Molteno (/mɒlˈtn/ Xhosa: eMolteno [emolˈtɛːno]) is a town in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.

Xhosa: eMolteno
Molteno is located in Eastern Cape
Molteno is located in South Africa
Molteno is located in Africa
Coordinates: 31°23′46″S 26°21′47″E / 31.39611°S 26.36306°E / -31.39611; 26.36306
CountrySouth Africa
ProvinceEastern Cape
DistrictChris Hani
MunicipalityEnoch Mgijima
 • Total11.50 km2 (4.44 sq mi)
1,590 m (5,220 ft)
 • Total11,553
 • Density1,000/km2 (2,600/sq mi)
Racial makeup (2011)
 • Black African92.1%
 • Coloured4.7%
 • Indian/Asian0.1%
 • White2.7%
 • Other0.5%
First languages (2011)
 • Xhosa89.3%
 • Afrikaans6.5%
 • English2.3%
 • Other2.0%
Time zoneUTC+2 (SAST)
Postal code (street)
PO box
Area code045

High in the Stormberg Mountains, Molteno has recorded South Africa's coldest temperatures at the famous Buffelsfontein weather station and it is close to the country's only ski resort. Sutherland has the coldest average temperature throughout the year, whereas Molteno records the lowest temperatures in the winter months.

History edit

Founding edit

Coal fields were discovered in this part of the Stormberg Mountains in 1859, and this created an economic incentive for development. The local people also stated a need for a settlement, to serve as a central hub for the surrounding rural area.[2] The town was founded in 1874 by George Vice, and laid out the next year. The town was the setting of South Africa's first coal mine. Its name has connections both locally to the people of the Eastern Cape (Molteno is a name among the Xhosa speaking people of the district),[3] but it also has Italian roots. At its founding, the town was officially named after an immigrant John Molteno, who had been born in London into a large Anglo-Italian family.[4] Molteno became the first locally-elected leader of the Cape and fought against British imperial expansion in southern Africa.[5][6] Several of the town's streets are similarly named after the members of the Cape's first locally-elected cabinet.[7] Water was first drawn from the nearby Stormberg river, and later also from the Jubilee Dam.[8][9]

Coal mining edit

Soon after its founding, the town became the major supplier of coal to the region, with a large portion going to supply the diamond fields in Kimberley.[10] It was granted municipal status in 1883, and by 1892 around 6000 tons of coal were being extracted at Molteno. Much of this coal went to supplying the Cape's rapidly growing railway system.[11] In 1887, the newly founded Molteno Chamber of Commerce was influential in urging the Cape Government to extend its railway system northwards into the Boer republics, so as to open up new markets. By 1897, production of coal in the region had risen to over 70,000 tons.[12] However, by the 1920s the expansion of the railways made access to coal fields in Natal and the Transvaal possible, resulting in the decline of coal mining around Molteno.[13]

Boer War edit

During the Second Boer War, Molteno was used as a mustering point for troops prior to the famous Battle of Stormberg, as it was the closest railway station. The area also saw extensive Boer guerilla activity.[14]

The Molteno struggle edit

In the 20th century, growing oppression by the Apartheid government was met by resistance that manifested in the town as protests and battles between Molteno residents and police. When the Group Areas Act was enforced across South Africa in the 1960s, the mixed neighbourhoods in Molteno were destroyed and the entire town was divided. Some mixed neighbourhoods such as Esigingqini had their residents evicted, others such as Nomonde were delimited by enforced segregation. As a result, the overall town suffered a severe economic and social decline.

Resistance came to a head on 12 August 1985, when local residents and students confronted the Apartheid police in the area around the town's Ethiopian Church. In the resulting battle, three local Molteno activists were shot and killed (R. Mbango, S. Loliwe, N. Smile). The town commemorates the activists and the 12 August date annually, as "Molteno Day".

