Emalahleni Local Municipality is part of the Chris Hani District and stretches over 3,447.20 km², with a population of 122,423. Much of the municipal area was formerly in the Transkei.
The municipality is mainly rural, and settlements are predominantly dispersed, traditional rural villages. Less than 2% of the population live in urban areas like Lady Frere, Dordrecht and Indwe.
The quality of life in rural villages is generally poor, marked by poverty and lack of access to services and amenities. Unemployment is high, and most households rely on social grants and remittances from family members working elsewhere.
Agriculture is limited to low-level subsistence farming, producing enough maize for personal use; and traditional livestock farming.