The entrance to the Bay World complex in Port Elizabeth.

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Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and Despatch

Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and Despatch are three towns in close proximity that, together, form the greater Nelson Mandela Bay Metro in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Port Elizabeth is, by far, the largest of these three entities, but Uitenhage and Despatch each play their own important role in the heritage, culture and industrial contribution of the Metro as a whole.

Today, Uitenhage is known for being the home of the international industry giant, Volkswagen South Africa. This remains the biggest car factory in the country and, astoundingly, on the African continent. As a result, Uitenhage is frequented by international visitors that are performing site inspections or conducting important meetings at the plant.

Uitenhage dates back to the early 19th century, when it was founded by the district magistrate, Jacob Glen Cuyler, on 25 April 1804. The Dutch Cape Colony’s governor (Jan Willem Janssens) named the town after the Cape’s Commissioner-General, Jacob Abraham Uitenhage de Mist. This means that it is pronounced as “ait-en-har-ga”, rather than its common pronunciation of “you-ten-hage”. In 1877, Uitenhage became a municipality in its own right, breaking away from the nearby inland town of Graaff-Reinet. Then, in 2001, Uitenhage was merged with Despatch and Port Elizabeth to form the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro.

Despatch’s history only goes back to 1942, making this a relatively new area by modern terms. This was originally a railway siding in the late 19th century from where bricks were despatched for building, hence the name by which it is still known today. Despatch still has many of the old buildings that were constructed with these bricks, including beautiful old churches, which stand as cultural reminders of its humble beginnings. Despatch obtained status as an independent municipality in 1945. Today, it is still home to fewer than 50 000 people.

Despatch is approximately 20 minutes’ drive from the Port Elizabeth city centre, and Uitenhage is a further 10 minutes from there.

The Despatch Museum remains a delightful experience. The original bricks that put this town on the map, so to speak, are on display, along with the names and profiles of famous sports personalities that originally hail from this area. These ones include Danie Gerber, Adri Geldenhuys and Charl Matthys.

Here is the community-business website of Uitenhage: http://www.uitenhage.org/