The Port of Port Elizabeth lies on the Algoa Bay off the Indian Ocean on South Africa's southern shores in Eastern Cape Province about 11 nautical miles south-southwest of the Port of Ngqura and 215 nautical miles east of the Port of Mossel Bay. The Port of Port Elizabeth extends to both banks of the Baakens River's on a high plateau. Administered by the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality, the Port of Port Elizabeth is home to over 237 thousand people, and more than a million call the urban area home.
With cheap power and water, it is one of South Africa's most productive manufacturing centers, with the automotive industry dominating the local economy. Port Elizabeth is home to many automotive companies that include Volkswagen, General Motors, and Ford among others. A busy seaport, the Port of Port Elizabeth handles imports for its hinterland as well as the inland countries of Zimbabwe and Zambia. The Port of Port Elizabeth has the busiest ore-loading facilities in the southern hemisphere, and new port facilities are being constructed at nearby Coega.
In 1820, four thousand British settlers arrived at Port Elizabeth by sea to reinforce the border between the British Cape Colony and the Xhosa tribe of warriors and to protect the Cape Colony from the French. Founder of Port Elizabeth, Sir Rufane Donkin named the town after his dead wife, Lady Elizabeth.
The modern suburb of Summerstrand Beach was owned by Piet Retief in the early 19th Century. A leader of the Voortrekker who emigrated from the Cape Colony to inland South Africa, Retief was killed by Zulu King Dingane in 1837 when about 500 people in his party were massacred.
The new town attracted residents from Europe, Cape Malay, and other places. After 1873 when the railroad was built to Kimberley, the rate of growth increased substantially. In 1861, Port Elizabeth received the status of an autonomous municipality. At the turn of the century during the Second Boer War, the British constructed a concentration camp in Port Elizabeth to hold Boer women and children.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the face of Port Elizabeth changed dramatically. The university was moved from the historic old town to the outskirts, beginning an era of decline for the old city center. A network of highways, interchanges, and viaducts was also built along the coastline and over the old district, destroying much of the center city's historic property and charm. Anticipating the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Port Elizabeth is working to upgrade its harbor, waterfront, and city center.
During the apartheid era, non-whites were forced to move out of Port Elizabeth, creating several townships in the area. In 1965, the whole South End district was razed to take advantage of its valuable real estate. Forced relocations continued until 1975. In 1977, the Port Elizabeth police tortured Steve Biko before he was moved to Pretoria to die.
Since the end of apartheid and the free elections of 1994, Port Elizabeth has thrived on tourism, real estate development, and new industries. It has also had to deal with the common South African problems of HIV/AIDS and drug-related crime. The Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality was formed in 2001, covering Port Elizabeth and the nearby towns of Uitenhage and Despatch as well as surrounding agricultural lands making up the administrative area that was home to about 1.3 million people in 2006.