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City Overview
 
 

Ermelo

 
 

A Brief Overview

 

 
Ermelo played a pivotal role in South Africa’s liberation struggle as it was a stop over for the ANC’s Umkhonto weSizwe members who were travelling to Swaziland and Mozambique, and it also experienced forced removals during the 1960s. But the surrounding region is also brimming
with cultural, natural and geographic attractions.

The ruins of Nyebe settlement – the District Six of Mpumalanga Province – lie a few minutes south of Ermelo city centre, near the current settlement of New Ermelo. Today, all that remains of Nyebe are house foundations overgrown with grass, dried up water wells, stairs that lead to nowhere and
a turned over stone pillar from a shop that faced the main throughroad. Various artifacts have been discovered in the area and one can walk between the outlines of houses, along streets that are no more, to the imagined sounds of playing children. An aerial satellite image from Google Maps illustrates the scars of the former settlement.

While little is known about Nyebe, save for the stories that a few surviving community members and their children relate; the ruins tell the story of forced removals that occurred across South Africa during apartheid. This non-white community of thousands of people was razed to the ground in the 1960's after it was reclassified a whites only area, according to the 1950 Group Area’s Act. This was done upon the request of the white farmers who had to drive through the
community en route to their properties. The settlement was also rumoured to shelter members of Umkhonto weSizwe – the African National Congress’ (ANC) military wing – who were travelling from Johannesburg to Swaziland and onwards to Mozambique. The white farmers reported excessive movement and target shooting practise in Nyebe after nightfall.

The community was relocated to an old portion of Ermelo called Wesselton, six kilometres away, that had been demarcated as a black area by the apartheid government. Many community members moved back to the area and used the bulldozed bricks to rebuild their houses on the remaining foundations, but within a year of their return, the Department of Bantu Affairs knocked everything down again. This time the apartheid government transported the bricks to the other
side of the valley to make them difficult to access. The area seemed forgotten until recently, as a handful of children of former community members are moving back to the area after successful land claim bids through the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights.
 
Cenotaph Msukaligwa in Ermelo city centre honours all those liberation heroes and heroines from the Gert Sibande District Municipality, who fought for racial equality in the liberation struggle. Their names have been inscribed in stone, so that we never forget the immensity of their personal
sacrifice. The cenotaph is located near the World War II memorial.

The region also has much to boast about in terms of cultural, natural and geographic attractions. Ermelo is often used as a base by those wanting to explore the surrounding region, such as the stone circle ruins of the Bakoni people near Machadodorp, and Bonnefoi ghost town that was home to the internationally-acclaimed Everard group of artists, which later served as a resting stop for high-level ANC members travelling to Swaziland. The bushman rock art of the Thiqwa Caves, also known as La Rochelle Caves, are also a fascinating history lesson.
 
 
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