Environment News

Tsetse Belt, Moholoholo

Nick Grabe

There were two major stumbling blocks in the earlier years that hindered proper development in this part of Mpumalanga. Those were Tsetse Fly disease, sleeping sickness, Ngana and mosquito-borne Malaria.

The Tsetse Belt at the time of 1850-1890 came all the way down from Zimbabwe on the east of the Lebombo mountains and missing the northern section until it reached the Olifants river near Phalaborwa where it transverses the Lebombo mountains and sent out along 25km wide path on both sides of the river all along the Olifants until it reaches the Steelpoort River.

When it comes down it encompasses almost the whole southern section of the park except a small triangular section from Phabeni (Magashulas Post) down to crocodile Bridge, where it sent out another probe South/Westwards and then meanders south/eastwards towards the coast and just misses Delagoa bay. The malaria belt was almost the whole East Coast and all the way up north over the border. Ohrigstad was exceptionally bad but the Malaria belt has receded by population invasion and pest control and only covers a small section of the park.

Battle of Moholoholo 1864 between Swazi and Bapedi

The two main tribes active in the area were the Bapedi and Swazi tribes. They were engaged in numerous battles with each other, which adds to the interest of the area. The final battle, the battle of Moholoholo meaning the great, great battle, was fought in 1864 around the mountain of Mariepskop. This Mountain has been named after the Mapulana Chief of the Bapedi tribe, Maripi Mashile, who assisted and led the Bapedi tribe to victory.

The first white settlers to migrate to this area, arrived here about 1844 and brought about ownership of land and aggression between the African and White people. The arrival of white Settlers brought about the discovery of gold for commercial purposes (the Negroid races had been using gold for trade for many centuries).

This discovery, of workable gold in the Blyde River Canyon in the 1870s, led to the production of the first Hydro-electrical power station in the Southern Hemisphere in 1910. This power station called the Belvedere Power Station can still be viewed today while participating in the Belvedere Hike which departs from the Bourke’s Luck Potholes. It is interesting to note that the power station, which provided power to Pilgrims Rest and the surrounding mines, allowed Pilgrims Rest to have electricity for street lights and other commodities before London in the United Kingdom.

Where did the name Moholoholo come from?

The final battle, the battle of Moholoholo meaning the great battle, was fought in 1864 around the mountain of Mariepskop. Mariepskop, also known as Moholoholo – “The Very Great One”. Mariepskop is outside Kampersrus and is a peak of the Drakensberg range and the reverse side is the three rondawels that according to folklore are reported to be the huts allotted to the troublesome wives of Maripi.

The name “Ba-Phalaborwa”, given to the area by the Sotho tribes who moved here from the south, means “better than the south”. The black tribes mined and smelted copper and iron ore here as far back as 400 AD. Masorini, near Phalaborwa gate, is a reconstructed Ba-Phalaborwa hill village, with huts, grain storage areas, and an iron, smelting site. Phalaborwa is the only town that borders the Kruger park fence.

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