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Open Africa

Inyathi Buffalo Route


Steve Biko Garden of Remembrance
At the garden of remembrance, you can visit the grave of Steve Biko, one of South Africa's most famous political martyrs...



Below is a list of accommodation establishments along this route. Bookings and enquiries can be made directly with the establishment.

Luke's Guesthouse
This guesthouse is an ideal stop over for business travellers visiting the Eastern Cape government departments. The gues...

PM Motel
PM Motel is approximately 3.5km away from Bisho, the capital of the Eastern Cape. It is also located reasonably close to...

Sandile Mngqesha Great Place Accommodation and Conference Facilities
In the heart of Rharhabe Kingdom lies the Mngqesha Great Place, headquarters of the King Sandile Development Trust. Sand...

Tumies B&B
Tumie’s is a typical township home in Mdantsane and offers tourists an opportunity to experience life in the towns...

Likhaya Guesthouse
Likhaya Guesthouse is a two star establishment, situated in King Williams Town. Of the four rooms, three have en-suite b...

Khiwane Community Lodge
A planned, public private partnership, initiative that  invests in community tourism. The lodge was developed with...

Mdantsane Community Lodge
A planned tourism investment initiative (Community Public Private Partnership) with meaningful participation of the comm...


Below is a list of arts and crafts outlets and projects on this route. Booking and enquiries can be made directly with the business.

Indwe Tours
  Sunrise safari:  The safari leaves before dawn for game-viewing in the area and returns via the Amathole...

Imonti Tours
Imonti Tours was established in 2003 and is a black-owned, new generation company. They aim to provide their customers w...

   Arts & Crafts

Below is a list of arts and crafts outlets and projects on this route. Enquiries can be made directly with the business.

Alphendale Arts & Crafts Developers
This project at the school is accommodated in the motor workshop, where an area has been set aside for ceramic work and...

Blossom Crafters
Blossom Crafters is owned by two local women and was founded in 2001. They have vast experience in beading and produce a...

Hluma Home Industry
Hluma Home Industry started operating in 1997 as a sewing project by three women. They do fabric painting, tie dye and a...

Iza Crafts
Iza Crafts is a dream come true for Thembeka Metele, who has grown her business from a small home-based operation with o...

Masikhule Craft
Masikhule Craft was started in 2002 by unemployed women who needed to generate an income. They make traditional clothing...

Masonwabe Crafters
Masonwabe Crafters started in February 2004 by making necklaces. The business is slowly developing and now also makes be...

Mazikhali Leather Craft
Tenjiwe tells the story of how a radio advert changed his life fourteen years ago when he decided to quit his job as a m...

Uzubenathi Crafts
Uzubenathi Crafts is located in Zwelitsha Township near King William's Town. The township was part if the former Ciskei...

Vukani Old Age Centre
The centre was opened on 27 February 1996 as an endeavour to combat poverty, malnutrition and loneliness among the aged....

Siyakha Community Support Centre
Siyaka Community Support Centre started in June 1998 due to extensive research that was conducted in the disadvantaged c...

Ibuyambo Cultural Enterprise
Ibuyambo sells crafts, paintings and cultural clothing in East London. They have three stalls that they decorate to sell...


Below is a list of environmental attractions on this route. Booking and enquiries can be made directly with the business.

Buffalo City Municipality - Department of Sport
Contact Hastings to find out more about the performing arts groups in and around Buffalo City. Some of these groups incl...

Mngqesha Great Place of Tourism Initiative
Mngqesha Great Place Tourism Initiative is an expanding eco-agro tourism product within the historical site of the Kingd...

Mdantsane Tourism Development Centre
The Mdantsane Tourism Development Centre is an Urban Renewal partnership between Amathole District Municipality and Buff...

   Food & Drink

Below is a list of restaurants and other food and beverage outlets on this route. Bookings and enquiries can be made directly with the establishment.

MAN Buy & Braai - King William's Town
Mbulelo opened a butchery in 1999 after he was retrenched at work. The business soon developed and an entertainment area...


Below is a list of services on this route. Enquiries can be made directly with the business.

King William's Town Tourism Development and Interpretation Centre
Planned and prioritized, partnership with National Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism's Social Responsibili...


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There are about half-a-million people living in Buffalo City and the surrounding townships. The township of Mdantsane, 20km from the city, was established in 1962 as part of the government's racist apartheid policies. The objective of these townships or locations was to provide living space for cheap African labour on the outskirts of urban areas. It is now the largest town in the area, with a population of more than 250 000. It is the second-largest township in South Africa after Soweto.

