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.