Zululand at a glance
Zululand District Municipality extends over an area of 15 307 sq. km. Within its five local municipalities, namely eDumbe, uPhongolo, Abaqulusi, Nongoma and Ulundi, live about 780 490 people in six urban areas and 866 dispersed rural settlements. Approximately half the area is under the jurisdiction of traditional authorities while the remainder is divided between commercially owned farms and conservation areas. The two best developed towns in Zululand District Municipality are Vryheid and Ulundi. Vryheid is the main commercial, industrial and business centre, with well-developed physical, social and institutional infrastructure.
It is well located at the intersection of the major transport routes that traverse the region. Ulundi has a larger population but a narrower economic base, relying heavily on government services, commerce and informal trading. It is located on a secondary route within the district, 19 kilometers from the main R34 route. eMondlo is another significant urban area. It is primarily a residential area with limited services and facilities and few employment opportunities. Pongola and Paulpietersburg are small towns that act as service centres, while Nongoma fulfils the same role but with far fewer and lower-order services.
The district is relatively remote from major development centres and the main growth corridors along the N3 and N2 roads. The coal-line corridor from Mpumalanga runs through Ulundi, Vryheid and Paulpietersburg to Richards Bay. However, the dedicated coal trains on this specialized system only stop in Zululand to change crews. Up to the early 1990s, Zululand’s economic base depended heavily on coal mining, supported by agriculture, transport, trade and government services. By 2000 all but one (Zululand Anthracite Colliery) of the large-scale mining operations had closed. Although tourism has started to play a larger role, it does not yet fill the gap caused by the closing of the mines. That has had an impact on all economic sectors.