The town of Mthatha stands on the banks of the Mthatha River, the name meaning 'the taker' and is derived from the number of people who have been carried away by its waters in times of flood.

There are schools and government offices and a town hall set in gardens.

Mthatha (Umtata) had its beginning in 1869 as a military buffer between the warring Pondo and Tembu tribes, and ten years later the village had grown up behind the walled enclosure.

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