Even amongst our own citizens we seem to have a bit of confusion as to the correct naming for cities and towns within the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality.
The answer is easy along with being confusing and is contained in a question: “When someone asks where you are from, what do you say?” Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Ethekwini, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage, Despatch, Mill Park, New Brighton, Motherwell or some other more finely grained example of a geographical area? Another example – if you are overseas and talking to someone whom you presume is not well acquainted with our country and it’s regions you will simply answer that you are from South Africa.
Let’s take Nelson Mandela Bay and break it down for you:
The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality is one of eight Metropolitan (Category A) municipalities in South Africa *. Located on the shores of Algoa Bay in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, it comprises the city of Port Elizabeth, the nearby towns of Uitenhage and Despatch, and the surrounding rural area.
The name “Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality” was chosen to honour former President Nelson Mandela.
So, much like the Eastern Cape (which is a province), Nelson Mandela Bay is a geographical area with specific boundaries which encompass Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and Despatch. Port Elizabeth is a city whilst Uitenhage and Despatch are towns and all belong to the greater metropolitan area known as Nelson Mandela Bay.
The City of Port Elizabeth:
Port Elizabeth (iBhayi, Die Baai) is one of the largest cities in South Africa, situated in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. 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 is the southernmost large city on the African continent, just farther south than Cape Town.
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.
In 2001 it was incorporated with Uitenhage and Despatch into the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality.
The Town of Uitenhage:
Uitenhage is a South African town in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa.
Uitenhage was founded on 25 April 1804 by landdrost (district magistrate) Jacob Glen Cuyler and named in honour of the Cape’s Commissioner-General Jacob Abraham Uitenhage de Mist by the Dutch Cape Colony governor, Jan Willem Janssens. Originally Uitenhage formed part of the district of Graaff Reinet.
In 2001 it was incorporated with Port Elizabeth and Despatch into the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality.
The Town of Despatch:
Despatch is a small town in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa situated between Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage.
The town of Despatch is situated on rich clay soil and in the late 1800s was the site of a flourishing brick industry. Despatch’s name derives from this brick industry history on the account that bricks were dispatched from the original railway siding. Many of the older buildings in Uitenhage and Port Elizabeth were built from these bricks. Most of these early bricks can be identified by the word ‘Despatch’ imprinted on the top and bottom of the brick. The only reminder of the town’s brick industry past is a chimney built in 1882 which formed part of the Brick Works. The Chimney is situated in a field on the outskirts of the town to the north next to the railway tracks. In recent years restoration work has brought it back to its former glory including supports which now give it the appearance of a space rocket.
The township of Despatch was originally developed in 1942 to offer cheaper homing alternative for its fast growing neighbours of Uitenhage and Port Elizabeth. The town obtained official municipal status in 1945 and in 2001 it jointed with Uitenhage, Port Elizabeth and surrounding areas to form the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality.
So there you have it – we have many distinct areas to call home:
- The Metropolitan Municipality of Nelson Mandela Bay,
- The City of Port Elizabeth,
- The Town of Uitenhage,
- The Town of Despatch and
- The many wards and suburbs that comprise the above.
* Metropolitan municipalities were brought about so that cities could be governed as single entities. This had not been possible under the fragmented local government structures of apartheid. A key demand of anti-apartheid civics in the 1980s was for ‘one city, one tax base’ in order to facilitate distribution of funds to areas of highest need. Local government reform after apartheid produced six Transitional Metropolitan Councils following the 1995/6 local government elections. These were characterized by a two-tier structure. From 2000, these six Metropolitan Councils were restructured into their final single-tier form. In 2011, Buffalo City (East London) and Mangaung (Bloemfontein) were added to the category of metropolitan municipality.
List of metropolitan municipalities (seat):
- Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality (East London)
- City of Cape Town Metropolitan Municipality (Cape Town)
- City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality (Johannesburg)
- City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality (Pretoria)
- Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality (Germiston)
- eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality (Durban)
- Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality (Bloemfontein)
- Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality (Port Elizabeth)