Heritage-rich Nquthu in northern KZN has produced politicians‚ music and celebrities

Kelly Khumalo
Kelly Khumalo

It may be easy to dismiss the area of Nquthu as just another pastoral hinterland in KwaZulu-Natal.

However‚ this perception is far from the reality.

Nestled in the foothills of the lush rolling mountains of Isandlwana‚ Nquthu is a force to be reckoned with.

With a total land area of 1‚962 km2 and a population of 165‚306‚ Nquthu is roughly the same size as the Ekurhuleni Metro in Gauteng.

And as this rural town gears up for another chapter‚ almost everything is at stake‚ from a new political pecking order to the control of the rich heritage and resources of the region.

Five reasons why today's by-election in Nquthu mattersVoting stations for the highly anticipated by-election in the northern KwaZulu-Natal municipality of Nquthu opened at 7am on Wednesday. 

On Wednesday‚ the only town without a mayor following last year’s local government elections is poised to go to the polls to start on a clean slate after months of bickering and political squabbling‚ which resulted in the dissolution of the municipality in February this year.

After all‚ Nquthu is renowned not only for producing a high number of journalists‚ celebrities‚ musicians‚ politicians and captains of industry‚ it also boasts rich Zulu war history and world-famous battlefields.

These are the sites at which the Zulu army tried several times to push back against the aggressive advance and encroachment of white settlers.

Tragedy strikes in Nquthu on eve of electionsTragedy struck the northern KwaZulu-Natal area of Nquthu on Tuesday afternoon on the eve of the much-awaited municipal by-elections when three school children died after being knocked by a car. 

These events led first to the Battle of Blood River in 1838‚ known in the area as Impi yaseNcome‚ where the Zulus took on the Boers on the banks of the Ncome River.

This ended in defeat for the Zulus and victory for the Boers on December 16‚ 1838‚ and spawned a day known as the Day of the Vow and later Reconciliation Day‚ today a public holiday in South Africa.

This was to be followed by the Anglo-Zulu War 41 years later‚ again between the Zulus and the British.

This war was fought over a number of bloody battles‚ including an opening victory of the Zulus at the Battle of Isandlwana‚ followed by the defeat of a large Zulu army at Rorke’s Drift by British troops.

Special votes open for Nquthu by-elections in KZNAs the countdown edges closer to by-elections in Nquthu in northern KwaZulu-Natal‚ the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) confirmed that all 116 voting stations in the municipality were opened for special votes on Tuesday‚ ahead of the by-elections on Wednesday. 

The war eventually resulted in a British victory and the end of the Zulu nation’s dominance of the region.

However‚ today a new political battle with far-reaching ramifications is to be fought with ballot paper by at least 14 political parties vying for a slice of the 81‚000 registered voters in the area.

Perhaps President Jacob Zuma had this rich history in mind when he told the Nquthu electorate not to be left behind.

“Do not lag behind as Nquthu when the country is progressively moving forward. This is the D-day to decide your own fate and destiny. Do not be left behind‚” Zuma said.

The IFP’s battle-hardened leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi was also mindful of the stakes when he said on Sunday: “We have endured a long and difficult battle in Nquthu to get service delivery back on track. That battle can be won on Wednesday.”

If free and fair‚ IFP will do well in Nquthu by–elections: ButheleziBuoyed by recent successes in dozens of other northern KwaZulu-Natal municipalities‚ IFP president Mangosuthu Buthelezi on Sunday sought to mock the ANC and the DA — its coalition partner in other municipalities — saying he was surprised by their encroachment in Nquthu. 

For a small town‚ Nquthu is also quite diverse and multilingual.

This is almost the only town in the heart of Zululand where isiZulu is spoken alongside other official languages like seSotho‚ Setswana‚ Xitsonga and Sepedi‚ according to Census 2011.

SeSotho is taught in local schools as part of the curriculum.

The town is also home to several high flyers. These include MTN Cameroon CEO Philisiwe Sibiya and her twin brother Jomo Sibiya‚ who is an ANC MPL‚ deputy finance minister Sfiso Buthelezi‚ social development minister Bathabile Dlamini and first KZN premier Dr Frank Mdlalose‚ who were all born in Nquthu.

The municipality is also home to singer and controversial personality Kelly Khumalo‚ Ukhozi FM gospel DJ and personality S’bu Buthelezi‚ as well as Mzi Khumalo‚ who was a speechwriter for former president Thabo Mbeki and former Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni.

Other luminaries include Mlungisi Mathe‚ who plays Emkay in SABC 1’s Skeem Saam‚ Michaelhouse College ace maths tutor Sihle Mtshali and the late Zulu crime novelist Meshack Masondo.

Nquthu also produces a high number of recording artists‚ like maskandi musician Uboneni‚ award-winning all-female maskandi ensemble Izingane Zoma‚ Jaiva Zimnike‚ whose collaboration with Mroza won them the SABC song of the year award last year‚ recording and award-winning scathamiya group African Music Bombers and the late maskandi king Umgqumeni‚ who came to prominence‚ albeit posthumously‚ after it was incorrectly claimed he had risen from the dead in January 2012.

This was also the home of erstwhile Nquthu mayor and traditional healer Sosobala Mbatha‚ who was known as the “Flying Doctor“.

He was the first black person in South Africa to own two aircraft‚ which had to be taken back to the airlines he had bought them from after he died in September 2000.

He was also the first in the area to build a triple-storey mansion‚ complete with an elevator. The house is still there.

The area has also produced several journalists‚ including incumbent SABC chief presidential correspondent Mzwandile Mbeje‚ SABC radio journalist Khalesakhe Mbhense‚ SABC radio newsreaders Samke Mtshali and Simphiwe Mthethwa‚ former Isolezwe and now Bayede News political journalist Celani Sikhakhane‚ Isolezwe journalist Nokubongwa Phenyane‚ and Daily Sun photojournalist Jabulani Langa.


-TMG Digital