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Northern Cape Information

 


 

The capital of the Northern Cape is Kimberley. The Northern Cape is home to the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, which is part of a trans-frontier park with Botswana. It also includes the Augrabies Falls and the diamond mining regions of Kimberley and Alexander Bay. The Orange River flows through the Northern Cape and forms the border with the Free State province of South Africa and with Namibia. Northern Cape has the largest percentage of native speakers of Afrikaans of any province of South Africa.

The Northern Cape province of South Africa is mostly arid to semi-arid and only a few areas in the province receive more than 400mm of rainfall per annum. The western areas of the Northern Cape experiences most if its rainfall in winter, while the east receives most of its moisture from late summer thunderstorms. Many areas experience extreme heat, with hottest temperatures in South Africa measured along the Namibian border. Summers maximums are generally 30°C or higher, sometimes higher than 40°C. Winters are usually frosty and clear, with southern areas of the Northern Cape sometimes becoming bitterly cold.

The Northern Cape of South Africa is generally divided into three regions namely; the Namaqualand region, Kalahari and Diamond Fields region and Hantam and Upper Karoo region. One of South Africa's largest province, the Northern Cape is sparsely populated and there can be enormous distances between towns. The Northern Cape is just shy of the size of the American state of Montana and slightly larger than that of Germany.


The province is dominated by the Karoo Basin and consists mostly of sedimentary rocks and some Dolerite intrusions. The south and south-east of the Northern Cape is high-lying in the Roggeveld and Nuweveld districts. The west coast is hilly to mountainous and consists of Granites and other metamorphic rocks. The central areas of the Northern Cape are generally flat with interspersed salt pans. The northern areas of the province are primarily Kalahari Desert, characterised by parallel red sand dunes and acacia tree dry savanna. The Northern Cape has a shoreline in the west on the South Atlantic Ocean. The Northern Cape is famous for the diamond mines around the Kimberley area. The economic activity in the Northern Cape is not limited to mining though with a substantial agricultural area around the Orange River which includes most of South Africa's sultana vineyards.

History of the Northern Cape

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The Northern Cape was one of three provinces carved out of the Cape Province in 1994, the others being Western Cape to the south and Eastern Cape to the southeast. Politically, it had been dominated since 1994 by the ANC. Ethnic issues are important in the politics of the Northern Cape. For example, it is the site of the controversial Orania settlement, whose leaders have called for a Volkstaat for the Afrikaner people in the province. The Northern Cape is also the home of over 1,000 San who immigrated from Namibia following the independence of the country; they had served as trackers and scouts for the South African government during the war, and feared reprisals from their former foes. They were awarded a settlement in Platfontein in 1999 by the Mandela government.

The pre colonial history of the Northern Cape is reflected in a rich, mainly Stone Age, archaeological heritage. Cave sites include Wonderwerk Cave near Kuruman, which has a uniquely long sequence stretching from the turn of the twentieth century at the surface to more than 1 million (and possibly nearly 2 million) years in its basal layer (where stone tools, occurring in very low density, may be Oldowan). Many sites across the province, mostly in open air locales or in sediments alongside rivers or pans, document Earlier, Middle and Later Stone Age habitation. From Later Stone Age times, mainly, there is a wealth of rock art sites – most of which are in the form of rock engravings such as at Wildebeest Kuil and many sites in the area known as Xam -ka !kau, in the Karoo. They occur on hilltops, slopes, rock outcrops and occasionally (as in the case of Driekops Eiland near Kimberley), in a river bed. In the north eastern part of the province there are sites attributable to the Iron Age such as Dithakong. Environmental factors have meant that the spread of Iron Age farming westwards (from the 17th century – but dating from the early first millennium AD in the eastern part of South Africa) was constrained mainly to the area east of the Langeberg Mountains, but with evidence of influence as far as the Upington area in the eighteenth century. From that period the archaeological record also reflects the development of a complex colonial frontier when precolonial social formations were considerably disrupted and there is an increasing 'fabric heavy' imprint of built structures, ash-heaps, and so on. The copper mines of Namaqualand and the diamond rush to the Kimberley area resulted in industrial archaeological landscapes in those areas which herald the modern era in South African history.

All archaeological traces in the Northern Cape that are greater than 100 years old are automatically protected by the South African Heritage Resources Act, while some are formally protected by declaration as either Provincial Heritage Sites (e.g. Wildebeest Kuil and Nooitgedacht) or National Heritage Sites (e.g. Wonderwerk Cave). The archaeology of the Richtersveld is part of the universal cultural value recognised in the area’s listing as a World Heritage Site, while sites included on South Africa's Tentative List for World Heritage inscription include Wonderwerk Cave and the Xam and Khomani heartland.

