Pongola is steeped in Anglo Boer history and is host to the controversial Jozini Dam, and today borders on some of the largest game farms in the Southern hemisphere. The dam, which was built in the early 1970s is a tributary of the Maputo River and was designed to irrigate 80 000ha of surrounding farmlands that produce sugarcane, rice, coffee and various sub-tropical fruits. Amid much controversy and reports that the dams design was flawed, the result has been that the dam has been deemed a white elephant, having never reached the capacity of intended irrigation.
At the turn of the 20th century, Pongola was a barren escarpment with limited connection to the civilized world. Modern man was lured to the area, attracted by the hordes of natural game that roamed the landscape. This land of plenty was however under threat, as hunting stock began to dwindle due to over-exploitation and the belief that game stock was responsible for infamous tsetse fly. Disease was rife and many of the early settlers succumbed to sleeping sickness.
By 1940 the natural game was all but extinct; however, the tsetse fly remained. This saw the introduction of DDT insecticide and by 1948 the parasite was eradicated. The result was that conservationists had to devise and implement recovery strategies in order to replenish the natural wildlife and game that once freely wandered this revered locale and with determination and careful planning the natural wildlife has now fully recovered.
Pongola is often a welcome stopover for many a weary traveller wending their way from Durban and Johannesburg. The town’s convenient road access to the N2 has made the area a popular pit-stop for holidaymakers travelling south from the Kruger National Park. Hosting the largest natural game reserve in South Africa, the region is geared towards tourism, which is a major contributory factor in terms of the local economy.
As far as residential property is concerned, recent statistics released by Lightstone reveal that there have been a total of 32 properties sold in the area over the last 12 months. The average price achieved for freehold property was R712 000 and sectional title averages came in at R575 000. Interestingly, sectional title sales have increased dramatically since 2006, although the highest price paid for a property was in the freehold sector where a home recently sold for R9.4m. Pongola is ranked No 1 on the Uphongolo Municipality rankings.
As with many other smaller towns in South Africa, Pongola has in recent years become an area of interest for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle that is often associated with city living. With central proximity to the business hubs of Durban and Gauteng, a small airport and easy road access to surrounding regions, Pongola could certainly prove to be an attractive option.