Two groups of indigenous people were said to be amongst the first tribes to settle in
1. the San hunters (Bushmen) who lived in the inland valleys and gorges
2. the Khoisan (Inqua Hottentots) who lived at the coast and along the Gamtoos River
The Khoisan people no longer exist due to the diseases bought to the area by the Europeans
and tribal wars.
The Bantu (Xhosa)
The Bantu (Xhosa) arrived after the San and Khoisan and settled along the Sundays
River. The Bantu originate from a mix of the Negro Agriculturists (West Africa) and
Hamitic pastoralists (North East Africa). They migrated South in different groups over a
period of centuries. The Bantu language consists of 200 languages with many different
dialects. The Bantu are divided into different groups called Northern, Southern, Eastern
and Western Bantu. The Bantu in the Eastern Cape are all part of the Southern Bantu,
called the Nguni and sometimes referred to as the Xhosa. The Xhosa language was used in
early days by the missionaries as the language of the pulpit. It is now one of the
official languages of South Africa.
Bartholomew Diaz sailed into the "Bay" over 500 years ago and anchored briefly
off Santa Cruz (formerly known as St. Croix).
Vasco da Gama sailed past in 1497 and noted the Bird Islands.
For hundreds of years, Port Elizabeth was referred to on navigational charts as a
"landing place with fresh water".
In 1576, Manuel de Mesquita Perestrello named the "Bay" as "Baia de
On 6 June 1820, Sir Rufane Donkin, Acting Governor of the Cape Colony at the time, named
the city PORT ELIZABETH after his late wife, Elizabeth. At this time 4 000 British
Settlers had arrived and become the first permanent British residents in South Africa.