Situated in the Soutpansberg District to the south-east of Louis Trichardt is Valdezia Mission Station, an establishment that has come to represent a portion of South Africa's Heritage. Valdezia Mission Station in Limpopo has done much to benefit the local population and uplift the community, while providing insight into the past.
Large numbers of Vatsonga people began moving into the area from the country of Mozambique. This great migration is chiefly attributed to Mfecane-Difaqane upheavals directed from Zululand. Additionally there was an ongoing power struggle amongst Vatsonga chief Soshangane's own sons. The Swiss Mission converted several of the Vatsonga people to Christianity. Shisozwele and his family were the first to convert. Shisowele's daughter, Shiambane, became the grandmother of the Marivate family, a very well-known family name. As the missionaries at the station carried on the teaching, the congregation increased and so a church was built. Soon the Mission Station was a developmental hub in the area. The mission house was constructed in 1884 and the church two years later in 1886.
It was in 1888 that Valdezia primary school was set-up. Several well-recognized members of South African society were taught at the school, such as T. Mandlate, minister at a Maputo church, D. Marivate, became a school teacher, composer and poet, C. Marivate, now a parliamentarian, and Dr Manghezi, today at the Development Bank of Southern Africa. The Swiss missionaries certainly left their mark on an area that previously had no hospitals, churches or education establishments. In 1999 Valdezia Mission Station was declared a national monument.
8. BUYSDORP (Mara)
Buysdorp is situated on the R522 road between Louis Trichardt and Vivo. This settlement is based on the descendants of the patriarch Coenraad du Buys. In 1888 President Paul Kruger allotted this area to the Buys community. It includes the farm Kalkoven, as well as surrounding farms up to 1000 hectares and was a reward for siding with the Voortrekkers during conflicts between the Schoemansdal people and the Venda leadership of the time. This territory, known as Mara, is still occupied by the Buys community today.
In the 1790s De Buys was an outlaw with a price on his head, wanted by the British for his illegal activities along the Great Fish River. Archival documents depict him as a wild creature, half man, half lion, given to helping himself to other men's wives and cattle. Indeed, several historians hold that his cattle raids and provocative entanglements with Xhosa women were the root cause of the Second Frontier War in 1793.
Within a year or two, however, De Buys had crossed the river and allied himself to his former enemies, becoming an important adviser to paramount chief Ngqika and the lover (some say husband) of his mother, Yese. In this period, De Buys also made a foray into present-day KwaZulu-Natal, where he was rumoured to have established a second alliance (also cemented by marriage) with Mzilikazi, founder of the Ndebele nation. These developments caused alarm in distant Cape Town, where De Buys was viewed as a dangerous trouble maker, entirely capable of instigating 'savage Caffres' to attack the colony.
In 1803, Governor Janssens offered De Buys and some other renegades a pardon, and De Buys returned to the Cape Colony, which is where Lichtenstein met him. He was about 45 at the time, and the patriarch of a growing band of half-caste sons and daughters. A century earlier such families were commonplace among Cape trekboers, but racial attitudes were hardening and the Buysvolk, as they were known, were not welcome in the Langkloof - especially after Coenraad testified against a white woman accused of mistreating a slave. By 1813 or thereabouts, De Buys had had enough. He loaded his wagons with gunpowder and trekked off into the unknown again.
9. SCHOEMANSDAL M--UM (Makhado)
This archaeological site is situated approximately 17 km west of Makhado. Voortrekker leaders Louis Trichardt and Andries Potgieter established the settlement originally known as Zoutpansberg or Oudedorp. In 1855 the settlement was renamed in honour of Stefanus Schoeman, successor of General Andries Potgieter, to become Schoemansdal, which was rebuilt opposite and to the north of the original settlement. Schoemansdal was a progressive town which flourished mainly due to trading in products from the hunt such as ivory, yellow wood skins and other hunting products. The reconstruction of the first settlement, which now serves as a reconstructed open-air museum, illustrates the lifestyle of the Voortrekers between 1848 and 1852. Domestic animals such as Nguni cattle, Pedi sheep, goats and pigs can be seen. The grave of Voortrekker leader Andries Hendrik Potgieter can be seen in the cemetery. A large variety of Voortrekker architecture and lifestyle is interpreted at the museum.
