Magaliesberg Battlefields Route to boost tourism while revisiting history

The Magaliesberg Battlefields Route was recently launched at an event hosted by the West Rand Development Agency (WRDA). This planned tourism route is part of a project to promote economic development and create jobs in the area by establishing a network of South African War battlefield attractions in the greater Magaliesberg region.

The route will be rolled out in phases, with tourist guides currently being trained while the project partners raise funds to fully implement this cultural heritage and historical tourism project.

Once fully operational, the route will start at the visitor information centre that will be built at the Misty Hills Country Hotel in Muldersdrift, and will take visitors to the various historical sites on the battlefields route. Working closely with stakeholders such as tourist guides, tour operators and owners of hospitality establishments, the project aims to create infrastructure that will significantly increase the number of local and international visitors to the greater Magaliesberg region.

Map For South African War Battlefields Of The Greater Magaliesberg Area
A map of the Magaliesberg battlefields during the South African War is available to purchase.

Speaking at the launch on 24 August 2018 at Misty Hills, author and historian Vincent Carruthers highlighted the role the Magaliesberg region played in the South African War (1899-1902) and the importance of remembering the black people who were involved in the war.

Said Matthew Sathekge, Gauteng’s chief director of tourism, “This project is a reflection [of the fact] that we are moving in the right direction. By retelling the story [of the South African War], we hope it will serve to rewrite the story and acknowledge all who were part of the war.”

The South African War, also known as the Second Anglo-Boer War, was fought by South Africans of all race groups on both sides of the conflict. It caused massive upheaval for people of all races in the area around the Magaliesberg mountain range. The battle activity in the region took place from late May 1900, when British troops first entered the area, until 31 May 1902, when the war ended.

Mogale City, west of Johannesburg, bears testimony to the awful consequences of the South African War in the Magaliesberg region. The graves of many of the black victims of the camps are to this day unmarked, and are in danger of being completely forgotten.

“The history of this area provides a great opportunity for tourism in Gauteng,” said Dennis Thabe, the West Rand District Municipality’s mayoral committee member for reindustrialisation, speaking at the launch of the Magaliesberg Battlefields Route.

As the economic development agent for the area, the WRDA is tasked with contributing substantially to the growth and development of the West Rand area by stimulating, facilitating, implementing and supporting economic development and job-creation projects and initiatives. Thabe said the agency’s commitment to this responsibility is evident in its support for partnerships with both the public and private sectors for the roll-out of sustainable and integrated economic infrastructure and development interventions.

Commenting on the significance of the new battlefields route, WRDA chairperson Terrence Mokale said: “This is a South African story and we need to tell the story of all those who participated in the war.”

The Magaliesberg region lies between the Gauteng and North West provinces. The project partners hope that developing historical tourism routes and infrastructure will result in many hospitality and tourism businesses being established and enlarged, leading to jobs being created in different fields. The increased flow of visitors to the region is also expected to create business opportunities, offering enormous benefits for economic development in the greater Magaliesberg region.

For more information about the Magaliesberg Battlefields Route, please contact Andre Wedepohl of Recreation Africa Leisure Industries at andrewedepohl@rali.co.za or 011 950 6192.

Dwarsvlei Battlefield Tours
History buffs are invited to take a tour of the Dwarsvlei battlefield on Sundays.

Anyone interested in experiencing an appetiser of the envisaged Magaliesberg Battlefields Route may book for the Battle of Dwarsvlei tour, which is being run as a pilot project. These tours are offered by military historian Rob Milne, who may be contacted at 076 792 8107 or robm@rali.co.za. They take place by appointment on Sundays at The Bru House and Diner (on the actual battlefield site), situated on the R563 between Krugersdorp and Hekpoort.