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White River
Witrivier- Afrikaans
White River
A street in White River
A street in White River
White River is located in Mpumalanga
White River
White River
White River is located in South Africa
White River
White River
Coordinates: 25°19′S 31°01′E / 25.317°S 31.017°E / -25.317; 31.017Coordinates: 25°19′S 31°01′E / 25.317°S 31.017°E / -25.317; 31.017
CountrySouth Africa
CouncillorRowan Torr (7 August 2019–present)
 • Total60.55 km2 (23.38 sq mi)
 • Total16,639
 • Density270/km2 (710/sq mi)
Racial makeup (2011)
 • Black African32.5%
 • Coloured4.3%
 • Indian/Asian2.5%
 • White60.3%
 • Other0.4%
First languages (2011)
 • Afrikaans42.2%
 • English28.7%
 • Swazi16.1%
 • Tsonga3.0%
 • Other10.0%
Time zoneUTC+2 (SAST)
Postal code (street)
PO box

White River (Afrikaans: Witrivier) is a small holiday and farming town situated just north of Mbombela in Mpumalanga, South Africa. The farms in the region produce tropical fruits, macadamia nuts, vegetables, flowers and timber. As of 2011, White River had a population of 16,639.[1]


Pre-colonial Era

Archaeological evidence from surrounding areas suggests the land that later became White River has been occupied for thousands of years. Remains of settlements from the 6th-century point to Iron Age African agricultural and livestock-keeping societies that lived in the area.[2][3] The Plaston site, east of White River, shows evidence of communities in the area from circa 900 AD.[4] Numerous Khoe-San rock painting sites nearby are indicative of even longer human settlement.[5] When white colonial settlers arrived in the 1800s, the area was inhabited by Swazi and Sotho (Pulana & Pai) people.[4] What was known as the Emanzimhlope River, a tributary of the Crocodile River flowed through the region. Emanzimhlope translates to 'White Waters' in siSwati.

Colonial Era

In the first decade of the 1900s, after the South African War, Lord Alfred Milner (British administrator of the Transvaal) demarcated land along the Emanzimhlope river for settlement by British settlers, mainly demobilised British Anglo-Boer War soldiers. Milner tasked soldier Tom Lawrence to allocate land to the settlers, alienating the Africans who were already present in the area from the land. Lawrence became the first manager of the new settlement and the longest street in town is still named after him. Initially, the colonial administration provided settlers with farming equipment and a weekly salary until they began to make an income from their tobacco, citrus, maize and other vegetable crops.[6] However, this scheme largely failed and many settlers gave up farming with the citrus industry gradually being dominated by a few large estates by the 1930s.[7]

Apartheid Era

Under Apartheid, White River was designated a white area and Emaswati and Pedi people living in White River were forcibly resettled to Kabokweni.[8] It was the base for the Whiteriver Commando, an infantry regiment of the South African Army.


White River lies 20 km north of Mbombela, and 46 km south of Hazyview, not far from the border with Kruger National Park. It is 15 km west of the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport.[9] The town includes a residential, commercial, and industrial areas while agricultural holdings are on the outskirts of the town. The town features a library, municipal buildings, car dealerships, filling stations, lodges and hotels, churches, a mosque, a police station, and retail centers.[9] It is a popular holiday destination for those looking to visit the Crocodile River Valley, Panorama and Lowveld Legogote Tourism Routes and the Kruger National Park.[9] The town itself has a reputation for its arts and crafts. The Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre situated on the outskirts of the city is a popular tourist stop. Once a mango plantation, the centre now has a cinema, a vintage motor museum and restaurants and hosts art exhibitions, plays and concerts.[10]


White River is in the Mbombela A Municipal Zone, falling under Ward 30 and is currently governed by the Democratic Alliance (DA), South Africa's official opposition party. Rowan Torr was placed as councillor after a by election on the 7 August 2019, where he succeeded Trudie Grove Morgan.

In 2020, the community action group, The Power of 8000, was established to address and redress the condition of the town. Community led and supported projects have included clearing and rehabilitating parks and public spaces, working on litter and sanitation issues, and engaging with the municipality for improved service delivery.


A view from Legogote Mountain of timber plantations, farms and indigenous bush surrounding White River
A view from Legogote Mountain of timber plantations, farms and indigenous bush surrounding White River

The White River area is one of the most fertile in the province and farming continues to be a central part of the local economy. After a 26 km canal to channel water from the river was built, new farmers planted fruit trees and established new cultivation methods. Today, agriculture involves largely the production of tropical fruits, macadamia nuts, vegetables, flowers and timber. The farms tend to be relatively small and the agriculture is intensive. Many farmers produce for the export market. Farms are irrigated by nearby dams such as Longmere, Witklip and Klipkoppie.



