The Mighty Men, and Women, of Greytown

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

The hamlet of Greytown was named after Sir George Edward Grey, one time governor of the Cape Colony and later prime minister of New Zealand. The town's other claim to fame is that it was the birthplace, on 27 September 1862, of Louis Botha, South Africa’s first prime minister, who was the eighth of eleven children born to Louis and Minnie Botha.

The town was established in the 1850s and has gone on to become a major contributor to the timber industry in South Africa. Aloes and fresh produce also thrive in the fertile soil.

The architecture of modern day Greytown is reminiscent of the Victorian era and is a charming example of British colonial life. Situated on the banks of the Umvoti River, the town is a popular holiday destination for those interested in history. The nearby KwaZulu-Natal Battlefields Route honours the fortitude of the Voortrekkers and tribute is paid to the Sarie Maré whose name was allegedly changed to Sarie Marais in the famous Afrikaans folk song.

Sarie Maré was born in in Uitenhage outside Port Elizabeth on 10 May 1840. Married by the time she was 17, the newlyweds travelled by ox wagon from the Eastern Cape and settled on a far between Kranskop and Greytown where she bore 11 children before dying at the age of 37 during childbirth. She was buried on the farm.

One of her sons, Reverend Paul Nel, was chaplain to the Boer forces in the early 1900s and would tell stories of his “beautiful mother” around the campfire at night in an attempt to boost troops' morale. She soon became an icon to the Boers and the famous Afrikaans folk song tells her story. Although there has been some controversy as to whether she really is the Sarie behind the song, the townsfolk of Greytown have claimed her as their own, and she has earned herself an exhibit in the town’s museum.

Although predominantly a farming area, residential property in the district has fared well despite the recent downturn. Lightstone statistics reveal that a total of 43 transactions, totalling just over R26m, have taken place in the last 12 months. Freehold property averages came in at R609 000, while sectional title sales averages reflected a moderately lower R585 000. The statistics also reveal that 40% of recent buyers are between 36-49 years of age.

Angus Buchan relocated to Greytown in 1978 due to political instability in Zambia. He bought his farm and settled down before being called to the ministry. When he became a full time evangelist and wrote his much acclaimed book, Faith like Potatoes, he handed over the day-to-day farming operations to his two sons. The Mighty Men conferences which are held on the farm are Christian gatherings organised by the Shalom Ministry. The gathering has grown from an initial few hundred followers to the more than 200 000 men who attended the conference in April 2009. Buchan also hosts the television programme Grass Roots which is filmed on the farm.

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