38
The Eastern Plateau Slopes

The belt of dissected and varied country constituting the Eastern Plateau Slopes has come into being with the progressive recession of the Great Escarpment (see ch. 1, pp. 22-4) which forms its western boundary. In origin and surface form it contrasts sharply with the Highveld plateau to the west and with the Mozambique plain of marine deposition lying to the east. In the south it extends to the coast but north of St Lucia the Lebombo range and the Mozambique plain lie between it and the sea. The Soutpansberg closes the belt on the north while the southern limit is taken along the Groot Winterberg and the Amatola mountains. Genetically the upper drainage basin of the Great Fish river belongs to this region, but on climatic and economic grounds it is preferable to include it in the transition zone of the south-eastern Cape.

While having a common mode of origin, however, the Eastern Plateau Slopes range from over 4,000 feet down to sea-level and exhibit a variety of surface form. This is because they have been sculptured during several erosion cycles over varying geological structures (Figs. 202 and 203). As each erosion cycle has penetrated inland, it has destroyed the work of its predecessors. The rate of advance and destruction, however, has varied from one part of the region to another, and today surfaces belonging to the four erosion cycles recognized in southern Africa1 are present (see Plates 99 and 100). In the south the Cape ranges have slowed up the processes. Here remnants of the oldest surfaces remain. By contrast north of the Umtamvuna river the monoclinal flexuring along the Lebombo axis (see ch. 1, p.12) gave added vigour to the African and subsequent cycles thereby hastening the destruction of their predecessors which becomes more complete northwards. In the south the Groot Winterberg and Amatola mountains represent the former edge of the Great Escarpment.2 They enclose the Unga plain, an erosion surface lying between 4,000 and 5,000 feet which is attributed to the Gondwana cycle; northwards the floor of the Ladysmith basin (Fig. 203), which is some 1,000 feet lower, is of the same phase; still further north the Gondwana surface has been completely destroyed by subsequent erosion cycles. Surfaces attributable to the African cycle are widespread throughout the southern part of the region, forming in particular the benchlands

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