In the early 1800’s, Louis Trichardt was in the vicinity of the Soutpansberg and made contact with the Portuguese at Lourenco Marques. In 1837 the district governor of Lourenco Marques send two Askari's, accompanied by Gabriel Buys and some Shangaans to Louis Trichardt in the Soutpansberg to show Trichardt the route to Lourenco Marques. To mark the place where Louis Trichardt met the two Askari's, a bronze plate and beacon were put in place. The Louis Trichardt company would later succumb to malaria on this route.
10. LEMANA COLLEGE (Elim)
The college is situated near Elim hospital. It was established in 1908 as one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in the area, which also produced prominent leaders.
Two theological students, Ernest Creux and Paul Berthold, offered their services as foreign missionaries “whether under the tropics or on the northern ice” to the Synod of the Free Church of Canton Vaud when it met in Lausanne in 1869.
They were sent to Morija in what was then called Basutoland. In 1875 they moved with five ox-wagons to what is today the Limpopo Province, establishing their first missions at Valdezia and Elim. This was the beginning of the work of what became known as the Swiss Mission Church in the area. It later became the Tsonga Presbyterian Church and is now known as the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
Thomas Burgers, the president of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek, was opposed to the presence of the Swiss missionaries and ordered their arrest and incarceration in Marabastad, but they were later allowed to pursue their work in the area. They bought a farm at Rossbach where they started a school with seven children, and named it Lemana, adapted from the name Lac Léman, a lake in Switzerland. The remains of the original Rossbach classrooms, scheduled for restoration by the provincial government as memorial to the work of the missionaries, are presently overgrown by vegetation and in a state of near-collapse.
In 1879 the mission opened the Elim Hospital, which still serves the people of the area. The school continued to grow and a teacher training institute was founded in 1906 which offered a broad curriculum.
The alumni of the school include leaders from neighbouring countries as well as residents of Limpopo and other parts of the country. They include Dr Eduardo Mondlane, Professor HWE Ntsan’wisi, Professor GM Nkondo and Judge GSS Maluleke.
11. ELIM HOSPITAL (Elim)
Elim hospital owes its existence to the Swiss missionaries. The original Swiss mission station was located in Valdezia, just 10 km north east of Elim.
Elim Hospital was the first hospital north of Pretoria. It was famous for its eye-care institute and many people travelled to Elim Hospital for medical attention. It has more emotional connection in the psychology of Shangaans than any other towns in the former Gazankulu territory. The first Shangaan Christians were converted at Elim and Valdezia respectively, and the first primary school, located in Valdezia was established in 1885. The hospital had electricity before Louis Trichardt (Makhado) town.
Elim has played a very important role in the literacy of early Shangaan intellectuals. The first Shangaan to write a novel and publish it in 1936 – Dr DC Marivate – was educated at Elim and Valdezia respectively. During the apartheid era, the white government attempted several times to remove Shangaans from Elim and Valdezia, without success, thanks to the Church of Switzerland. The farm Watervaal at Elim and the farm Klipfontein in Valdezia were purchased in 1875 by two Swiss theology students, and when the apartheid government tried to evict Shangaan in these settlements, the Church in Switzerland objected. Even today, the Church of Switzerland hold considerable power in both Elim and Valdezia.
There is a Museum within the hospital yard that is under renovation so that visitors can get an historical understanding of the hospital. This includes the history of the Swiss Missionaries, Anglo-Boer War and the local Chief, Njhaka-Njhaka, who leased the land to these Missionaries for 100 years. The Missionaries brought religion to the people of Njhaka-Njhaka and churches and schools were built for the community.
