In the late 19th century, Pilanesberg served as a sanctuary to Mzilikazi’s rebel Zulu warriors who passed through the area as they fled the wrath of the Zulu king, Shaka. A mission station was established more or less in the northwestern part of the park, on the farm Driefontein, which lay wedged between a large section of land traditionally owned by the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela (commonly known as the Bakgatla) tribe. This land constitutes much of the northern region of today's Pilanesberg reserve.
What is now the southern section of the Pilanesberg reserve was originally a set of farms which were sold to and registered in the names of a number of Boer farmers by the Transvaal government in the 1860s. These farmers were responsible for building the Houwater dam - now known as the Mankwe dam - which is the Pilanesberg's largest standing water reservoir. During the 1960s, these farms were re-purchased by the South African government, which, under Apartheid policies, re-settled the Bakubung tribe from nearby Ventersdorp onto the farms Wydhoek, Koedoesfontein, and Ledig. These farms, situated on and in the southern part of the Pilanesberg reserve adjacent to Sun City, were subsequently delivered to Bophuthatswana, a large north-western bantustan, for administration and control. As a result, the only remaining private property inside the Pilanesberg reserve amounts to 3 small sections (likely graveyards, approximately 3 hectares each in size) as well as a farm (approximately 608 hectares) registered in the name of Catherina Clark, a daughter of Jan Smuts.
Following Bophuthatswana's independence from South Africa in 1977, then-president Lucas Mangope decided to re-introduce wildlife and convert the Pilanesberg into a game reserve. A planning committee was established to develop the game reserve, which was to include the whole of the Pilanesberg mountains. However, to facilitate this new designation, people residing in the area had to be