Buffalo City boasts with a variety of tourist attractions and is rich in cultural and natural resources. The 68km of coastline includes 10 estuaries, conservancies, natural heritage sites, rocky shores and 14 sandy beaches. It is also South Africa's only river port, set on both the broad Buffalo and Nahoon Rivers and has the Gonubie River flowing around it. It is known as the gateway to the region's tourist corridors namely the Sunshine Coast and the Wild Coast.

Reasons to visit

The area is well suited to community tourism, ecotourism and historical tourism, especially that relating to the anti-apartheid struggle as many of South Africa's past and present political leaders hail from the region. King Williams' Town was home to Steve Biko, South Africa's father of Black Consciousness.

The Indian Ocean coastline is one of the main features of the Eastern area, the warm Mozambique current that flows past the coastline results in mild to warm water, good for swimming and fishing. The East London Museum probably has some of the most comprehensive natural history exhibits in South Africa, including the first coelacanth.

The coelacanth (Latimeria chalummae) is a primitive fish that has fins resembling stumpy legs. Until a specimen was caught off the Chalumna River near East London in 1938, the coelacanth had only been known from fossil remains and was believed to have been extinct for some 80-million years.

There is a long-standing tradition of beadwork in the area and many examples of this art can be seen along the route. Tourists interested in arts and crafts will have the opportunity to view fine examples of this ancient art.

Discovery Surfers Challenge
 2015 dates TBC
Where:  Kewelerha River, Yellow Sands, East London    
A 17.5km race that pits paddlers, walkers and runners compete against each other for the prestigious winner’s T-shirt. The event focuses on healthy competition, but also gives the whole family a chance to take part in paddling, walking and running. A running, walking and paddling challenge race. Beat the cut-off time and the coveted challenge T-shirt is yours. Paying Event - Participating fee

Merrifield Mile
 2015 dates TBC
Where:  Merrifield Preparatory School and College, N6, East London
Contact Person:  Tracey
Tel:  +27 43 748 6094
The swim takes place in the Wriggleswade Dam mouth near Stutterheim - approximately 65km from East London. It is an idyllic setting and a wonderful place/event for the whole family. Bring your own tents, caravans and a picnic basket and come and make a weekend of it.

East London Show
25 - 29 April 2014
Where: East London Show Grounds, Gonubie Farmers Hall
Contact Person: Belinda Fischl (Show Secretary)
Mob:  +27 72 288 5790
Fax:  +27 86 688 5872 (Fiona Eveleigh)
Entertainment of on various ongoing events including  horse events, cattle auctions, poultry section, indoor and outdoor flea markets, fun fair, bumper car rides and food stalls.

The Eastern Cape has played an important role in South African history. It was here, in the latter half of the 18th century, where black and white met for the first time. For many years this region was the contact zone between these two groups. The consequences of this delicate and somewhat unstable relationship made a lasting impression on the history of modern South Africa. Today, almost 200 years later, the Buffalo City community reflects this turbulent past in the kaleidoscope of its rich cultural heritage and proud history.

History of Buffalo City

Long before the ensuing black-white contact of the 18th century, man had already left his mark in this area. The discovery of the Nahoon footprints in 1964 dates human presence in the area to about 200 000 years ago, making Buffalo City the site of the world's oldest fossilized human footprints. Though very little is known about this archaic anatomically modern man, he is described as robust and strong, typical of the time zone when early man evolved into modern man.

More archaeological findings in the form of shell middens and cave shelters decorated with rock art are scattered along the coast and in the mountain ranges. This confirms the presence of a much later and familiar version of mankind, namely the Khoisan. Khoisan is a collective term used to describe both the San (Bushmen) and the Khoikhoi (Hottentots). It suggests that the Khoikhoi in origin were hunter-gatherers (San) who inhabited northern Botswana, then, due to economic change, transformed into the pastoral Khoikhoi (herders), who subsequently immigrated southwards. By 1600 they were distributed widely across South Africa with numerous societies inhabiting the Eastern Cape's river valleys.

Shipwreck survivors first came across Bantu-speaking people in 1554 along the east coast at Port St Johns. Historical documents further prove this presence south of the Umtata River long before the end of the 16th century. Originating from East Africa in about AD1200, Bantu-speaking tribes moved down into south-western Southern Africa and eventually settled in what is today known as KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape. These immigrants were the ancestors of present day Nguni, Sotho and Tsonga. By the late 18th century these major groupings had themselves become differentiated culturally. The southernmost groups settled in the area south of the Umzimvubu River and are commonly known as the Xhosa. Before the appearance of white farmers on the frontier, the Khoisan and Xhosa co-existed peacefully, insofar that intermarriage took place. One Khoikhoi tribe, the Gonaqua, became absorbed by the Xhosa-speakers as the Gqunukwebe.

