Umtata, Eastern Cape, South Africa




Umtata, founded in 1879, was declared the capital of the Transkei, the homeland of the Xhosa. As a 'present' for their independence, South Africa donated the University of the Transkei. Today, about 4,000 students are enrolled in Umtata.

This smallish city on the banks of the Umtata River was the capital of the nominally independent Bantustan of the Transkei during the apartheid era. It is the largest town in the Transkei region and is quite central. If travelling to Port St Johns, you'd need to turn off here, and the turn-off to Coffee Bay is 20km on the East London side of town.

It is a pretty typical little African town, with fuel stations, fast food joints and not much else to attract visitors, but it is a convenient place to stop, refuel and rest en route to the coast or to or from KwaZulu-Natal. The greatest attraction of Umtata is the Nelson Mandela Museum in the Bhunga Building in Owen Street. The modern museum displays a substantial variety of historic ducuments and photos of Madiba's 'Long Way to Freedom'.

There are large, efficient fuel complexes with fast-food joints, etc. Umtata Airport handles flights only to and from Johannesburg. It is on the N2, about 250km north of East London, and about 400km south of Durban.