Introduction to the Eastern Cape
The Eastern Cape at a glance:
Major cities: East London and Port Elizabeth. Capital: Bhisho
Language: 83.4% isiXhosa, 9.3% Afrikaans, 3.6% English
Population: 6 894 300 (Mid-Year Population Estimates, 2006)
Area: 169 580 square kilometres – 14% of total South African area
Gross regional product: R88-billion (2003) – 8.1% of total South African GDP
Major industries: Automotive and component manufacturing; agriculture; agro-processing; tourism
The Eastern Cape, on the southernmost coast of Africa, is the second largest of South Africa’s nine provinces, covering around 14% of the country’s land mass. Some 65% of the province’s 6.9-million people live in rural areas; most of the remaining population live and work in towns and cities, especially the two main cities of Port Elizabeth and East London. Two thirds of the population lives in the ex-homeland, or ‘bantustan’, areas of the Transkei and Ciskei.
South Africa is a land of great diversity, a world in one country. The Eastern Cape holds all that South Africa has to offer – all in one province. It contains all seven of South Africa’s biomes or ecological zones, and offers an unrivalled range of climates, landscapes and cultures.
Historically, the Eastern Cape was a crucible of conflict. This was the eastern ‘border’ where the early Cape colonial settlers clashed with the Xhosa, the Khoi and the San. This was the birthplace of apartheid resistance movements – the African National Congress, the Pan Africanist Congress, and the Black Consciousness Movement, with famous leaders from the province such as Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Steve Biko.
The Eastern Cape is still a frontier. For the tourist, industrialist or investor, it is a frontier of diversity, potential and economic opportunity. For the people who live here, the province is a frontier at the cutting edge of social and economic transformation.
Former President Nelson Mandela, whose home is in the hills of the Transkei, once said: ‘After having travelled to many distant places, I still find the Eastern Cape to be a region full of rich, unused potential.’