Esikhaleni — a Northern KZN township bursting with life

At Dumile’s Busy Corner, young people are given a chance to showcase their talent. Pictures by Leon Lestrade.

At Dumile’s Busy Corner, young people are given a chance to showcase their talent. Pictures by Leon Lestrade.

Published Sep 13, 2017


We are driving into Esikhaleni, a township near Richard's Bay when we spot a colorful patch of land filled with lots of activity. 

Here stands a buzzing Saturday market that gets the whole town walking among its small vendors stalls, hoping to stock up on some fruits and vegetables, fish or add some clothes to their wardrobe. 

There are an assortment of fruits and vegetables on offer. Picture: Leon Lestrade.

Our entourage gets out of the our taxi to explore this gem. Known as the Complex, the market is a huge drawcard for travellers, who want to get a slice of Africa when visiting the northern part of KwaZulu-Natal. 

From pots to clothes, the market has it all. Picture: Picture: Leon Lestrade.

The fruits and vegetables stalls display a section of healthy items, from sweet potatoes, banana and oranges.Not far from there is a Zulu art vendor who sells some beaded artwork and clothing. A man by the name of Oja Dav showcases his linguistic skills as he speaks Hindi and Nepali. He travels as far as India and Nepali to get Indian attire for his small stall. He uses his linguistic skills to attract people to his stall. The fish market is a few meters away, with woman placing their selection of fish, from brim, catfish and grunter, on small tables laden with newspapers. 

Travellers browsing through the clothes. Pictures: Leon Lestrade.

The women go out fishing to bring the freshest fish to their consumers. Picture: Leon Lestrade.

The day before the women go out to Cwebeni where they catch the day's fresh fish. 

There are some stalls who prepare the fish for peckish market goers. The market is bustling with  activity, with women having their nails done in little gazebos while the men sample some fresh corn that is cooked on an outside fire. 

Women getting their nails done in small gazebos. Picture: Leon Lestrade.

Esikhaleni is a township worth visiting. And if you worried about safety, the local police has your back. According to Hlengiwe Ntanzi, tour organisers partner with police so that when tourists visit they are safe guarded.

Ntanzi, who owns a tavern in the area, said that Esikhaleni is a unique offering that all people should experience.

“There are great stories about our township waiting to be told. Tours usually take place in an hour, followed by a shisa nyama at a local spot.

“During the journey travellers will get to see and hear about the heroes, the monuments and stories that make this place special,” she says. 

Formerly a rice plantation, the township was born in the early 1970s with the first house built in 1975.

Ntanzi talks about the Cubhu Lake. There are stories about the Shembe church followers who stopped a crocodile from eating a person at the lake. She says that their faith was so strong that they demanded the crocodile not harm the person, and it bowed down. Since then, no person has been harmed by any crocodile.

Other attractions include  monuments of the king of the Zulu Kingdom, Cetshwayo kaMpande, who ruled from 1873 to 1879, and Musa Dladla, a freedom stalwart. The Esikhaleni Beach proves a fun day outing.

At Dumile’s Busy Corner, young people are given a chance to showcase their talent.

Shisa nyama joints are quite popular and there are many to choose from. Dumile’s Busy Corner is one of the new ones, having started in April 2017. 

The owner, Dumile Chonco, resigned as a nurse in January to pursue her passion for food. She started by selling fries and wors, but now caters to her client’s individual needs.

Her signature dishes are Zulu chicken, jeqe, spinach and ox head. 

“I wanted the place to be homely and a place to chill. I want the older generation to mix with the youth,”she says.

She also believes in uplifting her community. She formed a jazz club and gives emerging artists a chance to perform over weekends. 

Shisa nyama.

“I remember going to Vilakazi Street and wanting to have a place like the spots I saw there. We are about the food and showing people a good time,” she said. 

A visit here can take a day, but a sleep over at one of the bed and breakfast is highly recommended.

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