Hermanus falls within the Overberg (meaning over the mountain [Hottentots-Holland Mountain]) region. The area covers 12,241 square kilometers (4,726 sq mi) lying to the southeast of Cape Town.
It stretches from the Hottentots-Holland mountains in the west to the Breede River mouth in the east, and as far as the Riviersonderend Mountains in the north. It includes Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point in Africa, and has a coastline on both the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean.
The area has always been considered as the breadbasket of the Cape due to its large area of grain farming. The fields in turn provide a major breeding ground for South Africa’s national bird, the blue crane. Apples and grapes are also grown with Elgin as the apple centre.
The Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve (recognised and registered with UNESCO) populated with a large diversity of flowering plants not found anywhere else in the fynbos biome, is also part of the Overberg district.
Major towns are Hermanus, Caledon, Bredasdorp, Grabouw and Swellendam and the region includes Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa. The landscape is predominantly rolling hills enclosed between mountains and the ocean.
Overberg District: Sub-divided into four municipal areas:
Overstrand, Theewaterskloof, Cape Agulhas, and Swellendam
The Mountain ranges in the Western Cape
The municipal area of Overstrand covers a surface of almost 1708 square kilometres. The area has a permanent population of
+-90 000. The municipality has its head office in Hermanus, but municipal services are delivered on a decentralised basis from offices in Gansbaai, Stanford, Hermanus and Kleinmond.
The area is divided into three administrations: Hangklip-Kleinmond, Greater Hermanus and Gansbaai/Stanford, and demarcated into thirteen wards.
1. Franskraal and Masakhane;
2. Gansbaai, De Kelders, Kleinbaai and Blompark;
3. Hermanus and a portion of Westcliff;
4. Mount Pleasant, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley and a portion of Westcliff;
5. Zwelihle South;
6. Zwelihle North;
8. Hawston, Fisherhaven and Honingklip;
9. Kleinmond, Mountain View and Palmiet;
10. Betty’s Bay, Pringle Bay, Rooiels, Overhills and Proteadorp;
11. Stanford, Baardskeerdersbos, Pearly Beach, Viljoenshof, Withoogte and Buffeljachts;
12. Zwelihle North-West;
13. Onrus and Vermont.
Hermanus Pieters (ca.1778–1837) was a Dutch teacher who arrived in Cape Town in 1815. He was recruited by Dutch-speaking farmers and settled in Caledon while teaching Dutch to farmers in a wide area around the town. He often vacationed at the spring in present-day Hermanus.
The place eventually became known as “Hermanus Pieters se Fonteyn”. He died before the village Hermanuspietersfontein existed. 65 years after his death the postmaster decided to abbreviate the name to Hermanus.
The town lies along Walker Bay on the south coast of the Western Cape. It is located about 115 km southeast of Cape Town. It is also notable that Hermanus still boasts a historic railway station building without a railway line. The founders of the town decided not to lay any tracks as this would have made Hermanus more commercial and they felt that Hermanus needed to stay a small fisherman’s village.
The Township of Zwelihle, which means ‘beautiful world/place’ in isiXhosa, is a mixed settlement of formal and informal housing. The first housing in Zwelihle was erected in 1963 on an industrial site solely to house migrant labourers mostly from the Eastern Cape at the African Explosives and Chemical Industries (Ltd) known as De beers in the present day (Murray & Witz 2013). The original development of the area comprised of 40 hostels situated in Ward 6, which were later formalised and rented to families, and were effectively classified as family units.
Regarded as one the oldest mixed settlements in the Western Cape, Zwelihle is located in Hermanus, part of the Overstrand municipality in the Overberg district in the Western Cape. Hermanus operates as the administrative and tourism centre of the Overstrand Municipality and makes a substantial contribution to the tourism industry of the Western Cape.
(Nokukhanya Melissa Cele, Evelyn Alman & Justin Fortuin 2014)