Mashishing (Lydenburg), Mpumalanga

Founded: 1849


Click to view large map


Lydenburg – How it came to be

The Voortrekkers staying in the Free State, the Transvaal and in Natal, used the Port Natal (Durban) harbour for their trading. In 1843 the British annexed Natal. The Trekkers needed a harbour for free trade as well as to receive visitors, and especially teachers and preachers from the Netherlands. After several attempts, Potgieter and his followers eventually succeeded in finding a route to Delagoa Bay (Maputo) in Mozambique. An agreement between Potgieter and the Portuguese governor would allow the Trekkers to stay inland, four day trips from the Bay.

Smellekamp, a Dutch merchant, who had been refused dockage at Port Natal by the British, was eager to trade with the Trekkers and promised to bring a ship with goods to the Bay, as well as teachers and preachers from the Netherlands.

The capital of Transvaal was Potchefstroom. On his numerous trips to the north Potgieter kept a lookout for a suitable place to settle, closer to a harbour and further from the British. Such a place, well-watered and abounding in trees, was identified. In July 1845 Andries Potgieter, accompanied by W.F. Joubert and his followers from Natal, established the new capital, north of the 26th Latitude and 300 km west of Delagoa Bay. The town was named Andries Ohrigstad (after a Dutchman who promised to bring teachers and preachers from the Netherlands). Three hundred families settled at Ohrigstad in 1846.

A severe problem with malaria, and the inability of Joubert and Potgieter to reconcile their differences, caused Potgieter to once again, move north to the Zoutpansberg to establish Schoemansdal with a group of followers.

Because of the malaria the group that stayed behind and who functioned under the Volksraad, decided to find a place with a healthier climate. Thus Lydenburg was founded in January 1850, and was named after the suffering at Ohrigstad ('LYDEN' -The Dutch word for 'suffering').

The Pedi

Historically the Pedi (Bapedi) was a relatively small tribe who by various means built up a considerable empire.

The Pedi are of Sotho origin. They migrated southwards from the Great Lakes in central Africa some five centuries ago. The names of their chiefs can be traced to a maximum of fifteen generations. Historical events can be deduced reasonably well for the last two centuries, while sporadic events can be described for a further two centuries back.

Some 150 years before the Trekkers entered the area, some battles took place between the Koni (Zulu under Makopole) and Swazi (under Moselekatse). The Mapedi resided in the Steelpoort area.

The Bakoni (Zulu) was attacked and defeated by the Matabele and their chief Makopole was killed. The Matabele, not yet satisfied with their victory, moved further north towards the Bapedi headquarters. At Olifantspoortje the whole Bapedi regiment was wiped out, as well as all the sons of Tulate, the Bapedi chief (except for Sekwati who managed to escape).

After four years, Sekwati who had fled from Moselekatse to Zoutpansberg with a few followers who had also managed to escape the assegais of the Matabele, now slowly started to rise. In 1830 Sekwati invaded some of the smaller tribes, and the Koni (under Marangrang) was ambushed and defeated. Now the Empire of Maruteng (Bapedi) ruled the Koni.

When Potgieter and his followers entered the area in 1845 a Peace Treaty was signed between Potgieter and Sekwati. Sekwati also asked for protection against the larger tribes in the area.

In 1873 Dinkwanyane as an independent chief, moved into the Spekboom Valley north of the Greater Lydenburg.

Lydenburg today - 2010

Altitude: 1414 metres above sea level.
Countryside:Open grassland below high escarpment peaks, clear mountain streams.
Climate:Cool to cold in winter with warm to temperate summers.
Rainfall:600mm per annum in the summer months.
Community:Mixed farming, mining and light industry and fish research and breeding.

Lydenburg, a malaria free area, is a major agricultural and mining centre situated on the Sterkspruit River, against the Mpumalanga escarpment. It is a convenient stopover on the tourist routes to Pilgrim's Rest, Sabie and the lowveld and also to the northern bushveld. The climate is typical of the Mpumalanga middleveld (altitude 1424m) with cool to cold nights and warm days. Dams, rivers and open vleis are an attractive feature of the area.

