Msinga is a largely rural area with 70% of its area being Traditional Authority land held in trust by the Ingonyama Trust. The remaining 30% of land is commercial farm land, all of which is located to the north of Pomeroy. Due to the rural nature of the municipality, approximately 99% of the population lives in traditional areas. The municipality is in the south western part of the district municipality area.
The nature of the topography is such that Msinga is largely located in deep gorges of the Tugela and BuffaloRivers. This effectively isolates the area from the immediate surrounding municipal areas. Msinga is accessible via the R33, linking it with Dundee, Ladysmith, Pietermaritzburg, Kranskop and Weenen.
The population of Msinga is estimated to be 160 000 people, in an area of 2 500 sq km, resulting in a population density of 64 people per square kilometre. There is a dominance of the three peri-urban settlements of Tugela Ferry, Pomeroy and Keate's Drift. The population densities of these three areas are higher than in the rest of the municipality. The population density pattern is further reinforced by rural villages that act as satellites to the three major settlements.
The population dynamics result in a growing rural area and a declining urban area in Msinga, contrary to most other areas in the country. This can be attributed to the fact that the urban areas of Msinga are very small and are unable to provide the normal range of goods and services provided in urban areas. As a result, the population utilizes the neighbouring areas of Emnambithi and Umvoti for urban services.
The strong traditional culture prevalent particularly in Msinga is a valuable asset that must be preserved and valued. These traditional areas provide support mechanisms for the communities, as well as living custodians of the culture.
Msinga Municipality has the lowest levels of basic services when compared with the rest of the municipalities within this district.
Msinga is a poverty stricken area with few economic resources and little economic activity. The little economic activity within Msinga is greatly affected by economic pull factors external to the municipality. These factors are predominantly towards Greytown, Dundee, and to some extent Ladysmith.
Social services and private households generate 29% of the income for the area. This indicates a heavy reliance on government grants to provide infrastructure to the area.
Msinga functions as a dormitory area with economic activities orientated towards Greytown, Dundee, and Kranskop. Underutilized resources include the Tugela and BuffaloRivers and the mountainous terrain that could provide irrigation and tourism opportunities.
Trade and commerce, mainly in Pomeroy, Tugela Ferry and Keates Drift, account for 11% of economic activity, and appears to relatively stable. The informal trade in its various forms, eg tuck shops, butcheries etc should not be excluded from the formal trade in the centres mentioned above, as they provide an essential service to isolated settlements. Both the formal and informal trade should be expanded to retain buying-power in Msinga.
Manufacturing and construction account for 10% of the economic activity.
The ongoing participation of the Msinga community in the local economy is critical to ensure sustainable local economic development.
Farming contributes 18% of the income for the area. Approximately 30% of the municipal area to the north comprises commercial farmland. Subsistence agriculture is practiced in areas adjoining the TugelaRiver irrigation schemes. Potential does exist to expand informal agricultural activities to larger operations with more commercial value. This would however, require these areas to be managed more effectively from an agricultural point of view.
Numerous community garden clubs/groups cultivate vegetables on 89 hectares of land, and these are predominantly located along the available water sources. This indicates the willingness of the community to be involved in crop production if the necessary support is provided. However, finding sustainable markets for the sale of local produce and products, remains challenging and problematic.
Although the area has its challenges, there are historic sites, beautiful scenery and interesting topography in some parts, suitable for cultural and eco-tourism. Furthermore, the local communities are generally creative in arts, crafts and music (Umasikandi).
Attention must be given to the formation of local partnerships for the development and marketing of the local tourism potential. To this end the Msinga Community Tourism Organisation has been established. The municipality has opportunities to develop existing ventures such as the existing game farms to the northwest of the municipality linking with the Rorke's Drift and Isandlawana battlefields attractions, and the Tugela Biosphere to the southwest of the municipality.
Rorke's Drift, situated 46 km southeast of Dundee, and is the site of one of the most famous battles of the Anglo-Zulu War. At Rorke''s Drift the men were rewarded for their bravery with no less than 11 Victoria Crosses, the most number of Victoria Crosses ever to be won in a single battle. Today the centre is also a remarkable for its Zulu handicrafts.
Msinga will be a Municipality with the capacity to ensure local development, through good management and development support.