Uthukela District Municipality is 11 326.12 sq km in extent and has a population of 723 844. The area is characterized by a low revenue base, poor infrastructure, limited access to services, high levels of poverty and unemployment, skills shortage, lack of resources, low level of education, underdeveloped land and settlement patterns that make it difficult to plan for effective service delivery. The attraction of investors, tourists and skilled human resources is a challenge due to Uthukela’s location away from the two major cities, namely Durban and Johannesburg.
The district is rich in history, with a wealth of historical buildings, battle sites and memorials. Uthukela District Municipality derives its name from one of the major rivers in KwaZulu-Natal, the uThukela River that rises from the Drakensberg and supplies water to a large portion of KwaZulu-Natal as well as Gauteng. The district municipality includes five local municipalities, namely Emnambithi, Indaka, Umtshezi, Okhahlamba and Imbabazane.
The Uthukela region has an abundance of natural resources and opportunities, including the Drakensberg, Tugela River, N3 and N11 national roads and industrial developments in Ladysmith and Estcourt. The natural beauty of Uthukela should be turned to advantage through marketing and the maintenance of infrastructure in order to secure a lucrative tourism industry. Uthukela has developed the multicultural centre concept to gain some benefits from the 2010 Soccer World Cup but requires funding and buy-in.
The proposed cableway in the Mweni Valley, linking KwaZulu–Natal and Lesotho, will also promote tourism in the district and investigations are underway to establish a tourism development (chalets and hotel) at the Woodstock Dam. An initial viability study was also completed for the Big Five Game Reserve/Bridge to Nowhere initiative, which has the potential to create 4 000 jobs.