Northern Cape Geography

 

The Northern Cape is South Africa's largest province, and distances between towns are enormous due to its sparse population. Its size is just shy of the size of the American state of Montana and slightly larger than that of Germany. The province is dominated by the Karoo Basin and consists mostly of sedimentary rocks and some Dolerite intrusions. The south and south-east of the province is high-lying (1200m-1900m) in the Roggeveld and Nuweveld districts. The west coast is dominated by the Namaqualand region, famous for its spring flowers. This area is hilly to mountainous and consists of Granites and other metamorphic rocks. The central areas are generally flat with interspersed salt pans. Kimberlite intrusions punctuate the Karoo rocks, giving the province its most precious natural resource, Diamonds. The north is primarily Kalahari Desert, characterised by parallel red sand dunes and acacia tree dry savanna. Northern Cape has a shoreline in the west on the South Atlantic Ocean. It borders the following areas of Namibia and Botswana: Karas Region, Namibia - north west, Hardap Region, Namibia - far north west, Kgalagadi District, Botswana - north. Domestically, it borders the following provinces: North West - north east.Free State - east, Eastern Cape - south east, Western Cape - south and south west

The major river system is the Orange (or Gariep) River Basin, draining the interior of South Africa westwards into the Atlantic Ocean. (The political philosopher Neville Alexander has used the idea of the ‘Garieb’ as a metaphor for nationhood in South Africa, a flowing together, in preference to the rainbow metaphor where the diverse, distinct colours remain distinct). The principal tributary of the Orange is the Vaal River which flows through part of the Northern Cape from the vicinity of Warrenton, which in turn has tributaries within the province, the Harts River and the Riet River with its own major tributary, the Modder River. Above the Orange-Vaal confluence the Seekoei River drains part of the north eastern Karoo into the Orange River above the Van der Kloof Dam. Next downstream from the Orange-Vaal confluence is the Brak River which flows non-perennially from the south and is in turn fed by the Ongers River, rising in the vicinities of Hanover and Richmond respectively. Along the Orange River near the town of Kakamas the Hartebeest River drains the central Karoo. Above Kenhardt the Hartebeest is known as the Sak River which has its source on the northern side of the escarpment, south east of Williston. Further downstream from Kakamas, below the Augrabies Falls, and seldom actually flowing into the Orange River, is the Molopo River, which comes down from the Kalahari in the north. With its tributary, the Nossob River, it defines part of the international boundary between South Africa and Botswana. Further tributaries of the Molopo River include the Kuruman River, fed by the Moshaweng River and Kgokgole River, and the Matlhwaring River. Flowing west into the Atlantic, in Namaqualand, is the Buffels River and, further south, the Groen River.

Northern Cape Climate

 

Mostly arid to semi-arid, few areas in the province receive more than 400mm of rainfall per annum. Rainfall generally increases from west to east. The west experiences most rainfall in winter, while the east receives most of its moisture from late summer thunderstorms. Many areas experience extreme heat, with hottest temperatures in South Africa measured along the Namibian border. Summers maximums are generally 30°C or higher, sometimes higher than 40°C. Winters are usually frosty and clear, with southern areas sometimes becoming bitterly cold, such as Sutherland, which often receives snow and temperatures occasionally drop below the -10°C mark.

  • Kimberley averages: January maximum: 33°C (min: 18°C), June maximum: 18°C (min: 3°C), annual precipitation: 414mm
  • Springbok averages: January maximum: 30°C (min: 15°C), July maximum: 17°C (min: 7°C), annual precipitation: 195mm
  • Sutherland averages: January maximum: 27°C (min: 9°C), July maximum: 13°C (min: -3°C), annual precipitation: 237m

Northern Cape Economy

 

Most famous for the diamond mines around Kimberley, the Northern Cape also has a substantial agricultural area around the Orange River, including most of South Africa's sultana vineyards. Some Wine of Origin areas have been demarcated. Extensive sheep raising is the basis of the economy in the southern Karoo areas of the province.

The Northern Cape wine regions located along the Orange river includes the hottest wine producing areas in South Africa. Wine production here was slow to take root, delayed to the 1960s when better irrigation and temperature control fermentation technology became available. Today the area is responsible for nearly 12% of all the wine produced in South Africa-mostly by large co-operatives for bulk wine production. The Hartswater region, located 50 miles (80 km) north of Kimberley is South Africa's northernmost wine region.

Northern Cape Demographics

 

About 68% of the population speak Afrikaans, with other languages being Setswana, Xhosa and English. The last remaining true San (Bushmen) people live in the Kalahari area of the Northern Cape. The area, especially along the Orange and Vaal rivers, is rich in San rock engravings. A good collection can be seen at the McGregor Museum in Kimberley. The province is also rich in fossils.

Namaqualand

Kalahari & Diamondfields

Hantam & Upper Karoo


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