About the Department
Community Services Department
The Community Services Department is headed by Mrs. VT Sokhela and comprises the following sections:
Local Economic Development
Youth, Sport and Recreation
Gender and Disability
Indonsa Arts and Crafts
Princess Mandisi Health Care Centre
LED Database Registration
Download the LED Database registration form here.
- zdm LED database registration form.pdf (0.41 Mb)
The Zululand Tourism office performs an umbrella function for all five local tourism offices in Zululand. The key functions of the Zululand Tourism are to:
- Link with and support the 5 local tourism structures in Zululand
- Handle the district tourism marketing functions by producing and updating the Zululand Tourism Brochure and doing bi-monthly tourism newsletter for Zululand tourism role-players
- Deal with national and international tourism marketing such as provincial Gateways into Zululand, the cross-border linkage with Swaziland and being a role-player in the S. A. FlandersExchange Project and the German/South African Cultural Exchange Programme
- Link with neighboring district and provincial tourism structure i.e. Uthungulu, Battlefields, Birding and all the TKZN structures
- Upgrading and update the tourism website
- To ensure Zululand tourism being reflected in newspapers and magazines such as the Daily News, the What Where and When etc.
- Deal with tourism related project funding applications and assist obtaining or accessing tourism development funding
- Ensure and assist local tourism to develop specific tourism themes in each municipality.
Some helpful information about the Zululand area, to help you prepare for your trip into the Heart of the Zulu Kingdom:
Summer months are hot and sunny, interrupted by rainy days and cool misty periods in the highlands. Winter months generally are mild and dry.
For summer months, keep it casual and cool. Hats, shorts, good walking shoes, sandals and rainwear. Winter evenings inland can become cool if not cold, so make sure there’s something warm in your luggage.
Care Precautions must be taken against malaria, particularly between the months of October and May. Protective medication needs to be started several days before travelling, and continued for four weeks after leaving the area. Advice on the most suitable preparations can be obtained from pharmacies, travel clinics and offices of the Department of Health. While travelling, make use of insect repellent, coils and mosquito nets, and keep the body covered as much as possible after sundown. Zululand sunshine is one of the area’s greatest assets but requires hats, sunglasses and sun-cream. Make sure during summer months, when humidity is high, that your water intake is sufficient.
The N2 is a major national road that arcs through Zululand, linking Mpumalanga with the KwaZulu-Natal coast, but the regional roads R33, R34, R66, R68 and R69 that criss-cross most of the area are all tarred and well-used. Consult local information offices about using the secondary untarred roads, especially as some of them deteriorate after heavy rains. From a safety point of view, plan your route in advance. If you’re heading for one of Zululand’s more remote areas in a self-drive vehicle, check with a local information office or even the nearest police station for any precautions that may be necessary. It’s advisable to keep doors locked and windows closed, and valuable items should be kept out of sight in the boot of the car. At night, park in well-lit areas and avoid giving rides to strangers.
As in other countries, there are some basic precautions that should be taken to ensure your stay is as pleasant and safe as possible. It’s not advisable to carry large sums of money on you. Avoid wearing eye-catching jewelry or displaying expensive camera equipment. At night steer clear of dark, isolated areas. Explore in groups rather than alone. In your hotel, lodge or camp, store valuables in the establishment’s safety deposit box. Don’t leave luggage unattended, and keep your room locked – whether you are there or not.
Swimming and paddling in rivers, lagoons and lakes is not safe unless the area is free from bilharzia, hippos and crocodiles. Sea bathing is best undertaken on demarcated beaches.
During the 1600s, Nguni tribes emigrated from the north-west were drawn to the plentiful game, clear rivers and rich soil of Zululand. What began as a peaceful pastoral existence was overwhelmed by power struggles from which the might of the Zulu nation emerged. It was the legendary King Shaka (referred to in contemporary writings as the Napoleon of East Africa) who molded the Zulus into the most powerful black nation in Southern Africa. His 12 year reign had repercussions across a vast area stretching as far as present day Lesotho and Zimbabawe. Shaka was born out of wedlock after a passionate encounter between Senzangakhona, ruler of the then small Zulu tribe, and Nandi, a pretty maiden from the neighbouring Langeni clan. When she fell pregnant the royal father suggested hopefully: “Perhaps she is harbouring a iShaka (intestinal beetle)”. The baby boy was named Shaka, but he served for his illegitimacy and was rejected by his own village. However, he grew up to be a courageous warrior. In 1816 on the death of his father, Shaka became Inkosi (chief) of the Zulus. He called his kingdom kwaZulu, which means Place of the People of Heaven. Ceremony & Celebration Zulu customs are still evident in today’s ceremonies, the best known being the annual Shaka day celebration and the Reed Dance, which is held at Nongama in September. It is presided over by the king and involves hundreds of young Zulu women, each bearing a reed that is subsequently used for building a royal residence. Traditional Dwellings The Zulu traditional village is a must visit – either for a few hours or an overnight stop. Guests are greeted with traditional Zulu hospitality and etiquette. Service invariably comes with a big smile from a people who relish showing off their heritage. Invariably, guests will be entertained by dancing and singing – two communal activities in which Zulu men and women love to participate. It is customary that only the unmarried girls and young men dance, alternating in separate groups. While the girls dance, the young men will provide accompaniment by singing and clapping; and visa versa.
