Durban

In the beginning it appeared as if the present harbour of Durban consisted of a great lagoon that was fed by streams. About 100 million years ago the entire coastline subsided beneath the sea and eventually rose again, but to a lower level than before its submergence. The former lagoon had become a bay almost landlocked by two elevated spits of sand formed from the silt that was brought down by the lsipingo River. The two sand spits are called The Point, and in the south the Bluff.

A few African people, mainly of the Lala tribe, found sanctuary in the forest around what they called Thekwini (the lagoon) and in the bush of the high ridge of the Bluff, known to them as siBubulungu (the long, bulky thing).

Durban originated with a scattering of wattle-and-daub shacks, half hidden in the dense coastal forest. In 1834 the white population of Port Natal increased to about thirty people and 1835 Captain Allan Francis Gardiner arrived to start missionary work. On 23 June 1835 at a qenere! meeting at which Gardiner presided, it was decided to establish a town and to call it Durban in honour of Sir Benjamin D’Urban, popular governor of the Cape (It was previously known as Port Natal). Strict municipal regulations were drafted and a town plan was drawn up which provided for broad streets, market squares and sites for churches and public holdings.

In 1838 disaster overtook the little town. After the murder of Voortrekker leader Piet Retief by Dingane, the Zulu impi ransacked the town and set fire to it. The White inhabitants took refuge on a small ship, the Comet, and when the raiders departed some of them began to rebuild the town. The first twenty-one stands were sold in 1840. West Street, named after the Natal Governor, Martin West, became the principal thoroughfare and Smith Street, named after Captain Thomas Smith (commander of the British garrison during the siege), became the second most important street.

From its romantic beginning Durban grew to become a municipality in 1854 and a city in 1935. It is one of the principal cargo ports on the continent of Africa, a bustling industrial centre with a blend of African, European and Asian lifestyles and a major holiday resort, thus making it an interesting cosmopolitan city with a population of approximately 720 000 people.

It has a pleasant subtropical climate with sunshine for at least 320 days a year and temperatures ranging from 16°C in winter to 32°C during the summer months.

Under the new political dispensation since 1994, Durban area is divided into no less than 22 Metropolitan Local Councils. This substructure region is South Africa’s second largest metropolitan complex. The Durban-Central Metropolitan Council looks after the interests of the City of Durban.

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