eMalahleni, formally known as Witbank, has been home to a number of recognisable faces, from former Miss South Africa Anneline Kriel, well known trumpeter Hugh Masekela, Welterweight SA Boxing Champion Leslie van Rooyen and international sporting legend and Springbok Captain Francois Pienaar. eMalahleni is the place where Winston Churchill successfully hid from the Boer’s and is now known as a hub for South Africa power production.
When you arrive at Highveld Mall its hard not to be impressed, after all this is the biggest shopping and entertainment hub in Mpumalanga.
The Cultural Heartlands is a region of contrasts. A rich mixture of wild grasslands, agriculture and mining that has left this corner of Mpumalanga with its checker board appearance and instantly recognisable landmarks.
Gone are the days where Casinos can market themselves as providers of adult only fun. Now they have to have a suite of child friendly add-ons to keep the whole family entertained.
The beauty of the Cultural Heartlands is it is designed to be explored. As the deep valleys, hidden waterfalls, mountain springs and rolling grasslands reach out to be discovered. The mountain passes used in the early pioneer days now provide the perfect hiking trails or mountain bike routes and the small dirt roads that connect some of the quaint towns in the region make for great 4x4 adventures or for the athletic, trail runs!
“Breathe, just breathe”, I had to keep reminding myself as my feet neared the edge, my left hand clutching the carabiner on my safety harness as if my life depended upon it. While my right hand slowly let out the abseil rope millimetre-by-millimetre. Behind me the soothing voice of Iaan Botha guiding me backwards, while his father Jan assured me he had a firm grip on my safety rope.
It’s somewhat ironic that a city renowned for its pitch black coal mines and grey coal fired power stations was given the name ‘Witbank’ meaning “White Bank”. Now eMalahleni, the towns original name of Witbank originated from the early Dutch transport drivers who would stop here with their wagon carts. They used the white ridge of stone that originally jutted out from the mountains just behind the town as a landmark. Now more appropriately named eMalahleni, meaning coal in the Ndebele language, there is a lot more to this small city than perhaps first meets the eye.
The Lilizela Awards are all about showcasing to the World the best South Africa has to offer when it comes to tourism. A platform for celebrating service excellence and for recognising and rewarding those who work with passion and pride to deliver a world class product and service. To win an Lilizela Award isn’t easy, as the tourism industry in South Africa is well developed and considered to be one of the best in the world, so the competition is fierce!
One of the first things that will strike anyone driving through the Cultural Heartlands is the vastness of this region. Unlike the mountainous Lowveld with its thick indigenous bushveld, the flat grasslands of the Cultural Heartlands spread uninterrupted to the distant horizon and a never-ending skyline that gives an almost overwhelming impression of limitlessness.