Zululand District is situated in the north-eastern part of KwaZulu-Natal. It has an area of 15 307 sq kms and a population of about 954 020 people. It has two major towns (Vryheid and Ulundi), both of which are well located in relation to the national road and rail networks. Vryheid (urban population 24 670) is a commercial and business centre, while Ulundi (urban population 55 000) is an administrative centre with the seat of the District Municipality, the shared seat of the Provincial Legislature and a well-equipped airport.
However, the district’s economy and settlement pattern are largely rural. During the apartheid era, Zululand was defined as a “homeland” and for that reason was severely deprived of government investment in infrastructure and services for many years. Today, Zululand remains one of the poorest districts in South Africa. It needs investment in basic infrastructure and economic activities, which will create employment and, for this reason, has been selected as one of the focus areas for national government’s integrated sustainable rural development strategy (ISRDS) programme.
The area of jurisdiction of the new Zululand District Municipality is divided into five municipal areas. These are:
Zululand is primarily a rural district with a population of 954 000 people living in 866 dispersed rural settlements and six urban areas, 872 settlements in total. Most of the rural settlements are small, making service delivery costly. About half the area falls under the jurisdiction of Traditional Authorities, the remainder being privately owned commercial farms, or protected areas. The district experiences high levels of poverty and has a high incidence of HIV/AIDS infection. Another pervading problem is poor accessibility to basic facilities and services.
In the context of the South African space economy, Zululand’s two best developed towns, Vryheid and Ulundi, may be regarded as major country towns, below the level of neighbouring centres like Richards Bay – Empangeni and Newcastle. Vryheid is Zululand’s main commercial, industrial and business centre, with a reasonable welldeveloped physical, social and institutional infrastructure. It is well located at the intersection of major transport routes, which traverse the region. Ulundi has a larger population, but narrower economic base, relying heavily on government services, commerce and informal trading. It is located on a secondary route within the district, but 19kms from the main R 34 route.
eMondlo is another significant urban area. It is primarily a residential area with limited services and facilities, and few employment opportunities. Pongola and Paulpietersburg are small towns which act as service centres, while Nongoma fulfils the same role, but with far fewer and lower order services. The other urban settlements are very small and offer few services or facilities. These may be regarded as urban more by statistical definition than due to their function. With the closing of the coalmines in and around Hlobane and Coronation, the only remaining concentration of economic activity is Zululand Anthracite Colliery located some 50 kms east of Ulundi.
Zululand is predominantly a rural district, located in the northwest KwaZulu-Natal. Although it is relatively remote from the province’s major development centres (Durban, Richards Bay / Empangeni and Pietermaritzburg) and the main growth corridors (along the N3 and N2 routes), it does have a secondary corridor of national significance. The coalline corridor, which runs from Richards Bay, through Ulundi, Vryheid and Paulpietersburg and on to the mining areas of Mpumalanga, is an important route in the national rail and road network.
Source: Zululand DM IDP 2011/2012