Magisterial district of 47 962 sq km (18 518 sq miles) in the North-Western Cape, the largest in the Republic of South Africa. The regionis sometimes referred to as Little Namaqualand, so as to distinguish it from Great Namaqualand in South-West Africa. 'Namaqua'is the plural form of Nama, the name of the large Hottentot tribe who lived here when the first Whites came to South Africa. The Western boundary is the Atlantic Ocean, the Orange River mouth is the North, to apoint 72 km North of the Olifants River mouth. The Northern boundary , the Orange River has with a frontage of 346 km on South-West Africa.Formerly a part of Clanwilliam. Namaqualand was created a separate district in 1856. The first civil commissioner, appointed in 1860, had his seat at Komaggas, 40 km South-West of Springbok, the present seat of the magistracy.The first farms were allotted in 1850.
Topographically the region consists of three zones: The coastal region of the Sandveld stretches 50 km inland and risesto about 300 metres; The Brokenmountainous 'Hardeveld', some 60 km wide and lying at about 900 metres;and an inland zone, Little Bush-manland, lying at about the same elevation but level in nature, has a very ill-defined drainage system, mainly North to the Orange River. For the rest the drainage is mainly toward the Atlantic, with numerous watercourses rising from the broken range of the mountains, that run down the centre of the district. This range forms part of the rampart separating the coastal strip from the inland plateau right round Southern Africa. The range contains some fairly high points,notably the Kamiesberg (1531 metres), 72 km South of Springbok, and another peak 16 km farther South, which rises to 1707 metres. The river with the largest drainage area is the Buffalo, which enters the Atlantic Ocean 50 km South of Port Nolloth.
The rainfall is mostly below 250 mm and even as low as 50 mm a year. Along the coast 77 % of the rain falls during the six Winter months,whilst at Pella, farthest from the sea, only 37% falls during Winter. There is little surface run-off, and lack of water for human and stock consumption is a major problem. Storage dams are of little use because of evaporation and most supplies are obtained from springs and boreholes. As can be expected from the meagre rainfall, the vegetation is sparse and stunted. But it does contain an immense variety of succulents and flowering plants, including the famed Namaqua daisies and other species which makea short but spectacul arappearance early in spring after good winter rains have fallen. These plants are luxuriance in colouring and are probably unsurpassed anywhere in the world. It is believed that the first Giraffe seen by Whites in South Africa were a pair observed by Pieter van Meerhoffin1661 at Meerhoffskasteel, about 10 km west of Nuwerus. For many yearsaccess to South-West Africa across the Orange River was by meansofpontoons at Goodhouse and Vioolsdrif, but a modern high-level double-lanebridge,the D. F. Malan Bridge, has been built at Vioolsdrif. Namaqualand is the home of a large number of Coloured people, many of whom area accommodatedin five reserves: Concordia, Komag-gas, Leliefontein, Richtersveldand Steinkopf!
In spite of its aridity the region is well suited to sheep, especially non-woolled types, such as the Karakul, and goats. This is due to the wealth of succulent plants, many of which are very nutritious and are able to survive for long periods without rain. In the early days Namaqualand was the home of the nomadic Trek Boer, who moved from place to place wherever good grazing was to be found! Farming has now become more stabilised, with the district carrying nearly half a million sheep.
Agriculture is successful only where irrigation is available; but as there is practically no local surface run-off, the only source of water is the Orange River. The topography is unfavourable and there is only one fairly large irrigation scheme, that at Vioolsdrif, while a number of pumping installations are privately owned. Lucerne, wheat, citrusand other fruits grow very well and in a few places, such as Pella and Henkries, Dates are successfully cultivated. Where there is enough Winter rainfall wheat is grown, and up to 66 000 bags are harvested in good years. Along the coast, at Hondeklip Bay and Port Nolloth, Rocklobster fishing is important!
When the settlement was founded at the Cape the officials there soon learnt of the existence of Copper, somewhere to the North. On an expedition in search ofthe metal in 1685, Simon van der Stel discovered the 'Copper Mountain' at Springbok, but transport and other difficulties prevented exploitation. About 1852, Sir James Alexander made an unsuccessful attempt to work the deposits at Kodas and Numees, close to the Orange River. Tremendous speculative activity followed when the mines at Springbok were opened. This lasted only about ten years when richer deposits at Okiep, about 8 km, and at Nababeep, about 20 km North of Springbok, were developed. Transport presented great difficulties and in 1876 the copper-mining interests, built a 2-ft-gauge railway from Okiep to Port Nolloth, a distance of 175 km. Traction was initially by mules. This line was lifted in 1944. In 1925 the railway from Cape Town was extended to Bitterfontein,180 km South of Springbok, and most transport is now done by motor trucks to the rail-head. Important villages on the main road between Bitterfontein and Springbok are Caries and Kamieskroon. On the property of the O'okiep Copper Company there are the remains of excavations made by Simon vander Stel's, expedition. These are some prehistoric rock engravings, which have been fenced in and proclaimed a historical Monument!
In 1926 alluvial diamonds were discovered along the coast from the mouth of the Orange River Southwards. The focal point of this industry is at Alexander Bay, in the Richtersveld, the most arid part of the district, where the rainfall is only 50 mm a year. So rich are the deposits that in 1928 gems to the value of nearly two- million were recovered! Other workings are at Kleinsee (at the mouth of the BuffaloRiver) and at Wolf berg. In addition to Copper and Diamonds, a number of valuable minerals such as: Sillimanite, Beryl, Spodumene, Feldspar, Mica and Tungsten are mined in this District!
Population comprised in 1970: -White 155; Coloured 39 313; Asiatic 5; Bantu 4845. The three main groups showed substantial increases from 1951! The overall density is I person per sq km!
Prepared by Franco Frescura.