Bisho & King Williams Town, Eastern Cape, South Africa




Bisho, which means 'Buffalo' in Xhosa, is the capital of the Eastern Cape but it seems to be dominated by the nearby King Williamstown, which is much older. In fact, these two towns are virtually one, being only a few kilometres apart. Bisho was named after the song by Ben Tyazashe who wrote of his longing for his home, Bisho, his name for King Williams Town.

Bisho lies 3 km east of King William's Town. Bisho's major structures include government buildings, a hotel and casino complex, a branch of the University of Fort Hare, and a sports stadium. The nearest airport is at East London, 56 km away. Hiking is a must due to the Amatola Mountains, covered by age old forests.

King Williams Town:

This town has some interesting old buildings and is the home of the Kaffrarian Museum in which there is a display of the stuffed hippo called Huberta who went walkabout from her original home in northern KwaZulu-Natal and got as far as Kingwilliamstown before she was shot by a trigger-happy farmer.

It's a long story and a very interesting one but more serious visitors will probably be interested in the grave and home of Steve Biko - one of the more notable of the apartheid era liberation struggle martyrs. This is also one of those trips which is best done with a knowledgeable guide otherwise much of the meaning may be lost.

History:

From 1981 until 1994 Bisho served as the capital of Ciskei, one of the ten bantustans (or black homelands) created as part of South Africa's system of apartheid, or separation of the races. In September 1992 at least 28 people were killed and 200 wounded when Ciskei troops fired on 70,000 antiapartheid protesters gathered in the sports stadium in Bisho.

The protesters, who were connected to the African National Congress (ANC), were demanding that the military leader of Ciskei's government, Brigadier Oupa Gqozo, step down. At the time of South Africa's first free elections in April 1994, Ciskei and the rest of the bantustans were reintegrated into South Africa, and Bisho became the capital of the new province of Eastern Cape.

The inhabitants of the former Ciskei Republic are mainly from the Xhosa and Mfengu tribes. The Xhosa migrated to this area between 1660 and 1670 and in the early 18th century the Xhosa were involved in skirmishes with the encroaching white settlers