Qonce, also known as King William's Town,[3] is a town in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa along the banks of the Buffalo River. The city is about 60 kilometres (37 mi) northwest of the Indian Ocean port of East London. Qonce, with a population of around 35,000 inhabitants, forms part of the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality.

King William's Town
Street scene
Street scene
Qonce is located in Eastern Cape
Qonce is located in South Africa
Qonce is located in Africa
Coordinates: 32°53′S 27°24′E / 32.883°S 27.400°E / -32.883; 27.400Coordinates: 32°53′S 27°24′E / 32.883°S 27.400°E / -32.883; 27.400
Country South Africa
ProvinceEastern Cape
DistrictBuffalo City
MunicipalityBuffalo City
 • Total65.52 km2 (25.30 sq mi)
398 m (1,306 ft)
 • Total34,019
 • Density520/km2 (1,300/sq mi)
Racial makeup (2011)
 • Black African65.3%
 • Coloured25.6%
 • Indian/Asian2.5%
 • White5.6%
 • Other0.9%
First languages (2011)
 • Xhosa54.5%
 • Afrikaans27.3%
 • English13.7%
 • Other4.4%
Time zoneUTC+2 (SAST)
Postal code (street)
PO box
Area code043

Qonce lies 389 m (1,276 ft) above sea level at the foot of the Amathole Mountains in an area known for its agriculture. The city has one of the oldest post offices in the country developed by missionaries led by Charles Brownlee.[4]


For thousands of years, the area was roamed by Bushman bands, and then was used as grazing by the nomadic Khoikhoi, who called the Buffalo River Qonce. Xhosa people first settled here in the mid- to late- 17th century.[citation needed]

King William's Town was founded by Sir Benjamin d’Urban in May 1835 during the Xhosa War of that year. The town stands on the site of the kraal of the minor chief Dyani Tyatyu and was named after William IV. It was abandoned in December 1836, but was reoccupied in 1846 and was the capital of British Kaffraria from its creation in 1847 to its incorporation in 1865 with the Cape Colony. Uniquely in the Cape Colony, its local government was styled a borough, rather than a municipality. Many of the colonists in the neighbouring districts are descendants of members of the British German Legion disbanded after the Crimean War and provided with homes in the Cape Colony; hence such names as Berlin, Braunschweig, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Potsdam and Stutterheim given to settlements in this part of the country.

It was declared the provincial capital of the surrounding Queen Adelaide's Province in the 1830s. On 5 May 1877, the Cape Government of Prime Minister John Molteno opened the first railway, connecting the town to East London on the coast and to the Xhosa lands inland and further east.[5] With its direct railway communication, the town became an important entrepôt for trade with the Xhosa people throughout Kaffraria.

The area's economy depended on cattle and sheep ranching, and the town itself has a large industrial base producing textiles, soap, candles, sweets, cartons and clothing. Its proximity to the new provincial capital city of Bhisho has brought much development to the area since the end of apartheid in 1994.

In 2007 the provincial government considered plans to rename the town with a traditional African name. The town became "Qonce" on 21 February 2021.[6][7]

The town is also home to Huberta, one of the farthest-travelling hippopotami in South Africa. It is preserved in the Amathole Museum in the Qonce CBD.[citation needed]

Notable peopleEdit


  1. ^ "Chronological order of town establishment in South Africa based on Floyd (1960:20-26)" (PDF). pp. xlv–lii.
  2. ^ a b c d "Main Place King William's Town". Census 2011.
  3. ^ "Two SA airports – and Port Elizabeth – just got official new names". BusinessInsider. Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  4. ^ "King William's Town - Steeped in History". www.privateproperty.co.za. Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  5. ^ Burman, Jose (1984), Early Railways at the Cape. Cape Town: Human & Rousseau, p.83. ISBN 0-7981-1760-5
  6. ^ Staff Writer (3 September 2020). "Name changes planned for East London and other Eastern Cape towns". businesstech.co.za. Retrieved 13 January 2021.
  7. ^ Staff Writer (24 February 2021). "South African city of Port Elizabeth becomes Gqeberha". BBC.co.uk. Retrieved 5 April 2021.

External linksEdit