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Port Elizabeth ( ; colloquial ) is one of the largest cities in South Africa, situated in the Eastern Cape Province, 770 km east of Cape Townmarker. The city, often shortened to PE and nicknamed "The Friendly City" or "The Windy City", stretches for 16 km along Algoa Baymarker, 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 Municipalitymarker which has a population of over 1.3 million.

The city is in a friendship partnership with the Swedish city of Gothenburgmarker and is a sister city to the American cities of Jacksonville, Floridamarker and Palm Desert, Californiamarker.


The area around what is now called Algoa Baymarker 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 water".

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.

Fort Frederick

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 Uitenhagemarker was founded along the Swartkops River, a short distance inland from its estuary at Algoa Bay. Uitenhage formed part of the district of Graaff-Reinetmarker 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 named today.

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 Kimberleymarker 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.

Horse Memorial
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 Memorialmarker was erected to honour the tens of thousands of horses and mules that died during the conflict.

Apartheid era

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 Pretoriamarker 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.

Post apartheid

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 Coegamarker.

In 2001, the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipalitymarker was formed as an administrative area covering Port Elizabeth, the neighbouring towns of Uitenhagemarker 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 Townmarker 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 Airportmarker to be upgraded, to ease the journey time and effort both for World Cup teams and spectators, and also more generally for tourists.

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 harness, catalytic converters, batteries and tyre to the vehicle manufacturer.

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 Coegamarker.



Port Elizabeth lies on the N2 road. To the west the road travels the picturesque Garden Route to Georgemarker and Cape Townmarker; to the east, the road runs through the so-called Border Country through Grahamstownmarker, to East Londonmarker then on to Durbanmarker, finally terminating in Ermelomarker in Mpumalangamarker. Regional roads also connect PE with the Transkei.

The city's main bus station is in Market Square. The public bus service is run by The Algoa Bus Company.

The city is in the proccess of building a bus rapid transport system for the 2010 FIFA world cup.


Port Elizabeth railway station is served by South Africa's rail network. Local commuter services are operated by Metrorail, while the Shosholoza Meyl long-distance passenger service links PE with Johannesburgmarker via Bloemfonteinmarker where it is possible to connect with other long-distance routes.

The Apple Express narrow-gauge tourist train to Avontuur operates from the separate station in Humewood Road near King's Beach. It departs regularly for Thornhill Village via Van Stadens River bridge, the highest narrow-gauge rail bridge in the world.


Port Elizabeth Airportmarker (IATA airport code PLZ, ICAO airport code FAPE) serves the city for both passenger and cargo traffic. It is the fourth busiest airport in South Africa after Johannesburg International, Durban International and Cape Town International.

International visitors to the city must currently fly to either Johannesburgmarker or Cape Townmarker and then take a domestic flight to Port Elizabeth. An upgrade to the terminal building, completed in 2004, created the necessary facilities to handle international flights although none are scheduled as yet.

In preparation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup the runway is being extended with a view to accommodating international flights .

The general aviation sector is well represented in PE, with a number of facilities on-field able to provide aircraft charter and rental, handling, maintenance and training to commercial level. There are also a few smaller airfields in the vicinity. Port Elizabeth has one of the best flight schools in Africa.


Port Elizabeth has a harbour in Algoa Bay, and construction of a second seaport is underway. The newer international harbour at Coegamarker will support an increase in the size of the city's industries and the addition of new industries.

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.


The city has a wealth of fine sporting facilities, catering for cricket, rugby union, association football, field hockey and many other sports. Its coastal location also makes it a base for many watersports.

Port Elizabeth is the location of the St George’s Parkmarker cricket ground, which holds test cricket matches. St George's Park is also the oldest cricket ground in South Africa. Its official name is now Sahara Oval St George's. The Chevrolet Warriors, a top Cricket Team in South Africa, is based in Port Elizabeth.

The headquarters of the controversial Southern Spears rugby franchise was in Port Elizabeth. The long-standing Eastern Province Rugby Union, now usually known as the Mighty Elephants , has been based in the city's EPRFU Stadiummarker and would form the basis of the Spears franchise together with East London's Border Bulldogs.

The city is also home to PSL club Bay United, they currently play their home games at the EPRFU Stadium. The new FIFA World Cup stadium Nelson Mandela Bay Stadiummarker, is also being built in the city. This will serve as Bay United's new home from 2009 onwards.

The Algoa Bay Yacht Club operated out of Port Elizabeth harbour.


The Donkin Reserve

Located at the end of the picturesque Garden Route along the Cape coast, the city is one of South Africa's major destinations for tourists, many of whom come simply to enjoy the many fine beaches in and near the city.

The area surrounding the CBD has a number of historic attractions, many of which are linked by the Donkin Heritage Trail. These include the Campanile (bell tower), built in 1923 to commemorate the arrival of the 1820 Settlers and offering a great viewpoint over the city; the city hall (1862); the Donkin Reserve park and monument; and the old stone Fort Frederick itself (1799). The CBD also boasts the towering Eastern Cape post office headquarters.

Other attractions include the gardens at St George's Park, the King George VI Art Gallery, the museum and oceanography room at Humewood, and the new Boardwalk waterfront complex.

The wider area surrounding PE also features a number of game viewing opportunities, including the famous Addo Elephant Park, 72 km to the north near the Zuurberg mountain range and National Park.

Port Elizabeth is known commonly as the watersports capital of South Africa and boasts an ever increasing number of watersports events annually. Algoa bay is home to scuba diving, game fishing charters, surfing, windsurfing, kiteboarding to name but a few. There are many cruises offered from the harbour from sunset cruises to view dolphins to whale watching tours.


The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Universitymarker (NMMU) was formed in 2005 by the amalgamation of the University of Port Elizabeth, Vista University and the Port Elizabeth Technikon. It is the largest university in the Eastern and Southern Cape, with around 24,000 students in seven faculties spread over eight campuses. It is the 9th best university in Africa. It was ranked as having one of the most excellent business schools in South Africa, and has one of the top accounting schools in Africa. It boasts a towering 21-storey main administration building, overlooking the Indian Ocean. It is a clean, modern campus, with all facilities any modern university can ask for.

Herbert Hurd Primary School is a co-educational primary school in Newton Park, Port Elizabeth. The school caters to English-speaking pupils from grades 17. The school is named after Herbert Hurd, a member of the P.E. School board. Hurd donated the land to the education authorities to build the school. The school was officially opened in January 1954. The first principal was Martin Emmerick.

As well as government-funded schools, PE and the surrounding area also offer a number of private schooling opportunities, including Grey High Schoolmarker, which is one of the top schools in Africa.


Port Elizabeth forms part of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipalitymarker, and serves as the seat for the surrounding Cacadu District Municipalitymarker.Port Elizabeth is a seat of the Eastern Cape High Court, as well as a Magistrate's Court. As a result of the presence of a High Court, several other related organs of state such as a Masters Office and a Director of Public Prosecutions are present in the city.A few other Government (mostly provincial) departments maintain branches or other offices in Port Elizabeth.

Famous people


  1. "The 100 best high schools in Africa, 2003." Africa Almanac. Retrieved Nov 21, 2009.

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