Cato Manor has a long and interesting history and the pulse of the area still beats strong, with a large informal settlement sitting alongside commercial enterprises, as well as the newly opened uMkhumbane Cultural and Heritage Museum. Named after the river that runs through it, uMkhumbane is the big brother to the Cato Manor Heritage Centre.
As the site of one of the largest forced removals to have taken place in South Africa – it’s estimated that 150 000 people were evicted from Cato Manor by the apartheid government – it’s essential that the history of Cato Manor be preserved, shared and where appropriate, celebrated, which is exactly what uMkhumbane serves to do. In addition to the museum, dedicated spaces for community exhibitions, theatre and oral performances, and a large public park will be available to the surrounding communities. While Cato Manor is still an area characterised by abject poverty, there exists an immense sense of community involvement, and great lengths have been taken to involve local residents in the project, some of whom helped to lay some of the clay bricks that form part of the structure. It is also hoped that the centre will help to revive the area, as well as provide much needed employment.
Umkhumbane is also the final resting place of Queen Thomozile Jezangani Ka Ndwandwe Zulu, mother to King Goodwill Zwelithini. Queen Thomo, as she was known, lived in Mayville where she was employed as domestic worker. She died in her mid-30s after suffering a short illness, and was buried in 1959 in a mass grave in the Chesterville Cemetery. In April 2011, her remains were exhumed, and reburied at Umkhumbane Freedom Park, which now forms part of the Umkhumbane Heritage Centre.