A study of the distribution of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) utilising 16 priority PAHs, benzo(e)pyrene, perylene, 19 alkylated PAHs and 31 ortho substituted PCBs in South Africa is presented. It was aimed to (a) deduce characteristic contamination patterns for both PCBs and PAHs and (b) provide the first comprehensive dataset for establishment of source characterisation of PCBs and PAHs. This is in line with new South African legislation on mandatory monitoring of PCB and PAH emissions. Bar charts, principal component analysis (PCA) and biplots were utilised to identify signature contamination patterns and distribution of PCBs and PAHs within the Jukskei and Klip Rivers. Sediments from the Jukskei and Klip River catchments both showed distinct contamination signatures for hexa to nonachlorinated PCBs, characteristic of contamination by Aroclor 1254 and 1260 technical mixtures. PCB signature patterns in order of abundance were 138 > 180 > 206 > 153 > 187 > 149 and 138 > 153 > 180 > 149 > 187 > 110 > 170 for the Jukskei and Klip River sediments, respectively. The upstream Alberton point had the highest Σ31 PCB and Σ (parent+alkyl) PAH concentrations in the Klip River of 61 and 6000 μg kg−1 dry weight (dw), respectively. In the Jukskei River, the upstream Marlboro point had the highest Σ31 PCB concentration of 19 μg kg−1 dw and the N14 site recorded the highest Σ (parent+alkyl) PAH concentration of 2750 μg kg−1 dw. PAH concentrations in both the Jukskei and Klip Rivers were significantly higher than the PCB concentrations. Fluoranthene, phenanthrene and pyrene were found in the highest concentrations in both the Jukskei and Klip River sediments. Both the Jukskei and Klip River sediments showed trends of a mixed pyrogenic-petrogenic PAH source contamination.