Municipality: Joe Gqabi District Municipality


Cnr Cole & Graham Street
9786 Barkly East , Eastern Cape
South Africa
Phone: 045-979-3000
Fax: 045-979-3028
Eastern Cape ZA


Joe Gqabi District Municipality, previously known as Ukhahlamba District Municipality, is one of the six district municipalities of the Eastern Cape Province and comprises four local municipalities and a District Management Area:

  • Elundini Local Municipality
  • Gariep Local Municipality
  • Maletswai Local Municipality
  • Senqu Local Municipality

Aliwal North, with a population of 40,000, and on the N6 between Queenstown and Bloemfontein, is the main commercial and tourism centre. Smaller urban service centres include Steynsburg, Burgersdorp, Barkly East, Lady Grey, Sterkspruit and Maclear.

The climate is harsh: large temperature fluctuations, unseasonable frost and cold, and relatively low rainfall mean only less sensitive cops can be grown. Winters are milder in Elundini, where it is more suitable for crop cultivation.

Joe Gqabi is overwhelming rural. The municipalities in the wetter eastern part of the district are mountainous and have communal land as well as commercial farming. The municipalities in the west of the district are flat with Karoo-type vegetation and consist mainly of commercial agriculture, which drives the economy, with extensive farming of sheep and cattle. Subsistence and emerging farmers are to be found in the commercial land areas. 

The government is the largest employer in Joe Gqabi, and social grants are a very important component of household incomes. The informal sector is relatively small and mainly concerns the sale of food and household goods.

Critical infrastructure

The Orange River is the most important source of water in the district. The Gariep Dam is the largest in South Africa and, together with the Fish River Scheme, is a major source of water for irrigation. Many places in Senqu and Elundini have a high groundwater development potential. 


There is some forestry and a large timber processing plant is being build at Ugie. Tourism is also growing, although its impact so far has been small. Unique tourist attractions in the district include the only ski resort in South Africa, the largest dam in the country, and hot springs.


There are only 233 hectares of high potential arable land in Joe Gqabi. With limited rain-fed arable land for crop production, irrigation schemes and stock farming play a significant role in agriculture. Intensive farming only occurs in areas where water and infrastructure are available. The limited land which can sustain intensive farming, and land which has been identified as having a high agricultural potential, should be reserved for farming in order to enhance food security and therefore economic welfare. 

Water and sanitation backlogs are still prevalent in the district. Road access is another critical issue and the roads need constant maintenance and repair.