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Coordinates: 23°09′32″S30°04′05″E / 23.159°S 30.068°E / -23.159; 30.068 Coordinates: 23°09′32″S30°04′05″E / 23.159°S 30.068°E / -23.159; 30.068
Country South Africa
Province Limpopo
District Vhembe
Municipality Makhado
Main Place Elim, Limpopo
  Total3.60 km2 (1.39 sq mi)
 (2011) [1]
  Density2,100/km2 (5,500/sq mi)
Racial makeup (2011)
   Black African 99.6%
   Coloured 0.1%
   Indian/Asian 0.2%
First languages (2011)
   Tsonga 80.2%
   Venda 15.1%
Time zone UTC+2 (SAST)
Postal code (street)

Waterval is a residential township in front of Elim Hospital, it is situated in the Hlanganani district of the former Tsonga homeland of Gazankulu, alongside the R578 road to Giyani in the Limpopo province of South Africa. Waterval includes Njhakanjhaka, Lemana, Elim Hospital, Elim Mall, Hubyeni Shopping centre, Magangeni but excludes Shirley village, which is a separate and stand alone farm, sharing a legal boundary with Waterval and Mbhokota village to the east.

Tsonga people ethnic group

The Tsonga people are a Bantu ethnic group native mainly to South Africa and southern Mozambique. They speak Xitsonga, a Southern Bantu language which is closely related to neighbouring Nguni, in particular Swazi and isiZulu. Zulus and Swazis are the original neighbours of the Tsonga people, for more than 1000-years, hence similarities in languages as well as Surnames. A very small number of Tsonga people are also found in Swaziland and Zimbabwe. The Tsonga people of South Africa share a common history with the Tsonga people of southern Mozambique; however they differ culturally and linguistically from the Tonga people of Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Gazankulu former bantustan in South Africa

Gazankulu was a bantustan in South Africa, intended by the apartheid government to be a semi-independent homeland for the Tsonga people. It was located in both the Northern Transvaal, now Limpopo province and Eastern Transvaal, now Mpumalanga province. It must not be confused with the Gaza kingdom which once existed in Mozambique.

Giyani Place in Limpopo, South Africa

Giyani is a north-eastern city in the Limpopo province of South Africa and a former capital of the Gazankulu bantustan. Giyani is situated at the intersection between R578 road and R81. It is located in the heart of Limpopo Bushveld, on the northern bank of the Klein (Little) Letaba River west of Kruger National Park. Situated in the northern portion of former Gazankulu, Giyani was established in the 1960s as the administrative centre for the Tsonga people. Giyani is now the administrative capital of Mopani District Municipality. Giyani lies 470 km north east of Johannesburg by road, 104 km from Tzaneen, 105 km from the Phalaborwa Gate of the Kruger National Park and 35 km from Malamulele.


As of mid-2015 population statistics (Stats SA), it had a population of 9,000 people and is part of Njhakanjhaka Traditional Authority or Elim/Shirley Traditional Authority, with a combined population of more than 22,000 people according to mid-2015 population statistics (Stats SA).

The Njhakanjhaka Traditional Authority or Elim/Shirley Traditional Authority proper includes Mbhokota, Bokisi, Chavani, Riverplaats and Nwaxinyamani and has a total population of more than 42,000 people combined. Because of Apartheid policies of the 1960s, the land of Njhakanjhaka Traditional Authority was reduced to Waterval, Shirley, Lemana and Elim, leaving the villages of Mbhokota, Bokisi, Chavani, Riverplaats and Nwaxinyamani to be governed independently by Chief Njhakanjhaka's first born son, Chief Chavani Njhakanjhaka Mukhari. These villages are collectively known as Nkhensani Tribal Authority, under Chief Njhakanjhaka's son, Hosi Chavani. Nkhensani Tribal Authority's offices are based at Chavani Village, behind the township of Waterval.


Waterval was proclaimed a township in 1980 by the former Gazankulu homeland[ citation needed ], in the district of Hlanganani. Waterval also forms part of Njhakanjhaka Traditional Authority. The Hlanganani Regional Court for the District of Hlanganani (wrongly called "Waterval Magistrate Courts"), the historic Elim Hospital, Waterval Post Office, Police Station, Hubyeni Shopping Centre, and the new Elim Mall are all situated in Waterval. Prior to the Swiss encounter, Chief Njhakanjhaka exercised authority in the area. This western portion of Gazankulu was known as the Tsonga "finger" during the 1950s until the late 1960s by the Apartheid officials of the Department of Bantu Affairs and Development. When Apartheid ended in 1994, the area was shifted to Makhado Local Municipality and now forms part of Vhembe District Municipality.

