Ngodwana

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Information provided by Hans Bornman from his unpublished book, Lowveld Tour Guide:

River, station and Paper Mill. The river rises on the farm De Goede Hoop, 14 km south of Ngodwana station, flows north and joins the Elands River, 3 km east of Ngodwana station, on the farm Grootgeluk. The station is situated 50 km west of Nelspruit and 40 km east of Waterval Boven. It is derived from the siSwati word Dwana which means: sole, absolutely only or alone. The Kaapsche Hoop Mountain is known for its dense mist and when you are caught in it you are ‘Yodwana’, you are absolutely ‘alone’. When the first prospectors arrived in 1882 the summit of the mountain, overlooking the Kaap Valley, was known as Yodwana, but incorrectly recorded as the Godwaan Range. The rocks in the mist must have looked eerie and possibly gave rise to the name Duivel’s Kantoor (Devil’s Office), the first name that was given to present Kaapsche Hoop. The Ngodwana river has a wide catchment area and some nine creeks flow into it forming one river (Yodwana) before joining the Elands River. The station was one of the original ones on the Eastern railway line. It was first known as Godwanrivier and after the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) named Godwan River and since 1954 as Ngodwana.

The lime kilns, situated on Portion 4 of the farm Grootgeluk, were declared a national monument in 1980. These kilns were erected at the turn of the century to slake the very pure limestone derived from the nearby mine. At one stage they supplied the whole Barberton District with lime and thus played an important role in the reclamation of gold in that area.

The first Sappi (South African Pulp and Paper Industry) mill was built on the farm Grootgeluk, next to the Ngodwana station, during 1965 when Sappi was looking for expansion, Ngodwana was the ideal spot. It had reliable water, was on the main road and rail link with Johannesburg and the coast and it was in the heart of Sappi’s own forests. From being solely an unbleached pulp producer, Ngodwana was converted to a mill which produced 360 000 tons of unbleached pulp, 190 000 tons of bleached pulp and 105 000 tons of mechanical pulp per annum and some of the final products being 127 000 tons newsprint and 197 000 tons of Kraft linerboard for the packaging industry. The expansion, which finally cost R1,6 billion, saw a mill which was acclaimed to be the biggest in the southern hemisphere and the most modern in the world, with all the latest technology. Today over 1 500 people, amongst them some of the best qualified paper makers in Africa, work at Ngodwana. The village, with over 500 housing units, is served by a post office, police station and the Clivia Primary School with 400 pupils. The Ngodwana River School, which is situated in the Sappi Mbokodo residential area (SiSwati: Mbokodvo, meaning a grinding stone), has been an important part of the local activities where the children of employees attend the primary school. Further developments include a shopping centre, a bank, chemist, filling station and a number of shops. A dam, which holds 12 million cubic metres of water, was built in the Ngodwana River to ensure that should the river dry up the mill would still have sufficient water to continue production for a year.