This part of the South Africa remains steeped in
the Xhosa traditions with many women still wearing
ochre-coloured dresses with turbans-like
headdresses, wire bracelets and white clay on their
faces and bodies.
boys still observe the coming-of-age ceremony called
Khwetha and women carry jars of water on their
heads. Domestic animals dawdle along the road sides.
Originally a military post for the colonial
forces in 1882, the town itself was founded in 1883,
along the banks of the Mthatha River.
Mthatha became the leading administrative centre
of the area, having both an Anglican and Catholic
cathedral. From 1976 to 1994, Mthatha served as the capital
of the Transkei Bantustan, under the name of Umtata.
branch of the University of Fort Hare was
established in the town, and after the
"independence" of the
Transkei in 1977 it became the
University of Transkei, which has since been
integrated into the Walter Sisulu University for
Technology and Science. The campus was the base for
the region's first community radio station, UCRFM,
which started in 1996 and has become a significant
Many of South Africa's black leaders �
Walter Sisulu and
Nelson Mandela �
come from this area, and the retired Mandela
still lives in his home village of Qunu some
miles south of Mthatha.
Mthatha is the home of one of the three
Nelson Mandela Museums. Spread across three
towns, Mthatha, Mvezo and Qunu, it collects,
interprets and exhibits key aspects of the
story, life and times of
Mthatha still retains many of its
earliest buildings, of the neoclassical
style so popular in colonial times,
including the Town Hall - a sandstone
building completed in 1908.
The Bunga - a domed building that served
as the seat of the Transkei Parliament - is
now part of the Nelson Mandela Museum,
containing a number of gifts given to him by
other countries and nationalities whilst he
The Mthatha dam, constructed about eight
kilometre upstream of the town, has some
lovely picnic spots and is a hive of water