Port Elizabeth, shortened to PE, is known as the “The Windy City” is one of the major cities in South Africa. It has a rich history stemming back hundreds of years. It is the southernmost large city on the African continent.
Bartholomeu Dias was the first European to note the area when he landed on St Croix Island in 1488. He was followed by Vasco da Gama who noted the nearby Bird Island in 1497. The area was simply marked as a place to get fresh water as the main goal was India, where they could participate in the lucrative spice trade.
In order to defend the Cape Colony from the French during the Napoleonic Wars, the British built Fort Frederick in 1799 in Port Elizabeth. The name honored the Duke of York. It still stands today. The inscription on the memorial at the fort reads as follows:
“This fort was built at the end of 1799, during war with France, as a permanent military base overlooking the only safe anchorage on the South East coast. Although garrisoned until 1862, no shot was ever fired in anger from it’s walls.“
Substantial conflict arose in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s between the Europeans and the Xhosa’s over who gets the best farming areas. These conflicts became known as the Cape Frontier Wars.
From 1814-1821, the Strandfontein farm which is now known as the Summerstrand area was owned by Piet Retief. Retief would go on to become a Voortrekker leader whose party of over 500 people (including himself) would be brutally slaughtered by the Zulu king Dingaan.
In 1820, a large party of 4 000 British settlers arrived by sea at the bay. They were encouraged by the Cape Colony to form a settlement. The acting Governor of the Cape Colony, Sir Rufane Donkin wished to strengthen his control on the area. In honor of his late wife, Elizabeth Donkin, he named the town, Port Elizabeth.
The town grew rapidly. The harbour began flourishing and a railway was built connecting the town to Kimberley in 1873. PE had become the second largest city in the Cape Colony, however this changed when Gold and other minerals were discovered in the Witwatersrand areas.
During the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902), no armed conflict took place in the city, however refugees moved to the city, this included many Boer woman and children were interred in a concentration camps. In 1905, the Horse Memorial was unveiled which stands to commemorate the the horses which perished in the Anglo Boer War.
The Defiance Campaign of 1952 had a strong following in Port Elizabeth with over 20 000 people taking part.The aim of the campaign was for non-white people to purposefully defy the apartheid laws by using whites only amenities and facilities such as toilets, benches and trains.
Apartheid laws such as the Group Areas Act resulted in many non-white citizens being forcibly removed from “prime real estate locations” such as South End and Fairview. As anti-apartheid resistance grew, the secrurity police began to crack down on political opponents. In 1977, the leader of the powerful Black Consciousness Movement, Steve Biko, was tortured and interrogated by the security police in Port Elizabeth, he died shortly after while being transported to Pretoria.
Despite Biko’s death, political consciousness began to grow in black townships especially with the formation of the United Democratic Front in 1983. Large boycotts were held in 1985/1986 which resulted in the National Party calling a State of Emergency.
Since the multi-racial democratic elections in 1994, PE has gone through the same troubles as the rest of the country such as HIV/Aids and unemployment, dirty streets and badly maintained infrastructure with hardly any traffic cops patrolling the roads.
The Coega Industrial Development Zone established in 1999 has been a positive change for the city resulting in a large amount of revenue and substantial job creation.
In 2010, PE was a host city for the FIFA World Cup hosting a total of 8 matches.
The city is also home to Nelson Mandela Univeristy situated close to some of PE’s most beautiful beaches.
References and Further Reading
Mayors of Port Elizabeth
|Term Served||Name of Mayor|
|1944-1946||John James Glendinning|
|1942-1944||Alfred Charles Thomas Bloe|
|1936-1938||Walter Clement Adcock|
|1934-1936||Thomas Charles White|
|1932-1934||William Frederick Caulfield|
|1931-1932||Henry John Millard|
|1927-1929||Alfred Herbert Brookes|
|1925-1927||John Stewart Young|
|1921-1923||Lt. Col. Alexander Peter John Wares|
|1920-1921||William Frederick Savage|
|1919-1920||John Stewart Young|
|1916-1919||John Chambers Kemsley Jnr.|
|1912-1916||Adam White Guthrie|
|1910-1912||George Stephen Whitehead|
|1908-1910||Charles Huskisson Mackay|
|1901-1905||John Chambers Kemsley Jnr.|
|1895-1896||Henry William Pearson|
|1893-1894||Henry William Pearson|
|1882-1890||Henry William Pearson|
|1881-1882||John Chambers Kemsley|
|1880-1881||Henry William Pearson|
|1876-1878||Henry William Pearson|
|1874-1876||Hyman Henry Solomon|
|1871-1874||Henry William Pearson|
|1865-1866||Matthew Ebeneezer Kemp|