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Walls that divide and heal

great wall of Mpophomeni

By Thembelani Mkhize

After my last article on a long wall in the hills around the township of Mpophomeni, I got a few great responses with people wanting to see the structure and a giant horse-headed snake (Inkanyamba), while some provided valuable information about the “great wall of Mpophomeni”.

Rudi Hillermann from Durban, who worked as a professional land surveyor all over KZN, gave me some very valuable information. According to Rudi, the wall was used in the days before wire fencing to demarcate ownership/grazing camps, which would make sense, as it seemed to have served the same function in the hills around Impendle where I have family.


Thanks to the Department of Transport’s GIS website, which Rudi drew my attention to, I was able to get a clear picture of where the wall used to run through before it started collapsing or people built over it.

There was also some truth to the stories about the wars that use to rage on the hilltops, and these were mostly due to the strikes at SARMCOL factory (British Tyre and Rubber), where workers were dismissed after a strike which plunged hundreds of families into poverty. The wars were between ANC supporters in the township and IFP supporters in the rural areas of KwaHaza, and the battles raged on in the late 80s and early 90s.

Thembelani Mkhize stands atop the wall near Mpophomeni that had puzzled him and others for some time.

Unfortunately the death of Nokulunga Gumede, a 5-year-old who was caught in the middle of the violence, brought a sad but necessary ceasefire to the ongoing violence. A memorial was erected in her honour and still stands today next to the Mpophomeni library.

Though the “great wall” was created to divide, we hope that we can use it to bring two worlds together and educate the next generation about our history.

I think some of my readers will rest easy now, knowing that there is no giant flying snake lurking around the hills of Mpophomeni. We hope that the water spirit doesn’t get tired of its natural habitat at the bottom of the gorge at Howick Falls.

Now read: KZN Midlands events in March/April

While on the topic of falls, the spring waterfalls at the end of our hike outside Mpophomeni are another very significant part of our journey. The name Mpophomeni means “place of the waterfall” in isiZulu and our valley is fortunate to have one close by.

A visitor to the township sits on top of the wall, with Midmar Dam in the distance.

The spring fountains in the area supply the little waterfall and from the top you get a great view of the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg. We still have braais at our usual “rock couch” spot and are going back soon, before the end of corn season.

**If you’d like to join us for an experience on the better side of our township, here’s the contact info: Email:; WhatsApp: 081 418 9357


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