In 2010, while Barry Theunissen was at a site meeting for a housing project for the Mthembu community, he stood, overlooking the tribal land, and asked iNkosi Mthembu what he was doing with all this land. Barry suggested that he establish a game reserve, to which the iNkosi replied, “Yes, Mpunzi”. Mpunzi is Barry’s Zulu name.
There are 10 amakosi surrounding the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park. iNkosi Mthembu was the elected chairperson of the lodge that was built in Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park for the benefit of the 10 amakosi and their people. With a shared history, one of iNkosi Mthembu’s Indunas (captains) had worked for Barry’s father in the area.
iNkosi Mthembu contacted iNkosi Biyela, whose father had wanted to establish a game reserve, followed by iNkosi Mthetwa, Zulu, and Malaba. iNkosi Mthetwa was 86-years-old at the time. He is iNkosi Mthembu’s neighbour and lived behind the Theunissen and Rattray farm near Kwambonambi. Barry fondly recalls how he had a wealth of tales to tell about his father and grandfather. iNkosi Mthetwa’s son is around the same age as Barry.
iNkosi Mthembu, Barry and Sonya
Barry and his wife, Sonya, own a development company and have built around 24 000 houses, mostly in rural communities. Working with the National Department of Human Settlement, they created a policy for rural development, having completed three projects before the policy was drafted.
It was their wish to develop an environmental node; that they would endeavor to protect and preserve it in order to create a sustainable income for their people. It was then that the dream came to fruition. A dream that was bigger than any could have imagined.
The idea of creating this breakaway from traditional thinking will go down in the annals of history. It will be remembered as a time when multiple Zulu chiefs, all descendants of the Shaka dynasty, agreed to unlock 16 000 hectares of untouched African bushveld. To date, 6 000 hectares have been incorporated into the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park (HiP), increasing it to over 100 000 hectares, with plans to incorporate even more wilderness in the future. As a result of the dividing game fences coming down, wildlife now traverses freely across all the parks.
The mFulaWozi initiative will help grow the conservation footprint in Africa by increasing the size and capacity of HiP, the oldest game reserve on the continent. It will be a major boost for the tourism industry as it connects with one of the most important biospheres on our planet.
mFulaWozi is not only committed to the protection of the wilderness and wildlife, but also to the socio-economic upliftment of the surrounding disadvantaged communities.
mFulaWozi Wilderness is the place that fostered the Zulu nation’s rise, and it is a place of immense national pride.
It is a dream coming to fruition. A dream of a wilderness that is steeped in Zulu culture, tradition, and history.
A dream that has unearthed the exceptional.