Lydenburg offers an excellent window into the history, the culture and the passage of the many people who chose this fertile valley as their home over many centuries. Lydenburg is centrally located on the Mpumalanga Escarpment making it an ideal centre from which to take in the many historic and scenic points of interest throughout the area.

Lydenburg is one of the foremost trout and coarse fishing centres in South Africa, fishing facilities on both dams and rivers have been well developed to suit every need, (amp sites, caravan parks and guesthouses all cater for the many fishermen who come to Lydenburg to enjoy both the angling and the tranquility of this beautiful town and surroundings.

Lydenburg is a major departure point for a number of excellent hiking and nature trail and various other outdoor activities.


The local community of the present Mashishing first resided where the Railway Station is situated today. They were under protection of St. Theresa (Roman Catholic Church).

After some changes a new place was found at Boomplaats. The land however, was sold to private persons and the people moved away to where they settled at the banks of the Marambane River. The name Marambane was derived from the word mahambane meaning to walk a word used to describe the gold prospectors, Abomahambane, who scoured the hills and valleys around Lydenburg in search of gold.

It was here that Mashishing was established. At first it was agreed that the area be named Marangrang (after a Pedi chief and businessman), but it was later decided to name it Mashishing, after the tall grass of the area.

[Information supplied by the Lydenburg Museum]

List of references:

Coyne, Patrick. 2010. A guide to South Africa's mountain passes and poorts. Westville: Osborne Porter Literary Services. pp 197-204, 208, 209, 213-215
Maeder, GA & Zinn, C. 1917. Ons kerk album van Hollandsche kerken en leeraren. Capetown: Cape Times. pp 204
Oberholster, JJ. 1972. The historical monuments of South Africa. Cape Town: Rembrandt Van Rijn Foundation for Culture at the request of the National Monuments Council. pp 332-334
Richardson, Deirdré. 2001. Historic Sites of South Africa. Cape Town: Struik Publishers. pp 254

List of structures:

Attorney’s Offices: 1903.
Bridge over the Spekboom River (Schalk Burger Bridge): 1964.
Buhrmann’s House: 1850s ?.
Camdeboo: 1889.
Club House: pre-1916.
Coromandel - House Press: 1974.
Coromandel Farm Labourers' Village: 1987.
Dankhof: 1937.
Eerste Landdroshuis (First Magistrate's house): 1850.
Excelsior Seunskoshuis / Boys' Hostel: 1950s?.
First National Bank: 1914.
Hiemstra Residence: c1890.
HL Weeks Building: n.d..
House Press - Coromandel: 1974.
Kwena Dam: n.d..
Limonanis - House Behnke: 1898.
Loreto Convent – Now Wenakker: 1899?.
Lydenburg Cemetery: n.d..
Lydenburg Museum: 1990.
Magistrates, Post and Telegraph Office - Additions: 1897.
Marambane Primary School: 1941.
Meisieskoshuis / Girls' Hostel: 1950s?.
Methodist Church: 1913.
Metzker House: 1926.
Mosque: 1935.
Mpumalanga Parks Board – Plant and Fish Production: n.d..
Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk: 1894.
Old Magistrate’s Building: pre 1899.
Old Municipal Offices: 1918.
Ox-wagon Trek Monument: 1938.
Parsonage: 1858.
Post Office: n.d..
Powder Magazine: 1880.
Primary School Hostel / Laerskool Koshuis: 1950s?.
Roelina: c1960.
School: 1889.
Schurink Building: n.d..
Shop of Mr Braun: n.d..
Spekboom Rail Bridge: 1897.
St John's Anglican Church: 1877.
Volkskas Bank - now ABSA: 1958.
Voortrekker Centenary Monument: 1938.
Voortrekker Church: 1851.
Voortrekker Church - Restoration: 1977.
Voortrekker School: 1851.
ZAR Road Bridge over the Crocodile River, near Koppie Alleen: 1897.
ZAR Road Bridge over the Spekboom River (Steenkamp Bridge): 1897.
ZAR Road Bridge over the Sterk Spruit: 1893.