History summary of the Eastern Cape, South Africa

Map of the Eastern Cape

The Eastern Cape has a rich cultural history. Also the home of Nelson Mandela, the Eastern Cape border region was not always a place of peace. It is here that the Xhosa's, Afrikaners and the English met for the first time. At the time of white settlement of the Cape, Xhosa groups were living far inland, into the area between Bushman's River and the Kei River. Since around 1770, they had been confronted with the Afrikaner Trek Boers who approached from the west. Both the Boers and the Xhosa were stock-farmers.

The competition for grazing land led first to quarrels between the two groups, and eventually it came to a number of wars known as the grensoorlöe ("border wars" in Afrikaans). The politics of the colonial government attempted to enforce the separation of white and black settlement areas with the Fish River as the border. But the more the colony developed into a modern state with a strong military organization, the more the whites tended towards a policy of land annexing and the subjugation of the black population. In the middle of the 19th century, all the land formerly inhabited by Xhosa was in the hands of white settlers. With the founding of the South African Union in 1910, the British colony and the independent Boer Republics were united. A modern "democratic" state was formed. in which only the white population could execute the right to vote.

You will still find evidence of these violent times in this area. There are several buildings still standing where the Afrikaners and English sheltered from fierce Xhosa onslaughts. You will also note that most old houses in the Eastern Cape have small windows and thick walls to protect against unexpected attacks.

Although today the Eastern Cape is well known as the home of the Xhosa people, they weren't the only or indeed the first people in the Eastern Cape. The Bushmen (or San) thrived in the Eastern Cape before the Nguni tribes moved South from the North-East of Africa. Visitors can still find San rock art all over the Eastern Cape, but there are some very good sights near Barkly-East in the North-Eastern part of the Eastern Cape.

Eastern Cape Scenery   Eastern Cape Scenery of the coast

Eastern Cape Scenery Wildebeest

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