The Language of the Beads
The earliest Zulu beads were made from organic materials like seeds, seashells,ivory and teeth. They were coloured with dyes obtained from natural sources fruit, leaves, roots, mud and bark. Vastly superior glass heads were introduced by European traders and became so popular that there are records of gold, ivory, even slaves, being traded for them. For the Zulus, beads have always been both a means adornment and a form of art. But perhaps the single most important aspect of beads in Zulu culture is the message carried by these works art. There is a complex language of beads, which is most commonly linked with love. Colours have different meanings – white is associated with purity, pink with poverty, blue with loneliness, and green with pining. But there are many subtle variations – for instance a black strip horizontally bisecting a piece of white means our ‘love is over’. Zulu maidens would send long involved bead messages to their lovers – weaving thoughts of love, grief, jealousy, poverty or uncertainty into her intricately patterned creation. Visitors are able to buy beadwork from tourist outlets and street vendors. The talents of Zulu artists and craftspeople are also well applied to traditional artifacts like wood carvings, basketry, weaving and pottery. Working with indigenous raw materials Zulu craftspeople create functional pieces great aesthetic appeal. Buying a hand-crafted beer pot, grain basket or beaded doll not only provides satisfying souvenir but also token of the Zululand earth. A personal piece Heaven.
Visit the interesting towns, discover the natural attractions and experience the traditional culture and unmatched wildlife that Zululand has to offer. There are several gateways through which to enter the magic that is Zululand – by road from the north, south or west; by air and even by sea – but for our purposes lets commence our journey in the south.
Heading south from Pongola we reach the Magudu area, a favourite with hunters and many private game farms, hunting lodges and photographic safaris operate here. The sacred mountain of Magudu is the site of a historical village that was once the home to Magudu, the Zulu rain queen.
Continuing inland, we set our sights on the north-western corner of Zululand via Louwsburg. Shortly before the village of Louwsburg is the turn-off to the magnificent Ithala Game Reserve. One of the youngest of the formal wildlife parks, it offers almost 30 000 hectares of prime game viewing and bird-watching.
A majestic expanse of indigenous mountain forest is located south of Ithala. A gravel road winds its way into this hidden heart of Zululand, where we find the Ngome Forest and, within it, the Ntendeka Wilderness Area, considered by many to be South Africa’s most beautiful wilderness area.
With its breathtaking waterfalls, lush forest and rolling grasslands, it is a remote but rewarding adventure for nature lovers.East of the forest, the hillsides are covered with a different type of green – that of tea plantations! The Sapekoe Tea Estates welcome visitors to tour the estate.
Dipping back into history, the town of Nongoma – South-east of Ntendeka – was established in 1887. Once the home of Zwide, an early Zulu king, it is today a bustling trading centre.
Vryheid (meaning freedom in Afrikaans) is the largest town in the north west. A major regional centre, it has remained a welcoming and characterful town that is as rich with history as modern infrastructure.
Vryheid began life as the centre of a short-lived independent Boer Republic in the 1880s, and has an entire block of buildings declared national monuments – three of which are now attractive and interesting museums.
Vryheid is on The Battlefields Route and there are a number of significant battle sites in the immediate vicinity. It also offers much in the way of outdoor activities, including walking, watersport, fishing, riding and hang-gliding.
Paulpietersburg is situated some 50 km north of Vryheid, and is listed in the Guiness Book of Records as “the healthiest town in South Africa”. Spread around the base of the Dumbe Mountain, the town is the first Zululand stop on the Rainbow Route – the name given to a scenic and convenient tourism initiative linking inland South Africa with the Zululand coast.
The district is justifiably proud of the quality of its water, with two spring-water bottling plants in the area, and therapeutic sulphur springs at nearby spa resorts.
Paulpietersburg played its part in the military shaping of the region. The peace treaty that ended the Anglo-Boer War was signed at the nearby Egode River, while the Anglo-Boer War site of Ntombe is 30 km away.
