New Brighton, Eastern Cape

New Brighton is a township situated within Port Elizabeth (now Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality), in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.

New Brighton
New Brighton
New Brighton
Coordinates: 33.899°S 25.595°E / -33.899; 25.595
CountrySouth Africa
ProvinceEastern Cape
MunicipalityNelson Mandela Bay
  TypeMetro Council
  Total4.85 km2 (1.87 sq mi)
  Density9,900/km2 (26,000/sq mi)
Racial makeup (2011)
  Black African99.6%
First languages (2011)
Time zoneUTC+2 (SAST)
PO box


It was established in 1902, and was the first officially black residential area in Port Elizabeth. Prior to the establishment of New Brighton as the first black township, there was a demolishing of the then Black residential area in 1902 where the personal belongings of the Black residents were arbitrarily destroyed, and restrictions imposed upon their travel outside the demarcated area. The racially segregated township of New Brighton was established in 1902 on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth, some 8 km north of the city centre, to house families who had been forcefully removed in the previous years.[2] . Many of Athol Fugard's plays are set in New Brighton.[3]

As part of the governing modus-operandi of the Colonial Government of the 19th century, that would eventually lead to the Land Act of 1913 a decade later, where policy was formulated on the basis of ethnicity, townships, including that of New Brighton, were established for the exclusive use of Black residents who were not housed by employers, and who could not afford to purchase property in the suburbs. In 1855, Stranger's Location, known as Emaxambeni in isiXhosa was established. Stranger's Location spilled over into Cooper's Kloof in the 1860s and became a separate municipal location in 1877. The Reservoir Location off Mount Road was established by the Municipality in 1883. The largest privately owned township, Gubbs Location, was established in the 1860s.[4]

A case of bubonic plague in Gubb's Location in 1901 set in place events that led to demolition of these townships and the creation of New Brighton. Port Elizabeth recorded a total of 105 cases - 21 Whites and 84 Blacks - of bubonic plague in 1901.[4] This was the direct result of Argentinian fodder and horses being imported into South Africa by the British military during the South African War.[5]

After the first case was reported, the residents from the various townships agreed to meet. During the meeting it was agreed that a single township outside Port Elizabeth had to be built. Following recommendations from public health officials, demolished houses number 325 in Port Elizabeth and 950 in the Stranger's location,The Reservoir Location and Gubb's Location townships in 1903. The establishment of New Brighton was facilitated by the Colonial Government's purchase of the farms known as Cradock Place and Deal Party for the sum of £20 000. The portion set for the establishment of New Brighton was situated north of Port Elizabeth in area which was deemed unsuitable for industrial use. The choice of a site for New Brighton outside the town's boundaries was determined by favourable health conditions in the area, and the fact that it would allow for effective residential segregation.[4] These were on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth, far away from the city centre and white suburbs where New Brighton residents were employed. In its very early days, Port Elizabeth was planned in a manner that did not allow for different races to mix and this was spelt out as such in colonial policy and regulations. White and Coloured people, even though New Brighton was established as an exclusively Black township, flouted Government rules and built homes in New Brighton, albeit only a few. By the year 1911, New Brighton’s population had grown to 3,650 persons, almost all of them Black, this compromising of 52 Whites, 3414 Black Africans and 184 Coloureds.[6] The oldest and iconic location within the New Brighton area is the Red Location, which was developed in 1902-1903, and made up of corrugated iron shacks which were built in a barrack-type fashion.

An aerial view of Red Location Museum in New Brighton township near Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Accommodation for individuals in New Brighton was allotted on a first-come, first-served basis. The Government initially planned to rehouse only about 1 500 people in the Location even though estimates suggested that about three times that number of Africans resided in Port Elizabeth and slum areas, and that a similar number lived outside the municipal boundaries. Huts were erected in this order: one and two-bedroomed family accommodation for 'ordinary native labourers' and 'civilised natives' also known as Class A and B, and dormitories for 'single men' called Class C. Rents in New Brighton of between 20s. and 30s. per month for family quarters and 8s. per month for single quarters(Class C). At the end of 1903 the population of New Brighton was 2 125. Some residents from the demolished townships of Stranger's location,The Reservoir Location and Gubb's Location refused to move to New Brighton and opted for Korsten. In Korsten, they could own land. By January 1910, the population of New Brighton had reached 3156.[4]

New Brighton Today

Today, New Brighton is made up of many more locations namely White location, Elundini, KwaFord, Boast Village, Masangwanaville and Chris Hani informal settlement, amongst others. New Brighton is also popular for the sons and daughters it birthed, who would go on to be prominent anti-apartheid activists and leaders of post-apartheid, democratic South Africa. Amongst the prominent South African people born and bred in New Brighton include actor and playwright Ken Gampu, John Kani, Nomhle Nkonyeni, ANC stalwart Vusi Pikoli and Black Consciousness co-founder Barney Pityana. As such, the first cell of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC, was set up in New Brighton. Some of the prominent names in the South African art scene today – a new generation following those mentioned above – that were also born and bred in New Brighton include poet Mxolisi Nyezwa and dramatist-playwright Mzwandile Zwai Mgijima. Many of the historic places that served as cultural and political hubs in New Brighton and Port Elizabeth at large in the 1960s have either been demolished or changed to suit contemporary needs. Notable amongst these include the former Rio Bioscope, opened in 1950 on Aggrey Road, is today being used as a church by the Cathedral Church of Umzi Wasi Topiya, naming it Kaizer Ngxwana after the anti-apartheid struggle stalwart. The Red Location Museum is one of the main tourist attractions.[7]

Notable People


  1. Sum of New Brighton 1 and New Brighton 2 Census 2011
  2. South African History Online |
  3. A Literary Guide to the Eastern Cape: Places and the Voices of Writers. Juta and Company Ltd. 2003. p. 75. ISBN 978-1-919930-15-2.
  4. A History of New Brighton, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, 1903-1953 (PDF). Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  5. "Community histories in Port Elizabeth: Xhosa community". South African History Online. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  6. Msila, V. (2014) A Place to Live: Red Location and its history from 1903 to 2013. SUN PRESS
  7. "World Cup 2010: Port Elizabeth's townships – without the tour bus". Retrieved 27 January 2014.
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