Today the graves of the missionaries, Anglo-boer Commandos and Second World War veterans are found within the vicinity of the hospital and the surrounding areas.
12. HAPPY REST (Louis Trichardt)
Happy Rest as an early Iron Age site dating back to about 300 - 600 AD, and is situated 18 km west of Louis Trichardt on the Vivo road within a reserve, which is operated by Schoemansdal Environmental Education centre. The name derives from a culture of the Soutpansberg area that lived there at the time. Also found on the reserve are cycads, which needs desperate actions to protect them. The cycads are the same as those found at Modjadji.
13. FORT HENDRINA (Louis Trichardt)
Collapsible steel Fort used during 1887 as protection for 25 artillerymen and later 100 mounted police is found in the centre of Lousi Trichardt. Apparently every time the fort was moved to a different place the name also changed. Fort Hendrina is therefore also known as Fort Edward. Fort Hendrina was named after the commander, commandant-general Piet Joubert’s wife, Hendrina Joubert. The fort is situated in the town’s Erasmus Street, next to the library.
14. MACHEMMA RUINS, SOLVENT (Waterpoort)
This is an archaeological site, situated some 20km north west of the Waterpoort station, on a private farm off the Mopane road. These old ruins are believed to have belonged to the Thsi-Venda people, and show unmistakable affinity with the Great Zimbabwean ruins.
15. STONEHEGE ON THE FARM BERGVLIET: (Louis Trichardt)
This is an old private residence situated in Makhado with the interior and building style dating back to the 18th century. It was previously declared a national monument and is situated in Snyman Street, Louis Trichardt.
16. FOSSILISED FOOTPRINTS: PONTDRIFT (Pondrift border post)
This natural site was discovered in 1969, in the Holkrans sand stone, on the farm Pontdrift. The footprints dates back some 180+ million years or 180-million years. The prints were presumably made by three kinds of reptiles – Massospondylus, Tetrasauropus and Syntarsus. Very important of the site is that the prints are all pointing in the same direction at a decline of 27degrees.
17. VERDUN RUINS
These ruins are situated six kilometres west of Mopani station on the farm Verdun between Musina and Louis Trichardt. These Venda ruins comprise of strong walls, which attracts the attention, of the Khotla or council-chamber, a typical chair for the chief. Behind the chair on the opposite side of the walls, is a short piece of wall with check patterns. These ruins are like the Machemma- and Dzata ruins and form an important connection in the pre-history of South Africa. This is of great value to the archaeologist and the ethnologist. These ruins can be associated with the movement of the Shona people southwards from Zimbabwe around 1500 AD.
OTHER IMPORTANT PROVINCIAL HERITAGE SITES WHICH WILL EVENTUALLY FORM PART OF THE ROUTE
18. TJATE HERITAGE SITE (SEKHUKHUNE DISTRICT)
This valley lies east of the Leolo Mountain and west of Tjate and Modimolle hills on the farms Dsjate 249 KT and Hackney 116 KT and south of the road from Mosego to Swale. The events during the Sekhukhune War cover a large portion of what is today known as Sekhukhuneland, but also links up with Burgersfort, Steelpoort and eventually with Mapochs’ caves at Roossenekal and Botshabelo near Middelburg.
Kgoši Sekhukhune’s long and bitter struggle against the Boers between 1876 and 1878, distinguished him to be one of the Black leaders of the same class as Shaka, Moshweshwe and many others.
The Bapedi originated from the Bahurutse branch of the Bakgatla in the present day Botswana, but they broke away and eventually settled in the eastern Transvaal around the Tubatse (Steelpoort) River and Leolo Mountains. In their new settlement, the Bapedi prominent leaders included Thobele, Thulare, Sekwati, and Sekhukhune.
