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In 1872, the Cape Colony, under the leadership of its first Prime Minister John Molteno, attained a degree of independence from Britain.
The new government merged the three neighbouring settlements of East London, East London East and Panmure in 1873, forming the core of the current municipality, and in 1876 it began construction on the region's railway lines, commencing on the river's east bank.
In 1956, South African President Henrik Verwoerd, who was the archarchitect of apartheid, forbade the East London municipality from extending the existing Duncan Village township and sanctioned the building of Mdantsane.
In 1961, these plans provided for the allocation of a distinct wedge of the city for Asian and Coloured residence, which "incorporated the areas of North End and the recently proclaimed Buffalo Flats location.
This settlement on the West Bank was the nucleus of the town of East London, which was elevated to city status in 1914.
During the early to mid-19th century frontier wars between the British settlers and the local Xhosa inhabitants, East London served as a supply port to service the military headquarters at nearby King William's Town, about 50 kilometres (31 mi) away.
The existing port, in the mouth of the Buffalo River, adjoining the Indian Ocean, began operating in 1870.
A British fort, Fort Glamorgan, was built on the West Bank in 1847, and annexed to the Cape Colony that same year.
This fort is one of a series of British-built forts, including Fort Murray, Fort White, Fort Cox, Fort Hare, Fort Jackson and Fort Beaufort, in the border area that became known as British Kaffraria.
in the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality of the Eastern Cape province.
The city lies on the Indian Ocean coast, largely between the Buffalo River and the Nahoon River, and hosts the country's only river port.