Nelson Mandela and the Umfolozi Game Reserve

The Umfolozi and Hluhluwe game reserves remain the oldest proclaimed natural park in Africa. Located North of Durban in central KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Established in 1897 the Umfolozi game park remained a popular hunting ground for the Zulu tribe. Throughout the reserve, there is a vast display of Stone Age settlements. This game reserve was established to protect the white rhino who were already then on the endangered list. The only government run parks where all big five game animals are found.

Conservation efforts maintained over the years have sparked the largest population of white rhino in the world. This reserve remains the birthplace of rhino reservation. During 1990, it was reported that there were less than 20 rhino worldwide, and it was at this game reserve where they bred the species back from near extinction to more than ten thousand today. It was during the 1950s the park gained world recognition for its white rhino conservation.

Nelson Mandela during 1995 visited the game reserve to celebrate the park’s centenary. A link to this speech can be found below.

The lower region of the Umfolozi is where the Amahlubi and Amathembu tribe originated before the Zulu King Chaka drove them southwards during the 1820s. The famous Langalibalele, the chief of this tribe, was arrested and banished to Robben Island. After his release, he was placed under house arrest and died in 1889. His body – as befits a king – was wrapped in a leopard skin, tightly sewn in a fresh slaughtered ox hide and buried after a seven-day funeral procession as the tradition and culture of his tribe required. The burial was completed during the night.

His grave remained a secret by the Amahlubi tribe for more than sixty years, and this is according to their tradition. His grave is now identified as being close to a range of hills within the borders of Giants Castle and this game reserve.

The Amahlubi tribe lived in the Umfolozi region, and it was here that the first king of the Thembu people was affirmed. Nelson Mandela is a direct descendant of the Thembu people and during his lifetime displayed compassion toward this region and the great man Langalibalele. He visited the gravesite and stated that he would want to be buried in this magnificent part of the world – an extremely daunting beautiful historical place. It is recorded that Mbulali’s grandson, Thembu, was the one who led his people from KwaZulu-Natal area to the Eastern Cape; the area where Nelson Mandela was born.

It is said that Mandela wanted to be returned to this area and that the Amahlubi tribe return to the Umfolozi region for the true birth of this tribe has its roots deep within this historical place.

A game park with particular reference to the Mandela icon and the reward of knowing that rhino poaching is almost zero is certainly excellent news. Perhaps this is the true place where the great man will be laid to rest for all eternity.

Written by Laura Oneale

Speech by President Nelson Mandela at the Centennial Celebrations of the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park and Greater St Lucia Wetland Park

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