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Region Overview
 
 

Cosmos Country

 

The Cosmos Country is a region that transforms into a rainbow of colours during the summer.



Not only is the Cosmos Country known for its cosmos but also for the lively farming towns, large mining operations and power stations, which produce electricity for the majority of South Africa’s Citizens.

 

Towns

Balfour

Balfour

A Brief Overview

 

Few know about Balfour Dam along the banks of the Suikerbosrand River or Welgelegen Manor – the architectural landmark built by one of South Africa's greatest architects – both of which lie quietly in Balfour.


Even though it's only an hours' drive from Johannesburg, Balfour is farming country and ideal for a leisurely stroll across the nearby koppies, especially when cosmos flowers are in full bloom during autumn. Life in the centre of town is quiet so it's well worth doing a private tour of the surrounding region, during which local guides narrate the history of the surrounding region that also stretches to Greylingstad, Val and Villiers. Along the winding banks of the Suikerbosrand River and situated on the Balfour Dam you'll find Fortuna Resort – a peaceful, privately-owned hideaway that is known for its camping and caravanning facilities, and quad biking track. The kids will be entertained by the putt-putt golf course, playground, trampolines, heated and cold swimming pools and the possibility of catching any of the five freshwater fish species.

The most interesting historic landmark in the Balfour area is the Welgelegen Manor House. It was designed by none other than Sir Herbert Baker, the architect who designed the Union Buildings and Groote Schuur Hospital among numerous other buildings and historic landmarks. The restored manor house has been transformed into a five-star guest house and numerous recreational activities – such as walking, hiking and lawn sports – are centred here. Otherwise play a round of golf at Summerfield golf course close by. Balfour is certainly the town to visit if you have little else on your agenda besides reading and unwinding. 

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Bethal

Bethal

Bethal’s cultural precinct and Nomoya Masilela Museum pay homage to many of South Africa’s prominent liberation struggle heroes, such as Richard 'Gert' Sibande, Nokuthula Simelane, Ruth First and Henry ‘Mr Drum’ Nxumalo.

 

The predominantly agricultural town of Bethal in Gert Sibande Municipality pays homage to many of South Africa’s prominent liberation struggle heroes, including Richard ‘Gert’ Sibande, after whom the district municipality was named in 2003. Bethal’s cultural precinct, in the centre of town, is in the shape of a ‘T’ and consists of a bronze statue of Sibande that looks in the direction of a statue of Nokuthula Simelane with the recently renovated Nomoya Masilela Museum in the background.

 

Despite having no formal schooling, in the 1930s Sibande, alongside fellow human rights activist and journalist Ruth First, helped expose the inhumane living and working conditions of black potato farm workers in the Bethal region in Drum Magazine. Sibande was a champion of the oppressed, who organised farm workers into South Africa’s first farm workers' association, so as to improve the socio-economic relations between farmer workers and their employers. He also supported the redistribution of land and became known as the Lion of the East. His towering statue depicts his ideological stature, which led him to become provincial president of the Transvaal African National Congress (ANC). He was one of the first accused in the Treason Trial that started in 1956, alongside Nelson Mandela and various other struggle activists, but was acquitted in 1961. While exiled in Swaziland, Sibande assisted members of the ANC’s military wing, Umkhonto weSizwe, to travel from Mozambique through Swaziland back to South Africa. He died of old age in Swaziland in 1987 and in April 2007 Sibande’s family received the order of Luthuli in Gold that was awarded to him by then President Thabo Mbeki.

 

A few steps away is a life-size statue of Simelane, who was a member of Umkhonto weSizwe and symbolises the hundreds of South Africans who, like her, went missing during the liberation struggle. Simelane served as an ANC courier between South Africa and Swaziland, while her father and uncle planned the routes to and from the targets and sheltered Umkhonto weSizwe members. In early September 1983 she was kidnapped from the Carlton Centre in Johannesburg
by members of the Soweto Intelligence Unit, who had infiltrated ANC ranks – she thought that she was meeting with a fellow comrade. Simelane refused to become an informant and is believed to have been tortured to death on a farm near Thabazimbi, in present day Limpopo Province. While eight Soweto Security Branch operatives applied for amnesty at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for her detention and torture, no one took responsibility for her disappearance. The whereabouts of her remains are a mystery to this day, but her memory and sacrifice are immortalised here.

 

On the other side of Bethal  cultural precinct is the Nomoya Masilela Museum, which was opened on 21 March 2012 – Human Rights Day – and is named in honour of the student from Mzinoni High School, who was shot dead during a 1980 student protest in the area. The museum, which is housed in the former Magistrate’s Court built in 1910, is a place of remembrance. This national monument includes 24 exhibitions and honours those who fell during the liberation struggle, it also houses Ruth First's and Henry ‘Mr Drum’ Nxumalo’s former prison cells. 

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Delmas

Delmas

Delmas is a small farming town that produces: chickens, maize, potatoes and wheat. The town originated out of a farm called “Witklip” (White Stone) in 1907. The farm was owned by Frank Dumat, who decided to call the town “de le mas”, which means “the small farm".

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Evander

Evander

Evander is a mining town that was founded in 1955 and is home to two major mining operations, the Teks Brewery and many locally owned and run Bed and Breakfasts.

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Greylingstad

Greylingstad

Greylingstad is a small farming town west of Standerton in Mpumalanga, South Africa. The town was founded in 1909 by the Dutch Reformed Church and named after PJ Greyling.