The following years saw other community activists of the town lose their lives in the struggle. After the fall of Apartheid, the town erected a monument in what was named "Heroes Park" in the town centre. The monument honours the local Molteno "comrades in blood" who "... shall forever be remembered by the people of Molteno and South Africa as a whole".[15][16]

Since liberation in 1993, the town has begun the task of reuniting its communities and reversing the damage it has sustained from decades of segregation and oppression. Within the greater District Municipality, it now lies on the North-South Corridor (Corridor 4), which links Molteno to Queenstown - the proposed location for a Special Economic Zone (SEZ).[17]

Places of interest edit

Molteno NG Church

Although hot and arid in summer, in winter Molteno is the coldest town in South Africa, being located near the highest point in the Cape in the heart of the Stormberg Mountains. Because of its extreme temperatures, it offers snow in the colder months and the town is not far from the country's only ski resort, Tiffindell. There are 4X4 trails in the mountains and the nearby Molteno Dam offers water-skiing and trout-fishing.[18]

The town has several botanical gardens, a monument to local Molteno activists in the liberation struggle and a historic library built from local stone. The surrounding mountains are largely composed of sandstone of exceptional quality, and there were originally plans to build the whole town from this beautiful rock, as a "Sandstone City". Nonetheless, several of the oldest buildings in the town are still made from local stone, fashioned by Italian artisans. The Old Mill is one example, built in 1874 and restored in 1991, as is the local Church and "Drostdy" (Magistrate's office).[8] Molteno is also home to the Stormberg biltong factory. The R47-million factory is the town's largest employer employing 250 residents.[19][20]

The Molteno Museum is located in the stone library building and aims to portray the history of the town and its surrounds. It contains a range of artifacts, from Stone-Age tools to Khoisan, Xhosa and Voortrekker relics including a large collection of vintage guns. It also houses local war relics from the Boer War, and a display of pioneering historical photography from the region, the "Lomax Collection". Also of historical interest are the blockhouses that are located in the area, dating from the Boer War, and the Stormberg Battlefields. [21]
There is a lot of Bushman rock art in the surrounding mountain ranges. The area around the town offers ample opportunity to view rock paintings, fossils and Stone Age tools uncovered in caves and diggings close to Molteno. There are also three extinct volcanoes in the vicinity.[22]

The town has one of the oldest railway stations in South Africa - now officially reopened after being closed for repairs. The station lies on the main line from East London, inland to Johannesburg. This line was actually planned and begun by the same John Molteno after whom the town is named, but the railway only reached the town in 1884[23] and the section further north to Aliwal North was opened on 2 September 1885.

Molteno and its surrounding region in the heart of the Eastern Cape played a significant role in the struggle against Apartheid. Because of this, the town boasts several monuments to local activists who fought or gave their lives in the struggle, such as the Molteno Heroes Park monument in the town centre, and the Nomonde graves, among others. Molteno also forms part of the Calata Heritage Route for the liberation struggle.[17]

Geography edit

Molteno is surrounded by mountains and high Karoo plains, known for its vast panoramic views. It is also located almost exactly on the watershed between the catchment areas of the Atlantic Ocean (e.g. the Orange River to the north) and the Indian Ocean.[24]

The semi-arid, succulent-rich vegetation of the Great Karoo ecoregion predominates in the area.

Climate edit

Molteno has a subtropical highland climate (Cwb, according to the Köppen climate classification), with warm summers and chilly, dry winters, with occasional snowfalls.[citation needed] It borders on a semi-arid climate (BSk). The average annual precipitation is 401 mm (16 in), with rainfall occurring mainly during summer.

Molteno is one of the coldest towns in South Africa; the farm of Buffelsfontein, located near Molteno, has the lowest recorded temperature in South Africa, of −20.1 °C (−4 °F), on 23 August 2013.[25] The former national record, of −18.6 °C (−1 °F), was also registered in the same locality, on 28 June 1996.[26] Likewise, with an average yearly temperature of 11.3 °C and an average annual minimum temperature of 2.8 °C, Buffelsfontein is the coldest reporting station in South Africa.[27]

The (now defunct) administrative area to which Molteno belonged for a time, Inkwanca, literally means "cold" in Xhosa.[28]

Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Source: SA Explorer
Imperial conversion
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation totals in inches

Geology edit

Molteno is located on the Stormberg Series of the Karoo System where some of the only workable coal seams in the Cape are to be found (the Molteno Formation, the youngest in the Karoo System, is named after the town).[29] These coal fields are being explored for possible coal bed methane extraction.[30]

The rocks preserve a record of gradual desertification over millions of years, starting from the Upper Triassic when the area was a warm swampland, and continuing into the late Jurassic when the region had become a desert. Extensive Dinosaur footprints and fossils can be found in these rocks.[31]

