Mthatha , or Umtata, is the main city of the King Sabata Dalindyebo Local Municipality in Eastern Cape province of South Africa and the capital of OR Tambo District Municipality. The city has an Mthatha Airport, airport, previously known by the name K. D. Matanzima Airport after former leader Kaiser Matanzima. Mthatha derives its name from the nearby Mthatha River which was named after the Sneezewood (umtati) trees, famous for their wood and medicinal properties.


The settlement existed in the 1870s as a buffer-zone, in response to reported tensions between Pondo people, Pondo and neighbouring Thembu groups, and in 1875 a magistrate's office was opened, the first magistrate appointed that year being a man named J F Boyes. The settlement developed during the next few years, becoming a military post for the British colonial forces in 1882. The town itself was founded in 1883, along the banks of the Mthatha River. Nearly a century later, the Mthatha Dam was constructed about eight kilometers upstream of the town. Mthatha became the leading administrative center of the area, having both Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Anglican and Roman Catholic Church, Catholic cathedrals.The town became the headquarters of the Transkeian Territories General Council (known as the Bunga) and building which served as a parliament was erected in 1903. This was followed by the construction of the town hall in 1908. A 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. In 2005, University of Transkei with Border Technikon and Eastern Cape Technikon were merged to form the Walter Sisulu University for Technology and Science. The campus was the base for the region's first community radio station
which started in 1996 and has become a significant community broadcaster. On 1 August 1973, Mthatha High Court was opened. In 1973, a summit meeting of the black homeland leaders was held at Umtata, when they decided to federate their own states after independence. In 1976, Transkei was granted independence as a bantustan, a nominally independent state not recognised outside of South Africa, and Mthatha served as the capital under the name "Umtata". During the Transkei regime, an airport named the then leader of Transkei KD Matanzima was built. On 21 May 2012, the airport was formally handed over to Lindiwe Sisulu, then Minister of Defence, by Noxolo Kiviet, then Premier of the Eastern Cape. However, the South African National Defence Force revoked its control of the airport in 2013. The airport was renamed Mthatha Airport. After the end of apartheid, some sections of the African business and professional community migrated to traditionally white areas of economic activity, and this has been widely posited as a cause of economic recession in the municipality, but a number of construction projects offer some hope for renewal. Many of South Africa's black leaders – including Walter Sisulu, Sabelo Phama, Bantu Holomisa, and Nelson Mandela — come from this area, and the retired Mandela visited his home village of Qunu a few kilometres south of Mthatha. Mthatha is a focal point of the Nelson Mandela Route which celebrates the life of late Nelson Mandela. There are three Nelson Mandela Museums: Spread across three sites, it collects, interprets and exhibits key aspects of the story of the life and times of Nelson Mandela in context. The three historical sites of the museum are all in the locality at Mvezo, Qunu, and the Bunga Building in Mthatha itself. In the Bunga Building is the story of the ''Long Walk to Freedom'' and an exhibition of the many gifts received by Nelson Mandela. On 2 March 2004, Umtata was renamed "Mthatha".


Mthatha has 2 major taxi businesses (Uncedo Taxi Association and Border Taxi Association). These Associations had a feud over the R61 road from Mthatha to Libode and Port St. Johns. This Feud resulted in taxi ranks being closed by the Government. Over 60 fatalities were reported during the period of the feud. In 2018, the Minister of Police (South Africa), Minister of Police Bheki Cele closed all taxi ranks in Mthatha and demanded that the taxi associations negotiate with the police and said that they should merge to form one association but they refused and they started taking people legal after Bheki Cele said they shouldn't. As a result, some taxis were impounded by the police. Sagas ranks were opened in Mthatha but the ranks that were not opened triggered riots with people protesting and police firing rubber bullets and tear gas with one affecting a nearby school (St John's College). In 2019, two final year students, from the Walter Sisulu University developed groundbreaking prosthetics which will be available at an affordable price to the poor community. These students Siphosethu Mgwili and Zanodumo Godlimpi were at the university awarded the first ever WSU vice-chancellors award for most innovative prototype.


The city is the episcopal see of both the Roman Catholic Diocese of Mthatha and the Anglican Diocese of Mthatha.


Mthatha falls under OR Tambo District Municipality which is the poorest district in the Eastern Cape in terms of all poverty measures. It has the lowest HDI (0.45) and the highest poverty gap (2 231 million) in the Eastern Cape. The number of people living in poverty is also high in this district (64.6%), unemployment is at 65.5% and the literacy rate 42.2%. In 2006, it was reported the King Sabata Dalindyebo Local Municipality was owed R250 million by residents in unpaid service fees—counts among its creditors the South African Revenue Service (to which it owes R18-million), the Public Investment Commission (R84 million), the national water affairs and forestry department (R46 million) and the Development Bank of Southern Africa (R13 million). According to SA Delivery, The average annual income of a black Mthatha resident is R15,762. The town has also been plagued by complaints around its roads. Despite all that, a new dawn is beckoning for Mthatha with the construction of infrastructure like BT Ngebs Mall and Mayfair Hotel.


* Stadiums: Mthatha Stadium, Khaya Majola, Rotary * Malls: BT Ngebs Mall and Mthatha Plaza, Circus Triangle * University: Walter Sisulu University * Clinics: Ngangelizwe Clinic * Hospitals: Life St Mary's Hospital, Mthatha Private Hospital and Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital *Hotels:Mayfair Hotel,Savoy Hotel

Notable people from Mthatha

*Asavela Ndzwayiba * Nelson Bustamante Ordaz *Amanda Black * Lwazi Mvovo * Odwa Ndungane *Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams * Gregory John *Lisolethu Manciya * Mandisi Qetsele * Akona Ndungane * Alan Barrow * Bongani Mayosi *Nathi, Nkosinathi Mankayi * Bubele Mhlana * Carlo Del Fava * Jeff Hawkes * Jessica Haines * Masibusane Zongo * Ngazibini Sigwili * Odwa Ndungane * Sean Park * Lwando Ngubentombi * Siya Mdaka * Vusumuzi Masondo * Nelson Mandela *Sabelo Phama * Nambitha Mpumlwana * Chuma Dukuza * Zola Nombona * Jet Novuka * Archibald Siphiwo Nkonyeni * IFani * Busiswa * Black Coffee (DJ), Black Coffee * Athi-Patra Ruga *Kaneez Surka *Pumla Cohen *Oros Mpofu *Siphosethu Mgwili *Lunathi Mpofu * Jerry Masslo


Mthatha has a warm oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification, Köppen ''Cfb'') closely bordering on both a humid subtropical climate (''Cfa'') and a semi-arid climate (''BSh''/''BSk'').

See also

* Kei River * Mthatha River * Transkei * Mzimvubu


External links

Mthatha town websiteThe Ecological Health of the Mthatha River

Can Mthatha turn the corner?
{{Authority control Populated places in the King Sabata Dalindyebo Local Municipality Transkei Capitals of former nations Populated places established in 1876 1876 establishments in the Cape Colony