The 19th century saw the establishment of Cape Colonial society and the emergence of the trekboer as the Cape's first white frontiersman. Forced by economic factors and the stringent colonial legislation, the trekboers proceeded inland in search of available grazing and freedom. The Cape Government, fearing for the safety of the trekboers, proclaimed the Fish River as the new eastern border of the Cape Colony in 1778.

The Fish River was the first border between white and black, introducing a century of intensive conflict. Nine wars (frontier wars) were fought between 1778 and 1878. Each war revolved around the issue of land possession. The wars demanded the constant import of soldiers to the frontier and provision to sustain them. Military defence posts, forts and headquarters were established all over the region. King William's Town was established as the military headquarters of the CMR in 1874, and East London (now Buffalo City) became the disembarkation point of cargo for the forces stationed in the interior. Relics from this period, such as forts, graves and battle sites, are scattered all over Buffalo City territory. These include the Military Reserve in King William's Town and Fort Glamorgan on East London's West Bank.

In an attempt to lower the tension on the eastern frontier, Sir George Grey, Governor of the Cape Colony, introduced a scheme where large numbers of Europeans would be settled in the territory between the Kei and Keiskamma Rivers (known as British Kaffraria). He thought that this would not only strengthen the defence of the Colony, but also expose blacks to European standards of education and medical treatment. In King William's Town, Grey Hospital, built in 1857, became the first hospital to train black nurses. His immigration scheme materialised in the form of the 1857-59 German Settler import into British Kaffraria. In total, about 3 000 immigrants settled in the region. They were mainly agriculturalists, though many became prominent traders and later businessmen contributing to the commercial development of the region. Today their monuments and the numerous towns in the region (Berlin, Frankfort, Braunschweig, Breidbach and Stutterheim) bear witness to their pioneering achievements.

During this period, a catastrophic episode in South African history, namely the Xhosa Cattle Killing, took place. It all started in 1856 when the young niece of chief councillor Mhalakaza, Nongqawuse, experienced a vision while fetching water. The vision entailed the sacrifice of all cattle and grain, and refraining from sowing. If the Xhosa did this, the vision claimed, their ancestors would rise from the dead and the Whites, Mfengu and unbelievers would be swept into the sea. In the midst of the European onslaught on Xhosa territory and identity, the Xhosa Cattle Killing of 1857 appeared as salvation for the Xhosa nation. But, as time passed, the country starved, thousands died and no resurrection took place. The Xhosa nation, broken and destitute, was dispersed over the Colony looking for food and employment. It would take the Xhosa many years to regain its former pride, but by then white governance had claimed almost all available land.

The roots of black consciousness in South Africa are found in the Eastern Cape. By the 1880's various discriminatory laws had been proclaimed, restricting the activities and lifestyle of non-whites. In 1878 the East London Town Council banned all blacks from town between sunset and sunrise. This was followed by more discriminatory laws. Without voting rights, black protest gave birth to black consciousness and like-minded organisations. The first of these, Imbumba Eliso Lomzi Yabantsundu (Union of Native Vigilance Association), was established in King William's Town in 1887. In East London Rev Walter Rubusana, educated at Lovedale College, took the lead in protest. The first black-owned newspapers date from this era. John Tengu Jabavu, educated at Healdtown, was the owner-editor of Imvo Zabantsundu. And in East London, one of the first black-managed newspapers, Izwi Labantu, became the mouthpiece of black consciousness. 

The 20th century introduced economic and political trends that were to affect Africans for the rest of the century. In light of their continued political exclusion, and the proclamation of the Land Act in 1913, Africans became more active in their protests. The South African Native National Congress (SANNC) was established in 1912, and became the African National Congress (ANC) in 1923. The most significant non-Black organisation of the early 20th century was the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) established in Cape Town in 1919 among the Cape dockworkers. The founder, Clemens Kadalie, is buried in the Cambridge Cemetery, East London.

In 1948 the Nationalist Party came into power and introduced a policy of segregation, better known as apartheid. Apartheid legislation became the focal point of black resistance in South Africa. One such law, the Group Areas Act of 1950, enforced residential apartheid. It entailed the removal of all non-whites from the white areas to specific allocated areas, usually some distance from town. These reserved areas became known as 'locations', where Coloureds, Blacks and Asians were settled separately. Duncan Village, Mdantsane, Breidbach, Schornville, Ilitha and Dimbaza are examples of such reserved areas. These non-white 'townships' today have become very popular tourist destinations, as examples of transitional, urban life.

