Mpumalanga Tourist AttractionsFort Merensky
Fort Merensky was built to protect Botshabelo (place of refuge), a mission station established just 5 km north west of Middelburg, in the 1860s by Alexander Merensky and Heinrich Grutzner of the German Missionary Society.
Where? 5km from Middelburg, Mpumalanga
When? Please enquire
Amongst other things the fort provided a refuge for black Christian converts fleeing their own community, where they were regarded as having betrayed the community's ancestral beliefs.
You can, by all accounts, climb the five metre high lookout tower at Fort Merensky – not very high, but it will give you an idea of the view from here. Visitors to the Botshabelo village and fort today speak about the juxtaposition of a number of different styles of architecture in evidence. Particularly the little fort, which stands on a koppie above the mission station, with a tower and walls that reflect a rather eclectic mix of western and Sotho architecture.
The Botshabelo Cultural Village, by comparison, has a series of huts that whilst publicised as Ndebele also incorporate a few beehive huts associated with the Zulu tradition of hut making (little surprise as the Ndebele are regarded as an offshoot of the Zulu people).
The huts on display incorporate both the older type of earth-toned Ndebele huts and the more modern brightly coloured geometric designs that make the Ndebele so distinctive. This open-air museum built to preserve tribal culture gives one a fair idea of how a mission station may have looked a hundred or so years ago.
The village is meant to act as a 'living museum' and a window into the Ndebele people's way of life, but recent visitors have indicated that the huts may no longer be lived in.
Fort Merensky makes a wonderful stop if you are travelling past Middelburg en route to Groblersdal, Pilgrims Rest and beyond. There are also a number of hiking trails in the vicinity should you want to make a day of it.