White River is located in the low altitude subtropical Lowveld climatic zone. Savannah and woodland scattered with granite outcrops form the indigenous habitat. Compared to other parts of South Africa, the climate is mild with good rainfall. Nevertheless, like the rest of South Africa, White River and its surrounding farms are being adversely impacted by climate change. The area is especially prone to frost, veld fires and droughts that pose food production threats and economic risks to farmers.[11]

Climate Data[12]
Climate Data for Mbombela
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Average high °C (°F) 27.5 (81.5) 27.4 (81.3) 26.5 (79.7) 25.2 (77.4) 23.4 (74.1) 21.7 (71.1) 21.1 (70.0) 23.1 (73.6) 24.7 (76.5) 26.1 (79.0) 26.3 (79.3) 27.0 (80.6)
Average low °C (°F) 17.0 (62.6) 16.9 (62.4) 15.8 (60.4) 13.6 (56.5) 9.6 (49.3) 7.1 (44.8) 6.6 (43.9) 8.6 (47.5) 11.0 (51.8) 13.7 (56.7) 15.2 (59.4) 16.4 (61.5)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 171 (6.7) 156 (6.1) 124 (4.9) 57 (2.2) 24 (0.9) 13 (0.5) 15 (0.6) 14 (0.5) 37 (1.5) 77 (3.0) 130 (5.12) 150 (5.9)

Housing and Land

In 2003, 6 000 hectares of land on the outskirts of White River and surrounding areas were redistributed to the Matsafeni trust when the state purchased the land from Hall & Sons for R63 million under the South African national land reform program.[13] As of 2016, Mbombela, the municipality that White River falls under, had a housing backlog of 34 000 units, impacting low income families especially hard.[9] The persistence of Apartheid-era spatial planning means that land close to the town is expensive and privately owned. This, combined with the economic opportunities and employment, mainly in White River and Mbombela mean that informal settlements around Rocky Drift (Msholozi and Phumlani) and other nearby areas have been established in recent years.[9]

A park in White River
A park in White River



The town's local newspaper, the White River Post was established in 2006 has a distribution of 5000 copies every two weeks.[14] Larger local papers, such as the Lowvelder and Mpumalanga News also cover news in White River.


  1. ^ a b c d e "Main Place White River". Census 2011.
  2. ^ "Prehistory of the Nelspruit area | South African History Online". Retrieved 15 August 2021.
  3. ^ Evers, T. M. (1977). "Plaston Early Iron Age Site, White River District, Eastern Transvaal, South Africa". The South African Archaeological Bulletin. 32 (126): 170–178. doi:10.2307/3888664. JSTOR 3888664.
  4. ^ a b Van Wyk Rowe, Christine (2019). "Phase 1 Archeological / Heritage Impact Assessment For The Proposed Establishment of Macadamia Plantations on Portion 1 of the Farm Peebles 31-JU White River, Mpumalanga Province" (PDF). web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ "The African Rock Art Digital Archive". Retrieved 15 August 2021.
  6. ^ "White River, Mpumalanga". Retrieved 15 August 2021.
  7. ^ Delius, Peter (2007). Mpumalanga History and Heritage. Scotsville South Africa: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press. pp. 303–304.
  8. ^ King, Brian H. (2007). "Developing KaNgwane: Geographies of Segregation and Integration in the New South Africa". The Geographical Journal. 173 (1): 13–25. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4959.2007.00228.x. JSTOR 30113490.
  9. ^ a b c d e Khanyisa Joint Venture (2016). "White River Precinct Plan" (PDF).((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ Casterbridge. "Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre. Shopping, restaurants, hotel, cinema and art in White River". Archived from the original on 29 April 2016. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  11. ^ Maponya, Phokele; Mpandeli, Sylvester; Oduniyi, Samuel (15 September 2013). "Climate Change Awareness in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa". Journal of Agricultural Science. 5 (10): 273. doi:10.5539/jas.v5n10p273.
  12. ^ "Climate: White River – Climate graph, Temperature graph, Climate table –". Archived from the original on 12 May 2016. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  13. ^ "Mpumalanga's R63m land deal is questioned". Retrieved 15 August 2021.
  14. ^ "White River Post « Local News Network". Retrieved 18 August 2021.