Paleontological, Historical & Cultural History

Paleontological, Historical and Cultural History

History

From about the 1800’s, early European settlers continued to use this land for grazing. They too practiced burning, and later strip ploughing. Because of the inaccessibility and the harsh arid conditions that prevailed along the coastal strip, the area was eventually principally used for low intensity grazing, as the farmers had more productive farms elsewhere.

The low intensity use of this area by farmers has meant that the veld has had time to recover naturally from grazing, burning and strip ploughing. Scars from these methods of usage are however, still in evidence today on some farms along the coastal strip.

The fact that the farms along the coastline were relatively inaccessible, were not on the electricity grid and were only used for low intensity grazing, explains why this area has for so long escaped intensive development. The coastal plain, until recently, has escaped the pressure of urban development and now represents the ‘last frontier’ against such development.

San commmunity

At the beginning of the 20th century, commercial fishing in the area emerged and gained momentum with the establishment of a whaling station at Donkergat on the Postberg Peninsula. Over time, a unique West Coast culture has developed, distinguished by a lifestyle closely linked to the sea.

Mamre originated in 1791 as a military post. A Moravian Missionary station was later established here in 1806. Pella, a sister missionary station to Mamre, was established later. In 1963, the Mamre Rural Coloured Area was proclaimed. In 1970, the Papenkuil Outspan near Pella was added by proclamation. Agriculture was practiced here on a limited scale and both settlements are predominantly rural in character.

Atlantis was established as an industrial growth point in the mid-1970’s with the aim of deconcentrating housing and development away from the Cape Metropolitan Area (CMA). Industrial development was encouraged through attractive concessions to industrialists and substantial investment in housing and community services. Although about 55 000 people currently reside in Atlantis, this scheme was not successful, and to an extent, Atlantis has became a dormitory town, with some 30% of the labour force in employment, commuting to Cape Town (WCII, 1997).

A harbour, the deepest port in Southern Africa, was built at Saldanha Bay in 1914, and in the 1970’s Saldanha Bay / Vredenburg was declared an Industrial Development Point. The Iron and Steel Corporation (ISCOR) invested in an 860 km rail-link from the Sishen mine in the Northern Cape to Saldanha, and iron ore began to be exported from Saldanha Bay. It was proposed that a steel mill be built at Saldanha. However, the plan was repeatedly postponed, mainly due to restrictions imposed by international sanctions and doubts about whether it would be possible to export the product. The industrial development potential of Saldanha Bay / Vredenburg was thus never realized. The recent construction of the Saldanha Steel mill in 1997, should promote the realisation of this long held vision of establishing Saldanha Bay as an industrial development center.

Cultural

The West Coast region is also currently the focus of one of eight Spatial Development Initiatives (SDI’s) being led by the National Departments of Trade & Industry and Transport. The intention of these SDI initiatives is to remove obstacles to investment in regions recognised as having high growth potential for internationally competitive industries, and which are linked to a port for easy trade access. The aims of these SDI’s include job creation, realising the growth potential of existing infrastructure and resources in the region, the involvement of small, medium and micro enterprises and the development of the export potential of the region through the port. The focus of the West Coast Investment Initiative is on the well-established, healthy agricultural and fishing sectors, the growing tourism sector and the dramatically expanding industrial sector (WCII, 1997).

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