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The main street in Tarkastad, 2012
The main street in Tarkastad, 2012
Tarkastad is located in Eastern Cape
Tarkastad is located in South Africa
Coordinates: 32°01′S 26°16′E / 32.017°S 26.267°E / -32.017; 26.267Coordinates: 32°01′S 26°16′E / 32.017°S 26.267°E / -32.017; 26.267
CountrySouth Africa
ProvinceEastern Cape
DistrictChris Hani
MunicipalityEnoch Mgijima
Time zoneUTC+2 (SAST)
Postal code (street)
PO box

Tarkastad is a Karoo semi-urban settlement situated on the banks Tarka River in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. Tarkastad is on a plain to the north of the Winterberg mountain range on the R61 between Cradock and Queenstown and only three hours from Port Elizabeth. The name Tarkastad is believed to come from the Khoi-Khoi word Traka (meaning women) or the Celtic word Tarka (meaning otter) and the Afrikaans word Stad (meaning city). The fact that the town is overlooked by Martha and Mary; two peaks which look like two women resting after a hard day's work, also lends to the name.[1]


The first people to occupy the area around Tarkastad were the San who left an abundance of rock art paintings in Grootvlei just north of the town.[2] The first farmers settled in Tarkastad in 1795 who built watermills, inns and both a Dutch Reformed and Presbyterian Church.[2] Two Great Trek leaders, Andries Potgieter and Piet Retief, farmed here for a short while. After the Dutch farmers decided to accompany their leaders on the Great Trek,[3] the English 1820 settlers moved in, and in 1862 Tarkastad was established as a church centre and became a municipality in 1864.[2] Elands River Poort, a mountain pass located on the Karoo, 24 km to the NNW of Tarkastad,[4] where the Battle of Elands River (1901) was fought during the Second Boer War.[5] The grave of Lt. Sheridan, cousin of Winston Churchill, who was killed in the Battle of Elands River can be found on the Modderfontein farm just outside Tarkastad. Victorian cast iron lamp posts, old water mills and broekie lace adornments indicate the British colonial influence.[1]

Tarkastad's first Municipal Manager after apartheid was Mr Smilo Dayi an ex-political prisoner. The first mayor after apartheid was Mr Ntsikelelo Sampempe.

A family house in Tarkastad was the birthplace of anti-Apartheid activist and African nationalist, Steve Biko.


Scientists have stated that Tarkastad has one of the healthiest climates in the world.[3] Winters are cold with frequent snowfalls on high lying mountain tops, while summers are hot and dry. Tarkastad which is situated at an elevation of 4,280 feet normally receives about 335mm of rain per year, with most rainfall occurring mainly during summer.[6]


Surrounded by commercial farms, which specialize in crop, animal farming (Merino sheep, goats and cattle) and game farming, Tarkastad caters for the surrounding villages in Ntabethemba such as Tentergate, Khwezi and Khayalethu.[3] Although no longer the capital of the Tsolwana Local Municipality which has been absorbed into the Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality, the town still offers public and administrative services for surrounding villages.


  • Tarkastad rock engravings in Grootvlei
  • Tarkastad War Memorial
  • Blanco Guest Farm-A game farming outside of Tarkastad
  • Presbyterian Church (1881)
  • Dutch Reformed Church (1880)
  • Thrift Dam


The following statistics describing Tarkastad are from the 2011 census.[7]

  • Area: 81.79 square kilometres (31.58 sq mi)
  • Population: 1604 : 19.61 inhabitants per square kilometre (50.8/sq mi)
  • Households: 499: 6.10 per square kilometre (15.8/sq mi)
Gender Population %
Male 742 46.26%
Female 862 53.74%
Race Population %
Coloured 480 29.93%
Black African 866 53.99%
White 232 14.46%
Indian or Asian 8 0.50%
Other 19 1.18%
First language Population %
Afrikaans 667 44.89%
isiXhosa 618 41.59%
English 148 9.96%
Sesotho 4 0.27
Setswana 2 0.13
Sign language 2 0.13
isiZulu 3 0.20
isiNdebele 10 0.47
Sepedi 6 0.40%
Other 25 1.68%
Not applicable 118

Nearby villages and towns[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Tarkastad". Roots Web.
  2. ^ a b c "Tarkastad". Namakwa.
  3. ^ a b c "Tarkastad, Eastern Cape". Show Me.
  4. ^ Elands River Poort, South Africa
  5. ^ Eastern Cape and the Anglo-Boer War Archived 2012-02-13 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Tarkastad Climate". SA Explorer. Archived from the original on 2017-09-07. Retrieved 2017-06-25.
  7. ^ "Tarkastad census". Adrian Firth.

External links[edit]

See also[edit]