The negotiators of the Union of South Africa, which became a self-governing dominion in 1910, gave the country three capitals to prevent any one province becoming too powerful. Hence, Capetown (in Western Cape, former Cape Colony) became the legislative capital, Pretoria (in Gauteng, part of former Transvaal) the administrative capital, and Bloemfontein (in Free State, former Orange Free State) the judicial capital.
South Africa became fully independent in 1931 and Sir Herbert Stanley was appointed as Britain’s first high commissioner in the Union. He also took over the former governor-general’s role as high commissioner for the territories of Basutoland (later Lesotho), the Bechuanaland Protectorate (later Botswana), and Swaziland. Stanley’s high commission offices were therefore divided into two Branches, referred to as Representation (or Political) and Administration.
The high commissioner required a permanent residence and offices in both Pretoria and Capetown, where he resided during the parliamentary sessions in the first half of each year. The South African government initially provided the high commission with rent-free offices in both cities and, for complicated historical and bureaucratic reasons, paid for the high commission’s office services. This arrangement lasted until mid-1936 when it was exchanged for the South African government granting the high commission a new office site in each city within a total cost of £10,000 – £2,500 for Pretoria, and £7,500 for Capetown.