Umgano is an initiative of iNkosi Sidoyi who in 1996 had the vision and foresight to engage with Mondi Forest for the development of a forestry business in the Mabandla Traditional Council lands. INkosi Sidoyi’s leadership was instrumental in making Umgano the success it is today. ADD PICTURE.
In the year 1999 the first commercial trees were planted, by the year 2006 the forestry company had established 1282 ha of commercial timber comprising 840ha Eucalyptus and 442.ha Pine.
The first Harvesting of timber commenced in the year 2008 and is currently in a sustained rotation of 90ha of Euc’s per annum producing 21,000 tonnes annually.
In the year 2006 under the new leadership of iNkosi LT Baleni, Ezemvelo were invited to develop a biodiversity stewardship programme in the Mabandla traditional area. This resulted in the establishment of the Biodiversity Stewardship agreement and the establishment of Umgano Nature reserve.
In the year 2010 when Umgano Forestry was producing a sustainable income, a decision was taken at the Mabandla Community Trust AGM to use this revenue to develop other business enterprises within the Umgano area.
The wars and disturbances that erupted throughout Zululand and the then Colony of Natal in the nineteenth century during the reign of King Shaka, caused many clans to flee Natal for their safety. Some crossed the Umzimvubu River into the Umzimkhulu District of what, at that stage, was part of the Cape Colony, under British rule. This later became the Transkei, and more recently, the Eastern Province. By the end of that century, the areas which comprise significant portions of the lands of the present Mabandla Traditional Council, were occupied by the Taung people of Sotho origin, who paid allegiance to Chief Moshesh of Basutoland (now Lesotho).
The present Mabandla Community belong to the ethnic group Ntlangwini, and speak a dialect of isiZulu that is apparently strongly influenced by siSwati. This presumably relates to the time these people spent in Swaziland during their migration.
The two locations presently occupied by the Mabandla people were proclaimed on 3 September 1906. Most of these communal lands were subsequently gazetted as lands of the Luphawini Tribal Authority, under Mbutweni Sidoyi, who had succeeded his father, iNkosi Sidoyi. This situation was amended in 1970, when the name was officially amended from Luphawini to Mabandla Traditional Authority, headed by iNkosi Siphiwa Lenford Sidoyi, who had succeeded his half-brother, Mbutweni Sidoyi. iNkosi Lenford Sidoyi is the father of the present iNkosi Baleni.
Finally, the official 2007 provincial border rationalisation exercise, resulted in the Mabandla Community being transferred to KwaZulu-Natal from the Eastern Cape Province. This has had significant positive outcomes for the Mabandla people, by virtue of the strong support that has provided by a number of official agencies such as Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the Department of Agriculture & Environmental Affairs and the Grasslands Project of SANBI, as well as a number of NGOs such as the Botanical Society, the Federation Of Southern African Flyfishers and others.