B | 24. A

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