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Information on Upington, Northern Cape, South Africa

Conference Venues South Africa brings you information on Upington situated in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa including information on Facilities and Recreation, Climate, Founding, History Suburbs, Town Planning and Geography.

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Upington is the main commercial, educational and agricultural center of the Gordonia and Green Kalahari regions in the Northern Cape Province. This Southern Kalahari Desert town is situated within the fertile Orange River valley, a glittering green ribbon, which brings life giving water from the Lesotho Highlands and snakes across the semiarid Northern Cape landscape. The Orange river that flows through Upington is the result of the confluence of the Vaal and Orange rivers at the town of Douglas, approximately 300 km upstream.

Upington is a holiday destination with all the amenities required for the many tourists who stay or travel through it, as well as an agricultural centre for one of the most comprehensive sultana grape farming areas in the country.

The economy of Upington relies heavily on tourism, agriculture, and the services industry and several large South African companies dealing with table grapes, wine, livestock and dried fruit have their head offices in the town.

The town was named after Sir Thomas Upington, Attorney-General of the Cape. It originated as a mission station established by the Revd Christiaan Schröder in 1873. The original mission station now houses the town museum, known as the Kalahari Orange Museum.

Upington History

The area surrounding Upington has a very rich history, dating back to the 1600s. The first printed reference to the people who inhabited the Southern Kalahari Region appeared in the Journal of Rev. Edward Terry in 1615. Terry related that they were exceedingly dirty and carried the entrails of animals around their necks to eat later and bowing and bringing their mouths to their hands almost as low as their knees, would gnaw and eat the raw guts like hungry dogs. Their heads and faces were smeared with a mixture of cow dung and fat so upwind they would look and smell horrible. This view prevailed into the nineteenth century. In 1822 J. Campbell (Travels in South Africa) described the Korana as lazy beings who only hunted, slept and danced. In the mornings, he said, they slept very late, smoked for a while and then crawled to the nearest shade to sleep some more. These nomadic Khoikhoi tribes were known as the Kora or Korana.

Modern day Upington traces its history back to the mid-18th century days when the ill-defined and poorly protected northern reaches of the Cape Colony were the stamping-ground of cattle rustlers, gun-runners, river pirates and outlaws of all kinds. From a stronghold near Upington, the fierce Korana Chiefs rustled cattle from all over the region, ranging from Calvinia to present-day Namibia.

By 1868, the Korana marauders had made life so intolerable that the colonial government was forced to create a special magisterial district. The Northern Border Protection Act was passed to permit action against the troublemakers. A special border unit was stationed near modern day Upington; but the handful of police and burghers were too few to protect a 330 km stretch of land and they found it impossible to keep the lurking Korana gangs numbering some 300 to 400 at bay, nor could they drive them from the densely wooded islands in the Orange River. This led to the First Korana war (1868–1869), which saw the Frontier Armed and Mounted Police and a small detachment of the Royal Artillery arrive in the area, led by Sir Walter Currie. Together with 400 mounted Boers and Basters, 100 Xhosa and 200 regulars, Currie was soon able to scatter the rustlers, but he failed to catch them. Koranna Chief, Klaas Lukas, who lived at Olyvenhoutsdrift, eventually captured the Korana gang leaders and handed them over to the colonial authorities, who banished them to Robben Island.

In 1870, Klaas Lucas, requested a mission station be set up near Olyvenhoutsdrift - to bring stability to the region. The Revd Christiaan Schröder subsequently arrived from Cape Town in 1873 and erected the first buildings on the northern banks of the Orange River.

The year 1877 was marked by severe drought and the Korana were destitute. Once again they resorted to stock raiding and stealing whatever they could until open confrontation with the colonial settlers was inevitable and led to the Second Korana War (1878–1879). The intrinsic cause of this war, however, was much more complex and serious than the previous one’s and the war itself involved not only the Korana, but also Griqua Basters, Blacks and, ultimately, Nama.

Klaas Lukas, no longer neutral, gathered together 1,000-armed men to defend the Korana lifestyle. His supporters included almost all the Korana, the Nama Afrikanders led by Jacobus Afrikander, and a number of Griqua rebels under Gamka Pienaar. The colonial authorities eventually defeated them and once again, they came under the control of the Cape Government. Those Korana who rejected a future under colonial rule trekked further into the Kalahari. The Cape Government settled the Griquas near Upington to form a buffer between the Boers and the Korana. Today, the Korana have completely disappeared as a separate group through being absorbed by the Coloureds and the Griqua Basters. After the war Sir Thomas Upington, the first Attorney-general of the Cape Colony, visited the region to establish a police station outpost, which he named after himself. The station utilized camels to patrol the vast desert area.

With the onset of more settlers in the region, the latent irrigation potential of the Orange River was soon utilized and the first canals made their appearance ten years after the Revd Christiaan Schröder had finished his mission station. Canals were dug by Schröder and his locals and three years later the first water-driven mill was introduced to the region, further stimulating commercial activities. In this way, the Orange River, as the region’s only reliable source of water, stimulated early development of farmlands as its water was now spread far wider than the confines of the river banks.Twenty years after the Korana wars Schröder's mission station and the Upington police station were united to form the town of Upington.

On 13 November 1985, during the racial unrest that erupted across South Africa, Upington was the scene of a demonstration against high rents that resulted in the death of Jetta Lucas Sethwala, a black police constable, and the subsequent arrest of 26 people. Constable Sethwala was beaten to death and then set afire with gasoline by a angry mob in Pabellelo, a segregated township that adjoins Upington. The ‘Upington 26’, as they came to be known in the media, were later found guilty of murder under the law of common purpose. They were the largest group of people sentenced to death in South Africa for a politically motivated crime within memory.

Upington Geography and Climate

Upington is situated on the banks of the Orange River in the Southern- or Green Kalahari, which forms part of the 900.000 square kilometers Kalahari Desert and is centrally located on the Namaqua Route between Johannesburg, Cape Town and Namibia.

The geography of the town varies from sandy red dunes, rock faced 'koppies' hills, African veld and extremely fertile agricultural areas. The Orange River is a perennial, bedrock-controlled river which have been prone to severe flooding in the past

Upington is generally accepted as the hottest town in South Africa, with summer temperatures varying between 30°C and 40°C. Winter temperatures during the day usually reach around 25°C, while the night temperatures, although averaging between 4°C and 10°C can drop to 0°C or below. The climate is generally dry; however, in summer, due to the town being situated on the banks of the Orange River, varying levels of humidity have been recorded. The annual average rainfall is less than 200 mm.

Towns and Suburbs of the Northern Cape province of South Africa

Augrabies , Colesberg , Kimberley , Springbok , Upington

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