28 Sep

Robin Lamplough delves into the history of this local beauty.

Providing the town of Durban with sufficient water for its growing population was a challenge from the late 19th century. A dam was built on the Umbilo River in Paradise Valley, but it washed away in a flood in 1905. As more and more people settled along the highway west of the town, the problem became greater. From the mid-1960s the town’s water came from Midmar, but that soon proved inadequate.

In the early 1980s, it was decided by the central Department of Water Affairs to dam the Mngeni river at Inanda. The labourers for the project were housed near the site of the proposed wall, but professional and technical staff lived in a cluster of mobile homes at Cumec Park in Waterfall – where a variety of amenities was provided for them. The building of the dam would dislodge 4 500 people in the valley, especially from the communities of Maphepheteni, KwaNgcolosi and Maqadini. Unfortunately, the preparation for this disruption was inadequate and created considerable resentment among locals, some of whom were moved out of the valley altogether.

Meanwhile, however, local archaeologists moved into the area to search for evidence of early human settlement in the valley, soon to be made entirely inaccessible. Their reports have contributed a great deal to our understanding of the past of the region. In addition, Gavin Whitelaw of the Natal Museum has developed a detailed picture of the early African settlement in the area, going back a thousand years. The Department of Water Affairs funded and supported the archaeological rescue project between 1986 and 1989, including the use of earth-moving equipment. Gavin christened the spot they excavated ‘KwaGandaganda’ – the tractor place.

The dam was officially opened in 1989. The site is overlooked by Crestholme to the south, and Inanda mountain to the east. Responsibility for organising and running the resort that would be developed around the dam was given to the Msinsi group, a group that was already managing similar projects in other parts of the province. The Inanda resort offers camping, picnicking, boating and fishing facilities to visitors. Several guest houses are available. Zebra graze peacefully in various spots along the shore.

The North American bass, a game fish well known for its fighting capacity, was introduced to the dam, as was carp, another non-indigenous species. Since 1998 there have been regular fishing competitions at Inanda, with some spectacular results.

In addition, the annual Dusi canoe marathon from Pietermaritzburg to Durban has its final stop-over at the dam. Many canoeists camp at Inanda before undertaking the final leg of the journey, which ends at Ethekwini’s Blue Lagoon.

The Inanda Jazz Festival has become a feature of the local music scene. And in June 2021 a group of vintage car enthusiasts, the VWBeetleManiacs, drove in convoy from the coast to the dam, delighting many inhabitants in the rural areas through which they travelled.

Hardly surprisingly, there have also been some tragic accidents at the dam. Not long ago, the local press reported the drowning of an eleven-year-old child.  Also, some teenagers driving a jet-ski lost control and collided with boaters. On another occasion, a group of swimmers was caught in the undertow near the dam wall and several drowned.

Nevertheless, the dam and especially the Msinsi resort have made a remarkable difference to the local economy. At different levels, they have created regular employment and BBE business opportunities for many in a region which was previously poverty-stricken and where joblessness had for generations been the norm.




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