Apartheid System of institutionalised racial segregation that existed in South Africa and South West Africa (Namibia) from 1948 until the early 1990s

Apartheid was a system of institutionalised racial segregation that existed in South Africa and South West Africa (Namibia) from 1948 until the early 1990s. Apartheid was characterised by an authoritarian political culture based on baasskap, which encouraged state repression of Black African, Coloured, and Asian South Africans for the benefit of the nation's minority white population. The economic legacy and social effects of apartheid continue to the present day.

Makhado Local Municipality Local municipality in Limpopo, South Africa

Makhado Local Municipality is located in the Vhembe District Municipality of Limpopo province, South Africa. The seat of Makhado Local Municipality Louis Trichardt.

History of Hosi Njhakanjhaka: Headman of Spelonken

Tsonga Trading Posts in the interior

From the year 1554 when Lourenco Marques, a Portuguese trader settled on the land of the Tsonga and began to trade between Portugal and Africa. Between 1554-1800, the Tsonga people started to leave the east coast and begin trade with the interior. They established 'trade routes' that included the whole eastern Transvaal and the northern Transvaal. The Tsonga traded goods with both the Venda and the Pedi between the years 1554-1800 but they did not settled in these areas. Goods traded with the Venda and the Pedi included beads, clothes, Maize, guns, soap, and shoes,which the Tsonga obtained from the Portuguese and were rewarded with both Ivory and Iron by the Venda in exchange for goods sold. [2] [3] The Venda were skilled locksmith, they traded iron to the Tsonga and the Tsonga sold them Maize and introduced maize to the whole of Venda. Prior to trade between the Tsonga and the Venda, the Venda used to eat sorghum as stample food, but with the arrival of the Tsonga, the Venda ceased to eat sorghum as staple food and started eating maize meal, which the Tsonga introduced to Venda. Both the Tsonga and the Venda named the new staple food Vuswa (Tsonga), Vhuswa (Venda). Maize was introduced to the Tsonga people by Vasco Da Gama in 1497, Vasco Da Gama stayed briefly on the land of the Tsonga and named it "Terra da Boa Gente" (Land of the friendly people), before departing to India on a sea voyage. Vasco Da Gama or the Portuguese have obtained maize from South America where they were in their early stages of massive colonisation of their colony called Portuguese Brazil or modern day Brazil, Maize is indigenous to South America. However, as trade with the interior developed over time, the Tsonga established what is called 'trading station', these stations were developed slowly into small villages. The purpose of the 'trading stations' was to prevent armed robbery since traders were often robbed their goods, so trading stations provided security against robbery since all these stations were guarded 24 hours by armed personnel and their staff. Some of the Tsonga traders never returned to the east coast and were given responsibility of taking care of these trading stations. Some Tsonga traders stayed permanently in the Venda and Pedi villages, never returning to the east coast. For more than 250-years, the Tsonga people had no interest in Colonising the eastern and northern Transvaal, since they treated both the eastern and northern Transvaal as trading areas only.

Portugal Republic in Southwestern Europe

Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic, is a country located mostly on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe. It is the westernmost sovereign state of mainland Europe, being bordered to the west and south by the Atlantic Ocean and to the north and east by Spain. Its territory also includes the Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira, both autonomous regions with their own regional governments.

Africa The second largest and second most-populous continent, mostly in the Northern and Eastern Hemispheres

Africa is the world's second largest and second most-populous continent. At about 30.3 million km2 including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of Earth's total surface area and 20% of its land area. With 1.2 billion people as of 2016, it accounts for about 16% of the world's human population. The continent is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The continent includes Madagascar and various archipelagos. It contains 54 fully recognised sovereign states (countries), nine territories and two de facto independent states with limited or no recognition. The majority of the continent and its countries are in the Northern Hemisphere, with a substantial portion and number of countries in the Southern Hemisphere.

South African Republic Former republic in southern Africa

The South African Republic, also referred to as the Transvaal Republic, was an independent and internationally recognised state located in what is now South Africa, from 1852 to 1902. The ZAR defeated the British Empire in what is often referred to as the First Boer War and remained independent until the end of the Second Boer War on 31 May 1902, when it was forced to surrender to the British. After the war the territory of the ZAR became the Transvaal Colony. During World War I, there was an attempt at resurrecting the republic in the Maritz rebellion.

Full scale 'internal colonisation' of both the eastern Transvaal and northern Transvaal only begin from 1820 onwards, this was a period when Soshangane invaded the Tsonga homeland and a mass exodus of Tsonga refugees left the east coast in their thousands into both the eastern and northern Transvaal. This is known as 'forced colonisation' since the Tsonga were forced to vacate their homeland due to war. These new 'colonies' that were invaded by the Tsonga refugees were not new areas, they were known to the Tsonga for more than 250-years. So the Tsonga refugees flocked in their thousands and started the process of 'internal colonisation', which after the period of 80-years (1820-1900), resulted in the 'internal colonisation of the whole eastern and northern Transvaal by the Tsonga respectively. The land where Waterval is situated today was one of the ancient 'Tsonga trading station' and was already known to the Tsonga people for centuries before the process of 'internal colonisation', however, it was not known as Waterval.

Chief Njhakanjhaka and his people arrived here between 1818 and 1820 as refugees from Mozambique during the wars of Soshangane, also known as Manukosi. Chief Njhakanjhaka was one of many Tsonga leaders who rebelled against the authority of Soshangane and was defeated by the Nguni warriors under the command of Soshangane. Chief Njhakanjhaka had tried to defend his Tsonga people against the Nguni invaders, who not only oppressed his people but also enslaved women and children. To avoid death and execution at the hands of Soshangane, Njhakanjhaka fled with his people and settle at a place known today as Waterval. The land where Waterval is situated is in fact Njhakanjhaka.

Mozambique country in Africa

Mozambique, officially the Republic of Mozambique, is a country located in Southeast Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west, and Eswatini (Swaziland) and South Africa to the southwest. The sovereign state is separated from the Comoros, Mayotte and Madagascar by the Mozambique Channel to the east. The capital and largest city of Mozambique is Maputo.

Soshangane kaZikode, born Soshangane Nxumalo, was the founder and self-crowned king of the Gaza Empire, which at the height of its power stretched from the Limpopo river in southern Mozambique up to the Zambezi river in the north. Soshangane ruled over the Gaza state from 1825 until his death in 1858. Soshangane was also known by the name of Manukosi.

The Nguni people are a group of Bantu peoples who primarily speak Nguni languages and currently reside predominantly in Southern Africa. The Nguni people are Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele, Swazi and Ngoni. They predominantly live in South Africa. Swazi people live in both South Africa and Eswatini, while Ndebele people live in both South Africa and Zimbabwe. In South Africa, the historic Nguni kingdoms of the Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele and Swazi live on the present provinces of the KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. The most notable of these kingdoms is the Zulu Kingdom, which was ruled by Shaka a powerful warrior king whose conquest took place in the early nineteenth century. In Zimbabwe, the Ndebele people live primarily in the provinces of Matebeleland and Midlands.

Chief Njhakanjhaka was a Paramount Chief of Spelonken (modern day Valdezia, Elim, Nwa-Xinyamani, Bungeni, Chavani, Mbhokota, Shirley, in fact the whole of Hlanganani). As Headman of Spelenkon, Chief Njhakanjhaka exercised authority over 50 000 Tsonga people who resides at Spelonken district; the 1905 Transvaal statistics put the number of Tsonga speakers of Spelonken at 50 000 souls. However, Chief Njhakanjhaka was undermined by Joao Albasini, who made himself paramount chief of all Vatsonga in modern Hlanganani district. Albasini was indeed a paramount chief of all Vatsonga in the Spelonken district (modern day Hlanganani district), it was only after the death of Joao Albasini in 1888 that Chief Njhakanjhaka was able to claim back his chieftainship from Albasini.

Valdezia Place in Limpopo, South Africa

Valdezia is a sprawling rural settlement situated at the foothills of the Soutpansberg mountain range in Limpopo Province, South Africa. It was formerly known as Albasini before the Swiss Missionaries renamed it Valdezia in 1875. The village itself was formally established in 1820 by Tsonga refugees who were fleeing despotic rule from Soshangane. It is roughly 10 km east of Elim Hospital in the Hlanganani district in the former Gazankulu homeland, South Africa. It was the site of a Swiss mission station, and it was named after the Swiss canton of Vaud. Valdezia's population, according to the official census of 2011, currently stands at between 7,600 and 8,000 people. It is considered the birthplace of the written Tsonga language in South Africa.

Bungeni Place in Limpopo, South Africa

Bungeni is a large sprawling rural settlement situated on top of one of the foothills of the Soutpansberg mountain close to Elim in the former Gazankulu homeland, Limpopo Province, South Africa. The Levubu agricultural plantation, where avocado, bananas, litch, Macadamia nuts, peaches and mangoes are grown in abundance, is just 3km away north of Bungeni village. It lies 35 km east of Makhado, with the R578 road passing through it. With more than 30 000 people, Bungeni is the largest Tsonga village in Makhado local municipality. In 1994 and in 2016, administrative control of this western portion of Gazankulu has been sub-divided in half and allocated to two Municipalities, first in 1994 to Makhado Local Municipality and in 2016, to the New Malamulele Municipality in the Vhembe district. As of April 2016, the Western portion, known as 'Bungeni West' by the locals, has remained in Makhado local municipality, while the eastern portion, known as 'Bungeni east', has been allocated to the new Malamulele Municipality.

By 1888, the Swiss Missionaries have already taken Valdezia, and Chief Njhakanjhaka was unable to become a chief at Valdezia, a position he held before the Swiss Missionaries converted the Vatsonga people to Christianity. In addition, the Vatsonga headmen all over Spelonken, known today as Bungeni, Nwaxinyamani, Chavani and other Tsonga settlements started to declare their independence from Chief Njhakanjhaka and were successful in forming independent polities. It is therefore incorrect to think that Chief Njhakanjhaka is a chief at Elim and Njhakanjhaka village only, the contrary is true, Njhakanjhaka is in fact a Senior or a paramount chief of all Vatsonga people in the whole Spelonken district and all Vatsonga people in the Spelenkon district accepted the Authority of Hosi Njhakanjhaka. Hosi Njhakanjhaka was a major chief for all Vatsonga people in the Spelenkon district, all other chiefs that exist today in the present day Hlanganani were appointed by Joao Albasini, and that weakened the power of Njhakanjhaka as his chiefdom was reduced into a small village. Hosi Njhakanjhaka had 33 wives and more than 100 children.


The history of Waterval goes back to the founding of the Swiss Mission Station in Elim in 1878 and the founding of Elim Hospital in 1899. [4] Prior to this, the Swiss Mission Station was located in Valdezia, 10 km east of Elim. The missionaries moved from Valdezia to Waterval because many of them contracted malaria. The Farm Waterval included the land where Elim Hospital is located and the whole of Njhakanjhaka and Rivoni but excluded Shirley.

Malaria Mosquito-borne infectious disease

Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease that affects humans and other animals. Malaria causes symptoms that typically include fever, tiredness, vomiting, and headaches. In severe cases it can cause yellow skin, seizures, coma, or death. Symptoms usually begin ten to fifteen days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. If not properly treated, people may have recurrences of the disease months later. In those who have recently survived an infection, reinfection usually causes milder symptoms. This partial resistance disappears over months to years if the person has no continuing exposure to malaria.

Tsonga Finger

During the 1950s until the late 1960s, the land of Waterval, Elim, Shirley, Chavani, Mbhokota, Riverplaats, Nwaxinyamani, Bokisi, Bungeni, Valdezia and Nkuzana was dubbed the 'Tsonga finger'. It was located in what the Apartheid government considered a White area in the nearby town of Louis Trichardt and forced removal was imminent. The Apartheid government attempted, without success, to remove the Tsonga from Waterval and the surrounding lands. By the late 1960s, as a results of negotiations between the South African government and professor Hudson William Edison Ntsanwisi, the Tsonga finger was annexed to Gazankulu, as well as Elim Hospital.

Adjacent areas


The village of Shirley is situated above Waterval, Shirley is divided into four villages, the one above Waterval, the one on top of the mountain, the one below the mountain and Akanani, which is the newest of these villages. Shirley is also home to Vonani Bila, a poet, writer and entertainer.


This is the original home of Chief Njhakanjhaka, Rivoni also houses the Njhakanjhaka Traditional Authority Offices, Chief Njhakanjhaka hold tribal meetings here (Hubyeni). The Rivoni School for the Blind is also situated here, the SABC presenter, Rhulani Baloyi was born here, she attended Rivoni School for the Blind.


The village of Elim took its name from the historic Elim Hospital, many prominent Tsonga people also came from Elim, Eric Miyeni is one of the most popular resident of Elim. The former head of the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa, Ms Pansy Tlakula was married here and her husband's family, the Tlakulas, are the land owners at Elim. The new Elim Mall is situated on land owned by the Tlakula family. Elim refers to Njhakanjhaka village, Rivoni and Lemana, but exclude Waterval and Shirley.

Elim Hospital

Chief Njhakanjhaka, Hakamela Tlakula's grandfather and Mr Job Makhubele played a vital role during the establishment of Elim Hospital. Hakamela Tlakula's grandfather and Mr Job Makhubele owned pieces of land where Elim Hospital is situated today. Chief Njhakanjhaka, on behalf of Mr Tlakula and Mr Makhubele, leased the land to the Swiss missionaries in 1897 for a period of 100 years so that Elim Hospital may be established. Therefore, Chief Njhakanjhaka, Mr Tlakula and Mr Makhubele are credited with the establishment of Elim Hospital. Prior to 1899 (the year Elim Hospital was established), the western half of Elim Hospital was owned by the Tlakula family as their family property, while the eastern half of Elim Hospital was owned by Mr Job Makhubele as his family property (the Makhubele family changed their surname and they are known today as Lowane family).

The Lowane family still resides today at Elim and their house can be found on the main road opposite Elim Mall, along the R578 road, while the Tlakula family resides behind Elim Mall, opposite Elim Hospital. Therefore, the Tlakula and Lowane families are the true owners of Elim Hospital because they have title deeds of the land where Elim Hospital is situated. That is why all the hawkers who are selling in front of Elim Hospital pay rent every month to the Tlakula family.

Elim Hospital is a very popular hospital in South Africa and abroad, particularly in Switzerland where many missionaries came from. The Swiss brought Christianity to the people of Njhakanjhaka, one can still see the impact of such civilisation in the whole of Elim area.

Elim Mall

The Tlakula family is still the owner of the land where Elim Mall is situated, they derived 60% of all the profits made from the mall, while Twin City, the developer of the mall, get the 40% of the profit. Land negotiation took more than five years before the Tlakula family could released the land for development by Twin City. As a sign of Tlakula family's ownership of Elim Mall, the centre manager, Ms Basani Tlakula, is a daughter of the Tlakula family and she manages the mall on behalf of the Tlakula family. [5]

Hubyeni Shopping centre

Chief Njhakanjhaka is the owner of the land where Hubyeni shopping centre is situated, during the land negotiation with Kerr Development, Chief Njhakanjhaka's rules were that 10% of shareholders should be transferred to the Njhakanjhaka Traditional Authority under Elim/Shirley community.

Lemana Multi-purpose centre

Formerly a college of education, Lemana is an intellectual giant of the Tsonga and Shangaan people. Many Vatsonga were educated here. The former FRELIMO President, Eduardo Mondlane was educated at Lemana.

Vatsonga Cultural Village

On top of Ribolla Mountain one finds a place dedicated to the history of the Tsonga people. It is possible to see 29 villages down the mountain. The Vatsonga Cultural Village was started by a young woman who felt that the culture of the Vatsonga was under attack by some European influences. A visit to the Vatsonga Cultural Village will leave one proud to be a Tsonga speaker. The architecture of houses at Vastonga Cultural Village is a true reflection of the traditional Tsonga village and lifestyle. The construction of the cultural village costed the Government more than R1 million.

Njhakanjhaka royal lineage and succession

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  1. 1 2 3 4 "Sub Place Waterval". Census 2011.
  2. Paver, FR 1933, Trade and Mining in Pre-European Transvaal, South African Journal of Science, no. 30, pp. 603‒611.
  3. Witter, R 2010, Taking their territory with them when they go: Mobility and access in Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park, Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Georgia.
  4. see at [ www.elimmall.co.za ]
  5. See www.elimall.co.za for more information.