Witbank was established in 1890 and early attempts to exploit the coal deposits failed until the railway from Pretoria reached the area in 1894. It was proclaimed a town in 1903 and became a municipality in 1914. Despite attempts by governing bodies to establish the use of the name, eMalahleni, for the city as well as for the district, locals still tend to call the city by its original name. Similarly to the anglicised pronunciation of Johannesburg, English-speaking residents pronounce the name as “wit•bank” and not as “vit•bunk” as in the original Afrikaans pronunciation, nor as “vit•bank” as English-speaking visitors are prone to say.
There are many stories about the city and its origination but the top story would be the arrival of Winston Churchill at the nearby Transvaal and Delagoa Bay Colliery during his escape from Boer imprisonment in Pretoria, on his way to Delagoa Bay (later Lourenco Marques, and then Maputo, in Mozambique). Some local residents, loyal to the Crown, assisted him in hiding and making the final leg of his escape, thus gaining Witbank the consequent credit once the details of these events could be made known.
The town has grown since then from a farming community into a business destination where companies such as Anglo American, BHP Billiton, Evraz, Eskom, Exxaro, Joy, Komatsu, the Renova Group, SAB Miller, SAMANCOR, Shanduka Beverages, Xstrata and Zenith Inc amongst many others have found substantial returns on their investments. Witbank is located along the railway line linking Pretoria to Maputo and for many years served as the transport gateway to the Mozambiquean port. In recent years, this line has been under frequent threat of collapse due to underground coal fires in disused mines in the area.
Two national highways, the N4 from Pretoria and the N12 from Johannesburg, converge at Witbank and then continue to Komatipoort, on the border of Mozambique. Together, these routes form the Maputo Corridor, a strategically important alternative to the South African ports of Richards Bay and Durban on the Indian Ocean shores of the country. Witbank is in a coal mining area with more than 22 collieries in the municipal radius. There are a number of power stations (such as the Duvha Power Station), as well as a steel mill (Evraz Highveld Steel and Vanadium Limited) nearby which all require coal.
The farm land surrounding Witbank is fast being bought by investors, coal mining companies and real estate developers to accommodate the rapid growth of the city which is good for local businesses and residents. Likewise, the sustained growth of the commercial areas and suburbs has presented significant challenges to the municipal government. Potable water supplies, sewage treatment, electricity distribution, refuse collection and road maintenance are particularly affected, arousing sustained ire amongst the local residents.
Relatively high summer rainfall since 2008 has caused significant damage to municipal roads, creating large numbers of potholes and leaving large amounts of debris on the road surfaces. As Witbank is en route to travellers from the Gauteng province to the Kruger National Park, attempts have been made to capture some of the potential tourist spend. Apart from a few hotels, there are many guest houses. These vary from the utilitarian to the luxurious, and also cater for many of the business travellers visiting Witbank as well as those travelling to Nelspruit, Swaziland and Mozambique.
A casino complex is accessible within a few hundred meters from the N4 highway, providing two hotels, cinemas, ten-pin bowling and restaurants as well as the traditional gambling facilities. The Highveld Mall is built immediately next to the casino and is a retail hub for locals as well as for many residents of towns in the vicinity. Mpumalanga i/? m? pu? m?? l????? / (name changed from Eastern Transvaal on 24 August 1995), is a province of South Africa. The name means east or literally “the place where the sun rises” in Swazi, Xhosa, Ndebele and Zulu.
Mpumalanga lies in eastern South Africa, north of KwaZulu-Natal and bordering Swaziland and Mozambique. It constitutes 6. 5% of South Africa’s land area. In the north it borders on Limpopo, to the west Gauteng, to the southwest the Free State and to the south KwaZulu-Natal. The capital is Nelspruit (recently renamed to Mbombela). Prior to 1994, Mpumalanga was part of Transvaal Province. Mpumalanga Travel Guide / Formerly known as the Eastern Transvaal, Mpumalanga is one of South Africa’s top tourist destinations.
People are drawn to Mpumalanga by the magnificent scenery, by the fauna and flora and by the saga of the 1870s gold rush era and a wealth of fascinating tribal legends. Aptly know as “Paradise Country”, few regions in the world can match the extraordinary beauty of the Mpumalanga Lowveld and escarpment. Mountains, panoramic passes, valleys, rivers, waterfalls and forests characterise the landscape. This is also Big Game Country, the setting for dozens of sanctuaries teeming with wildlife and birds. Among them, the Kruger National Park is world renowned, as are several of the luxurious private reserves on its western boundary.
The entire Mpumalanga area offers exceptional opportunities for bird-watching, hiking, horse-riding and fishing. Streams once panned for gold have become the haunts of eager anglers and lazy trout. Steeped in the history of pioneers, hunters and fortune seekers, fascinating gold rush towns abound. Barberton and Pilgrim’s Rest are among the most famous. A special, additional dimension occurs in the Middleveld region which is inhabited by Ndebele people, notable for their traditional costumes and attractively decorated houses.
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