Tuesday, April 23

Eshowe: Home of Zulu kings and culture

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The settlement received the first Europeans in Zululand. Today there are many commercial opportunities, and its link to history means tourism is a lucrative market

Recognised as the oldest town of European settlement in Zululand, Eshowe’s name is rumoured to have been inspired by the sound of the wind blowing through the 4km² indigenous Dlinza Forest.

Equally, its name has its history in the Zulu word for the prolific Xysmalobium shrubs that grow in the region, namely showe or shongwe. The town’s history dates to 1860 when Cetshwayo, then still a Zulu prince, constructed his kraal in the area.

Swiftly following that development was the construction of a mission station by a Norwegian missionary, Reverend Ommund Oftebro. However, after the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, Eshowe was established as the capital of Zululand and home to the British resident in Zululand, with the town officially declared a township in 1891.

Today Eshowe is a market town with a 100km catchment area, two main shopping centres, a bus station serving the Zululand hinterland, a major hospital and several schools.

Yet it also embraces its cross-cultural history in being home to four Zulu kings – Shaka, Mpande, Cetshwayo and Dinuzulu – and the Zululand Historical Museum, housed at the white mud-and-brick, three-turreted Fort Nongqayi, provides visitors with a glimpse into the past.

Its position in the heart of Zululand means Eshowe is a prime tourism node within easy reach of the province’s battlefields as well as the various private and Ezemvelo-managed game parks.

The multi-million-rand Eshowe Hills Eco-Estate is the town’s most significant investment, born from the desire by an entrepreneurial group of local residents unwilling to stand by as the town’s historic golf course and clubhouse disappeared due to diminishing funds and membership.

Eshowe Hills founder Dave Davenport says the syndicate bought the golf course in 2003 and were given planning permission to build 180 houses the following year.

One of the houses on the Eshowe Hills Estate, located on the town’s former golf course. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

“Eshowe is a small town and this investment, that incorporates the Dlinza Forest and so provides the essential protection for this natural green belt, represents a significant level of confidence in the area,” he says.

Covering 110ha and including the previous Ocean View Game Park land from which the animals were relocated to allow the introduction of indigenous bushbuck and other smaller creatures into the estate, the initiative wholly redeveloped the golf course and clubhouse.

It also paved the way for the existing housing estate where plots began from R375000, with building costs are around R6 500/m ². The Dlinza Forest aerial boardwalk is the only one of its kind in South Africa.

Currently, there are a host of rental and purchase options for commercial interests in Eshowe. For sale is the George Hotel, a historical landmark on the main commercial road.

The hotel promises its new owners the opportunity to further develop the 29 en-suite rooms, conference facilities, bar, restaurants and coffee shop. Also on the market is a 1 800m² commercial shopping centre on 6 159m² of land in the heart of the central business district.

Recently renovated to accommodate 19 shops and offices as well as ample parking, the centre’s tenants include various national retailers and franchises, funeral services, doctors’ rooms and furniture shops. Price on application for both properties. Within the commercial rental property space, there is an 85m² store on the market for R80/m² excluding VAT.

However, a sad impression of the town is its uncontrolled litter sweeping across the streets and pavements. Visitors and potential investors depart with a feeling of a lack of care rather than one of invitation for upliftment and upgrades. 

Established businesses operating in the area

Sibuyile Trading Store

Reflecting the town’s history, when trading stores were the anchor for the surrounding farming community, Sibuyile Trading Store provides customers with all everyday items found in general stores.

MS Gwagwa & Associates

Established by Malizo Samkelo Gwagwa in 2000, the attorneys’ firm has grown from small-scale beginnings to one servicing the Zululand district. Its wide range of services includes debt collection, conveyancing, property law, litigation, estates and labour law.

Rambros Funeral Services

Rambros Funeral Services operates out of one of the older, potentially original buildings still standing in Eshowe’s commercial area. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

The funeral service franchise operation plays a critical role in allowing family members to bury their loved ones with dignity.

Liv In Style Home Furniture Group

The home furniture group has outlets throughout KwaZulu-Natal and offers customers the benefit of more than 50 years’ experience in the furniture retail industry. The group sources its goods globally to provide quality imports and international trends at affordable prices.

Aloe Lifestyle Hotel

Aloe Lifestyle Hotel has been redeveloped from the old Aloe Guest Lodge. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

A charming landmark strategically located in the heart of Zululand, the Aloe Lifestyle Hotel is the phoenix that arose from the redevelopment of the ailing Aloe Guest Lodge bed and breakfast establishment. The hotel has been designed to fulfil travellers’ needs in terms of luxury, fitness, food and beverage service and children’s demands.

Small town offers pros and cons

Lifestyle

As a town rather than a city, Eshowe offers residents and investors a quieter lifestyle where work and home are usually just minutes away from each other. The environment also means neighbours and friends are one and the same.

Land and space available

The town has a host of older buildings available for renovation or redevelopment, subject to regulations and approvals from the heritage authority, Amafa. Open land for development is fairly widespread across the town and further outwards as the opportunity for attracting investment escalates.

Various commercial space is currently under construction or being upgraded. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Opportunities for tourism-based businesses

Eshowe is in the heart of Zululand and within reach of the province’s key tourism initiatives. These range from the battlefields of the Anglo-Boer and the Anglo-Zulu wars to the host of privately owned and Ezemvelo-managed game parks. Opportunities for investment into the tourism industry include guest lodges, bed and breakfast establishments, tour guiding and transportation, restaurants and casual eateries as well as shops specialising in local curios and gifts.

Labour

The unfortunate reality with South Africa’s unemployment rate is that labour is readily available. These range from unskilled to semiskilled and people with skills.

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