Nestled on the foot of the Drakensburg Mountains, Maluti-a-Phofung, falls under one of the picturesque tourist attractions in South of Africa, especially to tourists who are attracted by destinations that are “off the beaten track”.
Tranquil and serene, under the shadow of the Sentinel peaks – called “Phofung” in Southern Sotho – the Drakensburg or Maluti Mountain provides a surreal environment that invokes a sense of nostalgia to the unassuming traveler.
Triangulated by the three towns of Harrismith, Phuthaditshaba and Kestel, the Maluti-a-Phofung is a key economic zone to the south-east of the Free State Province. This is mainly because of its agriculture, industrial, tourism and education sectors.
Harrismith, named after Sir Harry Smith who was a British governor of the Cape Colony, is a large town in the Free State. It is situated by the Wilge River, on the N3 highway about midway between Johannesburg, and Durban.
Phuthaditjhaba is a Sesotho name that means ‘meeting place of the tribes or communities’. It is located on the banks of the Elands River and on the foothills of the Maluti (or Drakensburg) Mountains. Kestel was founded in 1905 on the farms of Mooifontein and Driekuil. This tiny village in the Free State is situated on the foothills of the Rooiberge in the Maluti Mountains.
The municipality is one of the leading educational hubs in the Free State Province often producing some of the best matriculants in the country. It is also a study destination hosting the University of the Free State Qwaqwa Campus and Maluti TVET College, a college that shot to fame some few years ago when they knocked out Orlando Pirates – one of the top three clubs in South Africa – from the Nedbank Football Cup. The municipality is also home to the Free State Stars, one of the leading football clubs in South Africa.
Despite its admirable destinations and glorious history, over the years the municipality and its community have experienced challenges in terms of poor political administration which has led to civil unrest linked to the poor service delivery related to the water problem. Just like the majestic Drakensburg Mountains, the community has demonstrated a deep sense of social resilience to confront the issues that affect them.
The recent announcement by the Human Settlement, Sanitation and Water Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, has brought hope to the resolution of the water crisis. Sedibeng Water has stepped in with technical expertise to fix some of the dams – including Fika Patso, Metsimatsho, Sterkfontein, and Driehookdam – and water infrastructure so that water can flow back into the reservoirs and community taps.