Close to that battlefield is Luneburg, one of the strong pillars of German culture in KwaZulu-Natal. Founded by Lutheran missionaries and colonists in 1860, the area attracted many German settlers and farmers during the 19th century and their descendants continue to make a rich contribution to the cultural tapestry of Zululand. Let’s take the Rainbow Route back south, passing through Vryheid, as we aim for Ulundi at the centre of Zululand.
Ulundi – The High Place
Heading into the heart of Zululand we find the historic Zulu capital of Ulundi. Set among dramatic hills and the rugged valleys of the White Mfolosi River, the town straddles the R66 between Nongoma and Melmoth. It boasts a modern airport and is a gateway to many of the game reserves in the region.
Ulundi is the legislative capital of KwaZulu-Natal. The noble Assembly Building is decorated with spectacular hand-crafted tapestries depicting historic events in the growth of the zulu nation.
History is also woven into the surrounding landscape. Over a hundred years ago, King Cetshwayo selected ‘uluNdi’ or ‘Ondini’ – which means the high place – as the site of his capital, but the entire complex was destroyed by British forces after the Battle of Ulundi. Reconstruction of the original capital has been meticulously carried out by the KwaZulu Monuments Council, together with the creation of a cultural centre and museum, as well as the Ondini Historic Reserve.
About 10 km south of Ulundi is Gqokli Hill, site of King Shaka’s first military success, and Fort Nolela, the British camp from which Ulundi was attacked in 1879.
Heading south-west from Ulundi connects us with the R34 and the Rainbow Route link between Vryheid and Melmoth. Turning right, we drive into more 19th century history. South of this road is the Mkhumbane valley where King Dingane resided. He named it uMgungundlovu (secret meeting place of the elephant). It is now a museum with an interpretive centre and the core of the original complex has been rebuilt to provide a fascinating insight into Zulu cultural traditions.
Slightly north is the grave of Voortrekker leader Piet Retief and his followers, killed at King Dingane’s command in January 1838. Nearby is eMakhosini (Valley of the Kings).
Here many royal Zulu ancestors lived and are buried. Dinizulu, is buried in the Nobamba site while Siklibheni is the site of the grave of Senzangakhona, who fathered three Zulu kings: Shaka, Dingane and Mpande.
Another stop on both the Rainbow Route and the Battlefields Route is Babanango, a short distance as the crow flies from historical sites and well known Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift battlefields, Babanango village has a characterful water-hole and accommodation to suit all needs. Scenic highlands make for great birding, and the area is known for 4 x 4 trails as well as hiking, game viewing and Zulu cultural experience outings.
Some 30 km south of Ulundi is Melmoth, a feeder town for the capital and agricultural and business centre. The town stands 800m above sea level in a lush green mist belt that boasts the cleanest air in the country.
Bushveld horse trails, hiking and birding add to the attraction of being on the Battlefields Route and having Zululand’s game reserves close by.
The final leg of our journey takes us through the misty heights of an escarpment covered with lush, dense vegetation. Wattle and sugar plantations give way to grassland then bushveld and the mountainous terrain of the Nkwaleni valley, where King Shaka built his second capital, kwaBulawayo (the place of killing).
Our final stop is Eshowe. Situated at a cool 500m above sea level, it retains much indigenous rain forest within its boundaries, including the Dlinza Forest nature reserve.
Equally rich history, the place of the wind in the trees was once a fort during the Anglo-Zulu War. Today the fort is a national monument, as is Fort Nongqayi, which is now the Zululand Historical Museum.
Place of Birds
From tree top to flood plain, mountain to grassland, Zululand is a bonanza for birders.
Birding in Zululand is a heady experience. Some of the finest birding spots in South Africa are located within a few hours’ drive from each other, and Zululand is a favourite haunt of both local and international bird watchers.
In the open grasslands and riverine bushveld of Ithala Game Reserve and the rolling hills around Vryheid, we find a checklist of 393 species, from the ostrich to the mannikin, and it includes threatened species such as the bald ibis and the long-crested eagle.
Whether you are an experienced birder or an enthusiastic amateur, Zululand is the ultimate place of birds.
Zululand Birding Route
Situated in Southern Zululand, this popular birding route meanders the Babanango highland, traverses the rolling hills of Melmoth, drops down to the green tranquil forests of Eshowe, continues through the coastal belt at Mtunzini and Richards Bay, and culminates in St Lucia.
The entire Route encompasses 10 different habitat types, which support some 400 bird species – more than half the total South African species. Birders may start the Route at either end, or select any combinations of the Route.
Birding day record counts achieved on the Zululand birding route have been in excess of 260 species recorded in a 24 hour period.
