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t Elephants roaming the plains of Addo Elephant National Park


The Eastern Cape is home to the Xhosa, the first of South Africa’s Bantu-speaking peoples to come into conflict with European settlers. In 1820, the British colonial administration shipped 4,000 British settlers to Port Elizabeth to buffer the established Cape Colony against the Xhosa living on the other side of the Great Fish River. Tensions came to a head in 1857, when, inspired by a visitation received by a teenage girl called Nongqawuse, the Xhosa elders ordered the sacrificial killing of 350,000 cattle and widespread burning of crops to encourage the ancestral spirits to smite the British intruders. In the wake of the ensuing famine, which left 30,000 people dead, most Xhosa chieftaincies east of the Great Fish River voluntarily succumbed to colonial rule. Under apartheid, Xhosa leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo played a major role in the struggle. The Eastern Cape was created in 1994 when the nominally independent Xhosa homelands of Transkei and Ciskei were reincorporated into South Africa and merged with the eastern part of the old Cape Province.

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