Famous residents edit

Trivia edit

The butterfly genus Moltena and the Molteno Formation are both named after the town.[34]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d "Main Place Molteno". Census 2011.
  2. ^ D.W. Myburgh: The Origin of Towns in the Eastern Cape Midlands. University of Western Cape. Cape Town. 1978. p.30.
  3. ^ University of Cape Town, Manuscripts and Archives Department. BC330: Murray Collection, BC44-45: Sinclair Collection.
  4. ^ Carlo Marvora: Molteno, memorie di famiglia. Italy: N.p.Lecco. 1978.
  5. ^ Molteno,, retrieved 23 November 2009
  6. ^ "History of the Wesleyan Methodist Church of South Africa". E. Stock. 1906. p. 145. Retrieved 23 November 2009.
  7. ^ Johannes Meintjes (1964) Portret van 'n Suid-Afrikaanse Dorp. Molteno 1894-1909, Bamboesberg Publishers, South Africa.
  8. ^ a b Johannes Meintjes (1974). Die Geskiedenis van Molteno; 1874-1974, Munisipaliteit Molteno, South Africa, Chapter 4, Stigting van die Dorp (Founding of the town), ISBN 0-620-01123-8
  9. ^ P.E. Raper: Dictionary of Southern African Place Names. Lowry Publishers. Johannesburg. 1987. p.314. ISBN 0947042067
  10. ^ Keane, A.H. (1900). The Boer states; land and people. London: Methuen & co. p. 6. Retrieved 24 November 2009.
  11. ^ Noble, John (1893). "VIII - The Cape Government, Institutions, Roads, Railways and Industries". Illustrated official handbook of the Cape and South Africa; a résumé of the history, conditions, populations, productions and resources of the several colonies, states, and territories. J.C. Juta & Co. p. 224. Retrieved 24 November 2009.
  12. ^ R.F. Immelman: Men of Good Hope. 1804-1954. The Cape Town Chamber of Commerce. 1955.
  13. ^ Knowles, L. C. A; Knowles, C. M (1936). "9. The Mines". The Economic Development of the British Overseas Empire Volume III. London: George Routledge And Sons, Limited. p. 214. Retrieved 24 November 2009.
  14. ^ Foster, H.E.C. (1901). The History of the Boer War. Methuen. p. 257. Retrieved 24 November 2009.
  15. ^ CH District Municipality - Liberation Heritage Route
  16. ^ "Attractions & activities in Molteno on the Karoo Calata Route". Archived from the original on 29 March 2017. Retrieved 28 March 2017.
  17. ^ a b[bare URL PDF]
  18. ^ "Routes Travel Info Portal: Molteno". Archived from the original on 8 September 2013. Retrieved 23 November 2009.
  19. ^ Esterhuizen, Idéle. "Foodcorp invests R47mn in E Cape upgrade, retains 250 jobs". Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  20. ^ "Ouma keeps historic town alive | the Heritage Portal".
  21. ^ Standard Encyclopaedia of South Africa. 1970. Pretoria: Nasou Ltd. Vol 7, p 497
  22. ^ "Molteno".
  23. ^ Jose Burman (1984). Early Railways at the Cape. Cape Town: Human & Rousseau, ISBN 0-7981-1760-5
  24. ^ "Die Burger 21 Julie 2001 Bladsy 3: Kom ry in Molteno se paadjies …". Archived from the original on 1 July 2012.
  25. ^ "New minimum temperature record for South Africa". Retrieved 12 June 2014.
  26. ^ Details of the temperature, rainfall and wind extremes recorded in SA Archived 7 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine South African weather service. Retrieved on 2010-06-22]
  27. ^ South African Weather Service Archived 7 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ "South African Languages | Place names".
  29. ^ Gibson, Walcot (1908). "XV. Coal fields of Africa, India, Australia and South America". The geology of coal and coal-mining. London: E. Arnold. pp. 282, 283. Retrieved 24 December 2009.
  30. ^ "Background Information and Project Motivation". Badimo Gas. Archived from the original on 4 September 2011. Retrieved 23 November 2009.
  31. ^ Anderson Heidi M: Molteno Ferns: late Triassic biodiversity in southern Africa. South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). Pretoria. 2008. ISBN 1-919976-36-1
  32. ^ "Francois Gouws - South African Artist | Arcy Art Original Oil Paintings Artist Directory".
  33. ^ "Ben Baartman | South African History Online".
  34. ^ Moltena at funet

External links edit