Making this route particularly popular are the welcoming accommodation establishments in the region, ranging from traditional country hotels to game lodges and welcoming bed and breakfast cottages.In addition, numerous well informed and experienced birders are available for advice on local species and the most favoured habitats or to act as guides in the various areas on the route.
Northern KwaZulu-Natal has a wealth of bird life and some 330 species have been recorded in the area. The region centres around the historical town of Vryheid, which is an ideal stepping off point for birders.
Zululand at Your Feet
Hiking is a superb way to explore Zululand. The region is criss-crossed with trails, many of them in nature reserves and game parks. Before setting out, ascertain the distance, degree of difficulty and the clothing and equipment required for the outing. Some trails and hikes will require prior booking, particularly those that involve overnight stops. A comprehensive guide to hiking trails in the province has been published by Tourism KwaZulu-Natal, and is available free of charge from tourist information offices. There are a host of self-guided trails in Zululand, ranging from the 2 day Mkhaya Trail, between Vryheid and Pongola, to the day and overnight Tafelberg Trail in the forests near Babanango; from the 2 hour trail through the Dlinza Forest in Eshowe to the 10 km Dumbe Trail near Paulpietersberg and the 2 day Lancaster Hiking Trail in Vryheid. Battlefield trails are becoming increasingly popular, and Zululand offers hikers with an interest in military history several interesting options.
The tranquil hills and grasslands of Zululand carry many a famous battle scar. The canvas os of the 19th century was filled with one historical drama after another as three forces pitted their armies against each other – fighting for land and supremacy.
Between 1836 and 1852, Zulu warriors clashed with boer settlers.Some years later the might of the British military was hurled against the Zulu nation during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, and the independent Afrikaner movements twice took up arms against the British Empire – first from 1880 to 1881 and then for three years during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902).
The largest concentration of battle sites in South Africa are to be found in northern KwaZulu-Natal. Visited by military history enthusiasts from around the world, the sites are visitor friendly and linked by the Battlefields Route. Several of the key towns on the Route are in Zululand, as are dozens of battlefields and fortifications, museums, war graves and memorials.
The Zululand towns on the Battlefields Route are Eshowe, Melmoth, Ulundi, Babanango, Vryheid and Paulpietersburg. Between them they offer a fascinating array of military landmarks that capture the atmosphere of a turbulent past.
The Route can be travelled as a self-drive adventure, and an excellent guide-map is available from all local tourist information offices. Alternately, join a tailor-made battlefield tour in the company of a specialist guide.
The earliest military engagements in the region began when King Shaka set out to mould the Zulu nation. A number of skirmishes and battles were fought against other tribes,displacing them in the process that became known as the Mfecane, and Gqokli Hill outside Ulundi is the site of one of these epic encounters.
The first of the Voortrekkers arrived in the land of the Zulu in 1837. Hoping to settle in this bountiful land, away from British rule, they began negotiations with King Dingane. These came to an end at uMgungundlovu, when a misunderstanding resulted in Piet Retief and his party being killed. A series of battles between the Voortrekkers, seeking retribution, and the Zulu nation ensued.
By the time the british sought to extend their control of Natal in the 1870s, King Cetshwayo was in power. In 1878 the Zulu king rejected a British utimatum that threatened to limit his power, and the first engagement of the Anglo-Zulu War took place in January 1879, when General Lord Chelmsford launched an invasion of Zululand. While the main force was routed at Isandlwana – when some 25 000 Zulus overran the British camp and killed 1 300 of the 1 500 invading force – which led to the defence of Rorke’s Drift (where a record 11 Victoria Crosses were awarded for a single engagement), the coastal column was attacked at Nyezane and besieged at Eshowe. Further battles and squirmishes at Ginginglovu, Ntombe Drift, Hlobne Mountain and Kambula, with the British finally regaining the upper hand at the Battle of Ulundi on 4 July, 1879.
Zululand was again a theatre of war when the Boers of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek took on the British Empire from 1899 to 1902 in the Anglo-Boer War. Most of the fighting took place behond Zululand’s borders but there are several significant battlefields in the region. These include: Scheepersnek, Lancaster Hill, Blood River Poort and Holkrans in the vicinity of Vryheid; and Fort Prospect and Italeni near Babanango. The historic military landmarks are sign-posted, and can be explored as part of your Zululand experience. A visit to the museums and interpretive centres on the Battlefields Route will provide additional information and insights into the forces that influenced these historical conflicts.
There is as wide a range of accommodation options in Zululand. Take your pick from luxury safari lodges, rustic bush camps, country guest houses, homely B&B cottages, family hotels and traditional Zulu huts. For the traveler who wants a simple rustic base there are scenic campsites and self-catering establishments as well as caravan parks. Advance booking is recommended, particularly during peak holiday season.