The first missionary to visit Sekwati was a Lutheran of the Berlin Missionary Society, Alexander Merensky, in 1860. Merensky was later followed by other missionaries, Grutzner, Nachtigal and Endemann. The first mission station to be built was Gerlarchschoop and later Kgalatlou.
After Sekwati’s death, a succession dispute ensued between his sons, Mampuru and Sekhukhune. Sekhukhune forcefully took over the crown whereupon Mampuru fled. The relationship between the missionaries and Sekhukhune began to deteriorate until the missionaries were ousted together with the chief’s half-brother, Johannes Dinkwanyane, as well as many Christian converts. They settled at Botšhabelo (a place of refuge).
- S 24° 31' 41.5"; E 29° 59' 26"
- S 24° 27' 53"; E 29° 59' 30.0"
- S 24° 27' 10"; E 30° 01' 12.5"
- S 24° 27' 41"; E 30° 02' 45"
- S 24° 30' 06"; E 30° 02' 46"
- S 24° 31' 27.5"; E 30° 02' 03
19. SOUTINI-BALENI HERITAGE SITE (MOPANI DISTRICT)
Soutini Baleni is situated 25 km further east of Nkomo-Goxani village near Mahumani vile on the southern bank of Klein Letaba River under the Mahumani Traditional Authority in Greater Giyani Municipality, Mopani District Municipality, about 35km on the eastern side of Kruger National Park.
Baleni-Soutini hot mineral spring (geo-thermal spring) is a unique natural feature in the otherwise arid Mopane veld wilderness, south east of Giyani, in Mopani District. It has been declared as a Natural Heritage Site (1999), because of its unique ecology. It is a hot spring of which the water has got mineral contents. A species of fish, the stunted population of Mozambique (Oreochromis mossambicus) lives in the fountain. The surrounding swamp is covered mostly by bulrushes and reeds.
Indigenous people have made salt at this fountain for the past 2000 years according to archaeological excavations. Stone tools also tell us that stone age people have been active at Baleni. There are three similar fountains in Mopani District Municipality, but all three have been destroyed by developmental activities. Baleni-Soutini is thus the only preserved salt production site, where indigenous people harvested salt according to indigenous technologies, practices and customs. Every winter local traditional women still produce salt at Baleni. Traditional customs, which accompany the salt making process, include interaction with the ancestral world through ritual and appeasement offerings at the sacred dry leadwood tree (the shrine). The natural fountain is significant to a broader indigenous community, because of its mythical character. It is referred to as Mukhulu.
The cultural landscape at Baleni includes ancient salt mounds, which date back to 250AD and which cover an area of 1.5 to two kilometers in radius from the fountain eye. The modern salt production site and the shrine, are also part of the cultural landscape. Oral history abounds and because of all the myths, legends and other stories that are well known to all the people in surrounding communities and regularly told to visitors, the place and the fountain is a sacred site.
Besides being a sacred site, it is especially a gendered site, because salt making is an activity that only the women practice. All the information, the indigenous technology and the oral traditions are transferred from one generation to the next. Of the many indigenous people mentioned in the prayers, who made salt at Baleni and who acknowledged the sacredness of the fountain, the following are mentioned in the oral tradition: VaKaranga, BaNyai, Balemba, VaVenda, BoLobedu, VaTsonga.
Traditional ecological knowledge abounds amongst the elders, specifically the traditional women, who live in close interaction with their natural environment, because they are dependant on it.
20. MAKAPAN VALLEY WORLD HERITAGE SITE
The Makapan Valley World Heritage Site is situated on the farm “Makapansgat” some 19-km east north east of Mokopane in Limpopo. The Makapan Valley is unique, in that one can find, preserved in its many caves, in the form of sediments, fossils and archaeological remains, a record of human occupation and resource exploitation extending from australopithecine (ape-man) period about 3.32 million years before present through to present.
This evidence forms the foundation of the South African prehistoric sequence. Nowhere else within the confines of a single valley can such an extended and complete record of hominid activity be observed. The most important sites in the valley are as follows: