Sisonke meaning "we are all together" is one of the 11 district municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal. The inland municipality is located in the south of the province. The district includes the southern most part of the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg National Park adjacent to Lesotho and borders the Eastern Cape Province in the west.
Kokstad Central Business District (CBD) serves as the service centre and commercial hub for most of East Griqualand and most of the Eastern Cape and has tremendous potential to fortify its commercial sector.
Sisonke is well endowed with natural resources and has vast potential for the development of its foremost economic sectors namely agriculture and tourism. Sisonke is coordinating a number of Local Economic Development programmes and cooperatives together with various sector departments to assist in trying to push back the frontiers of poverty.
Sisonke has good agro-ecological potential due to its good quality soils, high altitude and abundant water. Commercial farms and to a large extent commercial plantations form the bedrock of the economy of the region. Climatic extremes make the area suitable for a variety of products including crops and vegetables, livestock and sugar cane around the Ixopo/ Highflats area. The district produces 10% of the milk consumed in South Africa and 35% of Clover Milk is from this area.
A huge section of the commercial farmers' engage in crop farming especially potatoes and cabbages. In addition there are huge tracts of commercial plantations and the wood harvested provides raw materials for paper. The farmer's market in Ixopo provides an outlet for fresh produce and other items including art and craft providing a much needed income earning opportunity. There are opportunities for value adding initiatives.
The relatively unspoilt natural environment has high ecotourism and adventure tourism potential. The status of the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg as a World Heritage Site brings local and foreign tourists to this mountain area, which has growth potential.
Sisonke is reasonably endowed with accommodation establishments including guest houses, bed and breakfast establishments and hotels. Activities such as horse riding, mountain biking, river rafting, abseiling and canoeing are available. Fly-fishing has the potential to be better marketed.
Hikers have the choice of gentle strolls to all morning hikes that brings one to features such as San rock art sites, pristine berg pools and streams, caves and hilltops with splendid views.
Overnight trips take the ardent hiker deep into the mountains and even up the great escarpment onto the South African -Lesotho border. The Sani2C, one of South Africa's top multi stage mountain bike rides, starts from Underberg and goes through Sisonke District ending in Scottsburg on the south coast. The snow especially in the KwaSani area provides an opportunity for winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding.
Rail and avi-tourism have the potential to increase revenue generating tourism. Sisonke and the Paton Country Narrow Gauge Railway have developed a fledgling steam rail tourism sector from Ixopo to Carisbrooke with a proposed extension to Umzimkhulu. This magnificently restored luxury steam train offers a chance to experience the beauty of the KwaZulu-Natal midlands and Southern Drakensberg, while the off train experiences will touch the hearts of all people fortunate enough to enjoy this journey.
An art gallery featuring the work of Gerald Bhengu will be one of the off train experiences. Bhengu is an internationally recognised artist and his artwork is represented in numerous public and private collections both locally and abroad. The proposed art gallery will not only celebrate the art of Bhengu but will also provide a historical record of African life prior to large scale transformation to modern times.
Avi Tourism forms the single largest group of eco-tourists globally, and 25% of domestic tourists are interested in birding. Sisonke has two top national birding spots and seven important birding areas. The Marutswa Forest Board Walk in Bulwer has been completed by Sappi and is fully operational. The Ntsikeni Mobile Vulture Hide at Ntsikeni Nature Reserve is home to some rare bird species and has a Ramsar Convention status.
Ntsikeni Nature Reserve, including its 12000 ha wetland, epitomises a raw, untamed, quiet and natural beauty. Within the Nature Reserve the Ntsikeni Eco-Tourism Development Enterprise operates two lodges, May and Ntsikeni. The lodges each offer comfortable chalets, a large equipped conference facility and a dining area.
The beautiful Centecow Mission in Creighton is one of the largest mission centres established by the Trappist brothers in KwaZulu-Natal. Other Trappist stations are Reichenau, Emmaus, and Kavelear.
In partnership with the KwaSani Municipality the district has established a Craft Centre. More opportunities for the promotion of cultural tourism exist.
Sisonke is indeed on the road to developing its untapped potential for future growth and the socio-economic upliftment of its people!
Location of Head Office: Ixopo is 85 km south of Pietermaritzburg and 150 km north-east of Kokstad.
Municipal Area (km²): 10 109 km²
Population (estimated): ± 298 384
Local Municipalities: Greater Kokstad; Ingwe; Kwa Sani; Ubuhlebezwe and Umzimkhulu.
Main Towns Include: Creighton, Himeville, Underberg, Kokstad, Ixopo, Highflats, Bulwer, Donnybrook, and Umzimkhulu
The Sisonke District Municipality strives to uplift the quality of life of its residents by providing sustainable infrastructure, water, health services, sanitation and social amenities. There will be equitable distribution of land for residential, farming, investors, sports and recreation.
Sisonke will be one of the province's viable tourist destinations characterised by a sustainable natural, social and economic environment. Its men, women, the elderly, disabled and youth will equally enjoy living in a safe and healthy environment.
Mayor: Cllr Mr ME Ndobe
Municipal Manager: Mrs N Dlamini
Physical Address: 40 Main Street, Ixopo, 3276
Postal Address: Private Bag X501, Ixopo, 3276
Tel: +27 (0)39 834 8600/ 8700
Fax: +27 (0)39 834 1750