Municipality: iLembe District Municipality


iLembe is located immediately to the north of the metropolitan area of eThekwini and to the south of the uThungulu District Municipality. It comprises the local municipalities of KwaDukuza, Mandeni, Maphumulo and Ndwedwe. The district begins about 75 km north of the metro boundary and stretches some 25 km beyond the mouth of Tugela River. The western boundary of iLembe runs roughly parallel to the coastline at an average distance of about 45 km from the coast.

The northern areas of Ndwedwe, the central corridor of Mandeni and KwaDukuza Municipality are the commercial farming hubs of the district. These commercial areas (31% of the land) are mainly under privately owned sugar cane.

Areas of urbanisation in the district comprise KwaDukuza / Stanger, Mandeni, the Dolphin Coast and Nkwazi. Land uses are typically urban mixed uses with high levels of infrastructural and service development and an adequate provision of social facilities and services to support the residents. Industrial development is concentrated in KwaDukuza, Isithebe and Darnall. 

The existence of village centres such as Maphumulo and Ndwedwe in the west and Nyoni and Mbizimbelwa in the north depend on social services, a welfare office or a similar state service. Wholesale commercial activities have developed and the villages have emerged as supply centres and transportation hubs to the remote rural areas of iLembe. 

The main urban and economic settlements are located along the R102 and north-south rail linkage, in particular at the intersection of the R102 with the R614 and R74. This includes the development of Tongaat (located outside the district) in the south, Groutville, Stanger, Darnall and Mandeni / Isithebe in the north. 

The economic sectors that constitute the pillars of iLembe’s economy are the following:

Agriculture is characterised by two main distinct types:

  • Commercial agriculture, such as sugar cane farming along the coastal strip
  • Subsistence agriculture in the rural hinterland and inland areas

Manufacturing is mainly characterised by the following types of industries:

  • Primary sector comprises of heavy industries, such as sugar and paper mill production in the Isithebe Industrial Estate near Mandeni
  • Secondary sector activities include light industries that are prevalent throughout the district and with a focus on the rural areas of the district.

Tourism has consistently grown in iLembe and offers a variety of tourism facilities that can be categorised as follows:

  • Cultural and heritage tourism
  • Beach tourism
  • Nature-based tourism

Commerce and services includes the following sub sectors and is found in all the main urban centres throughout the district with specific reference to the towns of KwaDukuza and Ballito:

  • Wholesale / retail trade
  • Real estate
  • Transport / storage
  • Business / Community / social / personal
  • Communication services
  • Financial / insurance
  • Government services

(Source: Enterprise iLembe Economic Development Agency website)

The major sectors of employment in the district are manufacturing (35.5%), community services (18.4%), agriculture (13.9%) and wholesale / retail (10.8%).

A number of well established industries operate in the district, specifically in the clothing and textile sector. iLembe has sugar and paper mills, and a variety of light industries has also developed.

A high proportion of the population is under the age of 34, with 49% being younger than 19. This poses challenges in relation to future education, health, recreation and other social services.

The district also established an economic development agency. Enterprise iLembe (Pty) Ltd is a private company which is a municipal entity of the iLembe District Municipality – meaning that all the shares of Enterprise iLembe are held by the Municipality. The agency is responsible for Trade & Investment Promotions and Local Economic Development in the region. 

Critical infrastructure

iLembe is strategically placed between the two major harbours of South Africa in eThekwini (Durban Harbour) and uMhlathuze Municipality (Richards Bay Harbour), which is the highest priority development corridor in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. iLembe Municipality is dissected by the N2 national highway running from Durban up through Richards Bay to Swaziland and Mozambique. The district is also located within 10 kilometres of the newly developed King Shaka Airport and Dube Trade Port that will connect the province directly to international markets. 

Significant progress has been made in the delivery of housing to the poor in Mandeni and KwaDukuza municipal areas but limited progress has been made in Ndwedwe and Maphumulo where dispersed settlement patterns pose a challenge to housing delivery.  


iLembe District Municipality is referred to as the 'Jewel of the Zulu Kingdom' because of its wealth of cultural resources. There is international and local recognition and interest in King Shaka and Zulu culture and history. iLembe offers easy access to the province's other major attractions, such as game reserves, teh St. Lucia World Heritage Site, the Drakensberg Mountains, the battle fields and the city of Durban.

The increased focus on tourism has resulted in a substantial increase in coastal development. The sub-tropical climate positions the area as an all-year-round holiday destination and the warm Indian Ocean provides comfortable swimming at any time of the year.

Other significant competitive advantages that iLembe District offers include strong cultural and historical links to India, the United Kingdom and Mauritius; its location between the ports of Durban and Richards Bay; excellent transport infrastructure; the beautiful coastline and beaches; and the quality of its environmental control. 


There are informal settlements with limited facilities or infrastructural services on the periphery of the developed areas and within the towns.  

The combination of population migration away from from rural to urban areas and the direct impact of HIV/AIDS accounts for the negative population growth in two of the local areas.

At approximately 10% and 12% respectively, the levels of illiteracy in Mandeni and KwaDukuza are relatively low. Illiteracy in Maphumulo and Ndwedwe are higher (21% and 24%).There is thus a great need for adult education facilities and programmes. In addition, access for school leavers to tertiary education is limited. The low levels of education will be a major constraint to future economic development.

Unemployment in the region as a whole stands at 48% - considerably higher than the national average of 36%. With almost half the total workforce unemployed and approximately three-quarters of households receiving a monthly income below R1600, poverty in the district is severe. 

The provision of basic infrastructure is hampered by topographical restraints, low densities and low affordability levels, particularly in rural and traditional areas. Service infrastructure needs upgrading and maintenance. Rural areas are severely affected by a lack of basic services and continued service delivery backlogs. Bulk water supply is a major constraint and is in urgent need of attention. Some of 38% of the population still obtain water from rivers and streams and rural areas either have no sanitation or rely on pit latrines. Very few rural settlements have access to household electricity. Electricity provision at schools and health facilities is especially critical. Refuse removal is limited to urban areas. Dumping of refuse has become a problem, particularly in denser rural settlements.   

Social facilities are generally inadequate, especially in rural areas. Housing in the rural areas consist largely of traditional rural dwellings. Urban centres are characterised by the private residential developments of the well developed Dolphin Coast that cater for the wealthy. Surrounding low-cost housing and informal settlements have proliferated as job seekers flock to the district.