Culture and Heritage Tourism Boost the Economy of the Mpondo Kingdom

Mbotyi and Mngazi

15 October 2019

By Stella Sigcau

Mpondo Kingdom is known for its cultural richness, beautiful environment with an amazing landscape. It’s also known for the dynamism and warmth of its people rooted on Ubuntu principles. The environment and land to amaMpondo which to most is the main source of survival and being remains imperative. Mpondoland boasts a pristine coastline along the Indian Ocean which hosts marine and coastal habitats as well as pristine estuaries. It is also known for the annual sardine migration (Sardine Run) and its diversity of indigenous plants and trees. The rare Pondoland coconut palm was declared a national monument. Some of its wonders include the beautiful and magnificent rivers e.g. the Mzimvubu, Mngazi, Sikombe, Mbotyi Rivers, its falls e.g. Magwa falls, the nature reserves e.g. Mkhambathi and Hluleka, beautiful oceans e.g. Mzamba, Port St Johns, Umthatha mouth, Lambasi bay, the beautiful Mountains and natural forests in Ntabankulu which is host to the annual Mpondo Culture and Heritage Festival.

The lifestyle and culture of the Mpondo people is connected to their environment which forms part of their heritage. When people talk of heritage in the Mpondo Kingdom it is also inclusive of environmental heritage which is intertwined and linked to cultural heritage. Heritage tourism is defined as being inclusive of cultural, historic and natural resources. Amampondo have managed to preserve their cultural practices for over centuries and one of the ways is through cultural activities. The Mpondo Culture and Heritage Festival (umgubho wamaMpondo) in Ntabankulu which is attended by over 20 000 people coming from diverse walks of life is one such example. People travel from far to attend this Festival to experience their culture and heritage, Mpondo authentic activities, the historic and folk stories of the past, experience their food, dance, artifacts and clothing. This is critical in boosting the cultural and heritage tourism sector of the Kingdom. Cultural heritage tourism is said to have positive economic and social impact, establishes and reinforces identity, helps preserve the cultural heritage, facilitates harmony and understanding among people and helps renew tourism. It is also important in achieving economic and social benefits and plays an integral part in social cohesion. The Mpondo Culture and Heritage Festival which is celebrated annually by amaMpondo in the second week of September every year seeks to contribute in this regard.

The Mpondo Culture and heritage Festival was held this year on 13- 15 September preceded by the Mpondo Reed Dance. Build up to the Festival included the Education expo and career guidance as well as the horse race as a way of encouraging young people to participate in recreational activities. The activities during the festival included award ceremony, biking show, umkhwelo (Mpondo Horse parade), dances by the excited reed madeins, dances by diverse traditional groups and artists. Since the event is also about sharing and exchanging of cultures and promotion of unity in a diversity of cultures, performances also included groups from other Kingdoms including Ndebele, Pedi, Hlubi, Bhaca and so forth. Various dignitaries attended including Prince Cedza Dlamini and Prince Shongwe of Eswatini Kingdom (former Swaziland), Deputy Minister of Business Development Capa who delivered the key note address, King Mampuru of the Pedi Kingdom (Jane Furse), Queen madosini of eNyandeni, former Minister of Labour Mdladlane, Mec Madikizela of Public Works Eastern Cape Lubabalo Madikizela, Prince Thomas Mabhena who represented King Mabhena of the Ndebele Kingdom, Nkosi Magodongo Mahlangu and Nkosi Sipho Mahlangu who is the National Chair of the House of traditional Leaders as well as various Mayors and Senior Traditional Leaders from various parts of Eastern Cape and broader South Africa and tourists.

Photo: (right) Dr Yondela Ndema, Mayor of Ntabankulu Sobuthongo and Nkosi Jongilanga Sigcau and (right) Ntabankulu Mayor Sobuthongo, Princess Dlamini and Prince Cedza Dlamini of Eswatini Kingdom.
Photo: (left) Prince Cedza Dlamini of Swaziland and Nkosi Sipho Mahlangu, Chairperson of National House of Traditional Leaders of South Africa and (right) Deputy Chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders of South Africa receiving an Award
Photo: Mpondo horse parade (umkhwelo)