Recalling local heroes

2008-06-28 00:00

BEFORE being known as Edendale, the area on the west side of Pietermaritzburg was Welverdient (“rightly earned”) Farm belonging to Andries Pretorius who was a Voortrekker commander.

Pretorius was given the 2 400-hectare piece of land as a reward for his part in helping secure an Afrikaner victory against the Zulus at Blood River.

This is part of the history of the Edendale area which Hitler Mbambo enjoys sharing with tourists who visit the area. He is regarded as a human library of the history of the area.

The 69-year-old local development activist was born and raised in Edendale. He never seems too busy to share the history of the area and dreams of bringing development to it.

Through listening to Mbambo one easily develops a sense that the area has been the home of great men and women. It you want to know who Professor Sibusiso Nyembezi was, go to Mbambo. He will also tell you about Joe Ngidi, the Edendale-born great boxer of the fifties who won many battles around the world and conquered South African boxing.

His face glows when he talks about the people he regards as his heroes. One of them was Oliver Msimang, the grandfather of the Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Qedusizi Hebert Msimang.

“Oliver was a great sport activist. He was among the local football managers who formed Edendale African Football Association, against Maritzburg Bantu Football Association, which was accused of suppressing soccer,” said Mbambo, who is a retired court interpreter.

Another interesting snippet is that the Edendale Advisory Board wanted the area to be a town independent of Pietermaritzburg. The board consisted of about 10 city residents of all races, including T. M. Wadley, after whom the local Wadley Stadium is named. The board’s idea was rejected by the then Natal authorities.

Most people know late SACP/ANC stalwart Harry Gwala as having been a resident of Dambuza, which is part of Edendale. But Mbambo will tell you that he only arrived in the area after his release from Robben Island in the late eighties. He said Gwala’s family came from KwaSwayimane in the uMshwathi area outside Pietermaritzburg, where he was buried in 1995. He first moved to Ockerts Kraal near Mkondeni before his wife bought land in Dambuza.

The important history of the area is being forgotten because it is hardly told. In order to change that for the benefit of future generations, the Edendale Heritage Association, of which Mbambo is a member, together with the Natal Museum and Amafa AkwaZulu Natali have renovated Pretorius’s house, which is now part of Edendale Primary School. Historical displays are exhibited at the house.

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