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Indigenous wildlife reflected in the road names at Esikhaleni Township, South Africa: King Cetshwayo’s contribution to conservation

Ntandoni Gloria Biyela


The township on Road 315, south-east of Empangeni in KwaZulu-Natal, was established in 1976 for the black residents who were working at industries in Richards Bay. Before industrialization in the neigbhourhood, the area was inhabited by the Mkhwanazi and Dube tribes. There is something fascinating about this township. It uses not one but two official names: Esikhaleni and Esikhawini. Remarkably, the old colonial documents such as school maps have Esikhawini as an official name. However, after the 1994 democratic government, all the main roads to this township are written in bold, ‘Esikhaleni’. Furthermore, both names are said to be connected with the Zulu King, Cetshwayo, who ruled the uMhlathuze region from 1872 to 1884. Inside the township, the roads have indigenous wildlife names, which are also associated with the king. By means of a survey of schools, associated with the king by their names and studying isiZulu, Tourism and Geography, the study examined the township’s road names, which refer to indigenous animals, birds and vegetation and reflect the natural diversity that once characterized this area. More than 50 roads have names of indigenous birds, including the species of isiqophamithi (green barbet), the tourist attraction and the pride of Ongoye forest in the vicinity. From an indigenous perspective, this study also explored King Cetshwayo’s socio-cultural influence and his contribution towards wildlife preservation during his reign.

Keywords: Cetshwayo, conservation, Esikhaleni, indigenous knowledge, roads, names, schools, wildlife

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eISSN: 1683-0296