From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Port Elizabeth (Xhosa: Ebhayi; colloquial Afrikaans: 'Die Baai') is one of
the largest cities in South Africa, situated in the Eastern Cape Province,
770 km east of Cape Town. The city, often shortened to PE and nicknamed "The
Friendly City" or "The Windy City", stretches for 16 km along Algoa Bay, and
is one of the major seaports in South Africa. It is also referred to as
Africa's Watersport Capital.
Port Elizabeth was founded as a town in 1820 to house British settlers as a
way of strengthening the border region between the Cape Colony and the Xhosa
It now forms part of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality which
has a population of over 1.3 million.
The city is in a friendship partnership with the Swedish city of Gothenburg
and is a sister city to the American cities of Jacksonville, Florida and
Palm Desert, California.
The area around what is now called Algoa Bay was first settled by indigenous
tribes countless centuries ago. It is said that the San and Khoisan people
were amongst the first inhabitants, and the Xhosa came later. However,
little is known as no written records are believed to exist from that time.
The first Europeans to have visited the area were Portuguese explorers
Bartolomeu Dias, who landed on St Croix Island in Algoa Bay in 1488, and
Vasco da Gama who noted the nearby Bird Island in 1497. For centuries, the
area was simply marked on navigation charts as "a landing place with fresh
The area was part of the Cape Colony, which had a turbulent history between
its founding by the Dutch East India Company in 1652 and the formation of
the Union of South Africa in 1910.
In 1799, during the first British occupation of the Colony during the
Napoleonic Wars, a stone Fort was built, named Fort Frederick after the then
Duke of York. This fort, built to protect against a possible landing of
French Troops, overlooked the site of what later became Port Elizabeth and
is now a monument.
In 1804 the town of Uitenhage was founded along the Swartkops River, a short
distance inland from its estuary at Algoa Bay. Uitenhage formed part of the
district of Graaff-Reinet at that time. The city of Uitenhage was
incorporated in the new Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality together
with Port Elizabeth and the town of Despatch in 2001.
From 1814 to 1821 the Strandfontein farm, which later became the
Summerstrand beach suburb of Port Elizabeth, was in possession of Piet
Retief, who later became a Voortrekker leader and was killed in 1837 by Zulu
king Dingane during negotiations about land. An estimated 500 men, woman and
children of his party were massacred. After Retief the Strandfontein farm
was owned by Frederik Korsten after whom another suburb of Port Elizabeth is
In 1820 a party of 4,000 British settlers arrived by sea, encouraged by the
government of the Cape Colony as a settlement would strengthen the border
region between the Cape Colony and the Xhosa people. At this time the
seaport town was founded by Sir Rufane Shaw Donkin, the Acting Governor of
the Cape Colony, who named it after his late wife, Elizabeth. The town
expanded, building a diverse community comprising European, Cape Malay and
other immigrants, and particularly rapidly so after 1873 when the railway to
Kimberley was built. The Apostolic Vicariate of Cape of Good Hope, Eastern
District, was established in the city in 1847. In 1861 the town was granted
the status of autonomous municipality.
During the Second Boer War, the port was an important transit point for
soldiers, horses and materials headed to the front by railway. While the
city itself did not see any conflict, many refugees from the war moved into
the city. These included Boer women and children interned by the British in
a concentration camp. Following that war, the Horse Memorial was erected to
honour the tens of thousands of horses and mules that died during the
The effects of the apartheid regime were not lost on Port Elizabeth. Forced
relocation of the non-white population under the Group Areas Act began in
1962, causing various townships to be built. The whole of the South End
district, being a prime real estate location, was forcibly depopulated and
flattened in 1965; relocations continued until 1975. In 1977 Steve Biko, the
black anti-apartheid activist, was interrogated and tortured by the security
police in PE, before being transported to Pretoria where he died. Other
notable deaths in the city during this time included the Cradock Four.
During the 1960s and 1970s the character of Port Elizabeth was changed and
its face marred by two projects. The university was removed from the
historical and picturesque old part of Port Elizabeth on a hill overlooking
the city centre and harbour to a sandy area on the outskirts of town. The
campus in town was completely inadequate. Since this removal, the old centre
of Port Elizabeth has seen a slow decline. This decline was augmented by a
second project, namely the building of a series of highways, viaducts and
interchanges directly along the coast and over the roof of the central
station thereby severing the old town from the station and harbour,
destroying much of its history, integrity, allure and safety. The same
system of highways also added to the damage already done by industries to
the beautiful and fragile wetland area of the Swartkops estuary, one of Port
Elizabeth's main natural assets.
Since the multiracial elections of 1994, Port Elizabeth has faced the same
problems as the rest of South Africa, including HIV/AIDS and a surge in
violent, often drug-related, crime. However, thanks to the booming tourism
and real estate industries, development continues apace both in the city and
nearby, for example in the new R20Billion Industrial Development Zone at
In 2001, the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality was formed as an
administrative area covering Port Elizabeth, the neighbouring towns of
Uitenhage and Despatch and the surrounding agricultural areas. The name was
chosen to honour former President Nelson Mandela. The combined metropolitan
area has a population estimated at around 1.3 million as of 2006.
2010 FIFA World Cup
The Port Elizabeth harbour, waterfront and city centre are in the process of
being upgraded before the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and are expected to rival the
popular Cape Town waterfront. The city is one of the venues for World Cup
games, and many more visitors are expected. To this end, there are calls for
Port Elizabeth Airport to be upgraded, to ease the journey time and effort
both for World Cup teams and spectators, and also more generally for
Trade and industry
Home of South Africa's motor vehicle industry, Port Elizabeth boasts most
vehicle assembly plants, General Motors, Volkswagen, Ford, Continental Tyres
and many more automotive companies. Most other industries in the NMMM are
geared towards the motor vehicle industry, providing parts such as wiring
harnesses, catalytic converters, batteries and tyres to the vehicle
Port Elizabeth is also a major seaport, with the most significant ore
loading facilities in the southern hemisphere. As part of the ongoing
development, a new Industrial Development Zone with expanded port facilities
is being built at Coega.
Geography and climate
"The Windy City" has a subtropical climate with light rain throughout the year. The area lies between the winter rainfall, Mediterranean climate zones of the Western Cape and the summer rainfall regions of eastern South Africa. Winters are cool but mild and summers are warm but considerably less humid and hot than more northerly parts of South Africa's east coast.