Welcome to Empangeni, a vibrant city located in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. Situated approximately 157 kilometers north of Durban, Empangeni is a hidden gem that offers visitors a unique blend of natural beauty, rich history, and modern amenities. Whether you’re a nature lover, history buff, or simply looking for a relaxing getaway, Empangeni has something for everyone.
Nestled in hilly countryside, Empangeni overlooks a flat coastal plain and the major harbor town of Richards Bay, which is just 16 kilometers away. The N2 freeway runs east from Empangeni, intersecting John Ross Highway (R34) which connects Empangeni and Richards Bay. The climate is sub-tropical with an average temperature of 28.4 °C in summer and 14.5 °C in winter. The town is said, by local residents, to not have a real winter, as temperatures are seldom very low.
== History ==
Empangeni has a rich history that dates back to 1851 when the Norwegian Missionary Society established a mission station on the banks of the eMpangeni river. The river was named after the profusion of Mpange trees (Trema guineensis) growing along its banks. The mission was later moved to Eshowe, 61 kilometers northwest. In 1894, a magistracy was established, and the Zululand Railway reached the town in January 1903, linking the area to Durban and Eshowe. The government planted eucalyptus trees in 1905 as part of an experimental timber plantation. The plantation was a success and led to a large-scale planting along the coastal belt. In 1906, Empangeni became a village, and rapid expansion began when a sugar mill was erected at Felixton. The establishment of the Empangeni Sugar Mill set the area on the road to rapid development. Empangeni was officially proclaimed as a township on 15 January 1931 and declared a borough on 13 October 1960.
Empangeni made headlines in the early 1980s for a very unfortunate reason. Serial killer Simon Mpungose was terrorizing the citizens of Empangeni during his spree of violent murders. The 35-year-old Mpungose was given the name ‘Hammerman’ because he would break into homes in the dead of night and kill the occupants with a hammer before robbing them of their possessions. When he was brought to trial in November 1984, shortly after his arrest that same year, the Empangeni court was told that Mpungose attacked many other people during violent robberies, but never touched the children of his victims. During the trial, Mpungose stated that he wanted to die as he had a hard life, complicated by the actions of people who did not understand his plight. He was sentenced to hang, whereupon Mpungose threw his blue tracksuit into the public gallery, shouted, and threatened to expose his penis to the court before he was restrained with handcuffs. He was hanged a year later on Friday, 29 November 1985, in Pretoria.
Empangeni was one of the towns severely damaged during the riots and subsequent looting that broke out in parts of South Africa during July 2021. Many businesses did not reopen following the carnage.
== Education ==
Empangeni has a number of respected schools, including high schools such as Empangeni High School, Mevamhlophe High School, St Catherines Empangeni, Old Mill High School, Richem Secondary, Felixton College, Khombindlela High School, Ehawini Technical High School, Thanduyise High School, Nongweleza High School, Amangwe High School, and Matshana High School. The city also has several primary schools, including Grantham Park, Heuwelland, Empangeni Preparatory School, Empangeni Educare Centre, Empangeni Christian School, Phesheya Primary school, Thembelihle Primary school, Nqutshini Primary School, Wood and Raw Primary School, Siyakhanyisa Primary School, and Ngweni Primary School.
== Religion ==
Empangeni is home to a number of faiths, including Christian, Muslim, and Jehovah’s Witness. Christianity is the dominant faith in Empangeni with a large number of operating churches, including Christian Family Church, The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Empangeni Methodist Church, AGS Empangeni, Victory Family Church, Full Gospel Church, Lutheran Church, Solid Ground Church, Empangeni Baptist Church, Uniting Reformed Church (Dutch), the Catholic Church, Holy cross and St Thomas in Felixton.
== Sports ==
Empangeni has a strong sporting community, most of whom participate in one or more of these sports: golf, rugby, squash, pool, bowls, cricket, soccer, and hockey.
== Notable people ==
Empangeni has produced several notable people, including rugby player Vincent Koch, actress Jessica Nkosi, comedienne, presenter & actress Celeste Ntuli, politician Mildred Oliphant, footballer Siyabonga Sangweni, tennis player Ian Vermaak, musician Muzi, Rugby World Cup winning hooker Schalk Brits, maskandi musician Ihashi Elimhlophe, actor Fezile Makhanya, musician Matthew Mole, comedian Sfiso Nene, and international actor Mthandeni Mbambo, politician Wiwi Gumede, politician Mthobisi Mtshali, and football star Nathi Mthiyane.
== Local media ==
Empangeni is served by several local media outlets, including The Zululand Observer newspaper, Icora FM community radio station, Ikalamva Films, and Vibe Online.
== Ngwelezane township ==
Ngwelezane is a township at the outskirts of Empangeni. The township is home to the Ngwelezane Hospital, a 554-bed institution, and a tertiary hospital. It is also home to prominent influential people, such as Minister of Water and Sanitation Senzo Mchunu, Former Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant, the late former Chairman of Eskom Ben Ngubane, actress and film director Wendy Gumede, international actor Mthandeni Mbambo, international artist Muzi, social activists Wiwi Gumede, Mthobisi Mtshali, and social entrepreneur Mpendulo Mbulawa. Ngwelezane offers one of the best nightlife experiences through hosting events at its prominent restaurants and taverns. Ngwelezane is known for its tranquility. In 2020, residents joined forces to form a Green committee called The Green Champions, which consists of young, energetic, patriotic members of the community led by Siyamthanda Community Services. The Green Champions spearhead the greening of Ngwelezane Township through their weekly Adopt A Spot campaign, where they turn illegal dumping spots and bushy neglected spaces into Green Spaces.
== References ==
== External links ==
Media related to Empangeni at Wikimedia Commons