Debe Nek

On the foothills of iNtaba ka Ndoda, along route R63, you'll find a very small town of Debe Nek.
The name refers to the channel through which the Debe River flows.
This is where giant earthworms can be found. These creatures can grow up to 3m in length.

The town itself consists of a defunct hotel, trading store, a post office and a recently built police station.
You can traverse the whole town in  less than 3 minutes :-)
I didn't have time to interview the current store owner though. 


This is where Ngqika and Ndlambe's troops took to battle in the Batlle of Amalindi.
In October 1818, the long standing rivalry between the senior Chief of Xhosaland, Ngqika, and his uncle, Ndlambe, erupted in a battle of epic proportions that was to go down in Xhosa tradition as the battle of Amalinde. This exceptional battle lasted from midday to nightfall, and was fought with such unusual ferocity that it takes a special place in the history of Xhosa warfare. It resulted in the defeat of Ngqika and the death of 500 of his followers. Though events surrounding the battle are well documented and various authors have described it, many details are yet unknown

The Xhosa name for the kommetjies is amalindi, meaning cup-shaped depressions across the surface of the ground. The word derives from umlindi, meaning ‘a deep pit or grave’. In 1915 Rev. Albert Kropf, stationed at Berlin Mission, described Amalindi as ‘a strip of country characterized by having numerous depressions on its surface, found at King William’s Town and East London’. 

It is likely that Amalinda, a suburb of East London, also owes its name to the amalindi of the kommetjievlakte. According to Noel Mostert’s acclaimed book Frontiers, the Battle of Amalinde, the greatest and most terrible ever fought among the Xhosa, took place on the ‘strange saucer-like cavities’ of the undulating plains of the Debe. 
Here, in 1818, the forces of Chief Ngqika were all but annihilated by the Ndlambe Xhosas under Makana (also known as Nxele). 
It is believed that the majority of the Ndlambe warriors initially concealed themselves within the amalindi, tricking Ngqika into thinking that he could easily overpower the smaller visible force.

Kopke, D. 1980. Debe hollows of the Eastern Cape. Fort Hare Papers 7(2), 146-154.
Mostert, N. 1992. Frontiers: the epic of South Africa’s creation and the tragedy of the Xhosa people. Cape, London.
Pickford, G.E. 1926. The Kommetje Flats.The Blythswood Review 3(29), 57-58.
Battles and giant earthworms - BIO-CULTURAL DIVERSITY


  1. this was the shop of my grandfather Willy Brandenburger (from germany). the other shop in the town was owned by a man named Landauer. my grandparents were married in the hotel there. my mother grew up there. i have a very interesting story of the day i visited debe nek in the early 90's. i bumped into a man called Afrika. he used to play with my mother. his mother was my mothers nanny. she practically raised her. my grandmother spoke russian, my grandfather spoke german. he had to learn Xhosa and english. he used to supply trading stores beyond the kei river in such places as old bunting etc. very interesting. thank you.

  2. Wow!, thank you for sharing, very interesting indeed. Are you currently based in South Africa?

  3. to update my earlier comment. Willy Brandenburger (my german grandfather,who founded Border trading) married the sister (sonia tariff , my grandmother) of this shop's first owner. his name was Dodsky Tarloff (a russian). this is how he got into the shop and then the trading business there. supplying many of the trading stores in the eastern cape. especially into the hills of the transkei. Border trading was run out of east london. I am not based in south africa now. i am in Australia. my brother is still in cape town. i love the eastern cape earth and the earthworms that reside in it. a very special place. Graeme Shapiro

  4. My grandfather, Gordon Phillips also owned this trading store. I spent many a happy childhood year here. AWESOME. Email me.

  5. Thank you, I'll be mailing you shortly.

  6. Great blog. Thanks Vuyo for enlightening us on the history of this area.


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