The 1970s marked the start of the road to independence for Bantu areas. In the 1970s an ethnically demarcated territory was allocated to create the homeland Ciskei. Mdantsane, Zwelitsha, Dimbaza and Bisho fell into this territory. The Ciskei gained independence in 1981 with Bisho as its capital. It brought a considerable inflow of wealth through the establishment of industries, which took advantage of certain incentives, such as favourable tax and labour concessions, created by the nationalist government. Dimbaza was developed into an industrial zone, while Mdantane mainly served the purpose of a dormitory town. But despite the initial prosperity, the Ciskei remained a poor country. Independence and the authoritarian rule of President L Sebe caused the area to be politically unstable with regular outbursts of unrest. Of particular significance were the bus-boycotts of 1983 when clashes took place in Mdantsane with the loss of lives. The Ciskei ceased to exist in 1994, when it was reincorporated into the Republic following the first democratic election in South African history. Today Bisho forms a core suburb of King William's Town and is the seat of the provincial government of the Eastern Cape Province.

The Eastern Cape has produced a number of prominent leaders, including Robert Sobukwe (PAC), Oliver Tambo, Chris Hani, both former President Nelson Mandela and President Thabo Mbeki, and Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko. Buffalo City is within driving distance of the international attraction, the Nelson Mandela Museum Complex in Umtata and Qunu. It pays tribute to our former president's legacy. Within Buffalo City some of the struggle monuments include Walter Rubusana's grave in Braelyn (EL); Steve Biko Statue (EL); the Steve Biko Garden of Remembrance (KWT); the Bisho Massacre Site (Bisho); Bus-boycott Memorial (Mdantsane); and the Daily Dispatch building (EL). Under the editorship of Donald Woods, the Daily Dispatch became a mouthpiece for black consciousness in South Africa.

The life of Steven Bantu Biko (1946-1977)

Steve Biko was a young black politician who died under brutal and degrading circumstances during the apartheid period. Biko's life reflected the lot of frustrated young black intellectuals. In his death he became a symbol of the martyrdom of black nationalists whose struggle focused critical world attention on South Africa more strongly than at any time since Sharpeville in 1960.

Biko was a black consciousness exponent who developed intellectually and emerged with others out of the changing literate African population in the major urban centres during the 1960s. Biko and his student colleagues had been receptive to the political ideas expressed by many black intellectuals and they learnt to use the sheer emotional power of the message of black consciousness with bitter assertiveness. Several young liberal white leaders of the National Union of South African Students (Nusas) were moved by the black cause and tried to protect politically active black students from government counter-action by speaking out for them. In a backlash of reaction white students disaffiliated themselves from Nusas. This swing to the right left no channels for black students to express their anti-apartheid feelings. In the period 1967-68, one of the students who began to analyse and criticise the situation was Steve Biko, a medical student at Natal University. Biko, the son of a government clerk, was born in King William’s Town. Though Christian principles had meaning for him, Biko, who was an articulate youth, resented whites influencing the thinking of the future of Africans.

At Wentworth, Natal University's medical school for blacks, he was elected to the Student's Representative Council (SRC), and in 1967 participated as a delegate to a Nusas conference at Rhodes University. Here, black students were affronted when the host university prohibited mixed accommodation and eating facilities at the conference site. Black students were drawn to Biko in frank discussions about their dilemma as second-class citizens. At the University Christian Movement (UCM) meeting at Stutterheim in 1968 these usually reserved young people were enthusiastically supportive of Biko's idea for an exclusively all-black movement. In 1969, at the University of the North near Pietersburg, African students launched a blacks-only student union, the South African Students' Organisation. Saso made clear its common allegiance to the philosophy of black consciousness. Biko was elected president.

Biko was scathingly critical of white liberals who, according to him, could skillfully extract what suited them from the exclusive pool of white privileges; and he was resentful that blacks were experiencing a situation from which they were unable to escape. According to him blacks had to go at it alone.

South Africa's complex society of blacks accepted these negative ideas with mixed reactions. The idea that blacks might determine their own destiny, the movement's pride in black consciousness, and a new Africanism swept black campuses, strongly influencing those who had experienced the frustrations of the system of Bantu Education, of continual disrespect and feelings of inferiority to whites. In a short time Saso became identified with Black Power and African humanism.

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Open Africa Routes

A route is a cluster of travel attractions, accommodation, tour operators, local artisans, guides and restaurants. It brings people together from all levels of community to promote travel to their area. You select what interests you on a route and create your own itinerary.

South Africa - Eastern Cape

South Africa - Eastern Cape

Buffalo City boasts a variety of tourist attractions and is rich in cultural and natural resources. The 68km coastline includes 10 estuaries, conservancies, natural heritage sites, rocky shores and 14 sandy beaches.

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township culture arts-and-craft heritage


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