History of Riverhorse Valley Business Estate

Riverhorse Valley is situated on the N2 between the Umgeni Road and the KwaMashu interchanges in what is referred to as N2 Section 25 between kilometers 24 and 25. The Estate spans both East and West sides of the N2 and the main landmarks identifying the Estate are the 2 petro-ports and eThekwini Hospital and Heart Centre at the Queen Nandi Drive interchange which is the main access and egress point to the Estate. The area and landscape has changed dramatically since the early 1800's and here follows a brief history of those changes:

"Without benefit of roads, we reached the summit of this hill and then skidded down towards a pretty peninsula surrounded by a deep lake, where the large heads of hippopotamus could be seen here and there on the surface of the water” - Adulphe Delegorgue’s description of Sea Cow Lake in 1839 from his writings ‘Travels in Southern Africa’

"Not far above the Umgeni bridge, on the northern side of the river, is Sea Cow Lake, which in the early days of the settlement, was a lake of no small pretensions, in which sea cow (hippopotamus) were of common occurrence, but now it is merely a reedy swamp” - William Anderson’s comments in his 1904 report on the Geological Survey of Natal and Zululand.

Thus in the intervening 60 years the nature of the area had vastly changed. The present Riverhorse Valley Business Estate was part of this lake. The name ‘Sea Cow Lake' has still been retained for a portion of the area between the Estate and the Umgeni River. Riverhorse is another derivative of ‘hippopotamus', from whence the Estate gets its name.

By the 1930's only a small remnant of the former extensive lake remained, the remainder having been drained and used for sugar cane cultivation. In the late 1960's the last of the swamp was converted into a series of large oxidization ponds that formed part of the Northern Sewage Treatment Works of metropolitan Durban.

In the early 1970's the N2 freeway was built through a portion of the former lake, and its outlet into the Umgeni River to the south was canalized.

With the closure of the Mt Edgecombe Sugar Mill and the scaling down of cultivating cane close to Durban, and the closure of the Effingham Brickworks in the early 1990's, potential existed to develop the area as a business estate, due primarily to its locality, two kilometers north of the Umgeni river and bisected by the N2 freeway. The bulk of the area was owned by the Tongaat Hulett Group (under cane to the west of the N2 and the Effingham brickworks east of the N2). Other smaller portions owned by eThekwini Municipality, SANRAL and Propnet were incorporated into the Estate.

Development plans and preliminary reports on the Geotechnical and Hydrological aspects of the site and river were initiated by Tongaat Hulett in 1993, and discussions commenced with SANRAL, eThekwini Municipality and Tongaat Hulett on the financing of a new interchange on the N2 to access the site. The sale of land to Total SA for the provision of the Petro-ports assisted this process. The lengthy process of approvals from provincial and local authorities was followed by an Environmental Scoping report (1999), Environmental Impact Assessment (2000) and Record of Decision (2001).

A decision by eThekwini Municipality to construct a new link road (Queen Nandi Drive) between the North Coast Road in Briardene and KwaMashu triggered the commencement of the development. A joint venture partnership between eThekwini Municipality and Tongaat Hulett to develop and sell the sites was formed in June 2000, and construction commenced on the new link road, the bridge over the Umhlangane River, and the Queen Nandi Drive interchange, as well as the internal roads and site services in 2002.


The bulk of the development consisted of the creation and cutting of developable platforms for the various Erven and careful consideration and survey was conducted to ensure that all sites were above the 1 in 100 year flood plain level. The cutting and filling of platforms was challenging in itself given the shale content of the entire area, some areas even requiring blasting. Further to these challenges there exists an impressive list of achievements which saw the Estate come to fruition; these include:

The construction of 2 new bridges over the N2
The construction of 2 new bridges over the Umhlangane River
The creation of 7 new roads
The diverting of the Umhlangane River

The development infrastructure for the Estate was largely completed by the end of 2008.

General opinion at the time supported the idea that an investigation be carried out to possibly re-introduce hippos to an area of the river within the Estate. A primary requirement in this regard was to obtain a permit from EKZN Wildlife. A consultant was appointed and a comprehensive report submitted to them in June 2003. Discussions with them continued until April 2008, when EKZN Wildlife took a final decision not to issue a permit because of safety and other concerns' which in all probability was the correct decision at the end of the day.

The Riverhorse Valley Business Estate Management Association now administers an area of 304 hectares comprising:

  1. Developable industrial, commercial and mixed use activities - 150 hectares
  2. Internal road reserves - 13 hectares
  3. Umhlangane river and flood plain - 78 hectares
  4. Huletts Bush - 37 hectares
  5. Public Open Spaces - 26 hectares.

The above areas exclude the N2 freeway, Rail reserve, Total petro-ports, Queen Nandi Drive and Newlands East Drive