According to folklore, the name Empangeni comes from the Zulu word pangaed, meaning “grabbed.
It is thought to refer to the number of crocodile attacks in the nearby eMangeni stream and the eMangeni River. In 1851, the Norwegian Missionary Society had established a station along the eMpangeni River banks, and the Zululand Railway reached the town in 1903 to link Empangeni with Eshowe and Durban. The investment in eucalyptus plantations and then the sugar cane industry boosted the town’s development to create a township by 1931 and a borough by 1960.
The town is about 160km north of Durban in hilly countryside overlooking a flat coastal plain. It is east of the major harbour town Richards Bay 16km away, with the N2 national freeway running east from Empangeni to intersect the John Ross Highway which connects the two towns.
Experiencing a sub-tropical climate with average summer temperatures approaching 30°C and winters around 14.5°C, local residents are known to comment that Empangeni “has no real winter as temperatures are seldom low enough”.
According to the Umhlathuze municipality’s official website, Empangeni and Richards Bay are the most significant economic centres in both the local and district municipalities.
Richards Bay, the harbour and the industrial town, attracts people from surrounding towns, rural settlements and beyond the district.
Empangeni’s role as an industrial, commercial and service centre to Esikhaleni, Eshone, Nkandla, Ntambanana and other rural settlements attracts people to a range of higher-order services.
One key private sector investment has been the Life Empangeni Private Hospital which has introduced a 174-bed health facility to the region to complement the 554-bed state-owned Ngwelezana Hospital. The public facility is designated as a tertiary hospital and receives referrals from 18 hospitals in the region.
Empangeni has a wide range of commercial properties for rent and sale, offering investors possibilities across the economic spectrum.
In November, a newly constructed block of flats in central Empangeni came to the market for R10.6million. The property, in the CBD, has 12 two-bedroomed units, with an adjacent stand available for further development.
A guest house property measuring 1400m², with an asking price of R4.1m, also came to the market towards the end of last year. The double-storey property, which is close to shopping malls, petrol stations and other commercial opportunities, offers the new owners a business consisting of nine en -suite bedrooms and a two-bedroomed flatlet.
Within the rental space, an upmarket office park measuring 630m² and offering various sizes for office rental in central Empangeni was listed earlier this month for R200/m². Another property in central Empangeni and measuring 280m² was advertised in October for R115/m².