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Kinross

Kinross

Kinross is a small gold mining town in Mpumalanga and is in the unique position of being at the watershed between rivers flowing east to the Indian Ocean and west to the Atlantic. The town, named after Kinross in Scotland, was proclaimed in 1915 and is the railhead for the township of Evander and four massive gold mines in the region.

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Kriel

Kriel

Kriel was proclaimed on the farms Onverwacht and Roodebloemin the early seventies, essentially to service three mines, two power stations and the farming community in the vicinity - and named after the first resident magistrate Mr. DJ Kriel from nearby Bethal. But the 'old town' has been in existence since the late 1800's and is 10km from the last great battle of the Boer War.

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Leandra

Leandra

Leandra is a farming town, which is not far from Gauteng. The town's houses are built in the style of the 1950's. The town blossoms with bright pink Nerium oleander in spring. You will be able to see the Big 5 on game farms in Leandra.

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Secunda

Secunda

Most South Africans only know Secunda as an industrial and commercial centre, but the town has a liberation history that includes some of the country’s bravest freedom fighters, who died for democracy and racial equality.
 
Vincent Sekete (aka Sydney Sebephu) and Victor Khayiyane (aka Bongane Mthetwa) were members of the elite Umkhonto weSizwe Special Operations Unit led by the highly trained Richard Barney Molokoane (aka Mmutle Ramanase) and under the command of Joe Slovo. In 1982, they carried out an elaborate bombing of Sasol 1 and Sasol 2 petrochemical plants, which were important political and strategic targets to the apartheid government and NATO. The petrochemical plants burned for five days, which led the three to become known as The Sasol Three.

They worked as a unit and were killed by the South African Defence Force on 28 November 1985 during an ambush in Houtkop, outside Mkhondo (formerly Piet Retief), as they attempted to cross into Swaziland. They were buried in Thandakukhanya Township and exhumed between 10-12 December 1997 to be reburied. That year, Molokoane was posthumously honoured with the Gold Order of the Mendi, by then president, Thabo Mbeki for his bravery and heroic military offences.
He is believed to have told his mother: "You have three other sons. I belong to the nation, and the place where I will die will not be known by you, but I will not die running away from the police. I will not die from being shot in the back. I will die in battle, and until they shoot me in my forehead the battle will continue. The area where such a battle will occur will be razed by the burnt bushes and grass."

Another story of heroism is that of Patrick Chamusso, who was falsely arrested in 1980 by the South African Special Branch under the suspicion of conspiring with the ANC to bomb the Secunda oil refinery. Despite his innocence, he was detained for two months and severely tortured. Upon his release he fled to Mozambique, where he joined Umkhonto weSizwe, the military arm of the ANC. Joe Slovo – head of Umkhonto weSizwe and leader of the South African Communist Party – sent Chamusso to Angola for explosives training on how to destroy infrastructure without fatalities. After his return to South Africa, Chamusso single-handedly bombed the Sasol plant. The attack was carried out on Republic Day, a public holiday, so as to claim as few lives as possible – the ANC did not want to lose support by killing people. Chamusso planned for the reactor land mine to explode 15 minutes after the water treatment plant explosion, which was intended to empty the main plant so as to avoid casualties. The police guessed that there was another land mine and dismantled it before it exploded. If it had exploded, the fire would have been unstoppable. Over the next three days Chamusso bombed two electrical sub-stations near Witbank, plunging the entire town into darkness. After having been shot in the leg and arrested, Chamusso was sentenced to 24 years on Robben Island on accounts of terrorism, high treason and the possession of false passports. In 1991, after serving 10 years, he was released, alongside other political prisoners, as part of the new government’s amnesty policy. He refused a position in the current government and instead turned his energies to establish the Two Sisters Orphanage, which cares for AIDS orphans. In 2008, Chamusso received the National Heritage Council Ubuntu award for his humanitarian work. Hint: Catch A Fire is a biographical film that illustrates Chamusso’s fight for a free South Africa.

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Standerton

Standerton

Standerton’s Grootdraai Dam is a recreational retreat for those who enjoy water sports, yachting, fishing and camping. It also hosts the annual three-day Lekwa Music Festival and Mayoral Cup. Grootdraai Dam, meaning 'big bend' in Afrikaans, is situated along the Vaal River on the outskirts of Standerton. The dam was originally built to supply water to the Sasol 2 and Sasol 3 plants at Secunda and today supplies a number of Eskom's power stations. During the weekends it’s a
recreational retreat for locals, who enjoy water sports, yachting, fishing for carp, bass, mudfish, yellowfish and barbel as well as camping along its banks. Locals also have holiday homes at the boat club and the surrounding cosmos fields and willow trees make for a picturesque setting for a picnic or daytrip.
 
The annual three-day Lekwa Music Festival and Mayoral Cup, which is held at Grootdraai Dam and the local sports stadium, has become a highlight in the town’s calendar and sees around 30 South African DJs and artists take to the stage, as well as corresponding sporting events.
 
Although Standerton is predominantly known as a commercial and agricultural hub that specialises in mining, livestock and crop farming, it has a fascinating history that few know about. The town was named in honour of Adriaan Stander, the owner of the Grootverlangen (meaning ‘Great Longing’) Farm. A Voortrekker memorial – ox wagon tracks and horse hoofprints from the Great Trek imprinted on a concrete slab – that commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Great Trek, lies in front of the Standerton municipal buildings. There's also the Anglo-Boer War memorial of the canons used by South African forces during World War I and II, as well as a monument to the memory of the Anglo-Boer War concentration camp victims.

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Trichardt

Trichardt

Trichardt, named after the son of Louis Trichardt, is close to the towns of Bethal and Secunda is abundant with local flora and fauna.

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