Port Elizabeth or The Bay is one of the largest cities in South Africa, situated in the Eastern Cape Province, 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.
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 area around what is now called Algoa Bay was first settled by hunting and gathering people ancestral to the San at least 100,000 years ago. Around 2,000 years ago, they were gradually displaced or assimilated by agriculturalist populations ancestral to the Xhosa, who migrated into the region from the north.
The first Europeans to have visited the area were Portuguese explorers Bartholomew 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".
One of the Portuguese's main goals in the Indian Ocean was to take over the lucrative trade of Arab and Afro-Arabian merchants who plied routes between the East African coast and India. As they took over that trade they established trading with their colony in India, Goa. The name, "Algoa," meant, "to Goa," just as the port further north in present day Mozambique, "Delagoa," meant, "from Goa." Algoa reflected that it was the port from which ships left for Goa during the season when the winds were favourable, while Delagoa was the port in Africa at which they arrived from Goa in the season when the winds for the return trip were favourable.
In 1799, during the first British occupation of the Colony during the Napoleonic Wars, a stone Fort was built, named Fort Frederick after the 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 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. Diplomat Edmund Roberts visited Port Elizabeth in the early 1830s. He noted that Port Elizabeth in the 1820s had "contained four houses, and now it has upward of one hundred houses, and its residents are rated at above twelve hundred persons."
The Apostolic Vicariate of Cape of Good Hope, Eastern District, was established in the city in 1847, and in 1861 the Port Elizabeth was granted the status of autonomous municipality. 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. Prime Minister John Molteno had formed the Cape Government Railways in 1872, and the massive expansion of the Cape Colony's railway network over the following years saw the harbour of Port Elizabeth servicing a large area of the Cape's hinterland.
The effects of the apartheid regime were not lost within 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, and George Botha, a high school teacher.
Since the multiracial elections of 1994, Port Elizabeth has faced the same problems as the rest of South Africa, more especially lack of foreign and government investment, HIV/AIDS and a general increase in crime. With the establishment of the Coega Industrial Development Zone (CIDZ) foreign direct and also national level investment has improved substantially in the region of Nelson Mandela Bay/Port Elizabeth. The IDZ, under the stewardship of the Coega Development Corporation (CDC), since inception has managed to attract to its investment account in excess R140-billion into the Economy of the Eastern Cape and has enabled the creation of over 45 000 jobs. This is significant for the sustainability of the IDZ, Nelson Mandela Bay and the economy of the Eastern Cape. The CDC consistently continues to demonstrate its capability as the leading catalyst for socio-economic growth in the Eastern Cape, with a view to becoming so for South Africa.
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 had a population estimated at around 1.3 million in 2006.
2010 FIFA World Cup
The Port Elizabeth harbour, waterfront and city centre were upgraded for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but do not rival the popular Cape Town waterfront. The city was one of the venues for World Cup games, and many more visitors are expected now that the tournament is long finished. To this end, there are calls for Port Elizabeth Airport to be upgraded, to ease the journey time and effort for tourists.